What One School-leaver Did Next

Olivia Martin decided that to support her plans for the future, her preferred option was to go straight back to school. Olivia is tutoring 11-16 year olds in Morley.

Good news! University applications are on the rise, even though some of the mainstream media have led us to believe we are all deferring, for fear of Covid and faceless online learning.

Students are certainly still loving Leeds. With four hugely successful higher education colleges, we have long been known as an amazing place to study: Leeds University alone now has almost 40,000 students. Lonely Planet hailed the City as the 5th best in Europe in 2017 – and Conde Nast Traveller voted Yorkshire the second best place in the world to visit next year!

I have deferred my university degree course, although I’m still in Leeds. I’m really excited to pursue my passion for photography and fashion in higher education when I do start – but in the meantime, I’ve found something else I’m really loving in education: I’ve gone back to school.

I’ve been tutoring other young people at The Morley Academy in West Yorkshire, working with 11-16 year olds to give them more confidence in English. And as well as helping them, I’m getting so much out of it.

It was daunting at first, being so close in age, but as time went on, I settled into the new role and it gave me more confidence, while also helping the students themselves. Tutoring is a great way to expand my ‘soft skills’.
‘Soft skills’ – it’s such a strange term. At Yipiyap, the peer tutoring company that placed me in my position at Morley, they actually prefer to call them essential skills, which makes much more sense. There’s nothing soft about getting the best out of people and working collaboratively for the best results.

In fact, two thirds of secondary school teachers (68 per cent) and businesses (64 per cent) believe that students don’t have the soft (essential!) skills needed to be successful at work, according to a recent study by Canvas. What’s more, 7 in 10 think that ‘soft skills’ don’t get enough attention (69 per cent of businesses and 73 per cent of secondary school teachers). Around six in 10 teachers (62%) and business leaders (58%) feel that schools and universities prioritise ‘hard skills’ (technical abilities and subject-specific disciplines). Over a quarter (28%) of SMEs say they wouldn’t know how to begin to improve their employees’ ‘soft skills’.

This can’t be ignored. Soft skills, according to recruiters Reed, are general attributes that aren’t specific to a job or industry: “They’re usually self-developed, meaning no training is needed to build them. And because they can be applied to a number of different roles, soft skills are always desirable – no matter what field you’re working in. They include communication skills, leadership, problem solving, critical thinking, teamworking, flexibility, resilience and negotiation skills.”

I’m hoping that my time in the classroom works both ways. The satisfaction of seeing younger people thrive and improve in English is amazing – but I recognise that I’m still young enough to learn as well. This whole experience is making me more confident, patient, empathetic and helping me to encourage others to work together. We never stop learning, do we?

There are conflicting opinions on whether lockdown and working from home through 2020 has improved or damaged the nation’s existing soft skills, but we need to keep nurturing them in every way we can.
Every day’s a school day, they say. I’m certainly still learning.

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