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How to Future-proof our kids

For the next generation, the world - and workplace - will have vastly changed. So we asked headteachers at 9 top Kent schools to give advice on how we can best prepare our children...

Top row (left to right): Scott Carnochan, Emma Karolyi, Duncan Sinclair.
Middle row (left to right): Paul David, Therésa Jaggard, Mike Piercy.
Bottom row (left to right): Stephanie Ferro, Alistair Brownlow, Julie Lodrick.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), over half of the world’s young people will end up in jobs that haven’t been created yet. As parents – and teachers – how on earth do we prepare our young people for a world of work that we can’t predict? We ask headteachers at 9 top Kent schools to give advice that could help us all…

Scott Carnochan, Headmaster Holmewood House Prep School, Tunbridge Wells, says:


While children haven’t really changed, the world of childhood has, which has created both a need and an opportunity.

First we must strengthen children’s Emotional and Mental Health – by equipping them with techniques and tools to understand and ‘problem-solve’ themselves and their relationships.

Then we must strengthen children as Learners – by developing their understanding of how best to learn and to apply this understanding to their learning.

Lastly we need to strengthen children as citizens – to understand and actively influence their more complex world.

This way, even as the world changes, childhood can remain a place for creativity, playfulness and promise.

Emma Karolyi, Head of Junior King’s, Canterbury, says:

‘True CONFIDENCE comes from self-knowledge’

We believe real confidence is grounded in self-knowledge; the truly confident recognise their own strengths as well as their limitations.

It takes confidence to admit you don’t know yet, that you don’t have the answer, or to seek the help and input of others with different skills.

We aim to foster this humility in our pupils and to bring an awareness of the academic, creative and sporting advantages a school like ours offers, cultivating a desire to share the result of that good fortune to make the world a better place.

A skills-based curriculum, like the one at Junior King’s, gives pupils the ability to adapt and develop dynamically, standing them in good stead to face real-world problems with confidence.

The ideal is that pupils leave schools meaningfully confident, with no hint of arrogance, happy to face the challenges their futures will bring, and to do so with grace, good manners, and consideration for everyone they meet on their journey. 

Duncan Sinclair, Principle at Somerhill School says:

‘SELF-SUFFICIENCY must be integral in learning’

The focus of parents’ discerning questions when it comes to schooling has shifted markedly from a forensic scrutiny of the school’s grades and results, to a broader desire to understand what we do as a whole to ensure learners are, or at least become, self-sufficient.

The sentiment here, is that self-sufficiency needs to be taught and learned, and form part of the culture of the school.

In an A.I. dominated world of the future, learners must develop interpersonal human skills which will one day help them fulfil the requirements of a changing workplace.

Already we know that forward-thinking employers recruit ‘CV-blind’ to avoid the fog and haze of overinflated grades achieved by years of puppet-like, rote-learning.

In a world where Google and Alexa satiate any hunger we have for facts, I predict that the self-sufficient citizens of this next generation will value curiosity above knowledge, perseverance over triumph, and empathy over cognitive processing power.

Paul David, Headmaster at Dulwich Prep, Cranbrook says:

‘COMMUNICATION skills will be key’

Methods of communication have changed exponentially since the rise of mobile phones and iPads. IT, social media and mobile phone connections are a high priority in terms of skills that young people need. 

We want our children to be the creators, not just the users, of new technologies. Technological innovations are shaping our society. What technology enables us to do today most of us couldn’t foresee twenty years ago.

It is vital that we equip our children with the skills and confidence to embrace this new and exciting world – where literally anything is possible – while not forgetting the importance of good manners and courtesy. As a caring and compassionate community we encourage and support all our children in their endeavours to make a positive and active contribution to the wider community.

In Years 7 & 8 at Dulwich Prep Cranbrook each child has their own personal hybrid laptop/tablet because we believe technology, when used in the right way, can personalise and accelerate learning, enhance independent study skills and help to develop critical thinking.

We are passionate that our children should be empowered by technology, rather than intimidated or enslaved by it.

Therésa Jaggard, Head at Spring Grove School says:

‘Making mistakes is key to RESILIENCE’

Building resilience is all about developing can-do people who are able to act independently and who believe they can get better at things with practice and determination. 

On a day-to-day level one of the most useful things parents and teachers can do is to give children accurate, specific and timely feedback, especially noting where a child has shown particular initiative or spent extra time on a particular task.

