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How can we equip pupils for a hectic world?

With GCSE’s and A Levels now over we hear from Ben Vessey, Headmaster of Canford on the importance of preparing pupils for a hectic world.

What kind of a world are we sending our pupils out into?  As educators, are we equipping them with the right skills to meet the demands of a rapidly changing work place?   Could we do more to prepare them? We have certainly learned much from the past months as the Covid crisis has unfolded and there will be aspects of that learning which we take forward, alongside recognising that there are things we want to hold on to and treasure from more ‘normal’ times.

Within the safe surroundings of school, it is all too easy to feel immune to the turbulence beyond. Our pupils are able to make the transition to adulthood through sometimes tricky teenage years in a safe environment where they are encouraged and supported.  We hope pupils will leave having achieved their very best, both in academic terms and also in the development of their characters and in their spirit, able to step out into the wider world with confidence.

We recently heard from Anthony Seldon who placed importance on taking time to explore one’s inner self, in order to face a chaotic external life.  Without this inner confidence, he argued, we will never be able to bring order and fulfilment to our own lives, and this is an important prerequisite for making a positive difference to the lives of others, whatever paths we choose to follow.  In order to achieve this inner peace we need to make time and space for thought and reflection.

According to one educational commentator, it is the so-called ‘soft’ skills and character traits of creativity, teamwork, leadership, empathy, grit, and resilience that give independent school pupils a truly rounded, meaningful and enduring educational experience that impacts well beyond their classroom years.

Sentiments echoed by many others in and beyond the sector and which is certainly fuelling much debate around how we develop and assess our young people in the future.

It is important that our pupils regularly demonstrate these attributes in so many areas of life across the school community, through both their ongoing personal interactions and on a more public stage. It could be as leaders, driving initiatives which change and improve school policy and practice in a range or areas from Equality and Diversity, to the Environment. Or sportsmen and women winning through to County, Regional and National honours. Or even NCOs leading the CCF through a successful annual inspection. Pupils are given the opportunity to explore so many things which develop their confidence and their spirit far beyond their comfort zones. In turn this enables them to demonstrate the courage to express their values and principles through their thoughts, words and deeds and to embrace the challenges of life so each can excel in their own way.

What myself and my colleagues see emerging and developing in the young the pupils we work with each day are qualities which we believe will help to address and re-order at least some of the chaos which surrounds us.

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