Category Archives: Head’s blog

Developing staff to develop the pupils

Of course the pupils in a school are the most important members of the school community -there is no doubt about this; don’t let anyone tell me otherwise! But when we think about the pupils’ learning, the progress that they make and the benefits that they get from school, we have to think about another key resources – and one into which we have to invest just as much educational resource: their teachers.

Coming to this school I found one of the most generous and well managed continuous professional learning (CPL) budgets that I had ever seen – with every member of staff involved in all kinds of professional development on an ongoing basis. The CPL opportunities that they have range from small scale, skills sharing sessions run by the teachers for their colleagues after school on a Thursday evening, to complex, international conferences – with complex, international budgets to match! 

Every single one of our teaching and class assistant teams attends our international education conference every two years – in the last few years they have enjoyed hearing Sir John Johns talking about magic weavers and Claire Harvey talking about tackling equality and diversity issues in school. Both Sir John and Claire had us in tears for different reasons and both were inspiring. We have enjoyed learning about happiness in school from Sir Anthony Seldon and positive psychology from Dr Christian van Nieuwerburgh. This is just a flavour of the internationally recognised speakers who are keen to be involved in our conferences and who encourage our staff team to reflect on the big issues in education, and consider the practicalities of implementing these big issues in their practice in school.  With some fabulous results! 

With the new technology that we all have access to, we can now connect with leading organisations in education and research via webinars and online training courses. For those of us who teach the IB diploma this is a regular aspect of being up to speed with the curriculum and being able to teach the pupils confidently in class, but we also have a large number of Prep and Pre-Prep teachers who have completed Project Zero classroom courses at Harvard Graduate School of Education – a phenomenal resource for learning visible thinking and the project based approach. 

Of course, nothing beats face to face training and bringing trainers to the school from overseas (whether in a conference situation or not) is a great way to ensure that we share our resources as widely as possible.  Recent topics have included bilingualism, differentiation in the classroom, maths for primary teachers (and their children!), quality circle time, literacy, personal social and health education….. the list is endless! 

We believe that the best teachers are continuous learners – this means that they need to be given many opportunities to carry out their own research, reflect and collaborate at conferences and in training events and share their skills with their colleagues. Keeping our own minds active means that we can appreciate the best ways in which to develop the learning skills of our pupils – and also understand their frustrations and challenges when that learning is difficult…. Incredibly important for us to be effective teachers.

So, what is next on the list of staff development opportunities?  Well, I would like to help the team to learn more about how to learn…. And I have my eye on a brilliant speaker, who I reckon can help us to do just that! 

Some takeaways from HMC Conference – keeping St. Paul’s close to home

Conferences overseas might seem like a very positive perk of my job, and in many ways they are, but when so much time (and energy) is spent travelling to far flung conference venues, we have to feel that the investment has been worth it – both in time and financial terms.  My most recent conference, in Manchester, allowed me to connect with friends and former colleagues in the HMC, the Head Masters and Head Mistresses Conference, which represents some 280 or so high quality international schools both in the UK and overseas.

The HMC is traditionally seen as the voice of the independent sector in the UK, representing schools that are world renown, such as Eton, Harrow and Rugby as well as many other less well known, but sometimes equally impressive, schools in various parts of the country.  The organisation includes over 50 international schools and this is a growing division, as many UK schools set up franchise schools around the world, most notably in the Middle East and China. 

Our divisional meeting, of heads of international schools within HMC comprises an eclectic mix; established schools like our own (and the other Latin American school, the Grange, from Chile) both have long histories and traditions, which stretch back decades.  Alongside us are the ‘newbies’; schools which have recently opened in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and which have a ‘mother ship’ back home.  Schools represent countries as diverse as India and Switzerland, Qatar and Malaysia, Australia and France. The growth of new schools with English language (often British) curriculums is something that has been quite incredible in the last decade and remains a discussion point not just for the international division but also for the membership in general; how will the association maintain its standards?  UK schools are all required to be inspected by the same inspectorate, against the same standards – this is not possible for a number of reasons in different areas of the world; how can the association ensure that accounting standards and governance and financial processes are maintained?  UK schools in the group are all charities, with a specific set of accounting regulations – whilst there are a whole host of ownership and governance models in overseas schools, with many of them being profit-making enterprises – something that does not fit with the HMC model.  Trying to fit different shaped pegs in to an HMC hole seems quite a challenge and our discussion on this topic was very animated.

