The head of a Highland school is set to take “play” very seriously when he starts his new role with the LEGO Foundation.
The Danish toy giant is heavily invested in developing skills among young people and “aims to build a future in which learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners”.
Now the head teacher is to swap the Highlands for an important new position based in Denmark but which will see him travel the world as Initiative Lead in Connecting Learning and Play.
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Originally from Weymouth, Kingussie High’s Ollie Bray has spent time developing policy with Education Scotland before returning to frontline teaching where he has won numerous awards for his innovative practices.
But working for the LEGO Foundation will see him move from developing young minds to trying to persuade education authorities of the advantages of systemic change.
Mr Bray believes that in the past play has been under-rated by educators who may have missed how it feeds into skills like “collaboration, ignoring distractions, working under pressure.”
He said: “It is about connecting education and play but thinking about what people get from play and Lego could develop the skills that are used in play.
“What I agree with is that within the developed world there are bits of school that should be reinstated – there is a lot of it is didactic chalk and talk at the moment.
“But that is not great at is helping kids develop skills that help them to think creatively and continue learning.”
Mr Bray believes the approach could yield dividends in the classroom and beyond and the foundation is well placed to provide the means for play-based learning as it owns part of the toy giant.
To help change minds Mr Bray will have a “global remit. I’ll be working at the schools’ system levels, to advocate and influence how skills can be developed through working at play.”
He said: “For me there is a difference between fun and enjoyment. The analogy I use is the marathon runner who takes part in the race but does not always enjoy it. At the end he enjoys the finishing, the satisfaction.
“You want people to learn how to learn – it is serious play.”