‘Our school has been in challenging circumstances for a little while now and we have found that students really do suffer from low aspirations.  Activities like this are vital in helping us to raise those aspirations so my sincere thanks in giving Graham School that opportunity.’ (teacher)

This collaborative and ambitious project was led by Heather MacRae, with the Ideas Foundation.

Three full-day workshops were run for schools in the North East, between 6-9th March 2018, engaging 225 KS3 students, teachers and art students. The schools participating were:

  • Caedmon College and Eskdale School, Whitby, Yr 7
  • Graham School, Scarborough, Yr 7
  • George Pindar School, Scarborough – Yrs 7, 8  (also with art class students)

The brief for these activities was to design a trench coat and ‘runway concept show’ by introducing the students to the rich history and heritage of Burberry fashion. Also, to highlight the range of careers linked to the brand. The activities involved practical fashion based tasks, within the context of celebrating International Women’s Day & the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote.

The team comprised: Richard Mason & Cheryl Robinson, Burberry; Heather MacRae & Helen Poole, Ideas Foundation (IF); Helen Schell, artist & STEAM educator; Dr Lorraine Coghill, science outreach officer, Durham University; student ambassadors, Teesside University

The activity for each day started with the Burberry team informing the students about its rich history and heritage. The focus was on the development of gabardine and design of trench coats (made in the north of England) for use in the war, the links with explorers/pioneers and fashion. A brief was presented by Helen Poole, the Ideas Foundation for the trench coat design project. Helen Schell spoke about women pioneers and space-age smart materials.

To develop and create their designs, the students were given a range of art materials to collage and draw with. They also had photographic images of fashions and women pioneers to cut out and use. The pioneers included scientists, astronauts, sports women, politicians, fashion models and musicians. In addition to the design work, Helen Schell also provided a range of smart materials for the children to handle with reference sheets. Heather MacRae brought a Russian Sokol spacesuit for the students to look at and try on, which was incredibly popular. There were Teesside University student ambassadors to assist with design concepts and the realisation of the projects. The workshops were vibrant and energetic and they produced some adventurous designs, which took the trench coat concept into new realms. An exhibition of designs was held at lunchtime, with a ‘show-and-tell’ at the end of each day.

The day at Graham School also involved Dr Lorraine Coghill, who brought hands-on activities, such as heat, water and UV light reactive smart materials for the children to experiment with, which created a larger range of ideas.

The day at George Pindar School was for a smaller group and was held in an art classroom with access to a wider range of creative materials including paints, which allowed for larger and more innovative designs. The school wanted to continue the project with the aim of creating an actual trench coat. Having a smaller group of children, enabled Helen Schell (artist) to meet and engage with the art students working in the room next door, who were preparing for their GCSE Art.

The three days produced exciting designs and was very well received by the students, teachers and the schools, with excellent feedback. A project of this scale always produces surprises and a degree of flexibility and innovation is required. This first event was so successful that Burberry are keen to extend the project longer.

Feedback from a teacher (Emma Millican) at Graham School: ‘I just wanted to pass on my thanks again for a superb day.  The students clearly enjoyed working on the challenge and having a range of different people for them to interact with (not just #boring teachers) was clearly part of that inspiration.  Your team were great.’