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How to get our kids ‘real world’ ready

The world and education is changing - fast! So how do we ensure our kids are REAL WORLD ready, not just exam ready? We asked some of Kent's top heads to give us advice that would help every parent - and child...

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Education is shifting – the fast pace of change, plus the instability and responsibility brought about by global challenges mean different skills are now valued. So how do we ensure our kids are REAL WORLD ready, not just exam ready?

We asked Kent’s top educational experts to provide the crucial pieces of advice that could benefit every parent – and child. Here’s what they said…

Clockwise, from left to right: Katrina Handford; Mike Hall; Paul David; Helen McClure; Louise Lawrance and Malcolm Gough

Katrina Handford, head teacher at Kent College Pembury, says:


‘A quality education is about so much more than just exams. Our role, as educators of the next generation, is to encourage them to reflect on and carve out their place within the global community. These pupils are the future – the teachers, the artists, the doctors, the charity workers and business entrepreneurs that will shape our world tomorrow.

At Kent College Pembury we look to the future, in all that we do. To tie in with our school ethos: ‘Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can’ we ensure that every lesson and every activity is placed in the context of trying to understand the world around us and we always consider how we can make a positive impact. This makes KC pupils, kind, compassionate and caring, but most of all, ready to change the world as leaders of the future.’

Mike Hall, Headmaster at Ashford School, says:


‘We understand that the way in which students learn to engage with tech is much more valuable than the hardware itself in an ever-changing world. Ashford students each receive and manage their own bespoke student device throughout their senior career, and our expert staff, led by our dynamic digital steering ensures that rigorous, subject specific pedagogy underpins the best in relevant, targeted, and challenging teaching and learning.

Rigour, quality, skills, and future-proofing constitute the guiding principles in our strategy to guarantee that whether they are seven or 17, Ashford students are equipped to thrive in a demanding future.’

Paul David, Headmaster at Dulwich Prep, Cranbrook, says:


‘We want our children to feel excited for the future, to think creatively and to recognise the wealth of opportunity that change brings. Our role as educators is two-fold: Firstly, to create breadth of curricular and co-curricular choice, so that every child has the opportunity to discover their abilities, develop a real passion, and recognise how to take this forward in life.

Secondly, to create a caring ethos with strong pastoral support, which empowers our children to take risks, challenge themselves and grow in confidence and resilience. We make this a priority every day at Dulwich Prep.’

Helen McClure, Headmistress at Solefield School, Sevenoaks:


‘From Reception to Year 8, we believe our job is to raise rather than teach boys; pupils become more responsible rather than more important as they move through the school, learning to look after the younger members of the ‘family’, valuing all equally and cherishing their individuality. As a small school, everyone participates in exciting academic activities, clubs, recitals, choirs, concerts, assemblies, plays and matches, with “Man of the Class” awards given termly throughout the school, not necessarily to those who have achieved well on the sports field or the classroom, but to the boy who has shown the most integrity, kindness and decency. 

Our unique Scholarship Pathway in Years 7 and 8 sees each boy choose his area of passion – Music, STEM, Art, Drama, Academic or Sport and means that, at Solefield, every boy is a scholar in the true sense of the word, developing a love of learning, respect for others’ strengths, talents and confidence, without arrogance.​’

Louise Lawrance, Headmistress at The Granville, Sevenoaks says:


‘Being able to learn and think independently is one of the most important skills a pupil can acquire. This requires a growth mindset. One of the greatest obstacles to developing independence is the fear of failure so enabling children to view mistakes and errors as opportunities turns challenging situations into a world rich with learning experiences. 

This goes hand in hand with persistence and endeavour.  Each time a child engages with something difficult, their efforts are rewarded because they know they are making progress. The ability for self-reflection is also important, enabling children to recognise the progress they have made and identify any areas for further improvement.’

