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Celebrating a World of IDeas, by Jon Coles

We are now coming to the end of our month-long IDeas Festival, which schools across the Group have embraced with their creativity. It has been incredibly interesting and entertaining to see how each school has risen to the challenge we set them earlier in the year; to celebrate how their local, regional and national identity enriches their curriculum and their schools – both inside and outside of the classroom.

Since we set this challenge to our schools, over 3,000 of our pupils have been combining their imagination, talent and creative skills to plan events that address this question and which bring to life its relevance to them and their community. From working in clusters of schools to organise major events to individual pupils tackling the issue from a purely personal perspective, we have seen a valuable mix of creative and cultural interpretations of what binds us together as a people.

From our very youngest pupils at NOA’s Ark Nursery who explored their local area of Banbury through art to our United Access students thinking about their future selves and ambitions for university and beyond, our pupils and staff have found ways of expressing their identity through the performing arts, sport, science, maths and across the entire curriculum.

The Festival has provided the opportunity to celebrate the anniversaries of important internal and external events.  Abbey Hey Primary Academy used the Festival as an opportunity to celebrate its 80th anniversary as a school, using this as the impetus to give its young pupils an understanding of the importance of local and cultural history in telling our nation’s story.  At Lincoln Minster School, however, inspiration came from the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest which was marked through a whole series of events, performances and projects.

The Festival has not only demonstrated the wide variety of interpretations one can find within the subject of identity, it has also demonstrated the power, breadth and depth of the school curriculum and the importance of Education with Character; inspiring young people to think creatively within their subjects and beyond.

What has also been particularly pleasing has been how schools have worked together; both within our Group and with others in their community. In our Yorkshire cluster, Barnsley Academy played host to our Sheffield Park and Springs Academies to deliver a cross-curricular, cross-phase performance led by students themselves. Likewise, our two regional music and performing arts events, which were attended by over 500 children and young people from 17 of our schools and others, showcased the breadth of talent across our Group and provided the opportunity for pupils to meet and learn from their peers around the country.

Despite being a national group of schools, we never forget that each school and each person within it has their own identity, their own self, their own life experiences and their own talents and skills. When these are combined with others – locally, regionally and nationally – the power of collective knowledge and identity grows exponentially and we are able to achieve far more than when we are ‘bowling alone’.

Through this IDeas Festival, we wanted to give students and staff the opportunity to develop their own IDeas and bring to life concepts and creativity that have resonance, meaning and significance across the curriculum whilst providing all those involved with a fun and inspiring challenge. I am confident we have done so and have given everyone an impetus to be proud of their own and our shared identity and to understand better the variety and potential of what can be achieved every day in excellent schools.

I would like to thank everyone involved in making the Festival such a success and congratulate pupils and staff on finding such imaginative ways of rising to this curriculum challenge.

Jon Coles

Chief Executive, United Learning

To find out more about the IDeas Festival, please visit our dedicated microsite.

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Posted: Jul 26, 2017,
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