In 2021, we are faced with unprecedented challenges from structural inequality, climate change, ecosystem collapses and mental health crises, to the fast-moving pace of artificial intelligence, the erosion of democracy and a UK education system that is no longer fit for purpose.
It is widely acknowledged today that young people need to develop the skills in order to navigate this complex and ever-shifting landscape.
A transformative learning programme
for UK secondary schools
programmes. This ambitious programme empowers teaching professionals from central government to the classroom to embrace a new kind of thinking which will bring natural shifts in practice and delivery within the existing system.
We are now on a mission to enrol the creative, academic and scientific communities in an unprecidented collaboration to bring transformation to education in the UK.
From the architecture of the building to the thinking, learning and actions within the classroom, this programme will leave a legacy of enrichment and empowerment for the students, the teachers and the community.
What is The Great Imagining school programme?
The Great Imagining school programme is an intensive two-week plug-in to the National Curriculum. It aims to develop a pathway towards transforming how we think about education and the way young people learn and to directly address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.7*.
The programme is a young-person-centered, immersive and inter-disciplinary experience that draws on diverse expertise from game mechanics to promenade theatre, to reshape the experience of school. It encourages problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, empathy and self-expression.
The Great Imagining also provides a model of teaching for creativity through its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training
What will it look like?
Over the 2 weeks, the students will be building an engaging and interactive exhibition throughout their entire school. This exciting contemporary learning centre will be designed in collaboration with experts.
From scientists and academics to artists, filmmakers, set designers and art directors, our partnerships with UK’s greatest thinkers and makers will ensure every school transforms into its own Museum of the Future.
These exhibitions will invite in the public from families to businesses and politicians to enrol them in building a sustainable regenerative world.
The Great Imagining will empower young people to be healthy, confident and powerful citizens and leaders within their communities and workplaces.
The Great Imagining has been partially inspired by a reflection upon the imperial and industrial legacy of The Great Exhibition of 1851 - the world’s first international trade fair.
This historic fair, which took place in what came to be known as the Crystal Palace - a purpose-built glass building in Hyde Park - was, at its time, a celebration of manufacturing, innovation, technology and art.
Open to the public for only 6 months, nearly 170 years ago, this was arguably the first exhibition with a global ethos, because as well as drawing on British industrial design, exhibits were gathered from throughout the British Empire, (as it was then), and beyond.
With the benefit of hindsight, this exhibition was created on the back of many structural issues that are now known to have had a profound impact on human culture and equality, as well as the natural environment and species diversity.
What is it inspired by?
Humans are brilliant at creating their future from a collective imagination.
The Great Imagining education programme will build on the complex legacy of this endeavour by reflecting on where we are now, how we got here and where we are going. It will reveal motivating and engaging stories of good practice and galvanising, impressive projects from around the world as well as within the UK itself. The programme will invite brillliant individuals and organisations to work with the school communities to imagine their world as they would like it to be - rather than accept the future we are sleepwalking towards.
Why are we doing it?
By creating this opportunity for young people we will inspire thousands of young people to kickstart a collective imagining of a Greener, Fairer, Kinder future and in doing so re-imagine the education system itself for the next generation.
Why is this needed?
Climate and ecological emergency
Over the last few centuries, humans have developed astonishing knowledge and technology as well as self awareness.
But we also face urgent and challenging crises with increasing social injustices, climate instabilities and ecological emergencies.
The multifarious challenges of the 21st century call for rapid and radical reflection and transformation on a global scale.
To respond adequately to the fast moving pace of change, we need widespread culture shifts towards collaboration, technological problem solving and scientific truth telling - to shift behaviours and support legislation, consensus and agreement throughout all nations and regions of the planet.
This will allow us all to tap into our potential to create sustainable, prosperous societies that do not continue to deplete and pollute our natural resources at an alarming rate.
Against this backdrop our education system is no longer fit for purpose. Designed over a century ago, public education in the UK and beyond was created for a different world.
With increasing globalisation of trade and loss of industry in the UK combined with growing awareness of human rights of equality and fairness our school structure and methods of teaching are failing to address the needs of as well as inspire large sections of the population.
Increasing inequality growing from systemic privilege, racism and exclusion has been highlighted during the recent global pandemic and the massive exclusions from learning that highlighted. Debates around the recent #blacklivesmatter protests have shone a harsh light on aspects of the syllabus being currently delivered in the UK.
