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The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible! It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"

That was perhaps the best quote from a day packed with creating ideas that will ensure that education is not going to kill creativity and enterprise. It’s a challenge to sum up the energy and vitality of  the day, but here are some of the highlights!

Jamie Cooke from RSA provided an eloquent and thought-provoking account of the RSA’s tradition of funding enterprise and innovation through a focus on disruption and creativity, giving the resurgence of the premium (a public prize for innovation) as one it’s recent endeavours.  He gave a clear context for the RSA’s interest in creativity – 53,000 young people not in work or education – we need to encourage ‘the power to create’ as creativity is without a doubt our most important resource. For Jamie it was clearly a move from employability to enterprise.
Brian Humphrey, Innovation Manager, Skills Development Scotland
 provided with us a fascinating overview of what is happening elsewhere in Europe, where unemployment figures for young people have not hit the dizzying heights of the UK. He focussed on comparisons with Switzerland, Germany and Norway where there is a greater emphasis on vocation education and being able to make greater choices of where you study at an earlier age.  There appears to be greater fluidity in the other European models and more parity of esteem between academic and vocational routes with employers  much more engaged in the curriculum design as well as delivery. 
Brian also talked about the focus on STEM subjects and of course made reference to the Wood Report and the Government’s focus on encouraging growth in the sciences.  There was a sense that we need to consider what jobs there are going to be for young people on leaving education, and perhaps guide young people earlier into potential growth areas.  However, this immediately raises a conflict with encouraging young people to ‘find their passion’ and develop their creativity.  One participant wrote “STEM is important but it is not the only growth sector. To write off the creative industries is to wrote off £54 billion into the economy. How about  expending energy into linking STEM with the creative industries?”
If Jamie and Brian provided a wider context for the day, perhaps illustrating the struggle between agendas on creativity, enterprise and employability, the next two speakers illustrated incredible enterprising and creative approaches to education that would certainly result in learners becoming both employable and with the ability to start and maintain their own business.
Alison Fletcher and the Teampreneurs  from Team Academy Bristol really challenged what we mean by an enterprising curriculum. The four teampreneurs exemplified learner centred learning assisted by no formal classes and a team coaching approach.  They had all set up businesses, made loads of mistakes, reflected on the learning and used theory and knowledge to support their endeavours. It seems an ideal model, and not one that should be restricted to higher education.  They engaged us completely with a well-focused  activity, turning our varied table of participants into entrepreneurs. Is this the way forward.  Don’t wait to be employed, use your passions and built your skills and knowledge to support your ventures.  Certainly some of the teampreneurs saw themselves as being self-emplyed but two wanted to work in an organisation,  putting  their varied skills and knowledge into an established practice for a few years.
Working in an enterprising way with established micros and SMEs was at the heart of Dundee and Angus College’s Fiona Mushin and  Dawn Ritchie’s  presentation.  Fiona described how she had gone from lecturer in a classroom to project manager, ripping up the timetable along the way.  She described a changing role for lecturers, again with more emphasis on coaching, and teaching through webinars designed around learners’ needs.  All of this was fascinating, providing models for what can be done if we approach the curriculum creatively, enter into dialogue with awarding bodies like SQA and engage businesses in the design of the curriculum.  Moreover, from learner Dawn’s perspective it’s engaged her in real, challenging work, where  she has had to think for herself, use the lecturer as a resource, and view herself in a business relationship.
By the end of the day, participants from across the educational landscape were willing to commit to taking many of the ideas generated and shared from the day forward. Small networks sprung up keen to take forward both Fiona’s model and team Academy’s approach.  Jamie Cooke from RSA was also committing to providing a space for further dialogue bringing the silos of education, employers, enterprise and creativity together.  
This wasn’t an event for just sharing dangerous ideas, this was definitely the springboard for action that ensures that education does not kill creativity and enterprise.

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