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Yes Futures' Big Education Conversation

We've partnered up with Big Education Conversation, in support of their national campaign to get people talking about what education is really for, and how it should change for the future.

It’s safe to say that this year has fuelled some key transformations in education – who would have thought that remote teaching was possible before 2020? But while the pandemic has resulted in some positive changes to teaching, it’s raised many questions about what aspects of schooling should stay the same, and what needs to be changed.

At Yes Futures, we’re committed to helping every young person discover their personal potential. But it’s clear that the current schooling system isn’t supporting all students to do so. So, we got the Yes Futures team together to have our own Big Education Conversation about the changes that we’ve seen in schools over the last year, and what we think needs to change about the education system.

What impact has remote teaching had on learning?

When working closely with students and teachers on our school programmes, something that has struck the whole team has been the mixed reaction of students to homeschooling. While some students have clearly thrived when working from home, others have told our Coaches and Programme Managers that they really struggled with being outside of the classroom for so long. Crucially, these mixed attitudes have had a huge impact on students’ motivations when returning to school. While some students were ecstatic to be back in the classroom and reunited with their peers, others were far less enthusiastic!

It's clear to see that some students flourish in the classroom environment more than others. But many teachers felt that remote teaching blurred the boundaries between teachers and students, due to being able to see into one another’s homes. Additionally, with young people using social media more than ever before over lockdown, many teachers have expressed concerns over their students coming across inappropriate content, and the impact of this content on their mental health. Which poses the question: if schools rely on remote teaching, what role do teachers have in ensuring that their students stay safe online?

Nonetheless, it’s obvious that virtual teaching does have its benefits. Several teachers have told us that more time is now being spent on creating virtual resources for their students who have missed school, enabling them to catch up with their studies. And a more widespread understanding that the classroom is not always the best setting for every student to learn, may lead to better support for students with additional needs.

Should schools be providing more wellbeing support?

It goes without saying that young people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But with students hidden in their homes for much of the last year, the full extent of the impact of the pandemic on their wellbeing is less clear, with the former education tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, recently announcing that he believes the impact of the pandemic on young people is still unknown.

It’s therefore unsurprising that many schools are more committed than ever before to supporting their students’ wellbeing. Some schools we’ve spoken to have created new ‘Head of Wellbeing’ roles, or are increasingly looking to invest in programmes to support their students’ mental health and wellbeing.

But managing the school budget is always a balancing act. While all schools want to look after their students, a lack of funding means that it’s often not possible for schools to provide extensive wellbeing support without cutting other areas of the budget. This ultimately leads to the question: should schools be prioritising students’ wellbeing, or their academic achievement?

Learning about the 'real world': careers and living costs

On our school programmes, we inspire students to think about their futures and career goals through our World of Work trip, where students meet inspiring professionals from a range of dynamic industries. But a common theme that emerged during our discussion was that not all schools were equipping their students with the knowledge of what career paths are out there.

Many students aren’t aware of the range of options at their fingertips: for example, the variety of college courses or apprenticeships available. Students are also often told that they need to study, if they want to avoid ending up in an ‘unskilled’ job. Yet the pandemic has highlighted that many of the roles that society may consider ‘unskilled’ are incredibly important!

Rather than be rushed through exams, students should be encouraged to take the time to think about what they want their lives to look like after leaving school. We also agreed that it’s really important for young people to be educated about the cost of living, to help them think about what sort of income they need to live the life they want.

Students also need to be empowered with an understanding of how they can break their life goals down into achievable steps, to help them succeed beyond the classroom. While this is something that we help students to do in our coaching sessions, we believe there needs to be a greater focus on goal setting in schools, to help every student to discover their personal potential.

What do you think? Carry on the conversation! There's still time to ask the big questions about education.

To find out more about how our programmes can support your students’ wellbeing, please visit our School Programmes page.

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