Speakers at the conference are always designed to catch our attention and give us some ‘takeaways’.  Dame Rachel de Souza CEO of the Inspiration Trust was a great speaker.  With her brand of disruptive education, but based on the firmest of positive principles, she has done great work, it seems, in improving pupils’ chances in tough schools in the east of England.  I liked her direct approach, no-nonsense and straight talking; and her focus on appointing the strong and charismatic senior leaders to take her schools forward. 

We also heard from a voice that anyone of a certain age in the UK would recognise – BBC newsreader, Michael Buerk. He most famously brought to the consciousness of the nation the plight of hundreds of thousands of starving East Africans in the 1984 famine which led to the first international celebrity efforts to raise money and put an end of poverty and starvation in Ethiopia.  The footage and images that he brought into our living rooms quite literally changed the world. Michael was there in Manchester, however, not to talk about poverty but to be a ‘grumpy old man’!  He got the tone of the conference just right, asking us all to consider the entitled lives of millennials, and what we can do to help to focus on what is important in our schools.  His light-hearted approach was both fun and thought provoking – often the best kind of speaker. 

In amongst the keynotes we had panels on teaching and learning and pastoral care, drugs awareness, and workshops on taking your school brand overseas, or being an executive head in a group of schools.  In addition, a new video on digital awareness was revealed which has been made in partnership with HMC. This video sends a message to try and harness the positives of social media and digital tools – rather than a down right ‘don’t do it’ message, which we know that our children are probably going to ignore.  I encourage you to watch it with your children and discuss the message which it contains and any questions that are raised from it. 

More important than all of these things, though, is the opportunity to network and connect, and to try new things.  I always enjoy meeting up with old friends and colleagues and this year I attended my first ever football match – watching Manchester United draw to Valencia at Old Trafford.  Well worth it (and the fish and chips were delicious!). 

BTEC music technology results for St. Paul’s pupils

More great results!

Following on from the success of our IGCSE results last week, we are celebrating again with our L6th pupils this week, following the first ever BTEC music technology results which the pupils have achieved.  27 of the pupils chose to follow this new course, capitalising on our excellent new recording studio and music technology facilities and none of them has been disappointed.  81% of the grades were awarded merit or distinction (the top two grades) with 8 of the pupils securing starred distinctions, recognising exceptional performance in the assessments. 

Many congratulations to the 27 happy pupils and many thanks to our wonderful music department, and especially those involved in setting up this new course.  It has been a great success and we are delighted, once again, to be leading the way with internationally  recognised courses which allow our pupils to excel.  

Positive thinking in school: supporting our children to be happy, healthy and productive in school

As I sit in the departures area at Heathrow, on my way back from the annual meeting of head’s of the school’s in COBIS (the council of British international schools), I inevitably find myself reflecting on some of the speakers and themes and their importance and influence on educational leadership at St Paul’s. We are lucky to be members of a number of groups of quality international and UK independent schools and each of them has their own annual conference, at which many important themes are explored. Over the last two months, I have attended three such conferences, COBIS, the Latin American Heads’ Conference and our own St. Paul’s educational conference. I have learned much!

A common and extremely important theme across all three of these professional opportunities was wellbeing and providing the right kind of support and guidance to help our children develop excellent mental health and be able to cope when life is challenging for them. With the recent tragic deaths of pupils in schools in São Paulo this is perhaps more pertinent and prominent in our thoughts than ever before.

