I was interested to read on the BBC News website the views of Sir Anthony Seldon, until recently Master of Wellington College, about the ability of independent schools to equip their students with a range of ‘soft skills’ that develop alongside academic rigour. These skills of creativity, teamwork, resilience and character have arguably been present in the experience of students attending Sidcot long before they were called ‘soft’. They are the attributes that would have been, in a bygone age, described as developing character – something that this school has long been in the business of.
However, I would contend that in addition to these, we should be offering our students as many chances as possible to learn about the rich diversity of human culture; after all, with developments in technology, ease of travel and greater political access, the world is a smaller place to my children than it was to me. Yet it is as complex and complicated as it has ever been and, therefore, an understanding of ‘otherness’ in as many forms as possible has to be one of the key ‘soft skills’ necessary to allow young people to truly thrive in a global, multi-cultural environment and allow them to take the values of home and school into their lives beyond both.
This is something I feel that Sidcot is uniquely placed to add to the offer to our students. Evidence of this came at the start of the week when some of our Chinese students shared their Mid-Autumn Festival with us. With an informative assembly to start proceedings, demonstration of national costumes and the chance to sample some ‘moon cake’, the food traditionally served at this occasion, we all came away the richer, in knowledge, understanding and empathy. Oh yes, and having added to our range of ‘soft skills’!
IWK – October 2015