Grit in our young people is essential, but we need to do more

Britain's educational system certainly needs to strive for academic excellence. But that is not the whole story. We need to educate children for life, and all that it throws at them, says Charlie Rigby, Founder of the Challenger Trust

It's not only about exams
Charlie Rigby,
On 17 March 2015 16:40

On Monday, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan stated that being academic in the modern world simply isn’t enough, and that too narrow a focus was given to passing exams, when more time should be spent developing the grit and resilience young people frequently need in life.

This is a message I wholeheartedly agree with, but it is a little late in coming.

After many years under Michael Gove’s Maths and English regime, too many young people have been leaving school able to pass exams, but with none of the personal attributes, such as leadership skills, courage and determination which will make them a real contribution to society and the British economy, rather than simply a person who has learned the curriculum and ticked the boxes.

As Morgan rightly states:

“You’ve got to have the academics -- those rigorous standards that universities and employers value -- but employers need to know that there are great people they will be able to recruit in the future, and that’s why I think all the skills we are talking about today are so important in producing a well-rounded young person."

This is of far more value to the individual, their prospective employer, and the UK workforce as a whole.

Many, including Morgan, have stated that character attributes and changes in them are a difficult thing to measure, yet we are working with a number of schools to implement these exact measures, track progress and encourage young people to want to improve -- after all, that is half the battle.

We have in fact gone in to a number of schools, instilling detailed plans to ensure that each person has the chance to make the most of themselves, both inside and out of the classroom -- regardless of their background. I believe this is a fundamental right of any child going through the British education system.

In an ever diversifying labour market we need versatile, skilled, confident young people, who can adapt to the challenges thrown at them. Yes, they need an education, of that there is no doubt, but in order to reduce unemployment we need those leaving education, at whatever level, to be both engaged and engaging characters, who can stand on their own two feet and fight for a job.

For too long this country has been led by wealthy individuals, from privileged private school backgrounds, who for the most part have no experience of what ‘normal’ life actually entails.

Hopefully now, after Nicky Morgan’s wise words, more schools will follow suit and look to maximise how they can build not only characters who can answer questions and write correctly, but more importantly, can take the various knocks life throws at them and bounce back, better than before.

There is much speculation surrounding May’s General Election but regardless of the outcome we hope this holistic focus on education remains, and that the message gets through to the party leaders and head teachers alike that if we are going to succeed as a society, we must make the most of our young people.

Charlie Rigby is founder of the Challenger Trust

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