Malcolm Gough, Headmaster at Hilden Grange, says:


‘Long after children have left school they will have forgotten quite a lot of the extensive factual knowledge that they acquired along the way, but what will never leave them is who they have become as individuals. At Hilden Grange, we are acutely aware of our responsibility in helping global citizens of the future to be both successful, but equally, to impact their world in a positive way.

For us, our Language of Learning, and our key words of Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Communication, Challenge and Positivity are most effective in helping us to develop clear thinking, lateral thinking, resilient and hard-working leaders of the future. It is paramount that in all of this we encourage kindness and respect.’

Clockwise, from left to right: Duncan Sinclair; Nik Pears; Eddy Newton; Stephanie Ferro and Simon Fisher

Duncan Sinclair, Principal at Somerhill School, Tonbridge, says:


‘Of all the soft skills demonstrated by children during the pandemic, their ability to adapt was surely the most evident. While lockdown saw many young people learn new skills and behaviours, some found the challenge more difficult. Parents and schools can engineer circumstances which foster the ability to be adaptable. Techniques to achieve this include recognising failure as a function of learning and changing daily patterns and routines regularly before they become ingrained, affording the chance for spontaneity.

Children respond well when their ability to adapt is recognised, or when a conversation after an event allows them to reflect on what happened to see what could have been done differently, or better. In that way, the very function of learning…is by being adaptable!’

Nik Pears, Head at St Michael’s Prep, says:


‘From the moment our pupils join us in Nursery, to the day they leave us in Year 6 or Year 8, they are taught to be grateful for all the blessings they receive in life and in their education. St Michael’s ethos of perseverance, wisdom and gratitude shapes not only the education our children receive, but the opportunities and responsibilities they are given to care for others and ignite change.

All St Michael’s children are given opportunities to make a difference to their school and community, so that when they leave us, they have the skills, compassion and ingenuity to become people who can change the world. We want our pupils to carry all that they have learnt at St Michael’s into their futures: to be socially responsible, inclusive, kind, to celebrate all forms of diversity, to be respectful but to challenge and take their knowledge onto their future schools.’

Eddy Newton, Head at Marlborough House School, says:


‘The rise of the digital age means there’s less value in just learning how to regurgitate facts that are easy to find with a click of a mouse. A modern education looks at the whole child; developing character, resilience and personal skills, as well as academic challenge.

At MHS we build confidence and adaptability in our pupils by providing a varied curriculum with a range of assessment criteria and a willingness to break free from the traditional walls of a classroom.  It is uplifting to see children research, present, collaborate and lead – all just part of a normal day’s work!’

Stephanie Ferro, Headmistress at Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks, says:


Looking ahead to life beyond school is well established at Walthamstow Hall – it even features in the School Prayer: ‘We ask that when we go out into the world, we may use what we have learnt to lead purposeful lives.’

Pupils are also taught very practical skills. Walthamstow Hall has developed a programme of life skills called ‘Q’ which is on the timetable for every student from Year 7 – 13. ‘Q’ teaches seemingly small but fundamental skills and life hacks often overlooked in traditional curriculums, everything from how to properly address an email through to eye contact, body language and different online and in real life interview techniques. 

Careers teaching is also at the core of the Walthamstow Hall curriculum. Thinking about future paths starts early, in the Junior School in fact, with dedicated age-appropriate careers projects opening young minds up to the different skills needed in different jobs. Then at the Senior School students benefit from a wealth of Careers opportunities from social enterprise projects, being exposed to industry pioneers in the Diverse Leaders programme, responding to real-world business dilemmas in our ‘Classroom to Boardroom’ scheme and developing their own business ideas in Walthamstow Hall’s Enterprise Club. Just to name a few examples!’

Simon Fisher, Headmaster at Dover College, says:


‘At Dover College we are of the view that character is formed rather than taught. Qualities such as empathy, resilience, reliability and self-confidence develop through participating in the incredible range of opportunities and experiences we offer.

As a member of the global Round Square network of schools, our shared values of Adventure, Democracy, Environmentalism, Internationalism, Leadership and Service are baked in to all that we do.’

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