Wednesday 12th May 2021 sees the launch of FIDA (Futures Institute at Dollar Academy) – an open-access online learning platform that empowers young people to learn in new ways, through innovative projects rooted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). It has been created to address three fundamental challenges – sustainability, equitable access to education, and the need for curricular reform.

The platform enables young people to work with experts from industry and universities to better understand, and design solutions to, some of the most complex challenges we face, such as climate change, poverty, and social injustice. There is a wide variety of ways young people can get involved, with a core offering of 17 Global Challenges – one for each of the UN SDGs.

FIDA Online Learning

FIDA Online Learning

Built in partnership with industry and universities – including renowned textiles manufacturer Johnstons of Elgin, award-winning global architectural studio Grimshaw, and the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge – these open-access Global Challenges encourage students to apply critical thinking and creative problem solving to tackle real-world issues. Each one is centred around a core principle of helping young people develop the skills required to help build a more sustainable future.

The first five Challenges are now freely available via the website and take from 3 – 8 hours to complete. They range from ‘Zero Hunger’, which sees MasterChef finalist Jilly McCord help children create a new recipe based on local, sustainably-produced foods; to ‘Future Plastic’, where pupils will make their own bioplastic at home and will design a novel packaging solution that could help reduce plastic waste.

In addition to receiving a certificate upon completion, students who submit promising work will have the opportunity to gain internships, work experience and participation in mentoring programmes – be that spending a day working with Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin in one of his restaurants or undertaking an online mentoring programme with the Head of Sustainability at Highland Spring.

In an effort to further reduce the attainment gap in Scottish education, FIDA also offers free SQA courses, starting with Higher Politics and National 5 Economics, which will allow pupils who cannot access these courses via their own schools, to study for the qualification online, supported by regular interaction with a specialist teacher via video call.

Later in the year, FIDA will offer a programme of online Sustainability Summits, beginning with a partnership with Sustainable Fashion Week in September and a UK Education and Sustainability Leadership Summit in October. There will also be a Teacher Toolbox, which will provide free resources for teachers.

FIDA has been created by leading Scottish independent school Dollar Academy, following the success of their online open-access pilot Dollar Discovers in 2020. The launch of this pilot coincided with a report funded by the Scottish Government and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and published by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, that called on independent schools to take “more action to share teaching, infrastructure and networks with local state schools and community groups – including for example … digital learning links to widen subject choice where it is currently restricted, and access to a wider range of employers and individuals who could make valuable connections with state schools”. FIDA builds on the earlier pilot to offer a wider range of courses, projects and opportunities free of charge to children across Scotland.

Ian Munro, Rector of Dollar Academy, said:
“FIDA has been developed, in line with our charitable purpose and core belief in the transformative power of education, as a way to further enhance our bursary provision by providing the greatest educational impact to the largest number of young people possible. We want to redefine what it means to be a 21st-century educational charity.

“The pandemic and its impact on schooling and exams is surely just one reason why it is right we question the educational status quo as well as the inconvenient truth that the current education system in the UK has largely been inherited from the 19th century.”

David Thomson, Head of Modern Studies at Dundee’s Morgan Academy, who was part of the Dollar Discovers pilot, said:
“To be given access to this resource has been an absolute godsend and the support Dollar Discovers has given me has been immeasurable. More importantly, the resource being made available to my students has boosted their confidence and ability immensely.”

Pupils who have studied Higher Politics this year via the Dollar Discovers pilot, stated:
“The main reason I decided to take Higher Politics with Dollar Discovers was because it was not a course that my, or the surrounding schools, offered.”

“The resources and support were incredibly useful; it doesn’t even feel like you’re doing the course remotely due to the wide range of support that is on offer. The exam help has been super useful and has allowed me to boost my essay knowledge and improve my skills – even in other classes.”

FIDA launches on Wednesday 12th May at

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Ian Munro
Mr Ian Munro became the fourteenth Rector of Dollar Academy when he arrived in 2019. Prior to this, he held leadership positions at George Heriot’s (his alma mater), Gordonstoun and Shiplake College. He became the youngest serving Rector of an HMC school in the world when he was appointed by Kelvinside Academy, where he gained a reputation for innovation and imaginative educational development.

Ian attended the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a BSc in Zoology and a PGCE. He holds an MEd (Master of Education) from the University of Cambridge and studied at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Ian is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and sits on the advisory board of the NuVu Innovation School.