We heard this week from two contrasting speakers on the issue of mental health for young people: Dick Moore is a former independent school headmaster whose son, Barney, took his own life in his early twenties. The impact was crushing to the family, as you can perhaps imagine, and we were inspired by Dick’s incredible humour and positivity in the face of such challenge. He now raises awareness of mental health issues in young people, particularly in boys and young men, and advocates for better support, open communication and practical strategies to help to create spaces where these young people can share their thoughts and feelings, be themselves and open up to accepting help. These, he says, are key.

Natasha Devon is an impressive woman and she too had us all thinking about how best to approach mental health issues in school. Natasha reminded us about the neuroscience of the teenage brain (a fascinating topic in its own right) and shared with us some startling statistics about mental health issues in the UK. It is interesting to note that approximately similar proportions of young men and young women have mental health issues, but that girls and women are far more likely to seek help and respond positively to it. Natasha supposed that boys in general are less likely to seek help because our methods of counselling and clinical support are intrinsically feminine and that this does not sit well with boys and men. She described to us a counsellor’s office, in muted, ‘feminine’ colours, with chairs facing each other, soft music and flowers on the table. Boys, it seems, do not want to look into an adult’s eyes, and they are generally not impressed by sweet smelling flowers either! Society also teaches our boys to ‘man up’ and be strong. It does not, in general, encourage men to be sensitive and reflective. Even the language that we use around courage and being able to cope is often ‘masculine’ in its nature. This made me think about how our new school counsellor, due to join us in August, might arrange their space… and why parents should really make the most of car journeys to talk to their teenagers, boys and girls, both sets of eyes fixed firmly ahead! These are opportunities to talk without judgement, and when you might really get to the heart of any worries that your children have. Read more about Natasha’s work here.

One speaker who was common to both our own conference and the COBIS one was a wonderfully charismatic positive psychologist, Christian van Nieuwerburgh. A Belgian, born in Lebanon to a Japanese mother, he is a linguist par excellence and, in my view, offers a fantastic insight into coaching and positive psychology. He is acutely culturally aware (he has even devised a new form of coaching for people of the Islamic faith) and utterly pragmatic in his approach. His witty and engaging workshops and keynotes in São Paulo encouraged us to develop a coaching approach in our work and our teaching, helping to identify what drives us and identifying ways to help young people set goals, based on knowing themselves and particularly their strengths, better. Reminding us that the people around us are generally committed to doing good things as well as they can was a key message, which hopefully will make it easier for us all to establish and maintain the highest quality and most productive relationships in all parts of our lives, even when we don’t always agree!

As parents and educators the most important thing for us all must be the mental health and happiness of our young people. Being attuned to the challenges that our boys and girls face, and helping them to navigate through the process of growing up is not easy. Professionals like psychologists and counsellors are key, of course, but it seems that what is more important are family relationships and openness between our children and those who care about them and can intervene when they need help. Creating space and time to share worries and problems are of prime importance if we are all to support our children to be happy, healthy and productive in school.

The dangers of unlimited screen time

Sadly when we go out for dinner the sight is now common – couples sitting opposite each other, not talking, but focusing on the screens of their smartphones. Taking pictures of the food to Instagram – or checking up on what others are doing on Facebook. In our homes, the idea of a TV in a child’s bedroom is passé – instead each member of the family sits with their personal device – no longer sharing the watching experience, but in their own world with their screen. The London Tube has never been a place where strangers speak to each other – but the days of everyone being lost in their daily newspaper or latest bestseller are now replaced by the dreaded smartphones.

There is now mounting evidence that this addition to our phones and to an online life which may or may not represent reality, is not only damaging our social interactions, it is damaging our mental health too – especially that of our teenagers. At a time when they should be creating and developing relationships and practising the skills needed to be successful in the adult world, they are lost in the moment of likes online, or an unattainable image of ‘real life’.