The recent exam results have also revealed the inequalities and the implications of competative, standardised testing systems and inspection methods.
These wider systemic issues, along side an erosion of creative experiences and the arts from the national school timetables, has lead to a broad consensus that something needs to urgently change within educational policy.
The Great Imagining offers a practical and immediate way to address the crisis in education as well as the very real and global threats to our future on the planet.
Learn. Imagine. Create.
Where will this take place?
In secondary schools throughout the UK.
This project is being delivered by training local, regional as well as national partners to enable, support and promote The Great Imagining in every region of the UK.
These actions, as well as resources, best practice examples and experiments will include global as well as local perspectives.
Community Chest :
building a legacy of change
We are working with creative partners and experts, regional partners as well as the schools themselves to provide a growing wealth of training, pledges, commitments, initiatives, resources and funding.
This community chest will support students and their schools to be leaders in their communities and be active in building a thriving, ecologically sustainable future.
The learning continues...
The best ideas and learning from each exhibition and experience will be incorporated into future iterations of The Great Imagining.
Thus The Great Imagining will grow in intelligence, wisdom and utility as the best ideas and practices are revealed, understood and shared more widely.
What kind of education system do we want?
New paradigms & pedagogies
Teamwork & innovation
The role of creativity in education
There is a growing consensus around the kind of learning that will create the workforce of the future. This agreement is shared by most industries, from traditional workforces such as retail, tourism and manufacturing to successful contemporary businesses exemplified by technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.
All these organisations are asking for student graduates who are creative and innovative thinkers; able to work in teams; confident in groups and can build shared goals and develop new solutions within fast moving contexts.
There is increasing research and consensus around the value of teaching for creativity as well as practical skills and physical activities throughout education not just technology colleges.
For example the 2020 Arts Council sponsored Durham Commission has recommended that the government set out a National Plan for Creative Education.
This need calls for iterative, collaborative, student- centred learning. The benefits of this kind of classroom thinking will generate engagement and excitement in all young people whatever their background, abilities or circumstances.
This rethinking of the approach to learning and evaluating learning, will especially benefit those young people who have been disenfranchised and disengaged by their educational experience; those who are disadvantaged by systemic racism or prejudice; and those who have special educational needs or neuro-differences.
How the syllabus is being designed
We are working with designers, researchers and editors to build a landscape of knowledge and ideas encompassing the rich interconnectedness of our world.
The Great Imagining syllabus is an exciting cross-curricular banquet of subjects from ecosystems, natural resources, biodiversity and nature to revealing the human-made systems of our contemporary planet.
These resources are unpacking astonishing facts and information about how we live - how we clothe, and feed ourselves, power our homes and machines as well as organise our increasingly complex communications, laws and governments.
The syllabus is drawing on existing expertise, knowledge and research to highlight the risks and challenges as well as the beauty and potential of our present and our future.
This research is also revealing green shoots of innovation and best practice - inspiring glimpses of what a balanced, healthy, thriving future could look like.
To deliver this wealth of knowledge and research we are making a series of brilliantly researched, highly illustrated, books — the Thinklopedias.
These books and resources are being supported by a playful digital network of additional content and downloadable material from our partners and collaborators.
The syllabus is designed to be interactive, drawing on the work done in the schools themselves, building and learning from the hive mind of human intelligence.
...and the innovative curriculum pathways.
The Great Imagining offers young people different pathways to explore its syllabus.
These customised navigation routes ensure satisfying, meaningful experiences for the students - and plenty of free choice - while delivering a high quality rich and engaging exhibition for the audience.
The Great Imagining curricula pathways are encouraging and drawing on all our values using the capacities of curiosity, collaboration, critical thinking, imagination, creativity and resilience.
Like the syllabus, the pathways of the curricula are being designed in partnership with expert practitioners from many fields from theatre, gaming and film to develop multiple ways to help the students navigate the landscape of our syllabus both as individuals and in groups.
The Great Imagining is celebrating collaboration at all levels. This key ingredient aims to empower young people to explore forms of teamwork, discussion, conflict resolution, consensus forming and self-governance.
The bespoke curricula are drawing on the principals and methodologies of gaming and promenade theatre to keep engagement dynamic so that young people can follow unique paths and interact with the syllabus and each other in emergent ways.