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It has been an exciting and fun-filled start to the year in the Junior School. From the whirlwind of the first days in new classes and Year groups to Diwali and harvest celebrations, it has been “all go” from Nursery to Year 6! The start of a new school year allows for a refocusing and refinement of current practice and one area that we have been focusing on this term is the House points system.
We have introduced a system that sees points awarded to the House as a whole, rather than to named individuals, so that all members of a House can work together collaboratively to see their House come out on top at the end of each half term. An exciting new development is that points are being awarded when girls demonstrate specific qualities, such as collaboration, perseverance, participation and resilience. These qualities are sometimes known as soft skills, but I prefer to call them learning habits. They are qualities that cut across all subjects and help children (and adults) to get the most out of learning opportunities and, crucially, help them to see that learning is a continuous process with ups and downs. Each week in assembly, the Year 6s announce not only the overall points ranking for each House, but also which House is doing well in these different areas.
“Soft skills” are key to education in the 21st century. Collaboration, problem solving, empathy and determination are – amongst other skills – crucial to future development in a world where more and more jobs are becoming automated and, increasingly, machines are able to do much of what human beings can. Jack Ma, one of the world’s most successful businessmen, told the World Economic Forum in 2018 that he believed schools should not be teaching children to compete with machines, but that rather education should focus on teaching values, teamwork, independent thinking and empathy – things that a machine cannot do. His voice is just one of many in the world of work emphasising the importance of these skills.
These qualities have long been at the heart of a GDST education, underpinning a rigorous approach to academic study and development of a love of subject. We hope that by highlighting these learning habits through the House points system in the Junior School, we will focus the girls’ minds even more on how these skills can help them learn across the curriculum now and on into the future when Year 6 is but a distant, happy memory!