Vocational Education — A preparation for life

For the child not wired for traditional schooling, vocational education can be transformational, removing barriers and building confidence

Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 10:08 AM

Four years ago, the Davos World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report predicted the skills that would spell success in the workplace of 2020. Creativity, complex problem-solving, negotiation, people management, emotional intelligence, coordinating with others: all the things we hope to see in our children – but the traditional curriculum has precious little time or space to grow any of this.

Vocational education, by contrast, puts these work–ready (and relationship-ready) skills at the centre. The best vocational courses build in problem-solving and collaboration, require self-management and train the vital social dispositions that are still somehow beneath the notice of the ivory towers.

Anyone who thinks the skills involved in vocational study are ‘soft’, however, has never seen a Hospitality BTEC student organising a lunch for 40 paying guests, a Film student finishing a commission - not to a teacher’s artificial deadline, but for a professional brief - a Countryside Management student lambing on work experience or a Music student staging a concert for the local community.

Not every child is school-shaped. Parents, from their lived experience of their child - funny, original, thoughtful, intuitive, resourceful - know that this is the one you want in the proverbial lifeboat when the siren sounds and the ship starts sinking. Why can’t school harness and celebrate these standout talents?

Much secondary education is based on a curriculum more designed for the sensibilities of the Victorian social reformers than the dynamic requirements of twenty-first century work. School all too often has a very narrow (and highly literacy-focused) definition of intelligence.

For the child not wired for traditional schooling, vocational education can be transformational, removing barriers and building confidence.

Being able to dive deeply into a highly motivating subject area — from Land Based Studies, to Fashion Design, to Games Production, to Enterprise — transforms some school-allergic children into experts in their fields. Working on real projects, for real clients, presents stimulating levels of challenge but with moderate pressure, at a pace that promotes well-being.

Don’t let your child be the next twenty-something to sit at interview with buckets of qualifications but not an ounce of experience, originality, initiative or common sense. If you have never considered vocational education for your child, it’s time to take a look at the rich and relevant options available. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Judith Fremont-Barnes, Head of Milton Abbey School

After living in Dubai for most of my life, yet being a British national, it was weird to finally be experiencing life in my home country. My expectations of my sixth-form life were worrying. However, since being a boarder for almost a year and a half now, those worries were fruitless. As a boarder, you experience a comradery you can’t experience in a day school with the number of activities and moments you share together e.g. house events and socials, allowing you to form friendships for life. From my experience, I have developed an improvement in my confidence as well as an increase in my maturity and responsibility. — Ben, former boarder at Dean Close School

We attended the Anderson Education UK Boarding School Exhibition in 2019 and were impressed with the professionalism and experience of the consultants. They listened to our concerns and priorities with empathy and carefully matched our son with a selection of schools. The experience has been incredibly simple with impartial advice and reassurance throughout

the process. Our son has flourished since his first introduction to a UK boarding education. His interest in his own future has expanded into a plethora of extra-curricular activities including the United Nations, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, additional language study, STEP Mathematics team leader; all of which demonstrate his growing aspiration to achieve his chosen university and career. — The Walker Family, Dubai

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