The Future Of Education

Time For Change

Click through here to watch each of the talks given by our inspirational speakers followed by the Q&A session.


Addressing a room filled with our clients at Huntsmans' elegant premises in Savile Row, Liz Robinson, Lord Jim Knight and Melissa Di Donato talked about the need for educational reform.

Our first speaker was Liz Robinson, who is a Director of Big Education. This is a multi-academy trust and charity, which aims to encourage schools to embrace a more expansive education. Liz believes the current system has too much of an emphasis on testing through formal examinations and qualifications, which can have perverse implications.

“As middle class parents, we are locked into an educational arms race to get our children into the right schools,” she said.

This means young people are pressured to get A stars and A grades to get into the top universities and often come under stress during this process. This, in turn, helps to explain why mental health issues are prevalent amongst young people.

Making matters worse, Liz notes that employers are becoming less interested in the qualifications that young people have worked so hard to achieve. In her opinion, there is a disconnect between the educational system and the skills that young people require in the workplace.

“We work in inter-disciplinary teams, with people from different backgrounds and technical abilities to solve problems in a creative way – nothing about the way we do education points to those skills,” she added.

So, what changes need to be made to the education system? Liz explained that big Education focuses on the head, heart and hand. Firstly, the ‘head’ refers to critical literacy, engagement and discourse. The ‘heart’ focuses on developing relationships and learning to communicate. Finally, the ‘hand’ is about learning to make and design things, and to problem-solve.

Big Education’s mission is to support more leaders to have the courage to challenge the status quo, not least the ‘exam factory’.

An education system for the fourth industrial age

Lord Jim Knight was next to take to the stage. He is Chief Education Adviser at Tes Global, a visiting professor at the UCL Knowledge Lab and a member of the House of Lords. He believes that the education system has not evolved in line with the economy and society.

He does not believe that the education system is fit for purpose – a view that is echoed by 57% of teachers.

“We are in the fourth industrial revolution with a legacy educational system of the industrial age,” he told the audience.

He argued that the current model is struggling on its own terms. This is due in part to the lack of school funding – there has been an 8% real-terms cut over the past 10 years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Secondly, inadequate staffing: TES estimates that the English system will have a shortage of 47,000 teachers over the next five years. This is double the amount of teachers that are trained each year.

Jim agrees with Liz that young people face too many tests.  These act as a filter for a university led system, not one driven by the economy and the Labour market.  As a result learners are coming out of university saddled with debt, armed with qualifications that are not valued by employers.

This is why he believes the higher educational system is also in need of reform. He would like to see less testing and standardisation, and a system that recognises that individuals may end up pursuing multiple careers. This means they may require a lifelong relationship with learning and universities.

“Why wouldn’t you have a subscription to university – either individually or as an employer? It doesn’t make sense to have a front-loaded three or four years at the beginning of your work experience with high levels of debt,” he said.

Jim explained that individuals could have shorter, productive learning experiences at university over the course of their career(s).

The knowledge stage of the national curriculum would lie between the ages of 7 and 14, and GCSEs would be abolished. The applied learning stage would then come into action up to the age of 19, allowing young adults to work out where their talents lie and connect with employers. At the age of 19, individuals could go into work for a while and decide whether they wish to take on debt to do a degree.

“Then we might have an eco-system we can be proud of and build an educational system for the fourth industrial age,” Jim added.

Give your time, not your money

Our final speaker was Melissa Di Donato, who is a trustee for Founders4schools, a charity which inspires students to prepare for work. She is also a Corporate Board member for iDEA, the Duke of York's charitable programme for digital skills for UK youth.

She sought to encourage the audience to do more for young people within their local communities. For example, Founders4schools’ mission is to ensure that every young person in the UK can have one encounter with an employer each year between the ages of 6 and 16. In addition, they aim to offer 140 hours of work experience between the ages of 16 and 24.

“These encounters and experience can improve the employability of our children by enabling them to make informed decisions about their future to see what they are capable of,” she explained.

She hopes the work the charity does can go some way towards addressing the skills crisis that many employers face.

“Every pupil should understand the learning opportunities and be guided for interviews by being involved in many of the companies we work for,” Melissa added.

She concluded that giving up your time to help young people could offer more value than simply giving money. Providing them with access to leaders, companies and entrepreneurs could have a real impact on their lives and career choices.

Our next Future Forum, scheduled for June, will focus on the environment.  Please contact your private banker if you would like to attend.


To find out more about Weatherbys Private Bank and our services, please contact the Private Bank team