9th May 2022

A word from Principal, Richard Settle

Principal Richard Settle, Weekly Word, Sancton Wood

I recently spoke to all staff at INSET about the ‘Future Curriculum’ and the changing face of the workplace.  Like most school leaders I’m mindful of the fact that we must ensure that our students are aware of the many options that will be available by way of their future careers, and that their teachers understand how they can help them to prepare for this.

Most of us have now heard Professor of Education Ken Robinson’s famous statement ‘we now need to prepare our children for jobs that don’t exist yet’. Whilst I broadly agree with this, I might also be mischievous and say hasn’t it always been the case that we don’t know what’s round the corner, jobs-wise?  I don’t remember ‘Social Media Influencer’ coming up as an option in my careers talks back in the mid-80s!

Whatever, though, it’s certainly the case that a carefully crafted curriculum, a sharp teaching focus, one that enables students to build a range of important ‘soft skills’, and a vibrant and effective careers programme are very important to our children’s futures.

With regards to the latter, I’d say that students must be encouraged to consider as many career options as possible. Finding a job that provides genuine satisfaction, as well as the earning of a decent wage, is surely one of life’s holy grails, and I’ve never been properly convinced that many people achieve this. It’s dangerous for young people to think they must enter standard professions because it’s simply what’s expected of them and/or it’s what runs in the family. Whilst it is fine for many, it’s clearly not great for those who end up feeling like a round peg in a square hole, and not all will be brave enough to jump ship when they realise a job’s not for them.

This is where it’s vital for pupils to have, not just the resilience to change, but a broader palate of skills, relevant to the world of work in general, rather than specific tools for a specific job that most likely will change in time, leaving them ‘stuck’ without the options to move on.
The annual Future of Jobs report is clear on which skills will diminish in importance and which will become more important. The key skills identified in the latter category are digital skills, leadership, teamwork, emotional intelligence and creativity.  So, it seems natural therefore to look at our curriculum in the light of this.  Focusing on what students are doing whilst they are at school and with what ultimate purpose, and this was a key part of my talk to staff.  Naturally, we are hamstrung somewhat as we must be pragmatic in such considerations in relation to public qualifications such as GCSEs and A Levels, so the question of how a school develops such attributes in its students and delivers on exams is a complex one.

Taught lessons in digital skills are straightforward, they can be covered by the curriculum and other enrichment opportunities such as AI and programming.  However, lessons in emotional intelligence, leadership, creativity and adaptability are harder to track. It’s not impossible though and I believe that such attributes can be encouraged and developed in students, however, both in and out of the classroom. One could easily make the case that most of those key attributes are far better developed through involvement in co-curricular activities such as sport, music and drama and a slight pivot in the way we present other lessons and structure tasks.

Therefore, we review the curriculum each year, with the main purpose being to ensure that our students’ skills are developed in an effective and coordinated way.  This year, Enrichment, Later Learning and Creative Studies were all implemented to help with just that and have already been tweaked and amended for next year’s timetable.

We have also reviewed our careers programme so that we do a good job of opening our students’ eyes to the full cornucopia of future work options, not just the familiar and well-trodden paths. There are plans afoot to develop our careers provision accordingly over the coming months, starting next year with a Careers’ Day for all at Seniors.  This is scheduled for the Michaelmas Term and will involve a menu of careers talks for all children to choose from and attend, together with whole school talks on careers and options for the future, in partnership with InvestIN and Form The Future.

Read the previous “A word from the Assistant Principal” here

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