Young people debate the future of education at first ever student consultation held in Windsor Castle

18 October 2022

A group of secondary students from two multi-academy trusts, City Learning Trust and Oasis, came together to discuss their experience of school and to debate how they would shape the future of education, at a special consultation held within the prestigious surroundings of St George’s House in Windsor Castle. The Foundation for Education Development, The Inspirational Learning Group and St. George’s House invited a selection of young people from five different schools and colleges based in London and Stoke-on-Trent: City College, Haywood Academy, Trentham Academy and Oasis academies Enfield and Hadley. At this pioneering event the students discussed the purpose of education and began to look to the future and what the design of their perfect school would look like.

“Our students were delighted to be invited to take part in this ‘My Perfect School’ event, and students, staff and parents thank the organisers and hosts for facilitating this wonderful opportunity for our young people to engage in important debate with young people from other schools,” explains City Learning Trust Executive Director, Sharon Bates. “Character Education is very important to us and this experience enabled our students to collaboratively engage in focused debate, considering a range of factors and influences that school design has on educational offers for the future. This, in turn supports employability, social and cultural capital within, across and beyond communities. Without doubt, this was a learning and enrichment experience which students will always remember and be proud to have been a part of.”

Charlotte, a Year 11 student from Trentham Academy, said: “When we went to Windsor I was blown away: from the changing of the guards, to the infrastructure in the chapel. We were able to meet with different schools and build relationships with people whom we had never met before – it was an amazing experience! I found that the trip improved my presentation and teamwork skills, it was important everyone in our group had the same vision and understanding. We collectively worked as a team to present our passion about our Dream School. This was an amazing trip, and I am so thankful to have been chosen to represent the Academy at this event.”

Audrey, student at City College and aspiring nurse said: “I came out of this programme enriched. It was an honour for me to participate, as I learned a lot and enjoyed working with the other students at the event.”

There were some standout themes raised by the young people, including the importance of diversity, accessibility and inclusion, the role of school as a safe haven and the centrality of subjects like technology and engineering. Students also came up with different ways of assessing progress with one ‘perfect school’ challenging the concept of exams and redirecting their assessment strategy to coursework. Important skills for the future were identified such as listening to each other and teamwork, and central to all presentations was the understanding that education is the foundation of a healthy society. The name of the winning presentation was “The School of Life.” Joy Madeiros, Founding Director of Oasis, said: “In a very short space of time the students were able to recognise and articulate what mattered to them about education – and it wasn’t just about subjects studied or even access to university – but about the quality of the context in which learning takes place and the role education plays in community.”

Shreena Kotetcha, Head of Strategy at Ofsted said: “It was so inspiring to hear how thoughtful the participants were about what makes the perfect school – I would love to go to any of the schools so carefully and thoroughly designed by these inspiring young people!”

Liam Brookes from The Inspirational Learning Group reflected on his role as facilitator: “Bringing students together in such a historic, and iconic, venue was a highlight of my career to date. The innovation shown by our young people when discussing education in the UK was remarkable to see. There were thorough and conscientious discussions regarding innovation of timetables, exams and the overall purpose of school, while carefully considering the practicalities of the new ideas. It is safe to say that the future of education is in safe hands with our next generation!”

The event was a unique opportunity for students to share their perspectives on the future of education in an inspirational setting that is steeped in history. The young people who attended St. George’s House are not only the leaders of tomorrow, they are leading positive change in their schools, communities and wider society now. Justin, a Year 11 student from Oasis Academy Enfield, reflected: “The opportunity provided to us was a very significant experience, especially due to the recent events but was an overwhelming privilege to visit Windsor Castle. The purpose of the day allowed us as students to voice our opinions on the changing environment in education and envisage a long-term plan for schools in the UK. Working with other student leaders around the UK, allowed us to develop a deeper connection and goal and with this teamwork we were able to devise a sustainable plan to further develop and contribute to the success of schooling in the UK.”

Dr Rania Marandos, National Director at the Foundation for Education Development said: “At the Foundation for Education Development we care about moving our education system towards a long-term planning cycle for the benefit of learners, their communities and wider society. This consultation with students, the first of its kind at St. George’s House, showed us that to think long-term we must involve the learners of today in education policy discussions. Young people’s insight into what matters, their energy and ideas to solve big problems and passion for diversity and equity are the magic ingredients we need to create a world class and inclusive education experience for all learners.”

It was an honour for me to participate, as I learned a lot and enjoyed working with the other students at the event.