This article helps us to see what the research is indicating – and perhaps how we as educators and parents can help our children towards better mental health and more satisfying adult lives beyond school. Last year we posed the possibility of going ‘phone free’ in the Senior School. We will be revisiting this idea with pupils and parents in coming weeks and would be very happy to hear your thoughts. This is a discussion that cannot be had online.

https://theconversation.com/with-teen-mental-health-deteriorating-over-five-years-theres-a-likely-culprit-86996

When I grow up… preparing our young people for an unknown (and exciting!) future

At the beginning of the year we often think about our plans for the future – both short and long term.  And I am sure you all have them.  For the Upper Sixth and Form 5 the IGCSE and IB exams are looming large in their lives and inevitably they are thinking about what impact the results might have on their future choices – where to go and what to study for university for example, and what they might do for a career afterwards…  our pupils are asked many times in their school careers: “‘What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Some of them have a clear idea from an early age – others keep changing their minds, and some still don’t know when they collect their IB results and head off to university!  One of the things that always impresses me (and I am very proud of) about St. Paul’s pupils, is that they are incredibly ambitious and aspirational.  The vast majority of them will end up as leaders in their chosen professions, running companies, perhaps working in family firms that have been successful for a number of generations.  Some of them will end up in positions of political authority in Brazil and many will work for large multinational companies in leadership roles in other parts of the world.  They will be professionally successful, I am sure, and will also, I hope, be fulfilled and happy in their working life and not just because they earn a lot of money!

Later this term, during careers week, they will have the chance to start to think about professionals and occupations that are different and that they did not know about before, and indeed, some which did not exist some years ago and certainly not when I was in primary school.  The world of work is constantly changing and it is interesting to see some of the ways that people earn their living now which were not even thought of in a world before technology dominated our everyday lives.  A recent piece of research, published in the UK shows what children aspire to now as a way to earn a living – and it is rather surprising in some ways, and very reassuring in others.

Taken from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/01/19/revealed-top-career-aspirations-todays-primary-school-children/

Being a celebrity (whether that is playing for a top football team, appearing on TV or as a musician) has always attracted young children because it seems glamorous and probably quite easy.  But the more traditional celebrity culture seems to be being replaced by a new type of celebrity – the vlogger, who makes YouTube videos on a wide range of subjects, or posts on Instagram, attracts thousands of followers and starts to rack up enormous sums of money in advertising revenues.

You may have heard of Zoella, (Zoe Sugg).  She lives in Brighton, is 27 and a full time video blogger.  She has over 12 million subscribers on one YouTube channel and 4.8 million on another.  She makes videos about beauty tips and products, shared with other young people and teenagers.  She has published her first novel, which may not be very good at all, I have no idea, but not surprisingly sold more copies in its first week than any other first time novelist.  Being a vlogger seems to be quite lucrative – according to the Instyle.co.uk website, in September 2017, Zoella earned about £50,000 per month – that’s R$200,000.  Not bad for endorsing a few beauty products and doing your makeup in your bedroom!

So what other strange jobs might there be that today’s young people might find themselves doing in the future?  We hear time and time again in education that we are preparing our pupils for a world that does not yet exist.  This is true and career paths are an important part of this.  Decades ago, when we left school we assumed we would do a job pretty similar to our own parents, probably the same career for life, and probably in a way that was very similar to generations beforehand.  But the brave new world of technology, and the demise of traditional ways of doing things, (and the need to find new and creative approaches to life) means that this might not be the case:

Think about Air BNB.  How many of you have stayed in an Air BNB?

2 million people stay in a property let through Air BNB every night! There are listings in 191 countries – and it is worth more than the top 5 hotel groups in the world put together – Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Wyndham Worldwide and Accor Hotel Group.  Air BNB did not exist in 2007, it owns no properties and employs a handful of people compared to these established hotel chains – and yet is makes more money and is valued higher.  The career path “letting out other people’s spare rooms” did not exist before Air BNB came along (not really anyway) and now it seems to have conquered the world.

