Soft skills are on the curriculum at Stanley Park High

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28 July 2015 by Anne Heavey
Every week we see headlines decrying the crisis of skills teaching in our schools, the gist: our schools fail to prepare our children for the world of work. John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said recently: “Businesses feel very strongly that the education system must better prepare young people for life outside the school gates, or risk wasting their talents.

"The journey from school towards the world of work can be daunting, so we must support schools and teachers to help develop the skills, character and attitudes students need to progress in life.”

I suggest that the CBI, businesses, school leaders and the DFE need to visit Stanley Park High in Sutton and have a look at their Excellent Futures Curriculum. Just last week I visited for a couple of hours, to see graduation presentations and student-led conferences, and in that short time was blown away by the quality of work the students produced, their ability to critically reflect upon that work and the confidence with which they delivered their final presentations. The graduation presentation occurs at the end of Excellent Futures Curriculum, which is studied in year 7 and 8 at the school.

During the Excellent Futures Curriculum students complete a number of projects which develop seven core attributes:

  • ambition, commitment, resilience and perseverance
  • confidence to take risks
  • an ability to organise and present themselves effectively
  • intellectual curiosity
  • imagination and creativity
  • initiative and self-motivation to learn independently and with others
  • optimism for the future in a rapidly changing world.

These attributes are far more than words on posters displayed around the school or a list in the prospectus; they are the values and aspirations that underpin all schemes of work and assessments at the school. In the graduation presentations, each student eloquently and frankly critiqued themselves against each attribute, supplying evidence from their work portfolio to support their judgments, and outlined how they intended to improve. I was floored by how well prepared and insightful presentation were.

These children, aged 12 and 13, are clearly in possession of the “soft skills” we so often hear our young people lack when they enter the world of work. The Excellent Futures Curriculum is designed to ensure that Stanley Park students are well equipped for and informed about their futures. The final project, “My Excellent Future”, helps each child to identify what they want from their futures in terms of career, relationships, friendships, home, hobbies and family; and the various things that they need to do to help them achieve their goals. This helps them to choose GCSE options in an informed and considered way and gives their learning a strong sense of purpose.

Stanley Park High developed student-led conferences to replace the more traditional model of parent evenings. In a similar manner to the graduation presentation students lead the evaluation process, setting targets and celebrating success on their learning with parents and teachers. The students at Stanley Park feel responsible for their learning and not only understand how to improve their work, but also why it is important that they do. Their ability to speak confidently in a public setting, often in front of complete strangers is very impressive and will set them in good stead for job interviews and presentations in the work place.

To find out more about Stanley Park High, their Excellent Futures Curriculum and other exciting curriculum approaches, visit A Curriculum that Counts.

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