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Andrew Close: Championing education for everyone

Andrew Close MRTPI is Director of Education & Profession at the RTPI


With my younger niece progressing up to primary school a few weeks ago, it was a proud moment for all the family. She already has aspirations for the future – well, copying anything that her sister wants to do – and eventually I will try to convince her of the merits of a career in town planning! It is fantastic to see first-hand the importance of school teachers as mentors in shaping the next generation and start them off on their own (early) career journeys.

New start for RTPI careers promotion

The Institute is championing the next generation of planners and delivering on the Corporate Strategy objective of BALANCE: Build A Legacy And New Community Equality. As set out on page 23 of the Corporate Strategy the project seeks to “target schools of greatest educational need and diversity, including areas of socio-economic deprivation in areas of high planning demand. Attract talented young people who can then serve their communities from a position of strength, signposting accessible routes”.

The overarching aim is to expand the number of schools and colleges that RTPI volunteers are able to visit and include locations and educational establishments not previously or regularly visited. By bringing a more diverse cohort into the profession it is hoped to not only lead to better outcomes but to a more inclusive sector. This educational focus supports a number of recommendations for the profession as a whole identified in CHANGE, the Institute’s equality, diversity and inclusivity action plan.

We are bringing in expertise to review the Institute’s careers promotion activity including current volunteer outreach projects and existing work experience programmes. Using their curriculum knowledge and school teacher network, a consultant will design and test new materials (online and/or print) and supply resources to train our members to embark on a new targeted ‘Future Planners’ campaign. For example, we wish to learn from the initial two years of our EXPLORE programme and look at new ways to work with employers and schools, such as Milton Keynes Council and Denbigh School, to build on the excellent work they and others are doing to promote town planning as a career choice to young people.

Broadening access and pathways into the profession

The Institute is also championing the next generation of planners through a review of its degree accreditation policy to ensure it remains fit for purpose for the modern age. The Corporate Strategy made a clear commitment to members and stakeholders to undertake a detailed review: EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE. This has the aim to: “broaden access to the pathways into chartered membership, to reach out to attract diverse talent, which will include reviewing the time taken, the delivery mechanisms and the content of courses”. Its purpose is to ensure the Institute’s approach to accreditation supports the CHANGE vision that the profession is more inclusive and reflects the communities it serves; and supports the Institute’s mission to advance the science and art of planning, working for the long-term common good.

As part of the next phase of this work, the RTPI Board of Trustees undertook a diagnostic of what further work is required to complete the policy review. This has recommended a rescoping of the programme to reflect on the evidence and information gathered so far and to ensure the early career journey of ‘initial planning education’ is fully considered. This covers progress into and through higher education, the learning outcomes taught on accredited courses and the practical knowledge and skills introduced at university, and then applied in the workplace with support from employers, for a recent graduate to be eligible for the RTPI Assessment of Professional Competence.

Whilst grant funding for postgraduate bursaries and our partnership with Public Practice can go some way to addressing these issues, the Institute’s ongoing state of the profession research shows the number of planners has remained relatively flat and there is still much to do.

Any thoughts or ideas?  Please do get in touch here

As I found in my own research published recently, an ongoing enthusiasm and dedication to the vocation of planning can be found in practitioners working in a variety of alternative career paths. Important motivations and values exist and should be championed: the ability to make justified decisions, being pragmatic, clear communication, being empathetic, the ability to ‘bring people with you’ and a continued sense of working in, and for, the public interest.

I am hopeful these qualities will attract the next generation and help grow the pipeline of planning professionals which the Institute continues to champion to all governments at all levels.  And thank you to all RTPI members who are engaging with these endeavours.

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