In an interview with Rosemary Bennett, Education editor of the Times, the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds once again stated that there is need for all schools to shift the focus from exam results to character and resilience, which thus far have been taught only to the privileged in public schools. Mr Hinds says there are 5 foundations on which he wants all schools to now focus: The five foundations are sport, including “purposeful recreational activities”, such as rock climbing or yoga; creativity; performing; volunteering or membership of an organisation such as the Scouts, and work experience.
All the above have of course, been part of the International Baccalaureat curriculum since its inception, and probably the reason why increasingly students prefer to take the IB rather than A-levels. Having said that, even in the IB curriculum the focus is very much on what one does rather than reflecting on why it is better for students in the long run to acquire these skills. It seems that British education is still not ready to take the leap, as reflected in the reaction to the above by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of schools and College Leaders, who commented: “It’s good that the secretary of state is recognising the important part played by extra-curricular activities, which have a proud tradition across schools and colleges of all types. Such activities don’t lend themselves to school performance tables, but they should be an essential part of every child’s experience,” once again putting his focus on school performance tables and completely missing the point that it is these skills that will enable future generations to get work, be happier adults and live in a better society where mental health is no longer one of the main social issues. Whilst it will be difficult to measure exactly how these skills benefit students, the benefits will nonetheless be very obvious.
Role Models is trying hard to fight this mentality by giving children these fundamental skills not through sports or drama but through activities which are designed specifically to nurture creativity, collaboration, resilience and leadership in children before they reach secondary school, or early in their teens, so that they can be best prepared for the challenges of the world they will inherit, despite the education that their schools will provide.
Luckily for children, many of the schools we have approached are now not only offering our courses but encouraging their teachers to support our Role Models in the delivery of the courses so they can bring these new skills into the classroom. One step at a time and we’ll get there, with or without Geoff’s approval.