The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
We are transforming the WHO, WHERE & WHAT of learning. We give kids intensive 1-1 support from volunteers, to work on projects that matter, in an unconventional learning environment. WHO should be the educator? You should! With training, all the community has a role to play in sharing skills & knowledge - teachers can't do it all, and there are amazing unused resources around us. WHERE should kids learn? Companies like Google think it's worth making amazing spaces for productive working, and kids deserve the same. So we've made a creative learning centre complete with secret passages and wonky libraries, that others can rent. And WHAT? We get young people working alongside creative professionals to make real, saleable stuff they care about, which develops their literacy as they go.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
1) Children aren’t achieving: 1 in 5 children in the UK leave primary school without the reading and writing skills they need. This is a chronic national problem. These young people are cut off from all the other opportunities society presents.
2) But there’s more to learning than exams: When we ask, most adults point to their most important learning coming from extra-curricular activities and inspiring role models. Children are most likely to achieve when they have a diverse range of activities to try and mixed role models to inspire them. Schools struggle to provide this diversity of influence.
3) Basically, children need personal attention & schools can’t provide it: One of the most powerful learning tools is 1-1 attention from an adult who cares. Where this role isn’t played by a family member, children rely on an overstretched school system to fill in the gaps. While there many great teachers, there simply aren’t enough resources to give children the personal attention they need
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Andrew is 10. He is keen to learn, but he is way behind in his literacy. He’s about to go to secondary school, where the chances are that none of his 14 teachers will have the time to focus on the areas where he’s got left behind. Action is needed now. His teacher knows about the problem, but she has 32 other children in the room with similar needs. Andrew isn’t getting good marks and he is beginning to hate school as a result.
Andrew is referred by his teacher to The Hackney Pirates. He comes to our centre three times a week after school, for a year. His reaction when he walks in and sees the fish tank, the Ideas Room and the Den is “Wow, that’s cool!”. It’s a nice place to be and it doesn’t feel like more school. Every day he comes, he sits down with a volunteer at his “Hot Deck”. Today it’s Howard, who’s a playwright and an actor. Howard comes to The Hackney Pirates because it’s fun to take a break from work. He wouldn’t want to be a teacher, but it’s fun to have a chance to work with kids in this environment, and it’s flexible enough to fit around his other work. Together Andrew and Howard work on Andrew’s homework for an hour. Andrew gets frustrated a few times because it’s hard, but Howard is good at helping him focus and explaining things in a different way. When Howard doesn’t know the answer, Howard helps find a good website to help explain.
After the break, it is time to work on this term’s creative project. This term we’re making a short film using stop-motion animation. Today we need to write the script. Every product is designed to develop literacy, but Andrew doesn’t really notice he’s doing lots of writing because he’s focussed on the fact that he’s got some time in the animation studio today. Professional animator Saskia is on hand to teach the new technical skills, and Andrew and Howard work together to finish the story that Andrew will be animating. Andrew knows that the film is being published online and shown at a local film festival, and he’s pretty excited to see his name in print on a big screen.
After a while, Andrew’s teacher tells us that Andrew is feeling more confident and positive about school, and that he’s really keen to try new things and has lots of ideas. At the same time, he’s caught up on literacy, so she’s less worried about how he’ll do in secondary school.
When the space isn’t being used during the day, we rent it out to local small businesses who want a great space to host their strategy meeting. They like supporting an education project with their money, and it’s great to have the Ideas room (which is covered in blackboard paint) to brainstorm in. On the way out they walk past our shop (which is a Pirate Travel Agency, by the way), and see the great T-shirts we’ve just published. They pick up a few of those as it’s Christmas soon and this is a much better present than anything else in the shops. And also a few wristbands designed by the kids which say “I am a Hackney Pirate”. Because everyone wants to be a Pirate.
Meanwhile up in Birmingham, ex-teacher Joe is frustrated at his experience of teaching. He’s left school and wants to do something to support the pupils he left behind. He knows so many great people in the local community that want to help. He hears about this great scheme to incubate innovative out-of-school learning projects, and he gets in touch with The Hackney Pirates.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
There are great schemes which develop reading and writing (like Volunteer Reading Help) and many projects that run creative activities. We’re special because of our focus on an unconventional learning space and on developing formal literacy alongside creative skills. We are teachers who understand why creativity matters, and we find creative people to train to be teachers. We are experts at getting the best out of volunteers so the whole community is working to help kids learn, and at using our creative outputs to be sustainable.
We also believe in partnering for bigger change, which is why we teamed up with a social enterprise (Enabling Enterprise) to deliver a project together so our young people can benefit from their work. We’ve got more exciting partnerships in the pipeline