Our guest today is Ed Fidoe, the co-founder of School 21, and the co-founder and CEO of the London Interdisciplinary School, the first new university to launch in the UK in 40 years. In this episode, we talk about the future of learning, and why the challenges of our current times require us to have radically different models of learning and education.
“We should interrogate something before we give up on it. And so I thought, if I could instill that mindset in people at school, that would be a powerful thing.”
Ed grew up near Leicester in the East Midlands in England. From the age of four to eighteen he went to a small village school that was founded by retired teachers. Although it was a wonderful school in many ways with great academics and wonderful values, Ed felt that there was a lot more that they could have taught to prepare the students for their adult lives.
When he was nine years old, Ed also had the opportunity to act in an award-winning national television show, and this experience also shaped his mindset. It taught him that everything was possible and this is also something that he wanted to instill in children at an early age.
In his early twenties he started to think that in his 50s or 60s he would start a school. Eventually all of this came about 2o to 30 years earlier than he thought because of a signifcant change in policy in 2010.
Ed co-founded School 21 with two co-founders in 2012.
“These are timeless skills, which we think are really important.”
When School 21 started, Ed and his co-founders started with a blank sheet of paper. They asked essential questions like "what are the skills that schools are not very good at teaching but are timeless skills, that have been useful for a thousand years and will likely be still useful for a thousand years."
They called these skills “superpowers”. These include speaking powerfully in different settings & circumstances, craftsmanship (getting feedback and re-drafting your work) and grit or perseverance.
School 21 received a number of awards and so far the students performed very well in their GSCEs.
The London Interdisciplinary School
“Sometimes you have to be brave. You might increase your chances of failure in some areas, but actually, in other areas, you increase your chances of success.”
Around 2015, Ed heard that there will be a policy change, which would make it possible to found new universities for the first time in around 40 years in the UK. He took a risk and started to organise his life around the possibility that this would happen, and when the policy change took place in 2017, he was well prepared to start the London Interdisciplinary School (LIS).
The biggest difference between LIS and other schools is that most universities are organized around a single discipline, while LIS is starting with the problem. This could be mental health, or happiness, climate change, ethics & AI or other issues. Within that the students work together in smaller groups focused on more specific problems and look at these problems with a multidisciplinary lense. This creates a broader knowledge and better problem-solving skills. LIS also teaches systems thinking which is essential when it comes to tackling the major challenges of our times.
Palma’s Reflection On Solving Problems and The Art Of Giving Feedback
We invite you to pause for a moment and reflect on the conversation with Ed and to see if there is anything that you see fresh or new.
Maybe you are currently facing a challenge in your life or working on solving a problem and if you are, just pause and ask yourself, if there is anything from my conversation with Ed, that you could apply to your situation? Maybe collaboration with people from different fields or maybe looking into nature and seeing how nature would solve a problem like this.
The second theme we invite you to reflect upon is the art of giving feedback.
Giving feedback really starts with the intention - is your intention kind, to be of service or help the other person?
Make the feedback specific: about a specific situation, action or behaviour rather than making a blanket statement about the person or sharing a judgment.
Lastly be kind, and just see what happens.
About Our Guest, Ed Fidoe
Ed is the co-founder and CEO of London Interdisciplinary School (LIS).
He also co-founded School 21, an innovative 4 – 18 school in Stratford, East London, designed for children from all starting points and backgrounds (achieved Outstanding Ofsted in 2014).
Ed has advised leaders at Cambridge University, the London School of Economics along with some of the UK’s most exciting schools that are exploring new ways of teaching students. He has also worked with organizations specialized in working directly with disadvantaged students such as ARK Schools and Teach First.
Ed holds a BEng in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London and a degree in Business from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Prior to founding School 21 Ed worked at McKinsey & Co and ran a theatre production company.
A special thanks to Ed Fidoe for taking the time to share his inspiring story with us.
Resources Mentioned In The Show:
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