UK’s first ‘innovation school’ opens in Glasgow

Imogen Gillan (S1) displaying items of ‘wearable technology’ made using mechanical design and fabrication techniques during a recent NuVu project.

The UK’s first full-time ‘innovation school’ – which is designed to shake up traditional education approaches – has officially opened in Glasgow.

The NuVu school aims to provide a learning environment designed around ‘creativity, innovation and enterprise’.

The new £2.5m facility is attached to Kelvinside Academy and is a partnership venture between the private school and NuVu – which is the brainchild of three pioneering MIT graduates who set up the first facility of its kind in Boston, US.

It eschews traditional teaching methods in favour of a ‘learning without lessons’ approach whereby students are encouraged to look at the world through a different lens – using design techniques and exploring creative boundaries.

The school is split over three levels and features a ‘workshop’ with 3D printers and laser cutters, a ‘photo studio’ and ‘creative space’ rather than classrooms. Students from Kelvinside can opt to take NuVu as a subject and is timetabled as part of the wider curriculum at the school, in much the same way as they would choose maths, English or science.

The new school is set to accommodate 50 students as part of its first phase and is designed to face up to the challenge of a fast-moving jobs market and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. 

Partnerships are already in place with a number of companies, including leading international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty, which built and constructed the specially-designed school, to use NuVu as a learning hub to develop the workforce of the future. 

At NuVu, pupils engage in hands-on problem solving, working on collaborative projects to develop creative solutions for real-world social and environmental problems. 

The new school presents a challenge to the Scottish Government by providing an example of what a new national curriculum around digital skills and future learning could look like. It also could provide a solution to teacher shortages, as instead of being taught passively by a teacher, pupils learn by doing and utilise 3D modelling software, 3D printers, laser cutters and a range of industry-standard tools to make their visions a reality, with industry and academic experts acting as mentors to help pupils find their own way through the process. 

NuVu first launched in the UK with Kelvinside Academy summer schools in 2017 and 2018. Now, the model is fully embedded within the curriculum. Already, over 50 senior pupils have selected NuVu as a subject option from S3 through S6 as an alternative to a traditional Nat 5 or Higher course. 

NuVu will not only provide a unique learning environment for Kelvinside Academy, but talks are already underway to open its doors to pupils at local schools as well as exploring NuVu hubs in local authorities across the UK. NuVu will also be implemented for teacher CPD throughout Scotland and corporate team building experiences for businesses. 

NuVu Innovation School Director, David Miller, believes the Innovation School will become a beacon for what schools of the future could look like.  

David will work closely with Kelvinside Academy Rector Dan Wyatt to embed NuVu core philosophies throughout the school. He said: “The education system hasn’t changed in more than 40 years, but the world has. I believe the new Innovation School will resolve a huge tension in education; everyone knows the model has to change but until now, there’s been no viable alternative. We believe this powerful learning model could and should become mainstream and we hope the Innovation School will serve as a case study for government and policy makers of what can be achieved.

“This is just the beginning, but the momentum is with us. The current system intensifies the idea that people leave school as a success or a failure, and for some, it can take many years to recover from this binary view of the world. Our model encourages a growth mindset. There are always ways to improve. There’s no specific target or outcome; the NuVu model empowers children and frees them from the depressing constraints of assessment.

“The design, technical and meta-skills being developed and enhanced in the Innovation School – together with an agile mindset – are exactly what a range of Scottish businesses and academics are telling us they need.”

NuVu was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2010 by PhDs and Graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The immersive model is an all-encompassing educational experience, with traditional STEM subjects brought to life by creativity, art, design, presentation, networking, negotiation and collaboration. The flexibility of the environment allows pupils to forge their own learning path.

NuVu design education fellow James Addison, who joined Kelvinside Academy in January this year, currently leads all studios at the school and another NuVu design fellow will join early next year.

A group of pupils have already been given the chance to work with Balfour Beatty – the construction partner. The pupils worked alongside contractors and designers, attending meetings and shadowing them as they constructed the innovation school building. Kelvinside will be collaborating with businesses, academics and organisations in the future to open up these opportunities.

To find out more about NuVu at Kelvinside Academy, visit www.kelvinside.org/innovation-school/what-is-nuvu-