Tomorrow’s world

Deputy Head at Sevenoaks School, explains why it’s important that independent schools provide pupils with a global skill set

Tim Jones, Deputy Head at Sevenoaks School, writes

If we were asked to compile a list of modern problems that schools are being asked to educate on, we would probably cite issues such as teenage mental health, fake news, Brexit, Trump and right-wing isolationist leaders in general, to name a few. 

While thinking about the list, let’s reflect on the fact that none of these problems were caused by young people, teachers or schools. Yet  in many cases, schools are expected to discuss, teach and raise awareness of them alongside their main purpose – to educate the young – which should go without saying, but often needs to be said. 

Let’s also reflect on the fact that a good many of the problems on the list, if not directly, are caused by the internet, social media and mobile phone addiction, are certainly exacerbated by them. Our teenagers are sleeping less because sleep time is taken by devices. They’re also reading less, interacting face-to-face less and exercising less. Research is easier than ever, but so is plagiarism. 

At Sevenoaks School, we engage with these problems not by policing the pupils, but by encouraging them to police their own behaviour through an internally developed core course of critical thinking and personal, social and health education (PSHE). 

Tim Jones

Developing critical analysis skills and cultural understanding

In Year 10, in our critical perspectives course, the same news event is examined through the lenses of differing media accounts. Pupils come to realise the extent of the effects that editorial bias can have; a perfect opportunity to discuss facts, fake news and the role of the media in shaping our understanding and interpretation of events. Sevenoaks School has a strong global outlook, an international student body and no religious affiliation, so we teach students about the cultural and historical significance of all faiths, including agnosticism and atheism. 

Growing social awareness

We also have one of the largest school voluntary service operations in England, with over 400 students participating in community service every week. These different service activities are pursued throughout the school, and provide insight into the value of working with the local community and developing a lifelong social responsibility. This school year, we also appointed a Director of Entrepreneurship to encourage students to develop socially conscious business acumen, and equip them with the commercial mindset and skills they will need for a global future. 

Equipping students with ‘future-proof’ skills

Technology is also instrumental in our teaching – the global world is likely to be shaped, led and driven by continued technology enhancements, and we encourage responsible and fruitful use of technology, whilst embracing the latest technological advancements such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) into the classroom ensuring students’ skills are as ‘future-proof’ as possible.

At Sevenoaks School, we engage with these problems not by policing the pupils, but by encouraging them to police their own behaviour through an internally developed core course of critical thinking and personal, social and health education (PSHE). 

Developing well-rounded individuals

All of this critical and social education builds towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, which is followed by all students in our sixth form. Conceived nearly 50 years ago, the IB Diploma aims to develop a sense of social responsibility, and an ethic of service is one of its core values. Its mission statement declares that the IB, “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”  

In the current political and economic climate, while the future is uncertain, it is more important than ever to equip students with the skills and global outlook that will help them to thrive in their future careers. 

We must value the global perspective over the national, recognise our responsibility towards a wider community beyond our school walls, and want our students to leave with the best and most up-to-date education we can give them, filled with a socially entrepreneurial zeal to make the world a better place.

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