In these days of ubiquitous ‘A’ grades, hand crafted UCAS statements, and Duke of Edinburgh Golds this is a real issue for the school that wants to help every student to show their skills and ability to its best effect.
Some years ago a well established school group developed a programme that would help their sixth form girls to be better organised, communicate better, express themselves more clearly, overcome their shyness, and lastly, manage their finances at university so as to minimise their debt. They were all clever girls – they just needed some extra tools.
Sadly, this excellent programme was a casualty of budget cuts in 2010 but it is worth examining what those enlightened and successful teachers were trying to do.
First impressions are crucial. If you arrive for a university or job interview without having properly prepared, and thought through your strengths and weaknesses, it is likely to be a disaster. Equally, if you stare at your feet, are not suitably dressed, and fail to communicate what is whizzing around your head then you cannot blame the interviewer for failing to be impressed. How often do you hear someone say ‘That girl, or boy, is so clever and talented I just can’t understand why they didn’t get an offer. I blame the university/company’. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There can only be one real source of complaint and that is the school, or perhaps their parents, for sending them like a lamb to the slaughter, without proper support and advice.
Then there is stress. ‘Nonsense’, I hear you cry, ‘a bit of stress is good for you and it never bothered us in our day’. Well, perhaps, but today there is real pressure and competition for a young person’s time from so many sources. Thirty years ago it didn’t really matter. If you got two or three ‘A’ levels at almost any grade you could get onto a decent training course to be a lawyer, a P.A, a soldier, an accountant, or an industrialist or spend three years at a ‘red brick’ university for little cost. I know a chap who got into Magdalen College, Oxford with two ‘B’s and a ‘C’, and he was probably not that unusual. Today, an off day, or, even worse, an off few weeks and parents will be threatening a career packing shelves at Tesco’s! Then there is the extensive social media and all the pressure that brings. Reducing stress involves being well organized and planning your time to fit everything in. For many young people this will mean the play, the concert, team sports, as well as their studies and the demands of their social lives. Learning to say ‘no’ to things is a valuable skill to acquire providing it is being said from the angle of good planning not laziness.
Finally, our students who go to university from 2012 are likely to leave after three or four years with £45-60,000 of debt. Budgeting, understanding cash flow, knowing how to minimise your living costs, where to get help from, dealing with the bank, and the perils of credit cards, are lifetime skills that our young people need to understand from day one.
I, and my colleagues at CareerSkillsPlus, felt so strongly about all of this that last year we set up a new business offering a whole range of different courses to schools. These range from short taster courses to summer schools. We want to make sure your students really do stand out from the crowd and even if every girl or boy cannot be a winner at least they will be given the opportunity to show themselves at their best, and be able to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.