Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School Headmistress Claire Fildes on how education is evolving and why we must focus on helping pupils develop soft skills

Education is evolving. As educators, we must focus on helping to develop the strengths that will determine the success of our children. It is for this reason that we must focus on teaching not only academics, but also soft skills that will enable our children to thrive in the world. The World Economic Forum’s 2020 prediction of the top 25 skills needed globally by the year 2025 included resilience, flexibility, critical thinking and creativity.

Exam results, league tables and university acceptance percentages, are all pressures that schools have to contend with to demonstrate their success. But children’s time in school should be about much more than percentages and the process of working towards a final test; we must provide more than exam factories. We need to promote the key skills, the character traits – both interpersonal and cognitive – to help create well-rounded individuals, ready for their journey through life. We need to provide a broader curriculum, as we know that young people who have a well-rounded education are more likely to thrive.

In prep schools, from the moment children start their education journey, these attributes are being developed. Initially this happens through play and then, more explicitly, through lessons, assemblies and extra-curricular activities. It is about adopting a holistic approach, one which nurtures confidence, communication skills and self-reflection.

“We provide children with hands-on learning, a chance to solve problems for themselves, to take risks, to make mistakes and experience failure”

It is our job as educators to prepare children for their futures – futures in roles which may not even yet exist – so the character learning is just as important as the knowledge. Surely, to be able to communicate and articulate your knowledge and ideas is just as important as the knowledge that you hold? The World Health Organisation suggests soft skills should be prioritised for the promotion of mental health, and this has never been more important than it is today. The post-pandemic picture remains complex and uncertain, so we must help children become fully equipped to deal with the challenges they will encounter throughout their lives.

Teaching soft skills is firmly embedded within Eaton House Schools’ curriculums. We provide children with hands-on learning, a chance to solve problems for themselves, to think critically, to take risks, to make mistakes and experience failure. We encourage every child to be persistent, resilient in their learning, and to be confident to tackle whatever life throws at them.

When we consider our school curriculum and what is important for our children, we cannot help but reflect on traditions and consider what has been in place in the education systems of the past. However, as leaders we must be brave, we must be bold and we must be forward thinking if we truly want to provide the best for our pupils, and in doing so, fully equip them for life.

Individual facts and figures may not always be remembered, but the soft skills will remain with children for life.  After all, as Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt in school”.

Eaton House The Manor

Further reading: Debating strengths – why schools encourage reasoned argument