What used to be termed ‘soft-skills’ are becoming hard currency. Senior schools, universities and employers all increasingly place an emphasis on the need for characteristics such as resilience and self-awareness. All schools admire such values, but not all articulate or exercise them meaningfully. Happily, an initiative is now to hand which helps address this vital area.

Since 2000, the SkillForce charity has been using the experience and skills of ex-servicemen and women to help train the decision-making skills and resilience of the young. Now, with the patronage of HRH Prince William, they are delivering an award programme for schoolchildren aged between six and 14 years old which develops and celebrates these traits. The Prince William Award is split into three stages – Pioneer, Explorer and Trailblazer – for different strata of the age ranges. The programme consists of a weekly two-hour experiential session, led by a trained instructor. The five main themes are: Personal Development, Relationships, Working, Community and Environment. Each theme explores several principles, such as Problem-solving for Working, or Co-operation for Relationships, through engaging activities and the positive role-modelling of the instructor. The sessions involve reflection on the learning via discussion and a personal journal, and focus on how they can be applied in the wider world. They culminate in the children being able to dare to be their best.

 

An initiative of this sort holds massive potential. As a Headmaster, I am thrilled that focus is shifting from just ‘what can be measured’ to more important things. Examinations do have a place in education, but they are not the end goal. The habits and attitudes which carry you there are. Chafyn Grove already aims to encourage children to flourish through developing their appetite for challenge. We focus upon the three virtues of Courage, Compassion and Curiosity. It will be intriguing to see how the exercise of those values prepares our children for the Prince William Award which we are excited to join this September.

Often, ‘character-building’ is trotted out as a justification for doing Games when the weather’s terrible, but though we know it’s much more than this, there’s often a reluctance to try to articulate it further. Sometimes such attempts are even derided: character is acquired, not taught. I believe personal qualities are at the heart of a good education, and far too important to be simply paid lip service or left to chance. The Prince William Award is an impressive step in an excellent direction.

Simon Head 

Headmaster Chafyn Grove

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