Soft focus: how soft skills helps students build mental toughness
The exceptionally high levels of mental toughness delivered by Sydenham High School GDST’s student development and mental wellbeing programmes have been confirmed by new research 1.
The research was conducted by leading psychometric test publisher AQR International for the Independent Schools Council (ISC) using the using a model which looks at important so-called ‘soft skills’ such as control, commitment, challenge and confidence.
In the test, which defines mental toughness as the ‘mindset that every person adopts in everything they do’, nine and ten year old students (Year 5) at Sydenham High Junior School achieved a strong total score of 4.2. This is in line with the average across all ISC schools taking part1 and contrasts with the lower 3.94 recorded by state schools. It was also higher than the average score for all female pupils in the study (4.0). In addition, a number of students scored considerably above this, particularly for confidence, challenge and emotional control – some as high as 8-10.
By performing at the top end of the scale, Sydenham High’s students show an exceptionally positive ‘can do attitude’; are more content and able to manage stress; more ambitious; more aspirational and prepared to take risks; more likely to persevere and achieve their goals in higher education and employment.
According to the Head of Sydenham High Junior School, Claire Boyd, the school’s innovative Flourish and Fly programme, introduced two years ago, has added a new dimension to the school’s already successful approach to mental wellbeing and developing resilience.
Ms Boyd said: “Junior schools as well as senior schools have a duty to deliver a robust and holistic approach to student development from the outset. If we are to support good mental health that approach is vital in helping our children develop into resilient individuals.”
Embedded into all aspects of Junior School life, Flourish and Fly is designed to inspire, challenge and embolden pupils. Each half term focuses on one of the four Girls’ Day School Trust values –Girls First; Be Bold; Be Principled and Networked – culminating in a week of special activities, workshops and challenges to bring each value to life. The initiative works across all subjects and through year groups to stretch ability, build confidence and develop collaborative working.
Ms Boyd continued: “Flourish and Fly is not a fledgling idea but a fully grown approach that ensures students feel empowered to be what they want to be and do what they want to do when the time comes. The results of this research clearly demonstrate its positive impact along with our overall approach to educating our pupils.
“We can’t predict what the future will hold for our students but we can prepare them with the skills – psychological as well as academic – that they will need to face that future head on.”
1. Understanding ‘soft skills’ development at Independent Schools: an analysis of mental Toughness at UK Independent Schools’ September 2016. Sydenham High Junior School students were amongst 9,000 pupils from 58 schools in England and Scotland who took part in the research, commissioned by the Independent Schools Council (ISC).