It’s hard to answer, says James Piper, head of The Perse Prep. “One of the questions that’s been asked for a while is: how do you prepare children for jobs in 40 years’ time, when we don’t know what they are going to be?” However, while computers will increasingly outperform humans in many fields, there are plenty of skills where carbon-based (as opposed to artificial) intelligence continues to win hands down. “There are areas where humans will continue to have the edge. It all comes back to things like work ethic, attitude, character and judgement,” explains James. One of his tips for visiting parents is to ask about some of the less visible aspects of school life, including assemblies and PSHE lessons. They are wonderful ways of helping children develop softer skills, such as good eye contact and a confident handshake. Useful, for example, when they’re being presented with an award. “So much in life is about relationships,” he points out. Knowing how to react and behave in a range of situations remains a highly desirable quality among employers – particularly as computers, at least for now, just can’t compete.
“How do you prepare children for jobs in 40 years’ time?”
Woven into school life these days, there’s also a growing emphasis on well- being. Unlike exam results, you won’t see league tables that measure children’s resilience and ability to bounce back from a setback, yet it’s something that schools see as increasingly important. At The Leys, for example, enormous effort has gone into initiatives linked to well-being. A mental health project, now in its second year, was the brainchild of senior pupils who wanted to give this subject a higher profile within the school. “Last year, it was about the pupils and supplying resources. This year, it’s about educating the staff,” says Helen Hynd. The school is currently training academic and support staff as mental
first-aid trainers and has recently appointed well-being and community prefects – something that’s crucial to giving children the strength, as well as the skills, to cope in a rapidly changing world. “We’re looking at mental and emotional health – everything that allows a person to flourish,” explains Helen. The school is rigorous in evaluating its success, too. Pupils, parents and staff are all surveyed to measure year-on-year progress and shape future programmes. Other initiatives include reducing reliance on mobile phones. The Leys was one of the first schools in the country to ban pupils between years seven to ten from having phones in school. In addition to tackling the issue of cyberbullying, it’s
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