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The Ivy House Award

Putting game-changing leadership and life skills at the heart of education

The Ivy House Award brings the kind of personal and professional development usually reserved for the most senior executives, to students – at a time when it can make the biggest difference. The Award develops leadership and life skills, giving 16 – 18 year olds the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to step up and take ownership of their future.


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March 2020
Ivy House gives young people the kind of life-changing learning that is normally only available to a tiny percentage of senior executives — at a time when it really can make all the difference.

About the innovation

Equipping students with the knowledge and skills to thrive in life, no matter what...

For 20 years Elke Edwards, Founder of Ivy House, ran one of the leading executive development businesses in Europe. She and her team worked with senior leaders at over 40% of the FTSE 100, developing extensive knowledge about how to become an extraordinary leader and lead an extraordinary life.

Together they made a real impact, winning over 40 awards for their work in leadership development and performance improvement. But for all this success, one thing kept bothering her.  If we know so much about what it takes to lead an extraordinary life, why is this knowledge only given to those who have already reached the pinnacle of their careers? Why aren’t we giving it to young people at a time when it could change the whole course of their lives?

Elke knew that if we were going to give our young people the best opportunity to thrive then this had to be turned on its head, so she created Ivy House. Ivy House offers the kind of world-class personal and professional development usually reserved for senior executives, to determined young people, just starting out

In the corporate world companies like RBS, Aviva and The Economist work with Ivy House to develop their brightest emerging talent. Now we’re bringing the same opportunity to schools through The Ivy House Award — delivering the essential aspects of this incredible learning to students.

Delivered over 20 sessions, The Award first supports students in discovering their unique character; who they are, what they want and how they can play to their strengths and then develops a core set of skills critical to future success. 

Developing ownership, initiative, resilience, wellbeing, confidence and self-leadership, The Award bridges the gap between education and work, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to thrive in life, no matter what.

The result?

Learners develop the confidence and skills they need to step up and take ownership of their future, including:

  • How they show up at school and beyond
  • The relationships they build
  • The careers and paths they choose
  • Their self-confidence
  • The impact they make on the world


