As part of the ‘All pupils, every ambition: Enriched education’ campaign, we’re pleased to host a guest article by Yes Futures, a charity that specialises in delivering extra-curricular personal development programmes. Keep reading to learn about ‘soft skills’ and their importance in nurturing resilient young adults.
Many people feel the education sector is not doing enough to help young people develop the key life skills – or ‘soft’ skills – they need to thrive in and out of the classroom. While 91% of teachers believe schools should be doing more to help students develop soft skills, only one in five young people thinks their school is currently helping them “a lot” to develop such skills (The Prince’s Trust, 2017; The Sutton Trust, 2017).
But why are soft skills so important? And how can schools help students to develop these skills?
Why are soft skills so important for students’ wellbeing and development?
Soft skills such as communication, confidence, and resilience have a proven impact on students’ motivation and engagement at school.
It’s clear that young people who come out of education with a well-rounded set of both academic and ‘soft’ skills are more likely to find employment, contribute positively to society, and lead fulfilling lives. Research shows that young people with high levels of resilience and wellbeing are more likely to achieve academically, while 94% of employers say soft skills are as or more important than academic qualifications (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2017; The Sutton Trust, 2017).
How can governors promote the development of soft skills in the classroom?
Governors play a vital role in encouraging schools to prioritise the development of soft skills. While promoting the importance of soft skills on your board is important, you can also encourage teachers to embed simple strategies within their classrooms to help students to develop these skills. We recommend you ask questions about how your school embeds soft skills into the wider curriculum, such as the following:
- Do pupils have access to high-quality extracurricular programmes? Schools don’t have to shoulder the responsibility for developing students’ soft skills alone. At Yes Futures, for example, students on our personal development programmes take part in personalised coaching sessions, immersive extracurricular trips and community action sessions, to help them become confident and active members of society. We encourage governors to promote services such as ours within board meetings and ask school leaders about their links to organisations offering extracurricular programmes.
- Are young people encouraged to set goals? Asking students to set specific and realistic goals related to their development of soft skills – ideally using a SMART goal setting framework – encourages them to reflect on their personal strengths, and identify how they can improve their soft skills. Do school leaders encourage students to set goals?
- Are schools tracking and celebrating progress? Asking students to reflect on their successes and consider what they would have done differently promotes self-awareness and encourages them to take ownership over their personal development and goal setting. Celebrating successes through rewards and appraisals is also a great way to boost confidence and self-esteem in young people. Is this something that happens in school currently? If not, could such a system be implemented?
Developing students’ soft skills is all about adopting a holistic approach that nurtures their confidence, communicative skills, and self-awareness. Governors can play a vital role in ensuring school leaders prioritise such an approach. Being confident to ask the above questions is a great place for governors to start. For more information about Yes Futures and to explore the range of programmes on offer, visit their website.
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