V&A launches challenge to support design education in schools

The V&A Innovate programme focuses on “designerly learning” and has been adapted to meet the needs of teachers in the era of COVID-19.

The V&A Innovate schools challenge 2020 has been launched, and this year features an augmented design curriculum to suit the needs of teachers during the pandemic.

Now in its second year, the V&A Innovate programme was conceived by the museum to showcase the “value, relevance and potential” of the design and technology pathway in schools.

Lessons are targeted at pre-GCSE students aged 11-14. Resources for both young people and teachers have been devised by the V&A to support those taking part in the challenge, with the V&A’s collection often being used as a jumping off point.

A winning secondary school team from last year’s event. Image: V&A.

“Design skills beyond just the creative industry”

The programme is part of the V&A’s aim to push the national conversation around design further, according to Dr Helen Charman, director of learning and national programmes at the museum.

“We need designers everywhere – in finance, public health, education and social care,” she tells Design Week. “Especially now, given the pandemic, we have the opportunity to redesign systems and there is a broader relevance for design and design skills beyond just the creative industry.”

The focus of the programme, as with last year, will be on “designerly learning”. Designerly learning, Charman explains, refers to “applied creativity”, problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking.

“These are skills that are hugely useful in all areas of study,” she says.

A display from pitching day 2019. Image: V&A

“Find and answer their own problems”

To make the programme accessible, the lessons within the challenge can be run online or face-to-face over a term, or as an extra-curricular club. Critically, Charman says, the challenge is designed as a “scaffold” towards GCSE learning further on into their education.

Themes for this year’s challenge are “home” and “community”. These are particularly important areas of interest, given the lockdowns and social distancing measures that have dominated 2020, Charman says.

“The challenge sets a context, but the students are then able to find and answer their own problems within that framework,” she says, adding that it is important students feel engaged with and motivated by the work they’re doing.

Students in groups of four to six can respond how they wish to the briefs – students may wish to ground their projects in real-world issues like climate change, homelessness or accessibility, the V&A says.

A shortlisted secondary school team from last year. Image: V&A

“Teachers learn best from each other”

Launching in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Charman says extra care has been taken to provide resources that adequately support teachers to deliver the lessons on the programme. The programme is digital-first, and is free for all to access.

An online learning hub dedicated to V&A Innovate features animations, lesson plans, activity packs and interviews with designers. For teachers, there is also a series of online talks scheduled and training for Continuing Professional Development.

“We know that teachers learn best from each other, so we’re focusing this year on forging a community of teachers and design practitioners,” says Charman.

Alongside a bigger range of resources than before, the deadline for teachers to enter their students’ work into the National Schools Challenge has been pushed back.

For more information on the V&A Innovate challenge and to access its resources, head here.

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