The Ivy House Award
The Ivy House team have spent their careers working with senior leaders in business and are experts in what it takes to stand out. Now we’re bringing this sought-after knowledge and skills to the next generation, through The Ivy House Award.
Things different at 17
We asked our Alumni how they think things would have been different if they'd taken The Ivy House Award at 17 years old - here's what they said...
Next Generation Leadership - Talent Development - Ivy House London
To find out more about The Ivy House Award visit:https://www.ivyhouse.co.uk/our-programmes/award/
Teenagers' thoughts: The Ivy House Award
Students taking The Ivy House Award can explain the impact it's had on them way better than we can - so click here to find out more about what they think.
A School View - Wycombe Abbey
Click here to find out how The #IvyHouseAward is helping students at Wycombe Abbey improve their leadership skills, take 100% ownership and create a plan for their future. 
Oscar's story...
For reasons we'll let him explain, Oscar is taking part in The #IvyHouseAward and will be sharing regular updates on his journey. Look out for the next instalment coming very soon!  Click here to find out more about his story.
Week 1 Student Blog - My Life
Written by Anouska Jantzen, Ivy House Award student Young people frequently tend to shy away from considering their future, telling themselves that they’ve ‘got plenty of time’ and ‘there’s no rush’. What is often overlooked is that thinking about the future begins with thinking about the present. The sooner questions are asked and answered about our current lives, the sooner we can move in the right direction, towards our ideal life. Some of the questions asked in the first masterclass will be challenging, and our initial instinct might be to back away. Yet stepping back and looking at our lives in a different way than before, will allow us a degree of perspective that will be invaluable when looking from the present, into the future. What if considering what you wanted out of life gave you that push to go to university, or to accept a job that would have intimidated you too much to accept before? These questions can wait, but they shouldn’t. At 15 I was faced with what, at the time, I considered to be a very big decision about my life and my education. I had two options. Option 1 was to stay at a private school that almost exclusively valued academic achievement, in which I would almost certainly achieve high grades and get into a very good university, but one in which I was unhappy. My alternative, option 2, was to move to a state sixth-form college which would throw numerous challenges at me. It would test my self-motivation, my concentration and the ability to cope with change, to name but a few. In making this decision, I went back-and-forth for months. Ultimately, I felt like I was deciding between academic credentials and my happiness. I worried that my parents, having funded private-school education, wouldn’t want to risk their investment if I were to take option 2. I feel lucky to have a family that is supportive, but nevertheless I felt as though I had a duty to make the decision for them, not me. However, before I made my decision, I came to two realisations. First, this life is my own, no one else’s. I needed to make the right decision for me, not for my parents. My second realisation was that I didn’t need to choose between my happiness and my academics: I could have both because both of these things were and are within my control. I took option 2 and I proved myself right. Most importantly I was happy, but I also succeeded academically, far beyond what I initially thought possible. This decision has stayed with me ever since, and at nearly 21, I consider myself to have set a strong precedent. The only reason I ended up making the right decision for me, was because I thought deeply about my life at the time and areas in which I could improve it. I didn’t want to just let life happen to me. I had the opportunity to make a decision that had the potential to improve my life and if I wasn’t going to take it, what would that say about me? I would have been complacent, passive and I’m not that person. The first masterclass inspires thinking about life in a way that will encourage us to be forward-thinking and introspective. Deeper thinking and curiosity will mean we make decisions that lead us in the direction we want to be going. For example, a few of the questions that guided my decision were:  Where am I at right now?  What do I want out of life?  What is important to me?  What makes me happy? These are questions very few people ask themselves; fewer answer them and even fewer act upon those answers. What you give importance to has a significant effect on the direction your life takes. It impacts your motivation, goals and behaviours. So many people float through life allowing life to happen to them, without realising that they are in the driving seat. If you allow this to happen, your life is not your own! As Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist”. The first masterclass, ‘My Life’, provides the primary step to establishing what we really want out of life and how we can get there, through triggering the initial thinking about where we are now and what we could improve. Asking big questions can be daunting, but it provokes a level of critical thinking that enables us to dig deeper and understand our lives, what we ultimately want out of life, and with consideration of this, we can figure out how we can begin living our ideal lives.
Week 2 Student Blog - My Element
Written by Anouska Jantzen, Ivy House Award studentThink about when you are at your most content, when you feel the most joy. Don’t you want to have that feeling more often? The second session of the Ivy House Award, ‘My Element’ will help us find this place, so that we can spend as much time there as possible. But how do we know what this is? And why is it important? The second session helps us to discover the point where our strengths and passions meet, at a time when we have so much control over the direction our life is taking: sixth form. We will feel most fulfilled and content, when we spend time in our element. Unfortunately, there is no algorithm or formulae to figure out what combines each of our strengths and passions most effectively. Students are individuals, we are all totally unique, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all’ for finding where our element lies, it requires thinking, patience and determination. The second session puts us on the path to discovering our element, by encouraging us to pick apart our passions and strengths, with the hope of finding places where they intersect. We all have something, and