News: Coventry’s Coundon Court School wins inaugural V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge

A group of key stage 3 students from Coundon Court secondary school in Coventry have become first-ever winners of the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge, for their proposal to create a new community centre with a public allotment and cookery school for their local area. Launched in May 2019, as a key part of the free digital teaching resource hub V&A Innovate to support the teaching of Design and Technology (D&T) in secondary schools, the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge encourages young people to design solutions for real-world issues.

Over 3,000 students across the UK aged 11-14 participated in V&A Innovate this year, with 10 teams invited to showcase their proposals to a panel of leading industry judges, including Masterchef judge Monica Galetti, fashion designer Phoebe English, and Brompton Bike’s COO Paul Williams, as part of a pitching and awards day. The winning entries for individual categories included a Smartwatch-style wristband to help people walking alone feel safer conceived by students from Camden School for Girls for the category Go; a multi-purpose kitchen appliance for wheelchair users and people living in small spaces developed by pupils studying at Hoe Valley school in Woking for Eat; and a project to create extendable Dr Martens’ shoes for Wear proposed by students from Wrenn School, in Wellingborough, after noticing the prohibitive cost of school shoes for families living on restricted budgets.

Also announced today are the categories for the 2021 V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge: Community and Home. Created with teachers and designers, the programme introduces key stage three students to design principles used in industry and the D&T GCSE. V&A Innovate recognises key stage three as a crucial time in young people’s personal and educational development – for many, it is also the last time that they will study a creative subject in school.

The judging panel’s expertise across the fashion, food and travel industries reflected the three themes for this year’s challenge – inspired by the V&A’s exhibitions programme. The first theme Go, asked how new approaches to design could support the movement of people, things and ideas. The second, Eat, asked for ideas on sustainable eating and widening access to affordable and healthy food. The third, Wear, asked how technology might be harnessed to transform the future of fashion.

Dr Helen Charman, Director of Learning and National Programmes at the V&A, said: “The breadth and quality of ideas put forward, from after-school robotics clubs to science classes, underlines both the creative brilliance of young people across the country and the relevance of design to the broader curriculum. The V&A was founded to be a ‘schoolroom for everyone’ so I’m delighted that V&A Innovate – with a wealth of free resources inspired by our world-class collections of art, design and performance – is staying true to this mission by reaching thousands of young people and teachers in its first year. With creativity widely recognised as a crucial skill for the future, equipping young people with the confidence and tools needed in today’s fast-changing world – at a time when the take-up of art and design subjects at school is in worrying decline – has never been more important.”

Linda Hill, Design and Technology teacher at Coundon Court, Coventry, added: “This competition has inspired my pupils to design with a focus on sustainability and come up creative solutions to real-world problems. I would recommend it to all Design and Technology teachers. It was great to see my pupils focus on inclusivity and community for their project in developing a community centre for the local area.”

Full list of winners:

Overall Winner: Coundon Court, Coventry
A Community Centre with a public allotment and cookery school.

Go category: Camden School for Girls
A Fitbit style safety wristband

Eat category: Hoe Valley, Woking
A multi-purpose kitchen appliance

Wear category: Wrenn School, Wellingborough
An extendable school shoe based on research at a local Dr Marten’s factory

Student choice award: Trinity School, Newbury
Dehydrated jewellery made from fruit and vegetable peels

Teacher Award
Darwen Aldridge Community Academy

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