Lawrence Tubb is headmaster at leading online independent school Minerva’s Virtual Academy.
Here he looks at calls from the business community to reform the education system to better prepare students for the world of work.
Last week, The Times issued its interim report from its wide-ranging, year-long ‘Education Commission’.
The commission, which sought opinions from education and business leaders, amongst others, concluded that reform of the education system could boost the UK economy by £125bn a year.
According to the Commercial Education Trust charity, almost three quarters of companies believe their profitability and productivity would rise by at least 25 per cent if new recruits were better prepared for employment.
But what does this mean?
The world of work has changed dramatically over the last couple of years – the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to completely rethink how they do business and much of their operation has moved online. Many restrictions may have come to an end this week, but big companies like Apple and Microsoft have embraced full time remote or hybrid working.
This is a world which, unfortunately, most people leaving school or university over the last few years have been woefully underprepared for. Yes, they know more about computers and technology than we ever did, but that is a world away from having the skills to interact with new colleagues who you never, or seldom, meet in person.
That was one of the drivers behind the launch of Minerva’s Virtual Academy. It is the perfect school for modern times – combining smart technology and engaging online resources with one-to-one support, active group learning and multi-disciplinary projects.
We offer pupils the flexibility to learn from the comfort of their home, anywhere in the world, while ensuring they develop the social skills required to live fulfilling lives and succeed in the workplaces of the future.
The skills we champion are:
- Creative and critical thinking
- Leadership, and
We have changed the way we approach education and believe our programme is attractive to modern employers. Our pupils’ timetables don’t look anything like the traditional school timetable, but rather resemble a work week calendar.
Why? Because 70% of the time our pupils are self-studying on our platform with only 30% spent with teachers in ‘normal’ lessons. This automatically gives the pupils set deadlines to complete sections of work.
A calendar of deadlines is very different to a calendar of lessons that pupils have to turn up to without any prior preparation, which is what you see in mainstream schools.
Our pupils learn to manage their own time to meet these deadlines – and we help them do this with our dedicated personal mentoring programme. We teach study skills which will benefit them for years to come – not just revision hacks.
The flexibility and mentoring we offer means that particularly bright pupils have the freedom and support to explore areas of interest and passion outside of the curriculum. Some students who had been doing well at physical school previously actually thrived at home during lockdown and want to continue learning from where they feel most comfortable but with the greatest possible opportunities for collaborative learning and making friends all over the world.
We also have students who cannot maintain a full school schedule because of their sporting, acting or musical commitments whether in this country or abroad, or whose families travel between countries and do not relish the thought of boarding school.
The result is a richly diverse collection of students who have much in common – a desire to make the best of their education, to develop their skills of independence and collaboration – all skills they will need to take into the workplace of the future.
There is absolutely no doubt that education needs to change. And part of that change includes embracing what online technology and online learning can bring to the table. For those families forced into online learning because of the COVID lockdowns, it may seem like a substitute, and something that just adds to the stresses of both the pupil and the wider family. But done properly, with proper planning and proper care for the pupil, it is an environment which can arm a young person for what comes next.