Education in Plymouth hits 'factory reset' on mainstream models of schooling


This week the Plymouth College of Arts ran a workshop at the Tate Exchange named Factory Settings. The call was clear: 

Meaningful learning not found. The education system is on high alert – time for a reboot? Let's beta test a new, agile model of education. What kind of art education will we need in a world that is being transformed by automation? Disrupt the system, deconstruct the production line and navigate your own route through an eclectic range of workstations and encounters. Engage in making and unmaking, learning and unlearning, and enjoy a transformative experience that cannot be prescribed or predetermined. 

'Making' is at the heart of the learning philosophy at Plymouth College of Arts. The college's research platform Making Futures explores contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st century society:

Moving between the individual and the social, the personal and the collective, Making Futures tries to explore what it means ‘to make’ and its future significations - personally, socially, its possible impact on sustainable agendas, its relation to new technologies, its possible subversion of mass consumption and potential contribution to the emergence of new political economies.

In 2013 the college's had a  "little sister" - Plymouth School of Creative Arts - a city-centre all-through free school for 3 to 16-year-olds.

We chatted to its founder and head Andrew Brewerton at the Tate Exchange event about his passion for a different kind of teaching. "One that deprograms the student who comes through the door. Stops them delivering what the teacher wants them to say. They are in charge of their own learning." (Andrew cited as an example the Plymouth school's course in "culinary art" , where the act of creation happens in a sensuous, crafted way, guided by Andy Nunn, a local master chef.)

A School of Creative Arts required a very different kind of space to create a simple, robust and permeable school that would encourage openness, sharing, curiosity and enable making in all subjects to be used as a way of thinking and exploring. From this brief the award-winning landmark building The Red House - as it is now affectionately known in the community - came to be. 

Discover more about The Red House and the school's radical and progressive continuum of creative learning and practice in the beautifully executed video below. Made by by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, it looks through the eyes of children and staff to capture both the philosophy and the everyday life of the school.