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Beyond the Grades: Personal Development post-Pandemic

On the 14th April we gathered a panel of experts for our roundtable event, discussing how best to support students’ personal development in the coming weeks, months and years.

The personal development of students is a priority for all schools, even more so post-pandemic, where we know that the opportunities students have lost out on go considerably beyond their grades.

Our panel included representatives from across the education industry:

  • Sir Jon Coles, CEO of United Learning

  • Edwina Grant OBE, Executive Director Education and Children’s Services, Lancashire County Council

  • Mel Haselden, Principal of Salford City Academy

  • Jay Richards, Founder of Imagen Insights

  • Matt Lees, Founder of East Learning

As a result of the discussion, we have put together an open letter that we will be sharing with Sir Kevan Collins at the Department for Education, who is in charge of Covid recovery planning in schools.

It was a brilliant conversation and we have produced an overview below. Because there were so many compelling points made during the event, we will be sharing more detail about each of the discussion points in further blog posts - watch this space!

“It is really important to listen to young people” Sir Jon Coles

The first point was that the voice of the young person should be more than just a headline. Bespoke support for individual students and increasing the relevance of the support offer is the right thing to do. They don’t want to be told, ‘you need to do this’, instead, they want to be asked about their interests and aspirations, and be given the appropriate support. Our latest research shows that only 50% of students feel like they’ve had a conversation with an adult about their future.

“Defining what we really need and trusting the professionals in our area, are the 2 things I want to see.” Edwina Grant, OBE

There are lots of regional variations when it comes to support for students, as well as a local understanding of how particular geographies and communities have been impacted. This means that it’s going to be more important than ever for central government to focus on improving commissioning and integration of services between schools and regional institutions. The local support out there is good - let’s get it to the people who need it.

“What I’m most proud of with lockdown is the community ethos, we’re in this together, building on the strengths we have in our local community” Mel Haselden

Our panel spoke about making sure schools are aware that relevant support exists in their local area, the need for some kind of process to set up arrangements to support schools in areas where this does not currently exist, and how can support be provided in a way that works for schools and their timetables


"We don’t need to get anxious about this – adding anxiety will not help our young people.” Edwina Grant, OBE

We need to create a narrative that neither encourages anxiety around catch-up, nor conveys to young people that they have ‘gaps to fill’, when they have made sacrifices to support those at greater risk throughout the past year. We need to take time to define the terms ‘recovery’ and ‘catch up’ so we have a deep understanding of it and can apply this knowledge to our support offering for students.

“This is a great opportunity for a ‘reset’ within education, we should be open to trying new things” Jay Richards

We should all be open to trying new things and leave behind our fear of innovation that can be so prevalent within the education sector. This is our chance to try something different and test what really works rather than relying on pre-pandemic assumptions.

Again, we want to say a huge thank you to our panelists for participating in such an insightful and thought-provoking discussion. It was truly inspirational to hear experts within the industry speak passionately about what we can learn from the pandemic and how we can improve our support offering for young people, beyond their grades.

If you’d like to find out more about our Aspirations programme and how we can support your school and students with personal development beyond the grades, please do get in touch!


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