Many parents wonder if the exams their children sit, and the education system that is dictated by them, are best equipping children to thrive and be happy in tomorrow’s world. However, the same parents understandably feel that they have little choice but to ‘play the game’ of 8+, 11+ and beyond.
We caught up with Jim Salkeld, who helps schools deliver skills-based education, to discuss the issue further.
Are we right to be worried that the current curriculum and exam system is not preparing children for the world in which they will live?
There is certainly a huge opportunity to improve. The 2016 Education Skills Survey stated that employers feel many school leavers lack transferrable skills such as communication, problem solving and self-management. This ‘skills gap’ is driven by the workplace changes we already know about, and this trend is sure to continue.
For example, government commissioned reports like ‘The Shape of Jobs to Come’ show that current parents will not even recognise many of their children’s job descriptions. This has lead to many experts (and common sense) calling for education to increasingly focus on ‘transferrable skills’ – which will be applicable in any role.
So are things really changing in education?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes and no. Although some of the most forward-thinking and better funded state schools have introduced skills-based education, many do not have the resources to go beyond the national curriculum.
In the independent sector change is starting to happen more widely. An increasing number of senior schools are now looking to assess skills such as team work, problem solving, persistence, communication and creative thinking as part of their admissions process. This has already happened at Wimbledon High School, Wellington College, Bradfield College and Marlborough College – and many more are going that way. This is a game-changer as it increasingly allows prep schools to concentrate on these aspects of learning as part of their ‘curriculum’. In the end, if entrance assessments align with the skills that children need then everyone is pulling in the same direction!
What can we do as parents?
Play! You can encourage (and join in with) play. As the US psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson said: “The playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” What he is referring to is the fact that games (whether imaginary or ones with set rules) are great at creating situations that arise in life. They allow children to experiment, practice, observe, succeed, fail…and ultimately adapt their behaviour based on their performance. There is not a skill or character trait that cannot be developed by play.
What specific games would you play?
Of course there are lots of great digital games, but in terms of interaction I would suggest the analogue variety – and the good news is that we are currently in a golden age of board game production.
- Collaborative games (all on one team): Forbidden Island and Robinson Crusoe are fantastic.
- Teamwork / communication: Shifty Eyed Spies and The Mind.
- Old Classics: Mafia and The Hat Game (3 round version).
If you think your kids would like something more immersive, or could do with practicing the types of team problem solving now employed by some senior schools, my company, Thrill Education, provides after school clubs, school workshops, holiday clubs and parties in which the children undertake missions for a fictional spy agency. The ‘missions’, which have been described as “like The Crystal Maze” are designed by teachers and specialists in game-based learning. In each session, small teams work with physical props, which are supported by professionally produced video briefings and interaction with a bespoke digital platform. Thrill has had fantastic feedback in our first 18 months and work with some of the top schools in the country.
Readers of Kensington Mums will receive 10% off the term’s price for all after school clubs when booked before the expiry date 17/1/20. Please quote WGD548.
Infinity Spy Agency After School Clubs (Wimbledon and West London) and Parties. Book at: www.thrilleducation.com or call 07826854341.