Preparing for life in a brave new world

Marina Gardiner Legge, headteacher at Heathfield in Ascot, on which skills will best equip girls for multiple careers in an ever-changing workplace

With the economy changing, markets becoming more global, and increasing automation leading to huge changes in industry, young women leaving school in the next five years will have a much longer working life; potentially in careers that do not yet exist. How can a school prepare them when there are so many unknowns? 

A new report, Life Lessons, highlights the recognition among teachers, employers and young people on how important life skills are to the success of young people. I agree wholeheartedly. Taking academic excellence as a given, there are other skills that are increasingly important to children’s wider development, such as confidence, social skills, self-control, motivation, and resilience – all essential life skills. As the report says, these attitudes, skills and behaviours underpin success in school and work, and include the ability to respond to setbacks, work well with others, build relationships, communicate effectively, manage emotions, and cope with difficult situations. 

“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.” 

It is apparent that success in the future will require a highly educated, smart and adaptable workforce, and young people will need well-developed, high-level soft skills such as the ability to learn rapidly and take the lead in careers that don’t yet exist. They will need imagination and ‘big picture’ thinking to find creative original solutions, but will also need to fine-tune their critical faculty so they can drill down and identify weaknesses in plans and projects. 

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. Extramural activities must offer value-added opportunities, giving the students the opportunity – and the time – to pursue their own interests, to be confident and motivated and to relish fresh challenges.