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How can schools cultivate the skills students will need to thrive in today’s fast evolving workplace?
No more jobs for life
As economic change and advances in technologies such as AI and automation continue to transform industry and business, Marina Gardiner Legge – headteacher at Heathfield School, Berkshire – reviews the vital life skills that will equip students for multiple careers in a fast evolving job market and discusses how schools can adapt to meet the changing challenges...
 Looking beyond
the classroom
If we are to educate our students to value and develop their imagination and creativity, to become more collaborative and to see innovation as a worthwhile goal, then we
need to look beyond the traditional school curriculum and grades on a page. I firmly believe every educator knows that a full education
should cultivate curiosity and a critical sense in a young person together with attributes known as ‘character’ skills such as resilience, determination, courage, challenge, moral courage, compassion and empathy – to name just a few!
A report Life Lessons1 from Sutton Trust, October 2017, highlights the recognition among teachers, employers and young people
that these attitudes, skills and behaviours underpin success in school and work. To flourish, these values must be embedded into all aspects of school life - assembly, chapel (if a part of the school),
the staff room, parent interactions and all relationships built with stakeholders.
Extracurricular activities play a vital role. They must offer value-added opportunities giving the students the chance – and the time – to pursue their own interests, to be confident and motivated and to relish fresh challenges.
Variety is key to creating rounded, kind and courageous young people. Debating is excellent for creating resilience and celebrating a quick and critical mind, and a game of lacrosse on a muddy wet cold day for developing determination and
stamina. Volunteering is valuable for helping to develop compassion and an understanding of modern British society. Choosing several activities should – in my opinion – be compulsory.
Young people can be naturally apprehensive of something they haven’t tried before and yet will probably love it. I haven’t met anyone who has completed a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award who hasn’t been tremendously proud of what they’ve done. Students need to be encouraged to try everything and if they are lucky enough to have the opportunity they need to get stuck in - this will help them in the future too.
Teaching tactics
Back in the classroom, simple
but effective strategies – which
are open and accessible to every teacher – are invaluable in helping pupils develop non-academic skills:
• Praise the effort rather than the end result which, although tricky with examinations, is a crucial element of positive education and is really effective in building confidence.
• Encourage children to take
risks and then empower them
to correct their work. In my English classroom I would always celebrate children who used more ambitious vocabulary but spelt the words incorrectly rather than ‘safe’ spellings. It’s amazing how a positive approach can really change a child’s attitude to risk taking.
• Be explicit about the skills being taught and highlight them when
talking to pupils. ‘I’m impressed by your perseverance here; you went back and reviewed your work well.’ The more we, as adults, make it clear which skills we prize, the more pupils will be able to articulate and understand their successes.
Time to dream
To succeed in a workplace that is constantly evolving, young people will need to be adaptable and able to learn rapidly and take the lead in careers that don’t yet exist. They will require imagination and ‘big picture’ thinking to find creative original solutions – skills that can’t be taught explicitly, but can be encouraged to thrive.
It is so important to allow time to daydream, to experiment and to even be bored. Here at Heathfield, we have a session called ‘Learning to Learn’ in our Lower School which focuses on metacognitive skills such as self-reflection, where pupils consider the different skills that they have to use in each lesson.
In the Upper School every pupil
is offered the Extended Project Qualification - the students’ choice of topic is free, although they must show that it is academically useful, either related to their current course of study, or their future. With freedom comes creativity and passion.
Reality check
Just as daydreaming should be valued, so too should a sense of realism and understanding how skills relate to the workplace. The more that schools and employers
work together to demystify
the world of work the better. Employers visiting schools to talk about their jobs is hugely helpful for pupils as are tours around the workplace. Parents need to talk
to their children about what they do all day, and recent graduates who are now employed coming back to schools and talking about their experiences can really help young people to understand what is required and how to seize every opportunity – including making the tea on the first day!
Our role as schools is to provide students and parents with as much relevant information as possible
to make meaningful decisions
and choices in their career paths. Right from the very first year of secondary school, students should have a structured programme that leads from exploring who they
are, for example, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie, through to matching those with particular career choices and then Higher Education. The more links a school has with its local community the easier it is to facilitate work experience and contacts with previous leavers from the school to empower current students. The best careers guidance is personalised, independent and ever changing to reflect the new needs of the world outside.
1 https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/life-lessons/ Research Author(s): Carl Cullinane, Rebecca Montacute
24 Independent Schools Magazine
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