- Interview by Jason Sayer
- Photographs by Freddie Ardley
Alice Barnard is chief executive of the Edge Foundation, a charity pursuing a unified and holistic education system that supports social equity and enables young people to fulfil their potential and come away with a skill set suited to the 21st century.
What drives you?
Edge believes all young people should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum, including technical and creative subjects, taught in a way that makes learning meaningful and relevant. The culture of high-stakes testing in schools stifles creativity and limits opportunities to develop skills such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork. The government is stubbornly adhering to a curriculum designed in 1904; young people now need different skills and knowledge. Our current education system disadvantages young people from the most deprived backgrounds and we are wasting huge amounts of talent, which our society and economy desperately needs.
How did you come to be doing what you’re doing?
I’ve been a reporter, the head of an organisation campaigning on rural issues and run my own business, but my route to Edge was via the Peter Jones Foundation where I was chief executive. That organisation is all about supporting young people to be enterprising and successful, so it was a short step to Edge, it’s just that we’re tackling it from a policy perspective and trying to effect systemic change.
What’s your business model?
Edge is fortunate in that we have an endowment, meaning we are not reliant on public money, not subject to influence from government, and can be selective in which donations we accept. This means we have a truly independent voice.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in trying to do your job?
The intransigence and reactionary thinking of Nick Gibb (then schools minister). He is so entrenched in 19th-century ideas about education.