Traditionally, Prep Schools have set themselves apart from the maintained sector by offering a curriculum that adds value outside of the classroom, either on the sports field or in the creative and performing arts. More recently, however, a further area in which Prep Schools strive to develop the children in their care has emerged, and is attracting increasing attention; soft skills, encompassing soft leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ).
Developing emotional intelligence in children involves developing personal competencies such as self-control and adaptability and social competencies such as empathy and non-verbal communication. What schools need to explore, therefore, is how to ensure that children develop these skills. In our experience, the solution lies in shaping and moulding a curriculum which subtly incorporates opportunities to practise soft leadership skills.
Alongside how we encourage children to interact with one another in the classroom, our Forest School curriculum plays a pivotal role in promoting the development of self-awareness by providing opportunities for children to challenge themselves and take risks; these may be physical activities such as tree climbing that support awareness of the physical self or reflective activities which encourage children to analyse their successes and failures.
Children with a high EQ are able to negotiate the needs of others with their own. They are able to find common ground with their peers, manage others in a work environment, and be persuasive. Throughout the school, we promote such skills by giving children opportunities to work in different sized groups and with a variety of ages. At Wandsworth Prep, the older looking out for the younger is very much part of school life. Our buddy system, subtly monitored by class teachers, facilitates a collective antenna to any unhappiness, which is filtered throughout the school.
When conflicts arise, teachers purposely allow children the opportunity to resolve problems and agree compromises between themselves. When children have a disagreement we conference with them and support them in understanding how they can work together to make things right. We encourage them to reflect upon who may be affected; the impact of certain behaviour and choices; what other action could have been taken; and which next steps to take.
At Wandsworth Prep, we foster emotional intelligence with our children when they join us aged 4. What we are doing, is setting them up to communicate well, develop strong relationships, negotiate tricky situations and be leaders in their field. Whether it's in the boardroom or the classroom, individuals need the skills to communicate, work effectively in teams, and set aside any personal or family issues that act as barriers to working-life or learning; emotionally intelligent individuals stand out.
Bridget Saul - Headteacher