What Protégé offers is not available through statutory provision. Our USP is that we create a non-institutional catch-up opportunity in a professional and aspirational environment. The security and trust that we co-create with young people means the Protégé environment and ethos supports their individual complex situations, enabling continued learning without the pressure to conform academically in a system by which they already feel rejected.
Protégé works in partnership with cultural organizations, the third sector, media agencies and broadcasters committed to social and educational innovation. We work with and disseminate our findings to schools, policy developers, alternative service providers and agencies responsible for the growing number of young people currently out of mainstream education.
Protégé began as an experiment - established in 2006 in partnership with the University of the Arts London, hosted by Central Saint Martins College of Art. Responding to the Every Child Matters, AimHigher and Widening Participation agendas, we believe every child has a right to learn and fulfil their potential. To translate this 'right' into a reality Protégé personalises the learning experience and makes it more responsive to the life experiences, aspirations and mind-sets of individuals rejected by the mainstream. We aim to learn how young people who have been long-term excluded from school might catch up through an opportunity of personalized learning in time for a return to further education, or the workplace.
Central Saint Martins was an important first home for our action research. In many ways the divergent young people we work with share 'rebel dna' with artists who have made it on their own terms, such as the successful alumni of CSM – people like Jarvis Cocker, Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen - who also did not easily 'fit in' with conventional learning, but whose innate raw creativity helped them to overcome bullying, adversity, illness, elitism to get their talent recognised so they could make a valued contribution to our culture. For these people the crucial moment was getting their maverick talent noticed and finding their way back in to education after missing school.
Protege is now independent of Central Saint Martin's but continues to work with artists who have graduated from CSM and other UK art colleges.
In 2009 Protégé established its constitutional independence and was welcomed by the Somerset House Trust to its new home in the old Victorian Vaults. Somerset House is an inspiring centre for art, culture and creative exchange. A spectacular neo-classical palace in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames, it offered our students a taste of a different world, and enabled them to look at life from a different persepctive and feel a sense of belonging to British culture and heritage. During summer months 55 fountains dance in the courtyard, and in winter visitors can skate on the ice rink. Protégé's students have responded with awe and pride at working in an environment that they have shared with London Fashion Week and other glamorous events, realizing that learning can happen, not just in schools and colleges but wherever they decide to accept the challenge.
Our work to date has been supported by a consortium of charities, trusts and foundations. We have successfully delivered action research and skills development work with our target group of excluded young people, with support from Arts Council England, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, John Lyons Charity, Specialist Schools & Academies Trust, Sir John Cass's Foundation, Becta and the Jack Petchey Foundation