Designing a new type of school

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Lloyd Ansell wants to build a school where pupils create a design project and a business plan. Bernard Adams reports

Lloyd Ansell is a design and technology teacher with a vision. He wants to create a design and business school for 11-18 year-olds that will encourage students to emerge as proud possessors of a design project with a coherent business plan attached. They will study A-levels, but not GCSEs.

Other conventional subjects, such as maths, history and geography, will always be studied in the context of an individual or collective design project.

"This school will address an entrepreneurial spirit," says Ansell, whose everyday job is head of design and technology at North London Collegiate School. There is an infectious enthusiasm in his voice when he talks about his project. "The idea came in June 2003, and as I talked about it I began to get positive feedback. I created a couple of business plans and got a business mentor."

Plans for the design and business college are beginning to take shape, but Ansell's dream is unlikely to open its doors to admit its first pupils before 2009. He is in the process of assembling a formidable team of people to provide backing, support and, most essential of all, money.

Professor Richard Kimbell of Goldsmith's College is on board, and Ansell's business mentor is business consultant Anne Daley.

"This is an opportunity for entrepreneurial thinkers to expand their education," she says. "Schools are mostly designed to provide a relatively uniform education for children. But a successful entrepreneur often unlearns quite a lot of conventional stuff and then learns the special skills involved in entrepreneurial activity."

She sees the current economic climate as favouring an institution like the design school. "The economy needs the next generation to start developing small and medium-sized enterprises. And, currently, many young people with initiative are bored by education. Give them responsibility and choice in a school like this and you'll turn them into a whole different set of young people. Our task is to get people to hear and see the vision."

Daley is confident that venture capitalists will see the sense in the project and provide the pound;5 million to pound;6 million needed to get it off the ground. Most students will have to pay fees, but perhaps a quarter will be provided with bursaries.

Ansell is running a small-scale design school on June 3-4 this year, and some of the final project's likely movers and shakers will be involved. The event is free and will be held at North London Collegiate School. It will suit GCSE and A-level students and the only requirements for students are "a packed lunch each day and a passion for design".

According to the prospectus, some formidable names, who are all supporters of the project and may well ultimately figure on its staff, will be helping the students develop "creative thinking, public speaking... business savvy, patenting" and various other skills.

Those involved include Ilene Sawka, a confidence builder originally from Chicago, who runs workshops all over the world aiming to release energy, creativity and confidence. Fellow speaker Dr David Barlex is director of the Nuffield design and technology projects. He is a vastly experienced teacher in school and now a senior lecturer at Brunel university.

Appearing with him on the second day is David Bruno, a designer who graduated from Kingston university in 2001. He has joined distinguished creative team Jam, and is working on a new type of pre-coated metal furniture.

For more information about the school in June, contact Lloyd Ansell. Tel: 020 8952 0912 x421 Email: lloyd_ansell@yahoo.co.uk; www.designow.org

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