It is great that the Sorrell Foundation is expanding the Young Design Programme education initiative to include design colleges in Leeds and Falmouth.
The ‘kebab stick’ approach of introducing college students into the pilot of the Young Design Programme brought huge benefits to students of London’s University of the Arts last year. Reports are that the second-years involved in the project – which makes school children the clients for multidisciplinary teams of design students, who in turn refer to a high profile design mentor – generally fared better in their course work than peers who did not take part.
Everybody involved stands to gain. Children as young as eight learn how to be a client and gain confidence through the skills they develop; college students get closer to the real world than most course work gets them; and mentors gain inspiration from the ideas of new generations. Some teachers, meanwhile, say that seeing how their peers approach teaching is instructive.
The knock-on effect is far wider though. Frances Sorrell talks of instances where local educationalists and civil servants have had their eyes opened by presentations from children about what is wrong with their schools and the solutions college students have developed.
The Sorrell Foundation hopes, ultimately, to create a model for adoption nationally, but its short-term impact is limited. One remedy might be a scheme that immerses teachers – particularly head teachers – in creative thinking through practical team projects. They can become isolated, and while design might not rank for them alongside more academic subjects, it stimulates communication.
D&AD set up its excellent annual Xchange conference for design tutors to share experiences. But who is dealing with teachers’ needs? As the political landscape shifts, perhaps this is something for the new regime to address, as the school building programme initiated by Tony Blair’s Government gains momentum.
Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor