Teaching practical intelligence

18th May 2017

"Practical intelligence, that is what's missing in young people today", according to Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Police, who leads the best performing force in England.

Police work is unpredictable and often reliant on a Constable's ability to make good decisions under time pressure, a situation mirrored in many jobs and professions. Barton wisely observes that "the initiative of the workforce is probably the single greatest asset of any organisation".

Industry leaders are increasingly expressing their disappointment that Millennials and their successors are great at building up an impressive CV but hopeless at working effectively in the real world and thinking for themselves. I am very keen on promoting entrepreneurialism within young people as a way of acquiring skills they simply do not develop in the basic curriculum.

Seldom are children expected to pass a GCSE based on their ability to come up with a creative solution to a problem, pull together a team of people and convince a customer that their idea is worth buying into.

Not only is starting an organisation hugely enjoyable it offers the prospect of independence, financial security and genuine life-long challenge and fulfilment.

This week we are launching the 'Fiver Challenge' at Radnor House Sevenoaks. The idea, which is supported by Young Enterprise and Virgin Money, is for pupils to come up with a simple business idea and then, using £5 of seed capital from the school, see if they can bring it to fruition and make some money out of it.

Ideas in the past have ranged from a pot plant business to home made cuff links and across the Prep School last year the children managed to turn a profit of over £500 in just one month.

Pupils learn practical skills including speaking in public, compromising, and most importantly, making and standing by their own decisions, unencumbered by the hovering involvement of parents or teachers.

These sorts of abilities are sometimes called "soft skills", but I prefer to think of them as "practical intelligences"; they are a necessary prerequisite of success in the real world. And, should any Radnor pupils eventually head up to Durham, I would hope Mike Barton would snap them up.