Dollar Academy
As the world’s oldest co-educational day and boarding school, Dollar Academy has been developing its pupils for over 200 years. Located in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, the school is home to around 1,300 pupils aged 5-18.

Dollar is recognised as one of Scotland’s leading independent schools and has a very sound reputation amongst the UK’s top universities. The school offers the widest range of academic subjects in Scotland, and around 100 co-curricular activities, ensuring every child finds something to interest them.

External collaborators include:
Prof Richard Calland – Associate Professor of Public Law at the University of Capetown and Fellow of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
Andrew Whalley – Chairman, Grimshaw
Simon Cotton – CEO, Johnstons of Elgin
Les Montgomery – Chief Executive, Highland Spring Group
Andrew Bateman – Managing Director, Page Park Architects
Amelia Twine – Founder, Sustainable Fashion Week
Prof John Currie – Director of the Scottish Energy Centre at Edinburgh Napier University
The Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge
The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute

The first five Global Challenges to launch in June 2021 are:

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2: ZERO HUNGER
Global Challenge: My Community, My Food
Strawberries may not be in season in the depths of a Scottish winter – yet they can readily be found on our supermarket shelves. However, transporting food across the planet requires vast amounts of fossil fuels, pesticides, protective packaging, preservative coatings, and labour. In this challenge, pupils will learn about the Local Food Movement that is gathering momentum across the globe and research the foods produced within 100 miles of their home. After some top tips on combining ingredients from MasterChef finalist Jilly McCord, they will then create their own recipe made from these local foods. Recipes and images will be collected for a digital cookbook, and the creator of an outstanding recipe will have the opportunity to meet Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin and spend a day observing and assisting the chefs at his restaurant The Kitchin in Edinburgh on 24th June.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
Global Challenge: Handwashing Station
The Covid-19 global pandemic has been a powerful reminder of just how crucial hand hygiene is in keeping healthy and avoiding serious illness. In this challenge, pupils will learn about some remarkable initiatives in developing countries to develop innovative, low-cost, sustainable hand washing stations. They will then consider where a handwashing station in their own community would be most effective, and what might encourage people to use it – perhaps through playful or artistic design. Finally, they will design, sketch and, if they wish, make a prototype of their own sustainable hand washing device. Submissions will be included in an online gallery, and the creator of an outstanding design will have the opportunity of work experience with Scottish soap company Siabann, under the guidance of founder Fiona Ritchie.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9: INDUSTRY, INNOVATION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Challenge: Future Plastics
Plastic is, quite literally, everywhere. It has reached the depths of the ocean and every link in the food chain, and is even found now in the rain. Yet many of our consumer products and industrial processes are now dependent upon plastics. Finding new ways to reuse and recycle them as well as developing biodegradable alternatives are among the biggest and most urgent innovation challenges of our time. In this project, pupils will make their own bioplastic, and will design a novel packaging solution to help reduce plastic waste in the future. Submissions will be included in an online gallery and the creator of an outstanding design will have the opportunity of mentoring from the Head of Sustainability at Highland Spring Group.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13: CLIMATE ACTION
Challenge: Worms for Waste
Food waste makes up an astonishing 30% of what we throw away – yet if it is composted instead, it results in a fantastic fertiliser for crops and a reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from landfills. A key partner in this effort is the humble earthworm. Adding worms to compost piles helps speed up the composting process and allows for more nutrients to be retained in the resulting soil. In this challenge developed with Anna de la Vega, Founder of The Urban Worm, The Urban Worm, pupils will learn about sustainable farming practices such as worm composting and will design their own wormery. The creator of an outstanding design will have the opportunity of work experience at retailer Zero Waste Organics, under the guidance of founders Lauren Snook and Michael Ijomanta.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16: PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS
Global Challenge: Monumental Reimagining
Throughout history and across cultures, monuments have helped us express cultural identity, reflect societal values and tell stories to future generations. In this challenge, pupils will explore the many different forms monuments can take. Through the controversy around the Henry Dundas monument in Edinburgh, they will consider the tensions that can occur, and will have an exciting opportunity to take part in a virtual debate on the subject led by educational charity Parallel Histories, experts in the study of conflict. Finally, pupils will propose a new monument for their own local area to reveal a previously untold story about the identity, values, and history of their community. Submissions will be included in an online gallery, and the creator of an outstanding proposal will have the opportunity of work experience at award-winning architectural practice PagePark in Glasgow.

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