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Design Thinking at Warwick School: (Re) inventing Again and Again

The Times’ Education Commission recently published its report into the current state of schools, setting out a 15-year vision for change based upon the opinions of educationalists but drawn up in consultation with business leaders, scientists, local mayors, civic leaders and cultural figures. The report is well-timed and much-needed. The pandemic has exposed the flaws in the current educational system and the time is right for a shift in education as radical as the Education Act in 1944. 

Much of the report covers tropes that are central to the essence of our school’s priorities: it recommends greater support for well-being, a wider range of extra-curricular activities, increased funding for debating, music and drama as well as wider access to technology in the classroom. None of this is a surprise, and it seems self-evident that these aspects are fundamental to a broad and balanced education.  

One of the report’s key findings also highlights an area where we believe we have been pioneers and that is in the area of creativity and entrepreneurship. Yuval Noah Harari argues that schools should switch to teaching “the four Cs” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.  He believes that “in order to keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.” According to the report 70% of employers feel that the curriculum needs to shift to accommodate the new workplace, and we believe that the work we have done this year in rethinking our curriculum puts us at the forefront of this national debate. 

Working with Warwick University’s Dr Bo Kelestyn and Luke Battye from Sprint Valley, we have developed a fully-accredited course in Design Thinking with EduQual. Bo works as an Associate Professor at Warwick Business School and Sprint Valley is a consultancy firm who have worked with Fortune 100 companies to stimulate innovation in their teams. Design Thinking is increasingly recognised in the business world as central to innovation and was named in McKinsey’s 2018 report as integral to successful teams. 

Design Thinking is a human-centred, iterative process that can be used by anyone, even those without design backgrounds. At its heart is empathy and the course begins with pupils interviewing potential users of their product to find what drives them. The best designers put the users at the heart of their design and repeat the process of prototyping and testing until the user is satisfied. In our course, the pupils will have to demonstrate how they have used these skills to satisfy the brief. We hope that the course will complement their study of Design Technology as it will reinforce the skills that they learn in these areas, but they will be working with ideas rather than physical technology to find solutions to real problems.  

We are excited to be delivering this to Year 8 next year and intend to work with the Kissing it Better charity to deliver innovative solutions to some of the problems that are faced by the vulnerable. As the pupils invent and reinvent through empathy, we hope that they will learn skills that will take them beyond their time at Warwick School. 

Ms Kimberley Wyatt | Deputy Head Teaching and Learning