A seismic shift is needed within schools to better equip young people with life skills, a new report suggests, amid calls for a “re-imagining” of education to address societal change.
Communication skills, money management and lessons in good citizenship should all be given greater focus within schools, teachers argue in a new report from charity Big Change.
Highlighting examples of good practice in parts of Yorkshire, the report directors praise a efforts to raise attainment and improve outcomes through a ‘community-led’ approach.
Instead of exam preparation being a priority, they warn, schools should be a place where young people are taught life lessons which will better prepare them for the world of work.
“How we approach education - what we prioritise, how we learn and who we value - sets the tone for many patterns throughout society,” said Essie North, chief executive of charity Big Change.
“Yet it is often seen as someone else’s problem, something too entrenched to change, or simply just the way things are done.”
The report, launched by the charity with the Innovation Unit, is based on findings from 3,200 teachers, as well as a sample of parents and secondary-age schoolchildren.
Three-quarters of responding teachers from the region felt a greater shift was needed within schools, from a focus on exam preparation to life skills.
Improving young people’s social interaction was highlighted as one of the biggest priorities, alongside teaching young people how to make a positive difference to society or the planet.
Among examples of good practice highlighted in the report is “pioneering” change underway in Doncaster, supported by the Department for Education’s Opportunity Area scheme.
This scheme, aimed at raising attainment and improving outcomes for disadvantaged children, means additional funding has been seet aside with major changes being brought in by Doncaster Council. New schools and colleges have been opened here, while the report highlights a new approach to education at the XP school, which eschews traditional learning and instead promotes what it calls ‘cross-subject learning expeditions’, through lessons on real-world issues.
Such an approach by the local authority, the report concludes, is impacting on closing attainment gaps at primary age, with “rapid” improvements seen in A Level results.
“School should be a time for self-discovery, building resilience and becoming fully-rounded individuals who can make a positive contribution to the world,” said Holly Branson, co-founder of Big Change. “We need a seismic shift throughout the entire learning ecosystem. We need to nurture students, embrace their natural curiosity and recognise their individuality.”
Lord Jim Knight, former Minister for Schools and Learning, said this report should be an urgent wake-up call.
“We are living in a time where there is an urgent need for change in how we educate our societies - we can see this in the climate of division, the fear about job opportunities, the scale of the problems we face, from climate change to democracy, and the increase in mental health crises,” he said.
“But this is also a time of great opportunity - employers, politicians, young people and parents are desperate for solutions to address these things.
“Re-imagining education is the answer to the questions all parts of society are facing.”