RSA Innovative Education: Promoting Life-Readiness – a Big Education Conversation - RSA

RSA Innovative Education Network: Promoting Life-Readiness – a Big Education Conversation

Fellowship events


Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, Brighton

  • Fellowship
  • Fellowship in Action

The RSA is excited to be hosting a Big Education Conversation in Brighton in partnership with always possible, Whole Education & Greater Brighton MET. Our focus will be promoting life-readiness in education.

How can education and learning prepare us for a whole life – whatever that may be? How can we shift the conversation from a focus on exam or work-readiness to one of ongoing life-readiness instead? How can learning help prepare us, and our children, for the complexities of leading a fulfilled and resilient life in the 21st century?

If you wish to discuss and deepen the debate on these questions, and find productive ways forward, then join us for an afternoon full of big conversation and action. We welcome all those involved in education and learning: the formal and the informal, the practice and the theory.

There will be a chance to hear new ideas from inspiring speakers and to get involved in small focused group discussion exploring the themes raised. We use examples of innovation, good practice and creative thinking to help spark new thinking.

Conversation will continue into the evening over drinks.

Our main speakers will be Martin Doel, Professor of Further Education & Skills at the UCL Institute of Education, Nick Corston, founder and CEO of STEAM Co., Rosie Clayton, Associate Director of Cities of Learning at the RSA, and Mike Fairclough, Headmaster of West Rise Junior School and author of Playing with Fire: Embracing risk and danger in schools.

There will be groups exploring:

  • Schools without walls: learning from the outside-in
  • Special missions: flexible education to meet all lives
  • Stabbing in the dark: teaching the skills for jobs that don’t yet exist
  • Living well: do we care enough about mental health?
  • The mission of learning: knowledge or know-how?
  • Hack to the future: the nuance of managing a digital life
  • Money talks: where and when do good financial habits get taught?
  • Massive enterprise: creating curious and entrepreneurial mindsets
  • The opportunity of Brexit?: workforces that are built, not bought

If you wish to attend, please register for a ticket.


Further information about the event:

Big Education Conversation Themes Tables will include: 

Schools without walls: learning from the outside-in
As Brighton opens its first Ofsted-registered day nursery with no roof and no walls, this session will look at the impact of learning outside, of re-wilding education and concepts of risk, conservation and all-weather preparation on children’s world-views from a young age.

Facilitator: Lucy Collins – Head of Adventures, Bee In The Woods forest school


Special missions: flexible education to meet all lives
Learners with special educational needs and disabilities benefit from a flexible education that meets their needs and equips them for whatever life might throw at them. Easy. But where is the real innovation and the pioneering ideas making this work to ensure that SEND learners don’t get left behind in an uncertain world and that their difference becomes their strength? And what can mainstream education learn from life-readiness preparation in special school settings?

Facilitator: Rebecca Tonks – Co-opted Governor, Oak Grove Community Special College


Stabbing in the dark: teaching the skills for jobs that don’t yet exist
Some of the most sought-after skills in the 2018 jobs market are social media management and search engine optimisation; drone operation; and building information modelling for modular housing. Which careers adviser was pointing people towards these skills 15 years ago? This session will look at vocational education, work-based learning and apprenticeships, and whether the recent reforms have led to more flexible or more rigid support for people navigating their way through the future of work.

Facilitator: Charlotte Blant – CEO, Youthforce


Living well: do we care enough about mental health?
Research and data consistently show that rates of poor and critical mental health in education are soaring. The places that should be guiding positive self-care habits are the places in which the extremes of pressure can be most felt (with life-long damage). This session will look at how/which learning environments are successfully prioritising fulfillment and sustainable wellbeing as the backbone to life-readiness.

Facilitator: TBC


The mission of learning: knowledge or know-how?

We look at an exams system framed by increasing rigour and higher expectations of attainment and progress in the demonstration of information. With practical, creative, language and more exploratory skills less welcome in the national curriculum, where/how is know-how, lived experience, mastery, learning from failure, ‘having a go’ and problem-solving being recognised and measured?

Facilitator: David J Lilly – Programmes Co-ordinator, The Self-Managed Learning College


Hack to the future: the nuance of managing a digital life

Technological innovation is driving change in every aspect of the human condition faster than we could have imagined, with impact still so raw and new that we haven’t yet been able to measure it. So, how do we prepare children and young people to manage themselves in a digital world that we don’t yet fully understand, with opportunities and dangers that they are discovering before the ‘grown-ups’ know how to fully enable its potential or protect them from its harm? In this session we explore how technology, whilst creating some of the barriers, almost certainly also contains the answer to mastering life-readiness.

Facilitator: Declan Cassidy – CEO, Playingfield


Money talks: where and when do good financial habits get taught?

Financial literacy has never been so low amongst UK adults, and personal debt and money-related stress has never been higher. Where does critical thinking about credit, debt, interest and pensions belong in our learning journey, and how do we create confidence in financial decision-making from a young age? Are bank-sponsored workshops enough, or is this stuff as curriculum-critical as knowing how to read and write?

Facilitator: Kirsti Cox – Principal, Kirsti Cox Wealth Management & Parent Governor, Stanford Infants School


Massive enterprise: creating curious and entrepreneurial mindsets

What happens when whole school year groups collaborate and compete to set-up businesses? Employability skills are good for those who seek to be employed, but with some of the UK’s fastest growing industries reliant on sole-trader multi-taskers, freelance experts and disruptive innovators who cannot be boxed, is there a strategic way to instill a life-long love of creative risk and ambition?

