How do we equip our young people with what they will need to thrive and succeed in a world of work where the landscape is changing so rapidly that many if not most of the jobs they will be doing are new or haven't been invented yet!
Michael Gove appears to be obsessed with facts and argues that we need a radical approach that would slim down the secondary curriculum leaving secondary schools free to decide how to impart the required body of knowledge but at the same time making the primary school curriculum more prescriptive. However, if you read Dan Pink's fantastic book 'A Whole New Mind', he argues much more powerfully that we are entering not a knowledge age but a conceptual age where Asia, abundance and automation are radically changing the learning landscape. In this new world the key skills will be team work, design, storytelling, empathy, play and meaning. Ken Robinson, Tony Wagner, David Reynolds, DEMOS, the CBI and the RSA all argue that we need to refocus the curriculum to place skills alongside knowledge at the heart of our provision.
I have been working on the 'Made in Sheffield' scheme for two years now and importantly the available research, and evidence about what works, shows that skills matter just as much as knowledge. Skills like problem solving, where the OECD has just shown we are doing better than many of our international competitors. Skills like critical thinking, which Tony Wagner from Harvard argues is the most important higher level skill we can give our young people. Skills like creativity, which Ken Robinson would say lies at the heart of any successful system. And the character skills which Carol Dweck, Robert Seligman and Angela Duckworth would argue are at the heart of the difference between success and failure for most of us!
Importantly this scheme, which bears the Made in Sheffield brand, is about excellence. Of course, we know that GCSEs are critically important but we believe, along with the CBI, the RSA, BIS and a huge number of employers, organisations and companies, that developing these skills alongside the best possible GCSEs will provide young people with a passport to employment.