Life Lessons – New report from the Sutton Trust

12 October 2017

Author: Shaun Allison

Today the Sutton Trust published a report ‘Life Lessons – Improving essential life skills for young people’.  Sir Peter Lampl outlines the focus of this report:

Adult life requires a range of skills in order for people to flourish, both in the workplace and in their daily lives, from the confidence and motivation to seek challenges and complete tasks, to the interpersonal skills that aid teamwork and other social interactions. These essential life skills are crucial to people achieving their potential and therefor it is natural that they should also lie at the heart of our education system. These essential skills have long been cultivated by the best independent schools. Visiting both state and independent schools recently, I saw some excellent work in state schools. However, I saw too how the extra resources available to the independent schools allow them to impart life skills more consistently”.

Key Points

  • Essential life skills such as  confidence, motivation, resilience and communication are associated with better academic outcomes and prospects in the workplace.
  • 94% of employers say that life skills are at least as important as academic results for the success of young people.
  • 88% of young people and 97% of teachers agree with this.
  • 72% of teacher believe their school should increase their focus on life skills.
  • Extra curricular activities can contribute to the development of these skills, but there are gaps between the level of provision and activities reported by teachers.
  • 78% of teachers report the availability of volunteering programmes to build life skills, but only 8% of students say they take part.
  • 45% of teachers said their school provided debating opportunities, but only 2% of students reported participating in this.
  • 37% of students don’t take part in ant clubs or activities.
  • Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to take up activities than their better off peers (46% compared to 66%)

What can schools do?

  • Focus on ensuring a wider range of students develop a broad array of non-academic skills, through both classroom strategies and extra-curriculum enrichment activities such as debating, cultural visits, sporting activities and volunteering.
  • There should be a particular focus on increasing take-up by those from a disadvantage background.
  • Celebrate the success of the students that take part in these activities, across the whole school.
  • Skills such as confidence, resilience and the ability to work with others should be embedded in the school ethos, assemblies, lessons, school clubs and societies and in staff-student and staff-parent relationships.
  • As teachers, we can develop resilience and confidence through the teaching of our subject – through planning a challenging and interesting curriculum and then having the highest expectations of what students can achieve (and not allowing them to give up).
  • Students should have the opportunity to develop these skills through activities such as engaging with a school charity, such this one at Passmores Academy, in Essex.  Smaller scale projects, such as getting students to engage with and discuss the news (such as the ‘In the News’ project at Durrington High school) will also support this.
  • Our training programme ‘using the EEF toolkit to address disadvantage in coastal areas’ will pick up on many of these themes, but with a particular focus on what the teacher can do.
Posted on 12 October 2017
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