Developing skills for the future

Posted on 17th May 2022 in School News, Which London School?

Philippa Ireton ponders what awaits the next generation of the workforce and how Dallington School is preparing the children of today for the jobs of tomorrow.

Much has been written in recent times about the future world of work, and the kinds of careers we need to prepare our children for. We know that many of the jobs of tomorrow have not yet been invented, and that the next generation’s workforce may well have as many as twelve different careers in their lifetime. They are going to need to be flexible, quick-thinking and fast on their feet. It begs the question – what does this really mean for the schools and universities of today? How can we best prepare children at school today for the world they will be facing in a decade?

There is much talk, and even concern that soon robots will be able to do everything that a human can do, and technically it’s hard to deny this assertion, but a robot will never be able to emulate the human skills which are often called “soft skills”: having high emotional or social intelligence, adaptability, flexibility, good judgment, resilience, an ability to communicate. All these skills categorise our human strengths and define our competitive edge over robots.

Human skills require practice and it seems that just as they are becoming key to people’s economic value, young people are abandoning these skills in favour of digital communication. The question is, what can schools do to help develop the very skills that employers are desperately seeking?

These skills can start to be learned from the moment a child enters school. By putting the child at the absolute centre of the educational journey, by expecting them to think for themselves, to develop enquiring minds and to conduct research into the topics that excite them most, children start to develop those very skills that they will need for the rest of their lives. They will learn to work in teams, work collaboratively, be flexible and adaptable, and develop the confidence to present to each other. Children will make mistakes but are encouraged to reflect on them and learn from them.

At a school like Dallington in Clerkenwell in London, traditional education has been turned on its head: a fully integrated curriculum allows the children to make connections between different discrete subjects; to see the world in a more connected way. Topic based learning encourages them to explore real-world problems and challenges, conduct meaningful research and link knowledge gained in different areas. There is a balanced approach to work, integrating the use of digital tools to enhance their work. Themes are further contextualised through the performing arts, which offers them a deeper understanding of the topics. Children can demonstrate their own capabilities whilst working independently, and they develop the art of working in teams, listening to each other’s point of view, and learn to be flexible and adaptable in their work. Large, airy open-plan classrooms, often shared with other year groups, encourage respectful use of the environment, and offer many opportunities to collaborate, and to model good behaviour. A holistic, integrated approach to education, teaching the whole child, will equip them with the natural skills they will need for success in the rest of their lives.

These are all skills which employers reportedly are crying out for. They understand that technical skills can be learned along the way, on the job, or can be acquired in order to take on a certain job. What employers also recognise is that they need people to join their workforce who have the fundamental human skills and strengths outlined earlier, which will enable them to turn their hand to any task presented to them. Children at Dallington School become self-regulated learners and innate skills are fostered and developed and become standard. This gives them the fundamental tools needed to complement any technical skills they will be required to learn for a particular job.

The concept of lifelong education is something that we are beginning to understand will be vital for the workforce of the future: the ability to dip in and out of education to learn the technical skills required for the next career. The idea that education is shoehorned into school, and then in some cases, 3 years of university study – and then stops – is absurd. We never stop learning and increasingly it is clear that the next generation not only has to prepare itself for jobs that don´t yet exist, but needs to be armed with a strong suite of human skills which will complement their technical skills.

Dallington School, situated in the heart of the City, is perfectly placed to start children on their journey of discovery, and to equip them with the skills vital to a variety of successful careers in the future.

This article first appeared in the 2022/23 edition of Which London School? & the South-East, which you can read in full below: