The ability to take time to critically reflect on a situation or development is a key skill which we endeavour to develop in our students. As such, the weekend always provides a good opportunity to model this behaviour and reflect on the week just gone and look forward to the week ahead. There is always so much going on in day schools, each week brings a fresh set of lunchtime activities, after school lectures, assemblies and packed days and it is one of the real pleasures of working with young people to enjoy these events and to see how they help them to grow and develop. So this weekend sees me reflecting on an academic lecture by a pioneering Otologist, a very inspiring assembly led by our school Leadership Team, the Head Girl and her Deputies, on International Women’s Day and a House Eco-Initiative to take action to improve the sustainability of textiles, whilst also looking forward to the activities which we have planned for British Science Week.
It goes without saying that scientific and technological developments bring many advantages. It is always an exciting time to be a Scientist, to be a pioneer in your subject and look for ways to make something better. It seems that every week, if not day, there is a news article or research report about the impact of technology (either positive or negative) on society, most often on young people. This week is no exception: we have the suggestion from Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, that it might be right to have different time cut-offs for the length of time young people can spend on social media; discussion of advances in artificial intelligence and role of digital technology in the classroom with a suggestion that a time may come when pupils receive one-to-one tuition delivered via digital devices; and the University of London offers its first online BSc degree.
Independent schools are very lucky to have plenty of resources to invest in technology and to keep up to date with technological developments and this is an important aspect of our curriculum and teaching. Some of the equipment, such as the 3D printers and laser cutters, which is used by our pupils on daily basis was not conceived of when I was a pupil at primary school, with one shared computer in the building. So too, many of the jobs which we are preparing our students for do not yet exist. So how do we best prepare our students for success? The answer is I think to develop students’ ability to think critically, to be confident and resilient, and to be able to apply their knowledge to different situations. Many of these skills are developed both inside and outside the classroom in co- and extra-curricular activities on which we place such high value. Similar sentiments were echoed by Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and former shadow education secretary, this week when speaking to students as part of Skills 2030 campaign by the charity Speakers for Schools, saying creativity was a key tool in future proofing their careers.
There is a balance to be had and we also have a duty to make sure that we are teaching our pupils to use technology responsibly. Alongside this, we have a duty to teach our pupils how to work with a wide range of people who have different skills and experiences and embrace occasions for collaboration. Providing these opportunities for all is one of the reasons why FIDS places such high regard on developing partnerships with other schools. Technology is brilliant but it does not replace the human element and we should not lose sight of the individual or the person. Online learning or tuition delivered by digital devices does not offer the same level of opportunity for the development of emotional intelligence and skills of empathy and understanding, kindness, compassion and sensitivity to be nurtured, which are essential for a tolerant and progressive society. I think back to my Head Girl’s assembly and the role models which she used to exemplify her point; students are less likely to aspire to something they cannot see.
You might not be a Scientist but you need to be scientifically-literate to engage in discussion and debate so that you can respond and reflect critically on advances and developments as they arise. It is with this mindset that I look forward to joining in with lots of conversations with girls and staff during our British Science Week ahead
Deputy Head Academic
Edgbaston High School For Girls,