some of us will have more than one. For example, many people love team sports such as rugby, but what people love about it will inevitably vary from person to person. Some may love the teamwork and camaraderie, whereas others may like the feeling of leading a group, or the competitiveness. Equally, others may prefer individual sports. They may enjoy the feeling of control, independence, the peacefulness of training alone or one-on-one competitiveness. There are so many different reasons why people might enjoy one particular activity, but to maximise our feelings of contentment, we should aim to draw on our strengths simultaneously. I’ve known for a while that I want to be a lawyer in the future, but being just a ‘lawyer’ isn’t a career: what kind of lawyer, what area of law, self-employed or employed and so on. It wasn’t until I did the Ivy House Award that I began to get more clarity about what specific career would make me feel most fulfilled. I established my core strengths as being communication, articulation and self-motivation (among others). I then thought about what I love. However, I didn’t just think about what I love, I thought really hard about why I love it. I have a passion for the law not just because I want justice or adore ‘Suits’, but because I enjoy contentious matters that are open to interpretation and full of grey areas. I also feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction when I am able to help other people. A lot more thinking went into this, as you can imagine, but what I did was separate my strengths and what I enjoy about my passions, so I was able to look for places where they intersect within the legal profession. Without the Ivy House Award, I would still be searching for direction in terms of my career. It has been crucial to consistently remind myself that my element is not fixed. It will evolve, grow and change as I do. My element is not the same now as when I first did The Award, but there are similarities, and I can be pretty certain that it won’t stay the same forever. I moved from wanting to be a commercial solicitor, to criminal barrister, to civil barrister, and the chances are it will continue to evolve as life goes on. These changes have come naturally over time, and I haven’t pressured myself to keep my element static. The second session reinforces the idea that the sooner we figure out where our element lies, the sooner our lives can move in the right direction, towards spending as much time in our element as possible. We can allow our element to change and evolve over time, but what must stay constant is that it remains priority in our lives. Don’t worry if you’re not sure, so many students feel a little clueless, I know I did. The point is to start thinking about it. We have to commit ourselves to exploring possibilities, questioning what we enjoy and why we enjoy it, and searching for where our strengths raise their heads throughout our lives. Be curious, experience different feelings and activities. Start noticing how you feel, and what it is that is making you feel that way. What are you good at, what do you love, and what do you love about it? We have a far greater chance of success (whatever this may be to you) and fulfilment when we live in our element. Session two will help you find it.
Week 3 Student Blog- Being a courageous learner
Written by Anouska Jantzen, Ivy House Award studentThe title of the third session isn’t quite as it seems. Being a courageous learner is so much more than having the courage to learn. We must be able to figure out whether, in any given scenario, we are being motivated by learning or by being right. But on a deeper level, to be a courageous learner is to do and recognise 5 key things:  1. Look at the raw facts 2. Self-coach rather than self-judge 3. Hold opinions lightly 4. Fail forward 5. Know we can only change ourselves These 5 things from the third session of the Ivy House Award have changed my life, and I promise it will do the same for you if you allow them to. They have revolutionised the way I conduct ANY conversation, whether it be a heated discussion or small talk, and have bettered my thinking and mind-set. Sixth-form students are at crucial time in their lives. In the near future they will be making big decisions about their personal and professional lives, starting work or university and possibly moving away from home. These milestones won’t necessarily be easy and may trigger some challenging situations and conversations. With the learnings from session three of the Ivy House Award, tackling these challenges can be done head-on, with confidence and composure. In the past, in most conversations I was motivated by being right. I liked to be right because it gave me a good feeling, a feeling of intellectual superiority. But after doing session three of The Award, I gained a level of perspective that allowed me to analyse what impact this was having not only on myself but on those with whom I was having the conversations. I realised that by being motivated by being right, I was ego-driven and closed to understanding others’ perspectives. I would hear what they said only to respond, rather than really listening to understand their views and widen my sphere of knowledge. I could be defensive and snappy, and I felt that, to a degree, my worth was dependent on whether someone thought I was right or wrong. Most of the time, these conversations were rather unpleasant and ended just like that: unpleasantly. Does any of this sound like you? The Ivy House Award came at just the right time, because it was time to make a change. Following session three of The Award, I was immediately aware of the fact that too often I was focused on being right over learning. I stepped back and thought about the kind of person I want to be, how I want to come across, and what changes I could make. The learnings that had the greatest impact on me and my life were to hold my opinions lightly and realise that I cannot change others. Holding opinions lightly is a big one. I used to be pretty closed minded: no one was going to change my mind because I’d already decided what I thought. How naïve of me? My opinion is exactly that; just my opinion. By opening up and realising that there’s no shame in changing my mind, I began to relax into conversations in which people disagreed with me. I now ask questions, I am curious and always manage to learn something new. When studying, we are often taught to argue our case or opinions tooth and nail, but this isn’t necessary in real life. We can sit back and allow others to impart their knowledge onto us. We might even be asked our opinion, in which case we can share our knowledge, but the motivation should be to learn. I’ve found that conducting conversations like