With the ever-increasing rapidity of technological advancement, we have for some time in education spoken about preparing children for a future that we can’t predict. The events of 2020 have certainly put this to the test and we have all faced challenges that nobody would have anticipated this time last year. At a time where social distancing was for those who had fallen out in the playground and zoom was your standard example when teaching onomatopoeia, to imagine that children and staff across the country would be isolated, bubbled, learning from home, wearing face masks and being locked down, would have been far-fetched at best.
However, during all of the strife, the worry and the difficulty, with time to reflect and evaluate, positives have emerged and lessons have been learned. In society, there has been an opportunity to step back and look at our priorities and education is no different. The situation has forced all of us to look at what is truly important when the going gets tough and we are removed from the safety of our every-day comfort zone. The traits and characteristics that have been most valuable are widely displayed on prospectuses and websites around the country but have never been more important and it has never been more vital that we promote, teach and encourage them.
Skills like resilience, courage and adaptability have come to the fore: the ability to keep going when things are hard; when everything around you changes, when suddenly home becomes school and your tablet becomes your classroom. Confidence, creativity and ambition are critical in exploring new experiences like Forest School in your garden, science in your kitchen or simply speaking aloud in a virtual lesson without fear or trepidation. For me, one of the most important factors for all children has been the ability to manage emotions; they have needed to find strategies to deal with anxiety around school closing and reopening and to cope with worries about the safety of themselves and their loved ones. Spending periods away from friends, be that at home or in other bubbles, has tested us all all, regardless of age.
So going forward, and times are far from certain at this point, how do we use these lessons to help the generation who have had to live through the pandemic as schoolchildren and those who will come after them? For me, it has only solidified my belief that whilst academic preparation is highly important, sporting excellence an admirable goal and elite creative performance a positive outcome, our primary aim should not be to produce robots who pass tests but to nurture well-rounded, good people who are happy, confident, curious, compassionate and emotionally intelligent. By prioritising these, we can prepare them for the uncertainty and unpredictability of future challenges, be that in the coming weeks and months, or as they move into further education and beyond.