Practical Wisdom: Nurturing Essential

The government announced that from September 2025, British Sign Language (BSL) will be taught as a GCSE in England. This decision comes after a lot of campaigning from within the deaf community and beyond, who continue to highlight the significance of making this language accessible in schools through a formally recognised qualification. Course content will focus on vocabulary across a variety of topics and the use of grammar, but also the history of British Sign Language, exploring how it has evolved over time, how new vocabulary is introduced, and the influences it has had on and from other languages. 

British Sign Language

The new qualification will enhance inclusivity and help in breaking down barriers that are unfortunately often in place for deaf people, providing young people across the country with the opportunity to gain a life skill and develop awareness about the community. This step also places an emphasis on the diverse range of communication methods that are used in day-to-day life; not everybody communicates vocally. Following the announcement about the introduction of a British Sign Language GCSE, plenty of discussion has been sparked in the education sector surrounding life skills and what else could be implemented into the curriculum to better support and prepare students for the future. 

Money management

A topic that usually appears amongst these conversations is finance. The core maths GCSE has been criticised by some for its lack of content surrounding money management despite it being a relevant and vital life skill. No matter whether it was to be applied within the maths GCSE syllabus itself or elsewhere, there is no doubt that young people would benefit from learning financial skills before they leave school.

The inclusion of such a skill could help students develop financial responsibility from an early age. From lessons about budgeting, savings, and investments, to the complexities of credit, debts and taxes, adolescents would be in a better place to make more informed decisions that have a lasting impact throughout their lives. This impact would likely go a long way, helping to reduce stress and the likelihood of engaging in risky financial behaviour, enabling long-term planning, improving career prospects, and ultimately positively contributing to a more stable, local economy. Towards the end of their time at school, many students become increasingly aware of the political responsibility they hold.

By the time they reach their second year of sixth form or college, many are preparing to vote, with some being old enough to do so already. It is very important that everyone recognises their right to vote and understands the system and political landscape enough to feel confident in the decisions that they make. 

Understanding politics

Although there is an A-level in politics, this is optional, and individuals often have to meet specific grade requirements to undertake the qualification. This means that a lot of young people are instead receiving information about elections, the government, and more through the media. On one hand, this can be a great way to stay up to date with the latest news, but a lot of this information comes at the expense of inaccuracies and biases, especially on social media where it may be harder to decipher true from false.

Upon being taught about the political sphere, it is likely that students would be more engaged in elections and exercise their right to vote, also developing an awareness of current affairs as well as the skills to think critically. Exploring this subject would also provide a chance to delve deeper into related matters such as laws and human rights, topics that all citizens should be informed about. 

Learning to cook

Cooking is another life skill that is typically touched upon within conversations surrounding life skills at school. Whilst it can differ across institutes, nowadays, it is usually the case that in Year 7 and/or 8, children participate in some catering classes and learn how to prepare basic dishes. From around Year 9 onwards, it is usually only those taking it as a GCSE that continue these lessons, despite the skill being more prevalent at an older age for many. 

Learning to cook particularly prepares a lot of young people for the independence that they will face when moving to university or away from home. It also allows them to heighten their understanding of nutrition and dietary choices, with this recent knowledge and experience making it much easier to create healthier eating habits and a more balanced lifestyle. In turn, this contributes to physical and mental well-being whilst also forming other transferable skills like time management and even teamwork when helping out in the classroom or at home. 

Similarly, other housekeeping and home maintenance skills would be highly advantageous to learn from a young age including cleaning methods and general DIY and repairs. 

Mental health

Physical health is incorporated into the curriculum in PE continuously throughout secondary school – what if mental health was too? Over the past few years, schools have been working hard to raise awareness about mental health, and it is crucial that this is an ongoing discussion. Enhancing the presence of mental health on the curriculum would be of great use, and even more so as students get older and take exams, build relationships, use social media, start jobs, and experience other life situations.

Education on this subject, especially in a group environment, reduces stigma and encourages open dialogue between individuals, also fostering empathy. Mental health is key in developing emotional intelligence, positive wellbeing, and stress management skills. As they cross the path from school into adulthood, adolescents deal with plenty of changes, and possessing a range of knowledge about this subject can help in recognising issues, such as depression, and preventing or supporting mental health crises within themselves and others throughout their lives.

Other ideas that have arisen about life skills that could be taught inside the classroom include self-defence, personal hygiene, and sustainability, as well as more of an emphasis on online safety, interview skills, and first aid. 

Self defence

In England, the core curriculum of English, maths, science, and more lays a strong foundation. Though, students could be supported even further in their preparation for adulthood with the additional focus on other important skills. Whilst it of course isn’t possible for each skill to be taught as a GCSE qualification to every student, it would be highly beneficial to shine a brighter light on these topics where possible, whether that be through content implementation into pre-existing GCSEs, the creation of short courses, new tasks in ‘key skills’ classes, long-term projects, or rather than brief or one-off discussions, multiple, dedicated lessons.

Perhaps competency could be measured and tested through in-class assessments or another type of certification, ensuring that all young people are equipped with the necessary tools to properly take care of themselves in life. Not all children will live in an environment where each life skill is covered and nurtured at home, and integrating more into the curriculum on an active basis would better help students navigate various challenges within the ‘real world’.

Ultimately, at school, students could benefit hugely from not only academic teachings but also the opportunity to engage in an array of practical life skills to enhance success beyond the 

You may also like...