this often results in significantly ‘better’ outcomes, because all parties have multiple perspectives and sources of information. Conversations are much gentler and more informative, as opposed to feeling like a battle. The realisation that we cannot change others has had the biggest impact on my mental health. It’s far too easy to blame bad moods on someone else or make excuses that our presentation, for example, wasn’t great because someone in the group didn’t pull their weight. By realising that no matter how hard we try, we can never change other people, we focus our energy on being the best version of ourselves. By focusing on our own behaviours, we are much more likely to experience feelings of inner peace. If we think we can control others, at any point someone else’s actions could ruin the rest of our day, leaving us in a stressful state of suspense. Once we realise that we only have power over our own actions, these feelings of stress evaporate. Unfortunately, many people value being considered ‘right’ above all else; above the nature of the conversation, listening and learning, how the other person feels and often even above the ultimate outcome. This results in defensiveness and high-tension conversations. On the other hand, those motivated by learning often come across more relaxed, genuinely interested and open-minded. How would you rather be? As a result of the Ivy House Award, I now very rarely have arguments (rarely, not never - I’m still human!), they are more like discussions. I stay calm and curious if someone holds an opinion contrary to mine, I learn from my mistakes, I focus on my own behaviour and I find myself learning and understanding so much more than I have in the past. As a result of these learnings and changes, I now have full confidence in my ability to navigate any conversation or situation I find myself in. Session three of The Award encourages us to notice where we spend most of our time, so we can consciously move our focus if we so choose. In order to see changes in our lives, we need to begin by making changes within ourselves and to our behaviours. As John Ruskin said, “what we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”. So, with the help of the Ivy House Award, you can start making changes, and you’ll see a difference.
Week 4 Student Blog – 100% Ownership and My Inner Rhino
Written by Anouska Jantzen, Ivy House Award student Who takes responsibility for your life? You? Your parents? Your grades? Is there something out of your control that’s holding you back from reaching your full potential? Session four of The Ivy House Award encourages us to take full ownership of our own lives, because we are the ones in the driving seat. It’s up to us and only us to make our lives what we want them to be. Taking ownership for our lives is particularly important during sixth-form. It’s a time when the future seems to be rushing towards us at quite a pace. We begin to look beyond our A Levels, to potential jobs or university degrees. Unfortunately, no one else is going to create our perfect life and hand it to us on a plate, we have to get there ourselves. What this means is we must stop procrastinating, patiently waiting for the perfect work experience, or business opportunity to fall into our lap, and go out there and get it for ourselves, otherwise we could be waiting forever. Soon after I’d done the Ivy House Award, I was applying for what’s called ‘pupillage’; the barrister equivalent of a training contract. I stumbled across an advertisement for a drinks evening that one of the top London Chambers (firms) was holding to socialise with those who were applying for pupillage. I emailed to book a place and was told it was full. Great. I asked to be told if a place became available, just in case. On the morning of the drinks evening, I was at university in Cardiff in the middle of a lecture, when I got an email that a place had become available. I was swamped with work, completely snowed under and I had a friends’ twenty-first birthday party that evening. Plus, I’d have to rush to get all the way home to pick up a suit before going back into London for the event. You see my dilemma. After a brief battle, I decided to go. I hurriedly packed my things and hopped on a train home. Now, rather than getting me a job, which this endeavour unfortunately didn’t do, the result was a little more unexpected. Whilst at the drinks evening, I bumped into a friend who I’d met doing work experience a few months earlier. He told me about this new course that was being set up for training barristers. It was being set up by an incredibly prestigious institution, one which I had no idea was establishing a new course, and one which I certainly wouldn’t have heard about had I not gone to that event. As a result of that conversation, I applied for the course, went through a rather rigorous interview process, and was successfully accepted into the small cohort. The battle with ownership occurred the minute I received the email about the free place. I wanted to go to my friends’ birthday but also, I’d be exhausted and wouldn’t be as productive with my work if I had to go all the way to London and back in 24 hours. I considered what I could gain out of going. It could give me the information I needed to increase my chances of getting pupillage. I would meet people who did the job I wanted to do, which was going to be inevitably thought-provoking and an enjoyable experience. And then there was the unexpected. In a room full of the best of the best barristers, who knew what I could gain out of it? There was only one right answer. What if I hadn’t gone? I wouldn’t have gained the wealth of knowledge about the realities of the profession, I wouldn’t have met and networked with barristers at the height of their careers, and I wouldn’t be getting post graduate diploma next year. Ultimately, I might not have achieved anything from going to the drinks evening, but I didn’t know that when I made my decision. I couldn’t have decided not to go based on the fact that I might not gain something. There was far greater chance I would gain something. The point is that if I hadn’t taken ownership for my future in that moment, things would be very different. I committed to taking 100% ownership for my life when I did the Ivy House Award, and had I not done that, I wouldn’t have gone to the drinks evening. One thing is certain, my life will move significantly more in the ‘right’ direction for as long as I continue to take ownership for my future and make decisions that reflect this. The Ivy House Award gives us the push we need to take ownership for our lives. We know we should take ownership, but knowing is very different to doing.

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