In My Opinion: Courtnay McLeod: Making creativity work

“IS there a bear chasing you?,” he laughed.

“No,” I answered, running down a corridor. “There’s not a bear, but we’ve just won London!”

This was the start of a conversation where I explained to my manager that the Bauer Academy had secured government contracts worth £1.8 million.

The academy has a history for securing exciting contracts, but in my mind this one was a breakthrough – not just for Bauer, but for education.

For all the right reasons, this funding took my breath away. It signalled change.

The funding will be used to deliver a new training programme called ‘Making Creativity Work’, designed to take hundreds into employment

The funding is from the European Social Fund, via the Skills Funding Agency, and is a rare example of government funding going directly to a private company that is both the training provider and a major employer. It’s a clear ‘green shoot’ that education is shifting.

When we launched the academy in Edinburgh in 2012, it was designed to be different.

Unlike other academies, the Bauer Academy is a government-registered training provider and a recognised accreditation centre.

It has been built, brick by brick, to be a credible provider of world-class education inside one of the world’s brightest media companies.

The concept of taking the best features of higher education into the industry to create a centre of excellence, innovating education, media and business, was an ‘interesting’ proposition.

One former colleague suggested I was ‘dumbing down’ education and compromising what I was capable of.

However, only four years on, it appears there is nothing dumb about trying to break new ground by taking teaching and learning into the heart of a business.

The benefits are vast, particularly for the employer – but, most importantly, for the learner.

Unsurprisingly, experimenting creates new discoveries.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons to come out of the academy is that innovation in education is vital.

When successful, it benefits individuals, companies, communities and – ultimately – economic growth.

The World Economic Forum recently argued we have less than five years to change how we learn: “Most education systems are so far behind the mark on keeping up with the pace of change today and so disconnected from labour markets that nothing short of a fundamental overhaul will suffice in many economies.”

A fundamental overhaul can only be achieved if governments boldly commit to change and employers genuinely roll their sleeves up to help reshape education.

The days of people being lectured and examined are fading, and what’s emerging is exciting.

The notion that people learn best in classrooms from academics that are dedicated to a career in an ‘ivory tower’ is fast becoming farcical.

Across the world, there are more and more examples of innovation in education, and – collectively – these are shaking the dust off an archaic system.

A system that, for far too long, has suggested learning takes place in a specific way, at a specific time and place, with everyone appearing the same at the end of the process.

Of all things in life, learning shouldn’t be formulaic – it should be personal, constant and engaging.

At its best, education should take your breath away.

Courtnay McLeod is the founding director of the Bauer Academy, and a fellow of both the Higher Education Academy and Royal Society of Arts. She has worked as an academic advisor, visiting professor and lecturer in the UK and abroad, and was previously an news presenter and broadcast journalist