We used to use licensed cabs, that cost a lot, and that we had to wait for for longer.  Someone then had the idea that more or less any driver could use their car as a taxi – that they could charge less and provide a quicker service.  Uber came into being.  In many cities the rise of Uber has been a huge challenge to the local taxi companies – and has forced them to look at their service to customers.  Uber started in March 2009 – before that, Uber was just a German word meaning over, across or above.  Now, even if we don’t use Uber cabs – we certainly know what they are.  So there is another new career – Uber driver.

And who thinks a surgeon is a job for a human being?  Since 2000, worldwide about 2 million operations have been carried out by medical robots.  Precision, keyhole surgeries can be carried out by these robots which can seek out and destroy cancers, carry out minor operations and set bones.  All without causing so much trauma as traditional surgery and hence reducing the recovery time and cutting costs to health service providers.  For our pupils who are interested in being surgeons, or developing the technology to create robots like these – there is a huge range of possibilities that did not exist in the 20th century.  How about a career as a robotic surgeon technician for example?

According to the world economic annual forum from 2016, there are many jobs that did not exist 10 years ago, and here are their top 10:

App developer; Social media manager; Uber driver; Driverless car engineer; Cloud computing specialist; Big data analyst; You Tube content generator; Sustainability manager; Drone operator; Millennial generation expert. 

Some of them you would have to look up to understand (like I did) – and I am sure that by the time Form 1 are sixth formers, this list will be different.  The possibilities are endless.

Whether our young people have decided on a career path yet or not, is perhaps not that important.  What is key is that school prepares them to be ambitious to do something fascinating and enjoyable and that they will excel in it.  I am glad to see that in the original list of things children want to do that I started with, teacher is still there… at number 2.  It is, of course, the most important job in the world – and in my view the most enjoyable – because it prepares our pupils to have the adaptability, creativity, flexibility, ambition and skills needed to do all the other jobs – including the ones that have not been invented yet.  What a privilege.

 

Heads up!

Every year we meet together as a leadership group, with our board members and trustees to look at an area of school life on our annual focus day. This has covered all manner of subjects – building projects, HR, vision statements and the digital revolution count amongst recent topics. At the end of October this year we had one of the most interesting and useful of these that I have ever attended, looking at pupil wellbeing. During our Saturday morning session we heard from a local psychologist who set the context for us. We heard about the challenges that our youngsters face at the time when their brains are growing and developing the most – and considered how tough it is for them.

Much of the research is pretty bleak – we hear time and again how much less happy our children (the millennials) are than we were and how they cannot cope with the normal stress and anxiety that daily life presents them with. Ironically, in a world with more of everything, the basics do not always seem to be there, and our children cannot always make the right choices for themselves. In school we see it manifest in a number of ways but most notably with the playing out of adolescent relationships in cyber-space. Our boys and girls face the challenges of making it through the teenage years with 24 hour connectivity and with the world being aware of what they are doing. It’s definitely not easy – and our job as parents and educators is to help them to manage these online relationships better. Knowing a little bit about the neuroscience behind the development of the teenage brain can help, and I urge you to read some of the literature on the matter.

A focus day is not a focus day without some outcomes and we set about considering some discussion points as our session closed. One of them was the role and place of the mobile phone in our children’s lives. We have addressed this before – in last year’s parents’ strategy meeting and with the PTA – and we felt that there was a growing level of support from parents to limit pupils’ use of phones at school and to help educate them better on the use of phones in their lives in general. This piece from the Times shows us perhaps just how much phones can be an addiction for young people – and perhaps this is a habit that we want our children to break (or at least control) sooner rather than later.

What can you do?
✔ Monitor your children’s use of their phones – many of them spend hours a day online and much of what they are doing is not productive and potentially harmful to themselves and others.
✔ Consider where phones are allowed (never in the bedroom, nor at the dinner table perhaps).
✔ Make sure that you model good behaviour – if you are addicted to WhatsApp then it’s likely that your children will think this is normal.
✔ And check what they are writing – or sending – to each other. Once it has gone, no message can really be deleted, and we know from experience that unpleasant images and messages can be extremely hurtful.

