Posted on: 24/04/2020

A quick internet search for ‘adaptability’ and ‘employers’ brings up article after article from the broadsheet press, from employment agencies and recruitment websites, and from the websites of top companies, citing adaptability as the key quality that today’s employers are looking for in new hires, including new graduates. Many high level employers have actually devised ways to test for adaptability as part of their recruitment processes.

Adaptability is defined as ‘the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions; an ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions’. The specific adaptability that employers are looking for has, perhaps, a slightly wider definition: they might add the words ‘effectively’, ‘successfully’, ‘quickly’, ‘independently’ or ‘good naturedly’ to this definition. Certainly, a key ingredient for success in the adult world into which our current pupils will enter is likely to be the ability to adapt oneself to an ever-changing and sometimes totally unprecedented environment… like the one in which we all find ourselves now!

This might sound a big ask, but it is surely going to be second nature to St. Helen’s College children and, perhaps more widely, to the younger generation in general. When, on March 20th, schools were ordered into lockdown by the government, our pupils had to come to terms, almost overnight, with the idea that they would, for the foreseeable future, be unable to see their friends, teachers and other support staff in person. They had to adapt, with speed and good humour, to learning and communicating online, to working more independently and to finding their place in a household that most likely suddenly became more full of people than ever before. They had to understand, very quickly, that it was their own responsibility to develop and feed their enquiring mind and they had to do all of this while attempting to understand the wider local, national and international implications of the threat of the pandemic in which we find ourselves.

Wow! That is a lot to expect of adults, but for children it feels impossible. However, as Audrey Hepburn said, there is no such thing as ‘impossible’ – the word itself is ‘I’m Possible’. What our children have certainly discovered over the last few weeks is that they themselves are the key to their success. HOW they approach their learning, their relationships and their health is key. The success criteria in a new situation, even an unprecedented one, are the same as in any situation: being willing to listen, learn and think creatively; being able to try, fail and learn from failures; being ready to reflect, be still and find the voice within. Our values are what allow us to do these things effectively in new situations. If we have a strong personal core – if we know who we are and what we believe in – if perseverance, honesty, determination, kindness and the pursuit of excellence are embedded in our very being – then surely we are well-placed for success no matter what the outside world might throw at us. Moreover, if we have our own interests and a willingness to try new things and keep ourselves busy, active and learning in new situations, then our mental and physical health are likely to be maintained even in restrictive circumstances.

This is why the St. Helen’s College aims, and our values-based education system, are given such a high priority at the school, and are referred back to in everything that we do. No matter what the ‘crisis’, no matter what the new demands, no matter what our physical restrictions, we continue to aim for excellence and to nourish a love of learning, to encourage children to discover their own talents and interests by taking part in a wide range of activities, and to instil core Christian values so that children develop integrity, self-awareness and resilience. It has been a joy to hear how our pupils are embodying these aims in lockdown, from keeping busy writing songs, creating art, building marble runs, taking up new sports and hobbies to adapting and persevering in using online systems that might be new to them. We are sure that, having had the opportunity to practise adaptability and reflect upon it in such a major way, they will be high on the list of desirable candidates for any future employer!

There is not time now to discuss the amazing adaptability shown by parents and school staff in the current situation…perhaps that will be for another blog…but please rest assured that we know how very adaptable parents are having to be, and that we are amazingly proud of the flexibility, commitment and great integrity that our whole community is showing during this strange time.

We look forward to practising our adaptability again when we are able to adjust back to some sort of normality – hopefully sooner rather than later!