COLUMN: Dales pupils must be resilient to make it in the world

Peter Cole
Peter Cole

At Highfields School one of our top priorities is to prepare young people for life in a rapidly changing world.

Today’s students will have many different jobs in their lifetime, many of which haven’t even been invented yet. This requires young people to have excellent abilities to learn new skills and to adapt continuously. In this column we’ll take a look at how we are approaching this at Highfields School, and consider the role of the changing exams system.

A few years ago we began to develop a common language for learning at Highfields School. Drawing on wider research we developed our model of ‘the 5Rs’. This encapsulates some crucial elements of effective learning, which we also see as being critical to success in a rapidly changing world. Our 5Rs are:

Responsibility - Working well as an individual and with others, planning ahead and meeting deadlines

Resilience - Embracing challenges, remaining positive and being brave

Resourcefulness - Using imagination, learning in different ways, thinking for ourselves

Reasoning - Gathering evidence, thinking things through and making well supported decisions

Reflectiveness – Learning from mistakes and acting on feedback

We develop and celebrate these characteristics from day one at Highfields School. They are central to our induction programme, and provide the framework for the challenges in our year seven and eight ‘Learn to Learn’ course. We continue to stress the 5Rs as students move through the Highfields curriculum, and recognise the value of extra-curricular activities, trips and visits in strengthening each attribute.

This year we have had a half termly focus on one of the Rs. Resilience is particularly important to us, and we have stressed that ‘sticking at it’ is crucial to success, drawing on inspirational role models such as gold medal winning Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has claimed that ‘my only talent is that I don’t give up’. By adopting a mindset where we see set-backs as good for learning we are preparing for bright futures in a rapidly changing world.

Students also need to be successful in public exams. Nationally examinations are going through the biggest overhaul for some time. Our year 11 students will be amongst the first cohort sitting new style GCSEs in English and Maths in the summer. Most other subjects move on to the new GCSE structure for our current year tens. New GCSEs are tougher in terms of content and the nature of assessment, with a move from coursework towards increased emphasis on recall of knowledge in final exams. The new GCSEs replace the existing A* to G grading with a one to nine grading system. Grade five will be the new benchmark of ‘a good pass’. This grade is aligned to the top end of the current grade C, with the intention of ‘raising the bar’ of expectations for standards to be reached by 16 year olds. Meanwhile, the introduction of a new grade nine set above the current A* is designed to recognise and reward the attainment of the top three per cent of students.

Whilst preparing students for effective performance in tougher exams we will not lose sight of the importance of the attributes and skills of the 5Rs. All will be crucial to success in our rapidly changing world.