A couple of weeks ago I spent three very enjoyable days in Edinburgh at the annual IAPS Conference. This is the Independent Association of Prep Schools and the Conference is aimed at all 700 schools whose heads are members.

These schools are spread all over the world and encompass day schools, boarding schools, single sex and co-educational establishments. The age range can go from 2 – 16, although the vast majority will only go up to the age of either 11 or 13.

What draws all of these schools together is the fact that they all have to reach a stringent set of criteria in order for the heads to be accepted as members. Indeed the IAPS strapline is “Excellence in Education” and the Conference was entitled “Leading Inspirational and Aspirational Schools”.

The Conference is a combination of presentations and seminars and included such topics as ensuring that our pupils and staff have the necessary skills for working in the “machine age” of our fourth industrial revolution which is clearly focusing on artificial intelligence. By 2033, 35% of jobs in our country will be performed by machine by. This is higher than in other countries, but automation is creating more jobs than it is destroying. Furthermore, graduates in computer science are more likely to be unemployed six months after leaving university than those with any other degree.

The message that comes across loud and strong is that we need to reinvent ourselves, and while we must still focus on traditional values and the basic building blocks that provide a good education, this will not be enough to ensure that our children are best prepared for their careers when they leave school. The world is changing at a rapid pace and unless we change with it we are doing our children a disservice.

Other presentations included challenging us about what we know about core education, how prep schools can protect themselves against market forces, how to improve your leadership skills and what we can learn from the world of natural history. I also attended seminars on physical literacy in the classroom and life after levels, which looked at dividing a class into three groups, those that understood your message, those who had made errors that could be self- corrected and those who’ve not understood what you were trying to get across and needed some more time to ensure that they had “got it”.

Much of what you hear at these sort of events is common sense, but you are also frequently challenged and this is no bad thing. It makes you reevaluate what you are trying to do and how you do it. We should be searching constantly for perfection, fine-tuning what we do and trying different approaches to ensure that we really are getting the best out of our children and that we are preparing them as best we can for jobs that quite possibly do not exist yet.

Jerry Gear