LESSONS IN LIFE
Caroline Townshend, Head of Eaton Square Senior School in central London, discusses how it prepares students for life well beyond the school gates
"We have masterclasses on ‘Crypto – what should I know’, mortgages and financial literacy, political understanding, the importance of service within communities and career insight talks"
At Eaton Square Schools, we believe it's our job to prepare our students for life. It's our aim to educate students to become the best versions of themselves both at and beyond school. Once our students have left us, we want them to continue to develop their individual passions, lead purposeful lives, engage positively in – and contribute meaningfully to – society.
Which is why we have developed Preparation For Life (PFL) – extra, timetabled, non-examined subjects that will give our students valuable, practical knowledge about the modern world but also afford them additional time and space to explore skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, creativity and communication outside of individual subject areas, encouraging an inter-disciplinary approach.
These sessions are part of the core curriculum offering, from year seven through to year 11, and will also run alongside A-levels when our sixth form opens in September. All sessions are run in our Creative Facilitation Space which was purposely designed to encourage group work and collaboration. The teacher very much acts as a facilitator with students taking the lead on the challenges set at the start of sessions, and students are encouraged to bring in content and examples from lessons they've attended that week.
In the younger years, sessions focus on skill development and cover areas such as communication, rhetoric and speech development, problem solving and critical thinking. Lesson experiences include code breaking and the Eaton Square escape room, researching and presenting role models, running a media project and an entrepreneurship challenge. Sessions are not graded, but students receive feedback on their engagement, contribution and outcomes, with peer feedback and development goals moving forward being a key part of each session. In the GCSE and A-level years, these skills are built on to link in with post-school life. Students explore self-awareness, self-regulation and social interactions for success alongside study skills, goal setting and exploring their future pathways. Visiting speaker sessions have run masterclasses on topics such as ‘Crypto – what should I know’, mortgages and financial literacy, political understanding and choice within democracy, the importance of service within communities and career insight talks. Technology has enabled us to answer many questions at the click of a button, but content knowledge remains vital for life, and not simply for passing exams. It’s a fundamental part of the learning process; our ability to extract meaning is reliant on content knowledge for our greater understanding of a subject. It’s not a skill, it’s something that’s far more intrinsic than that and based upon a broader depth of understanding.
In each lesson, alongside delivering the curriculum and content knowledge, we expect our teachers to engage in delivering character education. It's essential that we teach our students how to grow as people. Which is why each student has the opportunity for leadership development. Leadership development shouldn't be for an elite few, but for all, and leadership opportunities should be presented as frequently as possible throughout each academic year. Feedback from sessions has been overwhelmingly positive, and the programme has the flexibility to evolve to suit the needs of our learners at the time. The world is changing at a rapid pace. By helping students to explore their strengths and areas for development, by focusing on values and by promoting breadth, we put them in a strong position to seize and create future opportunities.