Growth mindset learners make more mistakes – and often more interesting ones – than those with fixed mindsets. This is because we all learn more when we are out of our individual comfort zones and trying something challenging, new or adventurous. 

Making mistakes is something that should be encouraged in all children. The willingness to venture and tinker is vital to real-world achievement, and the ability to bounce back after adversity and learn from mistakes is key.

To thrive in the 21st century, it is simply not enough to leave school with a clutch of examination certificates. By encouraging our children to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, collaborative and inquisitive we aim to equip them all with the resilience for a life beyond school. 

Mike Piercy, Headmaster, The New Beacon, Sevenoaks, says:

‘Become experts in ADAPTABILITY’

With an extraordinary period of history behind us there is a danger of focusing on the negatives. But, while there have inevitably been losses, there have been many positives. I firmly believe children have benefited from lockdown in unanticipated ways.

Children are more resilient and adaptable than we may realise. It is we, the parents, who carry the backpack of worry (and I’m afraid guilt runs alongside – are we making the right decisions for our children?). Lockdown has, I believe, enhanced resilience and developed adaptability.

In March 2020, children had to adjust, losing all-important social interaction, dining-rooms and studies becoming their classrooms. We as teachers and parents had to learn and adapt too.

We became the role models, children see us taking on a challenge, thinking through the obstacles. We have had to become masters and mistresses of adaptability this past year in our working and domestic lives.

Our children will have witnessed this: consciously and subconsciously, they will have learnt. The mindset: solution-finding rather than problem-solving. 

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

‘PEOPLE SKILLS will be highly valued’

Every year we bid farewell to our Year 13 students with the words, ‘As you set sail for a future as yet uncharted…’ Apt words for a School whose emblem is a ship and evidence that ‘future proofing’ is top priority at our school.

For me, future-proofing is all about ensuring students have both roots and wings: the courage to know and have certainty in their values and the initiative and independence to build on those to shape the world around them. As the saying goes: ‘The only way to predict the future is to create it.’

Alongside creativity, agility and resilience excellent ‘People Skills’ are a key tool which young people need to be equipped with to navigate and shape an ever-evolving society and world of work.

Excellent people skills start with kindness and understanding. Understanding others helps students communicate effectively. Learning to listen, understand nuance, interpret what others are meaning and being able to express themselves clearly are skills which are more important than ever in a ‘multi-platform’ world. 

The final future proof people skill in our list is perhaps one which cannot be taught but which we can all model to our young people and that is having a sense of perspective. Whatever their ‘as yet uncharted’ futures will look like – laughter is the best medicine.

Alistair Brownlow, Principal at Rochester Independent College (RIC), Rochester says:

Think imaginatively about EXAMS AND QUALIFICATIONS

When we talk to our students at Rochester about future career plans, their roadmaps are colourfully more diverse than those of a generation ago.

As well as those aiming to become doctors and lawyers, as many aspire to work in corporate branding and web marketing, as bloggers, vloggers, search engine optimisers, commercial semioticians, trend forecasters and social media influencers.

At RIC, while Maths remains our biggest A-level subject, followed by the Sciences, our students are increasingly making bold A-level and GCSE choices tailored to equip them for 21st-century careers and combining academics with creativity.

Aiming for Sound Engineering at university? Match Music Technology with Maths and Physics. Fancy being a Fashion Designer? Why not try Textiles, Photography and Chemistry. The next generation directors and screenwriters might want to opt for A Levels in Film Studies with History of Art and English Literature.

Schools then are increasingly reimagining their curriculums, offering qualifications to inspire and prepare the digital natives and creatives of the future, and students are best advised to consider their subject options imaginatively.

Julie Lodrick, Headmistress, Kent College Pembury, says:

‘Importance of being COLLABORATORS’

The role of schools in preparing young people for the world of work, is to help pupils develop the character traits that will enable them to be effective collaborators and be part of teams that achieve at a high level. 

These character traits are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ which essentially means having a flexible mindset, having the resilience to deal with setbacks and confidence when engaging with others. 

The good news is that these skills can be taught, and young people develop them when they are in an environment where they feel safe, happy and are nurtured as individuals.  

Pupils who are developing these character traits are those who are motivated to do well both in and out of the classroom, so parents should look for a school which will best cater for their child’s needs and interests.

A breadth of opportunity for pupils to be involved in activities across year groups will be hugely beneficial. This can be achieved through sport, the performing arts and participating in schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. A school where pupils are flourishing as individuals will most certainly produce eminently employable young adults.  

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