We talk a lot about the future at the moment – not least in an event titled as the World Future Forum.
There are certain trends that we are conscious of, and themes that we hear about increasingly – fourth industrial revolution etc.
I care hugely about the future – but also about today. And actually this journey started for me a decade ago
It seemed to me then in that classroom with my 15 and 16 year-old students that we had missed out something important in their education. I looked around at young people who were unable to organise themselves to get their work done, lacked the confidence to talk in class or the ability to overcome minor setbacks in learning.
But it wasn’t just in my classroom – research from as diverse a group as TeachFirst, the CBI and the Social Mobility Commission all highlight a vital truth: that there are some essential skills that are missing from our education system.
Since I set up Enabling Enterprise back in 2009, our focus has been on how to fill this gap. Our mission is to ensure that one day, all children and young people build the essential skills to thrive – but what does that mean?
It’s a confusing world out there. Last year I had a book published and one of the most painful parts of that whole process was making sense of this swirling mess. 200 working definitions of employability.
We surely can’t be shocked that we haven’t managed to build these skills in every child and young person when we can’t even work out what we’re talking about.
The good news though is that although the language shifts around unhelpfully there is actually a remarkably consistent set of skills that are called out for – communication skills; creative problem-solving; self-management; and interpersonal skills.
But the leap beyond that is to acknowledge that we can break these skills down into much more meaningful chunks…
And we can also see that there is a natural order to them too. My three year old is learning to take in turns.
Drawing on our experience at Enabling Enterprise helped to break these skills down and also to set broad age-related expectations against them.
And we’ve done this now for each of the eight skills –breaking each down into 16 teachable and learnable chunks.
And that’s a critical point. The most exciting part about seeing these skills broken down like this is that it helps to defeat three myths.
The first myth is that these skills are just innate. We talk far too easily about natural leaders, team players or presenters.
The evidence is that there is little that is innate about skills – from professional sports to musical prowess the only consistent link to achievement is hours of effective practice. Except for basketball when you want to be really tall. Or a rower when you want lung capacity.
Having a clear framework also helps to bust a second myth. That these skills are slightly mysterious and so you can only do activities that use them and hope that someone gets better.
That’s certainly not how I’d teach someone to drive a car, hoping that the ability to drive rubs off eventually – or bumps off.
But the clarity of Framework also helps us to see that these pieces do not just fall into place. They do not just lie latent until inspired into existence. They are built – day in, day out, step by step.
The Framework is one thing though, but to really make it powerful we need to make a big leap.
We need to see this set of essential skills as akin to two other foundational skills that we feel perfectly comfortable teaching – literacy and numeracy.
This leap gives the Framework its life – a set of six principles that underpin what a fantastic programme looks like. These have been tried and tested with over 500 schools and 200,000 learners and independently reviewed so they’re pretty robust and consistent.
The third critical element here that I think gives the scope for something transformational is not just the Framework, the Principles to enact but a Partnership that both developed the approach but also is working towards putting this into action together.
80+ organisations and employers, not including the 100 more that host trips for students on programmes.