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Headmaster's Blog- The Importance of Digital Skills for Future Employability

In an interview with the FT this week Steve Varley, EY Chairman and Managing Partner for the UK and Ireland, warned that changes in technology are transforming the recruitment needs of the Big Four professional services firms. He said that as companies embrace artificial intelligence, growing parts of the auditing process are becoming automated; having a knock-on effect on the number of graduates they need to hire.

It is certainly true that as Britain goes through what many are calling the fourth industrial revolution its skills needs are changing. Increasingly, technology is replacing many of the entry-level graduate jobs of the past. Instead, graduates with skills in areas such as data analytics and computer sciences are in high demand, as firms look for people who can code, create and control the technology they deploy.

I know from personal experience, that young people today are leaps ahead when it comes to understanding technology! Gaming and snapchat aside, though, technology is essential to us all, giving us new and efficient ways to manage the complexities of our everyday lives.

Of course, Varley is not simply talking about technology for recreation and communication sake, but about the knowledge and expertise young people will need to fulfil the highly specialist jobs of the future. The coders, the algorithm designers, the cyber-security geeks and so on. 

At Bloxham, we have recognised the importance of digital literacy and computer science within the curriculum. We supply all students with a personal device – a tablet in the First and Second Form and a laptop from Third Form upwards – and these are utilised within lessons to enhance teaching and learning. Lower School students are taught Digital Literacy within their curriculum; while all Third Form students take a GCSE equivalent qualification in the subject, achieving outstanding results (all except one achieved A*/A last year); and last year we introduced A Level Computer Science. And away from formal lessons, we are introducing further coding activities. Alex Gray, who joins us as Head of Computing & Digital Literacy in September, will take overall responsibility for this area of school life going forward. I look forward to having him on board and to working with him to ensure that Bloxham students are at the forefront of this quickly changing area.

I don’t believe IT skills alone will make you successful and, encouragingly, neither do business-leaders. They too recognise the importance of softer people-skills in building high-performing teams and, indeed, the CBI has previously called on the government and schools to develop young people who are “rigorous, grounded and rounded” with the “skills, character and attitudes [they] need to progress in life.”  It is my view that those skills – the team-working, resilience and communication we all know you need to succeed in the world of work - are as well developed on the sports field, the CCF camp or service project as in the IT suite (or teenage bedroom?). Which is why I am pleased that while we as a school are moving our technology provision forward, we’re setting it within a balanced and broad curriculum, designed to give students the mix of skills and qualities they need to be successful – whatever AI robots throw at them!