Facilitator: Phil Dean – Careers & Business Partnerships Leader, Worthing High School


The opportunity of Brexit?: workforces that are built, not bought

The Open University Business Barometer, which surveyed 950 senior business leaders to monitor the UK’s skills situation, found shortages are now costing businesses £6.3bn a year in recruitment fees, inflated salaries, hiring temporary staff and training workers. Employers are gearing-up for a future in which they need to grow their own, as imported labour – from other businesses or other countries – becomes much harder. Is the relationship between education and business joined-up in the pursuit of a life-ready generation?

Facilitator: David Willett – Corporate Director, The Open University 


Developing effective learners:  What happens when we focus on HOW we learn rather than WHAT to learn?


The Learning Skills curriculum is the result of an 8-year study by researchers at the University of Cambridge.  Designed as an inclusive programme for the whole of KS3, its aim was to explicitly teach the knowledge, skills and competencies that underpin effective learning to improve student outcomes.  The program expanded across the whole of KS3 and an 8-year impact evaluation revealed that it led not only to significant gains in attainment at GCSE but also a significant closing of the ‘disadvantage gap’ (Mannion, McAllister and Mercer; Chartered College of Teaching Impact journal, 2018).  When we reframe learning as a complex intervention that includes self-regulation, metacognition and oracy, we empower learners with the skills, knowledge and strategies they need not only to succeed in school, but also to engage, with confidence, in their own life-readiness.

Facilitator: Kate McAllister – Director, Rethinking Education & Co-Founder, Crisis Classroom


Motivation at work: can purpose in the workplace be developed in school?

When businesses get involved with schools and colleges they are given a golden opportunity to understand more about their audiences, customers and colleagues of the future – yet work experience is still more often considered to be a hassle than a possibility. What if we prepared young people differently, so that their early encounters with employers were driven by their own curiosity,  encouraging them to bring their own perspective, drive and values to fast changing work environments? And what if work-placement providers had a more holistic approach to life-readiness, and saw themselves as one part of a bigger formative jigsaw, helping motivate young people to find new approaches to issues of well-being, productivity and social cohesion?

Facilitator: Tony Dillon – Former TV executive and lawyer; Enterprise Adviser and business coach.


Leading with confidence: risk vs compliance at senior levels

What risks can principals, headteachers and chancellors actually take in a world of increasing performance measurement and decreasing budgets? Every new initiative might look amazing, but the reality on the ground is probably dictated by league tables and dwindling resources… so what is the mindset of the leader that can clear those hurdles and demonstrate creativity and innovation in the classroom?

Facilitator: Alison Rendle – Education leadership coach and consultant


Brighton & Hove as a City of Learning

The RSA is working closely with Brighton’s Our Future City network to pilot an innovative city-wide interactive learning programme, rooted in the concept of digital ‘Open Badges’. Cities of Learning is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass-engagement movement around learning and skills. It seeks to close gaps in opportunity and empower places to promote lifelong learning as core to their cultural and civic identity. What will make it work in Brighton?

Facilitator: Peter Chivers – Director, Our Future City & Director, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts


Main Speakers: 

For 28 years, Martin Doel rose through the ranks of the RAF before, as an Air Commodore, he was appointed Director of Training and Education for all three armed services and for civilians within the Ministry of Defence. He was then appointed Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges in 2008. His tenure at the AoC saw Martin representing over 300 education institutions and over 2 million students during some of the biggest infrastructural, financial and policy challenges that the post-16 and adult education sector has ever seen.

He has been awarded an OBE and CBE in recognition of both his frontline military career and services to education. In 2016, Martin became the first Professor of Further Education & Skills at the UCL Institute of Education and is a leading thinker on the future of FE.


Nick Corston is quite chuffed to have got to a stage in his life where Wired and The Guardian have said he’s ‘a man on a mission’. With an engineering masters, a pioneering career in digital marketing and two sons with a future to worry about, he co-founded an initiative to power communities to inspire primary children with creativity across the STEAM skills of Science, Tech, Engineering, ART and Maths. STEAM Co has received global media coverage and is looking to work with every UK primary and has already received support from companies like Barclays, BT, Cass Art, Google and National Grid among others.


Rosie Clayton has been involved in a number of innovative education projects including setting up Studio Schools, working with the Innovation Unit to establish the Extraordinary Learning Trust, supporting the growth of Digital Advantage in the North West, and most recently working for Big Change to design an impact accelerator model for new education ventures. She joined the RSA in July to lead on the Cities of Learning programme.


Mike Fairclough is the Headmaster of West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne and author of Playing With Fire: Embracing risk and danger in schools. Over the years, his initiatives at the school have received national and international acclaim and have been featured on the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and in most of the national newspapers. He teaches his pupils countryside management skills, such as using shotguns, lighting fires and fishing, and manages over 120 acres of farmland attached to the school. The pupils, most of which are from underserved communities, exceed all academic targets by the time they leave the school.



2.45pm – refreshments and registration

3.20-3.30pm – opening remarks, welcome and intro from Richard Freeman + Douglas Archibald

3.30-4.20pm – 4 opening provocations (10 minutes each + change-over time + introduce tables)

4.20-4.30pm – break

4.30-4.50pm – table discussion 1

4.55-5.15pm – table discussion 2

5.20-5.50pm – panel discussion, chaired by Richard Freeman

5.50-6pm – summary, thanks, wrap-up + next steps by Douglas Archibald & Richard Freeman

45 minutes – post-event drinks and networking

If you have any access requirements or require any reasonable adjustments, please let the team know: Please also let us know if you have any dietary requirements or severe allergies.