The school curriculum and the way we do things in schools in the UK has never been under so much scrutiny. The GCSE/A level examination system is in the middle of its biggest shake up in a generation. Much has been made in the media of the step-up in challenge that these reformed exams represent. The age-old argument of whether there is too much testing at primary school rumbles on.
And the debate is now focusing on more than just the issue of how our children should be assessed, what they are actually learning has become a discussion point too.
Many commentators have noted that recent government education policy has seemed to favour traditional, academic routes. Indeed, a combination of the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and the pressure of budget cuts has led to Arts subjects being squeezed out and off the curriculum in many schools.
The new T levels, perhaps, are a way of addressing the imbalance between academic and technical/vocational subjects, but they do appear to be something of an afterthought.
Amidst all this change and upheaval, one thing has remained constant – voices from the business world bemoaning the fact that young people leave education without the skills employers actually want.
So, what are the things that children should be learning at school but aren’t?
Financial management skills
When we consider what children should actually be learning at school, attention can be given to skills that will equip them better for the workplace of the future – so coding, for example, now has a much bigger place on the curriculum. Equally, it could be argued, that there should be a greater emphasis on general life skills. One such skill is financial management.
Learning to be confident in managing your finances is a vital skill. Having lessons about how to budget and your finances gives young people the opportunity to develop a financial responsibility, as well as an understanding of what it means to be a sensible consumer, saver and investor.
Awareness of mental health
In a school environment driven and dominated by target grades, it’s no wonder that the UK ranks badly against other countries when it comes to the wellbeing of pupils. Young people should be taught how to build their own resilience and awareness of strong mental health and wellbeing. This should central to everything a school does.
How to eat healthily
As well as a crisis in mental health amongst young people, we are frequently told that we are facing an obesity crisis amongst young people. Other than Jamie Oliver’s one-man-crusade to improve school dinners, little seems to have been done to try and improve the situation.
A greater emphasis on nutrition and the importance of having a healthy diet and to choose nutritionally balanced meals would help young people form good habits that are hard to break.
Politics on the curriculum?
The way that Jeremy Corbyn managed to engage with young voters was one of the key stories of the last general election. Even so, statistically the engagement of young people in politics is worryingly low. The younger generation are those that have the biggest stake in the future, so low engagement is a real concern. Many people have suggested that if RE is a compulsory part of the curriculum then politics should be too.
Skills of negotiation and networking
The traditional 9-5 working day, spent in the employ of one company for decades, is fast becoming an outdated one. The workplace has never been as fluid and agile as it is today. The employees of tomorrow are likely to move from job to job regularly. Negotiating and networking skills will prove invaluable – but these are skills that are not on the school curriculum.
Academic qualifications are obviously incredibly important. However, life skills and soft skills are vital too. If education is all about preparing young people for a successful future – which, of course, it is – these skills need be taught at school.