When we were young we fell out with each other, made up and got on with life in a way that youngsters find much harder today. We had private disputes (not shared with a WhatsApp group) and our parents did not get involved. We cannot turn back the clock, and I am not suggesting that we do, but we can help our children to manage their online activity better, and encourage them to look for alternative activities when they have free time….

Heads together – the importance of collaboration in school leadership

It is often said that headship is a lonely job.  And I suppose that at times it can be – with sometimes very difficult decisions to be made and few colleagues to share that decision making with, it can feel that you are on your own.  As a head of two schools now, both with different structures, I have found very few lonely moments in my leadership career.  I am, by nature, a team player (I think!) and also a bit of a chatterbox, so sharing and discussing come naturally to me in the process of decision making.

In my first headship I was the head of a school within a large group, the Girls’ Day School Trust.  GDST is the largest educational charity in the UK with 26 4-to-18 schools and an annual turnover of over 200 million pounds.  The collegiate nature of this group, with colleague heads who are essentially doing the same job as you in another similar school in another part of the country, was an incredible strength of the organisation, especially for a new head.  We shared our ideas, feelings, frustrations, celebrations and successes and we enjoyed a well-structured and full programme of activities, conferences and training to help us to run our schools better.  We felt very close to each other and relied on each other often.

Coming to a new country, and a standalone school, the idea of loneliness as head seemed to loom rather larger.  Here, working directly with a board and not within a wider group of schools, we need to consider collaboration much more actively, at many levels.  My senior leadership team here, and my relationship with the board, trustees and wider school community, as advisors, confidantes and colleagues is much more important, and it is clear that our amazing community spirit in school is a crucial part of the collaborative nature of our school.  And I am pleased to report that there haven’t been very many ‘lonely moments’ here either!

What about further afield?  How can I be connected to schools in the UK and elsewhere to get the support, ideas and professional stimulation that come from discussion and reflection on my own practice?  That’s where our professional network is so important and this is something that I enjoy being a part of.  In Brazil, we are just launching an official IB association of schools, which will provide a local context for international school leaders to share expertise and ideas within the IB curriculum framework.  I am a great advocate for the IB and look forward to the official launch later this month.  I can already see the potential benefits for us all.

Beyond Brazil we have the Latin American Heads Conference – of which I am currently on the executive committee.  We are a relatively small group of nearly 50 schools, stretching from Chile to Argentina, Mexico to Peru, Columbia and Venezuela; there are not many Latin American countries we don’t represent.  We are bound together by having English language used in our schools, but other than that we are a pretty diverse group with a lot to offer each other.  Our pupils and staff benefit from the annual LAHC conference and sports events and we share ideas regularly between the schools.

On a global scale we are members of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), an organisation that encompasses 250+ British curriculum schools on all the continents of the world.  The diversity and opportunities offered by COBIS are rich and very rewarding – with competitions for pupils, training courses for staff and an annual conference with hundreds of delegates.  In the UK we are also members of the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), the association of leading independent schools in Britain.  Again, this gives a platform for discussion amongst the 250+ schools who are members and, crucially, keeps me in touch with developments, ideas and best practice back home.  This is crucial for us all if we are going to continue to have a strong British identity as well as a British curriculum and the use of English in our classrooms.

So is headship really lonely?  Perhaps it is if you are not open to the various opportunities that there are for support and collaboration.  We benefit from them all and I cannot imagine doing my job without the opportunity to share.  It certainly makes it a lot more interesting too!

IGCSE results St, Paul's School 2017

Great results to start the new school year!

We are delighted with the fantastic IGCSE results that our new L6 IB pupils have received today.  The IGCSE, taken by many thousands of 16 year olds in British schools in the UK and around the world is a top class qualification and is excellent preparation for sixth form studies and for university life beyond.

