Surbiton High School’s Jacqueline Bennett outlines a survival tool kit for our changing world


Reflecting on my last 30 years as a teacher, there have been many positive changes over this time, and thankfully many areas to which we now give far greater consideration. There were of course numerous challenges to teaching when I first started my career, but I do believe that expectations have risen along with the pressures young people face in this fast-changing world. Teachers are now, more than ever, involved in the wider remit of teaching not just in an academic sense, but also in a more pastoral capacity.

On the positive side, there have been huge leaps forward in terms of our understanding of the challenges facing learners today and we have a plethora of interventions to help support and nurture a child’s learning. However, our pupils are being taught in a world where technology is moving at a faster pace than we can keep up with. Indeed, according to Dell Technology, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030, have yet to be invented. This means it is paramount that children are equipped with a growth mindset that will support these future challenges. This means teaching them to deal with failure and pressure and how to learn from it positively. This is coupled with the need to also look more holistically at a child’s education and ensure that we cultivate their self-esteem and manage their expectations.

The emergence of the internet and the vast array of social media with its ensuing pressures has had a big impact on children both positively and negatively. It is a wonderful resource that develops their curiosity and knowledge, but it has transformed the social interaction of many young people; cyberbullying and the quest for perfection have been widely publicised as has the addictive nature of social media and the feelings of inadequacy that can develop. As parents and teachers, we need to accept that an integral part of socialising for many pupils is done over the internet. What we must teach is how they use the internet, give them the context to understand all the media they consume and the ability to separate fake news and fake life from the real.  

A growth mindset underpins all our teaching  at Surbiton High School, where we have recognised the value and necessity for our pupils to embrace a constantly changing environment. We aim to instil successful learning habits in the hope that these skills will enable our pupils to thrive in the future workplace and deal with challenges life will throw at them. Education in the 21st Century is not purely about academic results. In fact, to support a holistic education, alongside our ‘Philosophy for Learning’, we have also developed a ‘Charter for Wellbeing’ which underpins and supports pupils’ emotional resilience. We encourage pupils to be self-aware, reflective, independent and resilient.

These skills are actively delivered through an inspired and creative academic and pastoral curriculum that distils these concepts through a creative PSHE programme. The teaching of which is itself a continuous process of learning and developing.

As a Head of Year 7, I see many parents who find it hard to let their children go as they embark on Senior School. If you are in this position, stand back, and let them take the first steps towards their future. Their failures along the way, will be the making of them.