NoTosh expands as international demand increases
One of the UK's brightest new outfits for creative learning, NoTosh, is expanding. It might only be by one person but for a relatively new organisation already working with schools across the country and the globe, that's 50 per cent growth – and the appointment of Peter Ford, one of the very first teacher bloggers, promises to extend the reach of NoTosh with an improved online presence.
NoTosh founder Ewan McIntosh, who was joined by another gifted educator, Tom Barrett, last year, welcomed his new colleague who is a former assistant head at the British School of Amsterdam this week: "Peter is one of my education heroes
"It had been seven years since I last saw him, working on a European-wide blogging project in 2005, when we needed to pull him in on an ambitious project to rethink the learning experience throughout Scotland's historical sites. His work was outstanding, his relationship with our clients a class act. Having Peter join us was an easy decision.
"We might be small, but whereas most other educational consultancies have a plethora of part-timers or occasional 'drop-ins' for projects, we now have the best mix of full-time, dedicated talent in our niche of creative, education consultancy, of that I have no doubt."
NoTosh has a very high profile for such a young organisation. It works on innovative projects with schools and local authorities across the UK and globally, with the number of national and international flights transforming Ewan McIntosh's Facebook feed into the realms of travelogue. The latest growth area has been Australia where NoTosh is working with 40 schools in the Brisbane and Sydney Catholic Education Offices.
Peter Ford will lead a number of projects, including a learning programme for one of the world's largest creative industry companies along with his existing work with school leaders in Northamptonshire where he is based. One of the successful projects he has been involved in with Northants has been setting up the popular Silverstone Study Centre which has already been very successful for inclusion and engagement.
He already has experience of setting up blogging and online platforms and this will help NoTosh maximise its international effectiveness.
He will also be involved with the project which seems to be generating a lot of new work for NoTosh, "The Design Thinking School programme", which has taken root in the UK, Europe and Australia.
It's a five-stage 'design thinking process' and it's being used to give students, educators, parents and even communities the tools to co-design their own curriculum, one that engages students in meaningful and creative work in a proper context. It's aimed at those schools who are now realising that creative and engaging curriculum work is far more likely to bring the kind of success that delivers SATs and GCSEs (often as a by-product), rather than focusing on the SATs and GCSEs and strangling the creativity and pleasure of learning.
'It's the kind of work that's done more in the creative industries than in schools'
It's the kind of work that's done more in the creative industries than in schools. The schools that are involved range from tough inner city schools to prestigious schools like LMC (Ladies Methodist College), one of the first to have 1:1 computer access for students. They also work with school leaders like Neil Hopkin who is pioneering approaches to formative assessment in the UK in Rosendale and Christchurch schools in south London.
What they have in common is a fresh approach to learning, and finding an antidote to the kinds of expressions teachers reluctantly make when they are forced to "teach to the test". Ewan McIntosh can recite them: "'Regardless of what you do I still get paid,' or 'You have to do it because it’s in the test,' or 'I know you don’t see the point in it and neither do I but we just need to get on with it.' These are so destructive for learning. Basically our work stops those sentences being valid – you could never say them in a design thinking classroom."
He says that design thinking takes the creative processes used by some of the best companies in the world and combines them with what education research shows works best in classrooms. "We know what work well in classroom; there’s evidence galore about what teaching approaches work. And design thinking is a process that allows great pedagogies to be given a sequence. It gives meaning to young people because they choose the angle at which they want to attack curriculum content, and choose the questions they want to answer.
"Do you want your young people to be learning from fake, pseudo problems, and text books, or do you want them to learn from immersing themselves in fascinating, curiosity-mongering material and asking provocative higher order questions about it and then having the time and space to go and answer those questions themselves?"