This year we are especially proud of Henrique, who not only secured a ‘top in the world’ certificate for his maths (taken early in November) but also secure top grades, A* in every single subject.  This is exceptional and he should be very proud indeed.  Chloe, Richard, Silvia, Henry and Gian Paolo all did brilliantly too, scoring nothing less than an A across all their subjects.  A further 16 pupils in the year group secured at least 6 A grades or better and special mention must go to a very happy family of twins, Martina and Isabela who between them scored 15 A/A* grades.  Congratulations to them all!

Top scoring departments include Spanish and French with 72% A* and 71% respectively, and the sciences, with an average of 62% A/A* across biology, physics and chemistry.

Many congratulations to the pupils and their teachers and parents who have supported them.  They have worked really hard to do so well and we wish them every success as they embark on their IB diploma and the next phase of their educational journey.

What does the future hold?

This week we have turned our attention in the Senior School to careers and our pupils’ future.  The older pupils in the school stand on the threshold of myriad exciting and challenging opportunities and have, if they follow their dreams, a much more varied and interesting career path ahead of them than most of us, their parents, might have.

Careers Week at St. Paul's

When I entered teaching in the early 1990s there were many ‘old timers’ in the common room.  I worked in a traditional old fashioned (but very lovely) boarding school where the majority of staff spent their entire careers.  They loved the rural lifestyle, they brought their children up there and they never thought to look anywhere else.  Many of them secured promotions within the school and their life was focused around small rural community that we lived in.  In fact, when I left in 1996 the director of studies was also leaving – retiring in his early 60s.  He had been at the school continuously since the age of 8 (yes, 8 years old as a prep school boy) – bar three years at university and a year in industry.

The idea of working in the same industry, let alone the same institution, all of our working life, is alien to us now – if we want to get on in teaching (which is still quite traditional in terms of career paths) we must move on and experience a range of schools, in different contexts and different geographical locations.  For many of you, working in business, medicine, the law or other professions the same is probably true – perhaps you will have had three, four or maybe more employers in your careers.

This week we have been inspired by the idea of careers and life choices and our speaker at the parent workshop on Tuesday evening really gave us a sense of how diverse our children’s global careers will be.  Victor Mirshawka Junior works in coaching and leadership and prepares his clients for the many opportunities that are presented to us as global citizens today.  He suggested that our children will have 17 different jobs and 5 different careers in their lives; that they would have the flexibility and skills to work all around the world (or perhaps from their home offices and with global contacts and clients) and he prompted us to think about the challenges that this fast paced, techno-centric approach with rapid communication and an emphasis on creativity and entrepreneurship would bring.  It was mind boggling to think about the way in which robotics and the communications industry has created new careers (youtubers for example) on one hand and replaced careers (data analysts) on the other.

I think the element of his message which was most stark was the unpredictability of the world of work that our children will inhabit.   Molly is 8 years old.  Born in 2008, she will probably retire when she is between 70 and 80 (because pensions will not support her at a retirement age of 60, however much she wants to give up work then).  We cannot begin to imagine the world in 2090 – when she will be finishing her working life.  Of course she will still need interpersonal and collaborative skills, problem solving skills and skills of innovation and critical thinking during her career – but will she still need to be able to drive?  Probably not – driverless cars are already with us.  Will she need to be able to learn languages and use them in her work?  I hope that she will, but with immediate online audio translation, perhaps this will not be a major hurdle to global communication either?  If she is a doctor, will she need to carry our surgical procedures or diagnoses?  Perhaps not – because we already have complex medical programmes with algorithms that can do this for us, and robots to carry out operations.

The brave new world of careers that our children are exploring this week is not the one that we learnt about at school – it is far more exciting, much more interesting and with much more to offer than a job for life and a company pension.  Listening to Victor was a little unnerving – but tantalising at the same time.  Sadly I won’t be there to see Molly retire in the 2080s (unless medical science comes up with a technology to prolong my life) but I know it will be an exciting one.  And if we have taught our children flexibility, determination and resilience, then they will have an incredibly rewarding journey through life.

In the words of Dr Seuss…. (one of my favourite philosophers!)