September news: the importance of an all-round education

Thursday September 12th, 2019

September 2019

Welcome to your September update and to a brand new academic year!  In this issue we’re discussing the importance of an all-round education as the best foundation for success. We’ll look at how UK independent schools achieve this for their students and explore some additional options that could complement your child’s learning and life skills – even looking as far ahead as next summer!

When should children specialise?

According to author David Epstein and Alice Thomson writing inThe Times newspaper, generalists rather than specialists are those that will excel in our ‘interconnected world’.  Their argument is that very few of the problems we will face in the 21stcentury can be solved in isolation.  David’s recent book ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World’ turns our generation’s idea of success on its head, triumphing multi-talented all-rounders over obsessives who labour relentlessly over one skill or specialism.

Traditionally 10,000 hours’ practice has been deemed the official figure to aim for if you want to achieve greatness.  But Alice points out that some of history’s greatest figures refused to be constrained by disciplines (citing the original polymath Leonardo da Vinci as a case in point).  She also notes that you are ‘22 times more likely to win a Nobel prize in science if you are also artistic’ and that medical schools at top UK universities are beginning to favour applicants who have also embraced the arts because they are likely to be ‘more dexterous and emotionally aware’ as a result.

The gist of the article is that encouraging children to try different hobbies and embrace new educational experiences will make them more successful in the long run.  Alice uses sport as an analogy (as we did in our May blog) and although there’s no replacement for hard graft in the sporting or academic arena – current thinking suggests broader is better when it comes to education.  There’s plenty of time for specialisation at the next stage.

Read Alice’s full article here:

Helping children become talented all-rounders

The UK’s top independent schools recognise the benefits of a broad education.  We’ve talked before about the range of activities and extra-curricular options they make available for all students. In addition, independent schools are embracing different educational routes post-GCSE, with 90% of schools now offering exams other than A Levels for their sixth formers, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC).

The ISC notes a rise in the number of schools offering BTECs, Pre-Us and Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ) – where students have to research a topic and write a 5,000-word report or develop a product supported by a 1,000-word report.  The Cambridge Pre-U is an equivalent qualification that offers more depth in subjects outside the standard A-Level syllabus.  BTECs are vocational, work-related qualifications, currently part of a government review of post-16 education.  Whilst independent schools are not bound by the outcome of this review, they will no doubt follow it with interest.

The ISC chairman and other influencers in the sector believe this trend is a positive one.  I tend to agree, because it fits with the theory that a broader education gives pupils the best grounding.  Another benefit to having options at A Level is that all students get the chance to learn in the way that suits them best and that will set them up for the next – more specialist – stage of their education.

The proof that UK independent schools foster high achievers can be seen again in the 2019 Year 11 and 13 exam data compiled by the ISC last month.  Almost a quarter of GCSE students from independent schools secured a 9 – the highest level possible in the reformed marking schemes.  This is more than five times the national average.  Grades of A* at A Level are more than twice the national average, with around half achieving the hallowed grail of ABB (the results required by many top UK universities).  So you can rest assured that a wider choice has not had a detrimental impact on academic achievement!

Learning life skills with D of E (Duke of Edinburgh Award)

With a 63-year heritage and founded by the eponymous royal Prince Philip, the D of E scheme has helped millions of children in 144 nations improve their self-confidence, fitness and skill sets.

Duke of Edinburgh AwardThe scheme is split into three levels: bronze, silver and gold, each demanding an increasing commitment to complete.

Most independent schools offer the award for students and support them to secure placements, carry out the required volunteering and record their activity and achievements.  Pupils aged 14+ do three months each of volunteering, a physical activity and developing new skills.  They must also undertake a two-day expedition, staying away from home for one night, and select one of the three sections (volunteering, physical or skills) to do a further three-month stint.

At 15+ students can start their silver award, with longer periods spent on each of the three sections plus a three-day expedition.  16 year olds can begin their gold D of E, which requires them to undertake up to a year of volunteering and other learning opportunities as above – but with a four-night residential stay in addition to a four-day expedition.  Schools will advise but we’ve found some other great ways to tick the residential stay box and ensure children have a summer to remember with experiences that will help to shape their future…

Looking ahead to next summer

Depending where you live, the summer might already seem like a distant memory. But school terms have a disconcerting habit of accelerating disproportionately! So it makes sense to map out – or at least start collecting – some ideas to make sure you child’s next summer is one they won’t forget and which equips them for the future.

This one sounds amazing – and it could be the perfect way to complete crucial sections of the gold D of E award.  Mission Discovery invites students aged 14 – 18 from all over the world to spend a week working with NASA Astronauts, rocket scientists and pioneering professors. Teams of six must design an experiment to benefit the human race – but the sky is literally the limit! Find out more at:

The Mission Discovery summer school takes place from 5th July 2020 at King’s College London, Guy’s Campus (with overnight residence at Moonraker Point in Southwark, King’s College London student accommodation).  Attendees will experience student life at one of the UK’s oldest universities, which combines a historic campus environment in the capital city with state-of-the-art research facilities. (King’s is a leading research university in biomedical research and boasts one of the largest Medical Schools in Europe.)

Granta Academy – Experience Cambridge programmes 

If the student lifestyle and an insight into Oxbridge inspires you more than space, then have a look at our partner’s ‘Experience Cambridge’ summer school programmes.  Granta Academy, co-founded by a Cambridge graduate and supervisor and city entrepreneur and Lord Ashcroft Business School graduate, offer all-inclusive, two-week courses designed to share the experience of student life in Cambridge.

Cambridge Kings CollegeStudying and staying in a Cambridge college, attendees get to soak up the atmosphere in the beautiful city, experience what life can be like as a Cambridge student, and learn from Cambridge-trained academics.

Applying to university – key dates

On the subject of universities, we couldn’t finish without giving you some practical tips for the more imminent university-related decisions you’ll be making – maybe as soon as next month!  As you may know, students applying to Cambridge or Oxford will have a shorter time frame than their peers. UCAS applications for Oxbridge close on 15th October 2019 – along with many medical, veterinary and dentistry courses at other universities.

If Oxbridge doesn’t feature on your child’s university wish list, then you’ll have until 15th January 2020 to complete and submit the UCAS form – although entry is open and you can submit it now if you wish!  You may have seen that students keen to start a university degree in 2019 can still apply for a place up until the 20th of this month. That is technically the case but we wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy because you won’t get to choose your university or your course.  Instead you’ll be entered into the ‘clearing’ process (which we covered briefly in our August blog) used by universities and colleges to fill any spaces they still have on their courses.

Talk to us about the timings and best route to choosing and securing a place to study your preferred degree at the university of your choice.

Until next time…