As CHS prepares to launch it’s new Sixth Form Pathways, CHS Head, Lucy Pearson considers what awaits Year 13 school leavers, the true meaning of what it is to be ‘qualified’ and how today’s students can best prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
As I approach the end of my tenure as Head, I am becoming ever more reflective of the work that we have done and the questions we have asked of ourselves as a school over the last 8 years.
In shaping ourselves, we have had a fundamental endpoint in mind: namely, what it is that we want to deliver for and to the young people in our school?
To get to ‘the’ / ‘an’ answer, we had to project forward and think about what would / does an 18 year old need at the point of leaving in order to have the best chance of making the most of themselves going forward? In our discussions and debates, what came out very clearly was that in addition to the academic results that matter, we have a much broader set of skills and values that we feel duty-bound to develop in our students. The educational experience must not be solely focus on academic qualification, as this is only part of a much bigger picture. A great education is one that develops the individual: their minds, their values, their well-being, their skills and their interests: not all of which come with a certificate.
You do not need to go very far or look very hard to discover the concerns from employers around the relative lack of fundamental skills in today’s graduates and school leavers. We hear time and again that yes the young employees have qualifications, but they aren’t able to cope with or contribute positively to the working world, which requires so much more of them as people…yes, people.
Political understanding for and appreciation of what an education should be has become dangerously narrowed: the only message that the political parties appear intent on pushing is one that advocates the singular importance of academic qualification for the workplace. Unfortunately the shortsightedness of this mantra combined with the squeeze on funding for education means that school leavers and graduates are too often falling short of what is actually needed.
So, what does it mean to be ‘qualified’? The word is used all over the place but I’m not sure people use it as it is intended. I prize and still refer to my large Collins English Dictionary: ‘qualify’ (vb), it tells me, means ‘to provide or be provided with the abilities and attributes necessary for a task, office, duty etc.’
Abilities and attributes. Ah, yes.
As an independent school, we at CHS are in the fortunate position of being able to steer our own path. We place equal value on the academic, active and altruistic development of every student – an emphasis which we believe enables those students to develop the abilities and attributes that make them ready for the workplace. I say to families time and again, that there can be no denying that academic qualifications are important – they open the door to the next stage – but it is who you are and what you will bring that enable you to progress beyond the door frame.
Launching September 2018… CHS’s Sixth Form Pathways
From September 2018 we are taking this further still by introducing the Pathways Curriculum into the CHS Sixth Form. We recognise that for many students, their A Level/Pre-U subject choices indicate interests in a particular field of study which has direct links with areas of employment. The Pathways will give valuable opportunities to our students to gain skills, knowledge and work experience that is directly linked to their career possibilities, giving them insight and informing them about potential next moves. It is not about making career decisions at the age of 16 – it is about connecting up the educational experience so that young people can develop skills and greater understanding so that they are in a better position to make choices.
Each Pathway combines 3 A Level/Pre-U subjects with a ‘Plus 1’ option, which can be another A Level, an Extended Project Qualification or a one year course in one of a number that we offer, such as Core Maths. In addition the Enrichment and Extension component is tied in to the area of interest as is the co-curricular programme. Each Pathway is different, but all of them will include work experience opportunities, partnerships with external organisations, links with individuals already working in the industry and the opportunity to study for vocational qualification that will complement academic study.
What is the endgame of education? To ensure young people are truly qualified to make a success of themselves in the workplace and their communities. AT CHS, we continue to be guided by this responsibility, reviewing what we do and how we do it so that the education we provide is dynamic, challenging and relevant.