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Resilience & 21st Century Skills

Resilience is a 21st century educational buzzword.

And yet it is a concept as old as the Buddha: “There is praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. Did you think this would not happen to you?” Suffering is part of the human condition, something Homer too had worked out 2,800 years ago. So my eyes do sometimes roll when school leaders pontificate about the importance of resilience (and yes, I do this too) as if they had made some great discovery. A lot of so-called 21st century skills feel a little bit like stating the blindingly obvious. Creativity, adaptability, collaboration, problem-solving… As if business leaders had up until now pursued a recruitment policy of only employing rigid Luddites and lone wolves.

So you may wonder why I am holding an educational panel debate next term on the role of education in the 21st century. This event follows on the heels of our successful Raising Resilient Girls panel last April.  I am holding this debate because I do believe that education is at a crossroads and there are exciting and thought-provoking times ahead. Technology has entered virtually every UK classroom – smart boards, iPads, virtual reality headsets (we are delighted that Friends of South Hampstead decided to fundraise for a set of these at the recent Quiz Night). Next schools will have to consider the role Artificial Intelligence should play. Interpreting data? Marking books? Teaching lessons? We have an expert on AI joining the panel as well as Sir Anthony Seldon, one of whose many books is about AI in schools.

What part will knowledge play in the 21st century curriculum? Personally I agree with the Head of Michaela Community School in Wembley Park (dubbed Britain’s strictest school) – another of our panellists – that Knowledge is Power. Having knowledge can enable those light bulb moments where you suddenly make the connection between one idea and another. Knowledge matters no matter how clever Google is.

Schools need to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and some of these challenges are specific to our times. I won’t kid myself that I can solve all problems with Homer. Mobile devices enable fantastic collaboration but can screen time also make us less empathetic? Certainly, developing empathy, kindness and an understanding of others is high on the agenda of our pastoral strategy.

Last week I heard that children born in 2019 will hold on average 30 jobs in their lifetime. That is a phenomenal statistic and one I’d love Tim Harford of More or Less fame on Radio 4 to get his teeth into. How have they worked this statistic out? Sam Gyimah MP, and former Minister for Universities, will also be joining us on the panel to reflect on the role universities can play in preparing young people for the workplace and the extent to which UK universities fulfil this role effectively.

In case you aren’t yet sufficiently enthused, I will also be speaking at this event, to share some of my own musings with you on education for the 21st century. Details for parents to book are available in the end of term newsletter and via SchoolPost.

But that is next term. This term, on the other hand, has only just ended and I am so proud of what our girls have achieved, not least their 10km walk for charity. More importantly I am proud of who they are. I wish them all a restful or productive break, depending on their year group. My parting message in assembly today was that small pockets of rest could be as restorative as endless meandering stretches of time. Although I did of course reassure them that I had no plans to cut our holidays down!

Mehr Licht to you all, as the evenings draw ever longer.

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