Encouraging businesses and individuals to draw on expertise and networks to create purposeful, bespoke initiatives in support of schools

In the first blog of our Force for good series we explained how our agency was created with the ambition to use our time and PR and marketing expertise as a force for good, for the planet and for its people.

Our belief is that PR and marketing teams have a profound impact on the world because of the reach and influence of the key messages they craft for their clients and so, by being conscious of the values that we promote on our clients’ behalf, we can take pride in the fact that we work to ensure our impact is always positive. One area that we are especially passionate about working in, and in which much of our communications expertise lies, is education.

Education has the potential to transform lives, support social mobility, raise living standards, and positively contribute to the economy. Education is also the time, place, and method through which children discover themselves and become who they will be as adults.

The adult actions of the current generation of students are going to matter, from choosing to flick a switch, buy vintage, take the train, cycle or walk, and go plastic-packaging free, to engineering, innovating and negotiating physical, political and economic solutions to the world’s problems. To be able to play their part in making inroads in caring for the environment, and for people in situations starkly different to their own, children will need to learn about, understand and be able to identify areas in which they can make a positive difference – whether in a local, national or global context. So breadth of exposure, guidance and encouragement in delving deeper into particular areas of interest, and opportunities to be challenged and develop different skills, are all key elements of a successful and empowering education.

Being conscientious about the planet and the people on it is something we believe is inbuilt in all of us – but it needs to be awakened. One of the greatest of a great many responsibilities educators have, then, is to awaken this in the children in their charge. But schools in the UK are so constrained, by the need to deliver measurable results with limited (and reducing) budgets and resources, that many of these essential elements of education are viewed as mere add-ons, rather than must-haves. So one of the greatest challenges to government, too, is to work out how to support schools in making a priority of the most important aspect of education: awakening each child’s imagination, talent and conscience, in order to raise a generation that is both equipped and empowered to stand up for what they believe in, and to take responsibility for the world they see around them.

We have the greatest respect for our long-term client, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB), which endeavours to, and succeeds in providing schools with educational programmes that will do exactly this. Committed to “education for a better world”, IB programmes incorporate breadth and depth of content, within a pedagogy that encourages independent learning and has a particular emphasis on nurturing global citizens who care about the environment and the world’s population.

Students are encouraged to pursue areas of their learning that interest them. From students of International School of Uganda choosing to live like refugees for a dayto increase awareness and understanding, before creating products such as water filters and clay stoves to address some of the concerns that were raised; and students from Harare International School in Zimbabwe putting on a fully student-led theatrical productionexploring themes of social justice, environmental conservation, and intercultural understanding; to students at Luanda International School in Angola organising donations for Congolese refugeesin the north of their country – one consistent part of the IB is that the learning experience is meaningful, authentic and transformative.

The programmes are also tied to the IB’s purpose built and internationally recognised assessment and qualification frameworks, so there is no conflict between what features in the curriculum and what will be assessed. Graduate Fatima Sul credits her IB learning with igniting her self-confidence, curiosity and creativity: “Whether it was the actual course content or just the way my teacher taught – for the first time in a long time, I was always excited to go to class.”

We don’t fly the flag for the IB alone, however – our team also supports schools that want to be vocal about some of the challenges facing the education sector, teachers, and young people at the moment. For example, we support head teachers in discussing how best to engage learners in subjects ranging from the arts and performing arts, classics and languages, to sport, at a time of high pressure on budgets, staff and resources. We also help educators to start important debates about the role of practices like mindfulness and meditation, and independent listeners and school nurses, in supporting adolescent well-being. Similarly we raise the profile of areas where provision is lacking, such as for children who self-exclude from school as a result of severe bullying, by supporting organisations like Red Balloonthrough our charity of the year programme.

This month we have also organised and run two educational events. The first, our own social initiative, FXP Festival, saw secondary and sixth-form students from schools and colleges across the region, come together at Cambridge Regional College to compete over a weekend, to design and develop the best computer game, based on a surprise theme. The second, Brains Eden, which we run on behalf of Anglia Ruskin University, saw 175 university students travel from 35 universities in eight countries to compete in a 48-hour games jam, to similarly design and develop the best PC and mobile games. Because of the fast pace of technological advancement, and the competitive salaries available to developers in the industry, schools are often unable to recruit specialist teachers who have real-world experience as developers or designers in the industry. So events like these, particularly FXP, which offer young people invaluable opportunities to network with likeminded peers, meet with and be inspired by industry mentors, and have their work judged by and receive feedback from industry experts, go a long way to fill the gap for supportive teachers and enthusiastic students.

Alison Taylor, our Managing Director, also chairs the governing body of North Cambridge Academy, and recently shared an uplifting example of how the community can support children and their families too. During term time, Food Cycleprovides a healthy cooked lunch for children attending optional extra activities on Saturdays at the school. Effectively the offer of a meal reduces the burden on families to provide this extra meal at the weekends, and also acts as a motivating factor to encourage students from less affluent backgrounds to be more involved and to experience more enriching opportunities that wouldn’t be available during the usual weekly timetable.

We work on a number of projects with other clients that similarly offer opportunities outside of the school setting – from educating people on sourcing healthy and environmentally responsible meals, to supporting organisations like AstraZeneca in providing STEM activities to local schools, or supporting entirely new ways of approaching education. Planetari, for example, is a new educational platform aligned to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which has the ambition of reaching 100 million children in five years with resources which will empower children with knowledge and skills to become innovators, entrepreneurs and global citizens who protect the planet and ensure the wellbeing of all its inhabitants.

All of these purposeful, bespoke initiatives highlight what can be achieved when organisations take the time to understand societal challenges, and draw on their own expertise and networks to create solutions to support schools in providing young people with the educational opportunities they need.

For our part, we want to be a non-stop motivational force, to inspire and encourage others to consider the part they could play – educators or not – in ensuring all children have an enjoyable, inspiring and enriching education.

Not only will this benefit each individual child, which is reason enough, but as “more than half the population on the planet is under the age of 30 – the biggest generation of children and young people that the world has ever seen” – ensuring this generation is motivated and equipped to take on the SDGs will be fundamental in shaping a secure, peaceful and prosperous future, something that has not been achieved by our generation or by those who have gone before us.

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