By Joe Earley, Head of Design at Ipswich High School for Girls
I read with interest a recent article in the Times Educational Supplement regarding the pressures that state schools are under following budget cuts. As is often the way with such cuts, it seems that creative subjects will suffer and many schools will be narrowing their curriculum offer.
Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need students who are resilient, flexible, creative and sociable in order to enter an uncertain job market
What’s more, this narrowing is, in my opinion more concerning in light of a future where artificial intelligence and, more immediately the retreat from the single market, will change the shape of our job market in ways that we don’t even know about yet. AI has already started changing the insurance business in Japan as computers do more to decide the impact of claims. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need students who are resilient, flexible, creative and sociable in order to enter an uncertain job market.
We are very lucky in the independent sector not to be governed by such abstract targets and these tragic budget cuts that are affecting state schools. All schools today face challenges in coping with the rapid pace of change and the huge amount of information that is created. Schools like Ipswich High School for Girls, however, are able to decide our own path in terms of our curriculum and approach and we ensure that we build our pupils skill set in a way that we think will benefit them in the future – no matter how the job market develops.
How do governments decide what is important, how do exam boards decide what is relevant for all pupils to learn, and how do schools adapt?
Our USP is our humanity, our individuality and our ability to connect with people
My concern is that many schools are moving away from the very thing that students will require in the future. The reduction in numbers of students taking the creative subjects and Modern Languages throughout the country must be reversed as soon as possible. These subjects are incredibly valuable for not only broadening students’ perspectives of the world, but developing us as unique individuals. If we are to compete with robots, we need to be different to computers – our USP is our humanity, our individuality and our ability to connect with people.
As educators, along with developing core skills, we should continue to nurture the soul, feed the imagination and the individuality, encourage empathy and teach students how to decide for themselves whether information is relevant and from a trustworthy source. Our pupils at Ipswich High School are certainly individuals and have these crucial qualities, strengthened by our commitment to creative subjects, that will hold them in good stead in the future.