Opinions from senior school educators on how they are preparing sixth form pupils to go into the unknown world and job market

John Wilson

Head (Upper) Eaton Square Mayfair

It has almost become a cliché that schools in the 21st century are tasked with preparing their pupils for a work place so rapidly changing, that the jobs they will do and careers they will have in the future don’t currently exist. As technology improves and automation increases, this is more true now than it was a decade or even five years ago.

Schools then, face enormous challenges. To ensure the traditional strengths of their institutions continue, whilst also ensuring that pupils leave with a set of qualifications and skills that will set them up for life in an unknown job market far removed from that which existed when the schools were established. It is for this reason that more and more, schools place an emphasis on developing the broader curriculum as well as the academic curriculum.

Preparing sixth form pupils

At Eaton Square Mayfair, alongside our wide academic curriculum, our broader curriculum aims to ensure that pupils develop a growth mindset and recognise the importance of resilience, reciprocity, resourcefulness and reflectiveness in their studies and in their daily lives. If they can develop these skills, any future career is open to them.

We believe that all of our pupils can be great and we seek to find and nurture at least one area of our broader curriculum in which they can demonstrate their greatness, be that in music, drama, sports, leadership, writing, communication or elsewhere.

Dorothy Macginty

Headmistress Kilgraston

For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

So said President Kennedy. Vital in the 1960s and perhaps even more so in today’s rapidly changing world.

The head of an independent school must, like the chief executive of any international company, continually anticipate and react to industry trends. University is not the only tertiary route and it is the responsibility of your child’s independent school to prepare them for their individual journey.

An increasing, global demand for scientists, engineers and technologists needs resourcing. The national average for girls leaving school to pursue a university STEM subject is 24%; this year, 65% of Kilgraston pupils were offered places to study these subjects.

Three years ago we took the decision to offer girls from 10 upwards, specialist teaching of each science subject. By the time the two compulsory science choices have to be made at 14, pupils have an in-depth understanding of Chemistry, Biology and Physics. Higher level ICT has been introduced this year.

Languages, too, are key to preparing girls for an international platform. From 12, our pupils now study four languages: with the aim of the majority taking one to Higher level.

Choosing nine National subject choices inevitably means decision time. After a hitherto balanced curriculum though, that choice is made easier.

Don’t look at the paintwork of a prospective school, look at their curriculum. Then look ten years ahead. There’s your answer.

Marina Gardiner Legge

Headmistress Heathfield

The curriculum and its management over the seven years of a pupil’s experience is central to Heathfield’s vision of discovering and developing every girl to enable her to excel because it is based around the pupil. This begins in years 7, 8 and 9 where all girls study a very wide range of subjects in order to evaluate where their talents lie. Despite the increased rigour of the new exams, we ensure pupils don’t specialise until they absolutely have to for Year 10 as we believe that being able to study in a whole range of different subjects from cookery to music, drama to textiles is essential.

Even at Year 10, the option choices are not pre blocked but are designed purely around our pupils’ own choices. At A-Level we are lucky enough to be able to ensure that a diverse range of subjects run in order for our pupils to choose what they are best at such as Further Maths, Photography, Sport Science, Drama, Music which are all offered every year. In addition, for our Lower Sixth, we offer a variety of extended academic options to generate independence ranging from the Extended Project Qualification to an internal essay competition, to curriculum MOOCS in order to personalise our pupils’ experience even further. This personalisation is at the heart of our mission which is to imbue each of our pupils with the self-knowledge and confidence to take hold of her life with both hands.

Antonia Beary

Headmistress Mayfield

At Mayfield we strongly believe in the benefits of studying a wide range and variety of subjects. Breadth and choice within the curriculum are fundamental to providing a balanced and creative education to expand every girl’s horizons. The humanities enable students to develop informed opinions on their own and other people’s lives and the world we live in. They also develop research and problem solving skills, the capacity to critique texts, and the ability to debate and present information.

Ever-increasing globalisation necessitates studying languages, and proficiency not only opens the door to living and working abroad but facilitates a better understanding of different perspectives.

Preparing sixth form pupils

The creative and performing arts are a fundamental element of the education and formation of any individual. Not only do they have a positive impact on physical and mental wellbeing, but they are key to helping girls to make mistakes and learn from them. The benefits of singing, playing music or performing on stage are vast: from boosting self-confidence, to teaching the discipline required to learn lines. Commitment, attention to detail, critical analysis and patience are required to succeed. These skills are transferrable and cross-curricular links between the arts and subjects considered more traditionally academic are hugely valuable.

At Mayfield, we aim to provide an education that inspires creativity and critical thinking; that encourages the commitment and self-confidence to take risks and make mistakes; that helps the girls prepare for the world around them. This instils the resilience, confidence and integrity to navigate the challenges and opportunities they will face in the modern world with enthusiasm and optimism.

Dr Chris Enos

Deputy Head (Academic) St Mary’s Shaftesbury

We talk a great deal about preparing pupils for a rapidly changing world but what does this actually mean? At St Mary’s, we believe the best way to achieve this is by offering as varied and broad a curriculum for as long as possible. This encourages our pupils to explore subjects and find out what their real passion is.

At Key Stage 3, pupils explore a wide range of subjects beyond the narrow confines of externally-set exam specifications, studying at least one modern foreign language and a humanity. As an independent school we can choose from both iGCSE and GCSE specifications, so we opt for the most appropriate course that best prepares each of our pupils for A-Levels and beyond. Most pupils study 10 GCSEs which provides that balance and breadth we value.

Preparing sixth form pupils

The removal of the AS assessments provides greater amount of curriculum time resulting in greater in-depth understanding of A-Level subjects and the ability to participate more fully in other activities. At St Mary’s, the girls follow a ‘3+’ curriculum where they choose at least one additional activity to their three main A-Level subjects. This can be a fourth academic subject, an EPQ, Duke of Edinburgh, Leiths Cookery or the organisation of activities for younger pupils.

This broad, individual and very personal approach to the curriculum enables our sixth formers to leave
St Mary’s as independent learners with the confidence and ambition to be fully prepared for a rapidly changing world.