Benenden School girls to get social skills lessons

Sunday Times, 13.09.15,  a leading independent boarding school where Princess Anne was a pupil, is launching a professional diploma to teach girls social skills such as how to make small talk and establish eye contact as well as how to present a business plan and understand financial accounts. HMC member Sam Price, head of leading independent Benenden School is quoted.

Benenden in Kent, said to be the school on which Enid Blyton modelled Malory Towers, is to ask its old girls — who include Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former director-general of MI5, and the lawyer Fiona Shackleton — to give classes as part of the course.

Another old girl, Amber Atherton, who starred in the television reality show Made in Chelsea and who has since set up a jewellery business, will be approached to instruct girls in how to set up their own companies. Anne will also be invited to speak.

The qualification, the first professional diploma to be launched by a private school, will be aimed at giving Benenden’s pupils an edge in a competitive jobs market.

Last week the school’s new headmistress, Sam Price, told The Sunday Times that she feared that GCSEs and A-levels were not fully equipping her pupils to secure high-flying jobs in the City, law, the media and medicine. She also said that teenagers who spent much of their time connecting online lacked the social skills that previous generations took for granted.

“What we have been doing is trying to look 10 years ahead. We need to make sure that what we are doing is going to adequately prepare our pupils for the world of work in 2025,” Price said. “Schools and universities are not equipping girls for today’s employment market. There is a gap there. We are the first school to take this step.”

The diploma “will cover everything from the moment you walk into a room to how you present yourself. Not just about what you are wearing to look smart but how you hold yourself, first impressions, shaking hands, making eye contact and making conversation: being interested and listening,” Price said.

Pupils will also learn accountancy, how to set goals, presentation, debating skills and how to work effectively in teams.

“The expectation is that if you get a good degree you will go on to get a good job but the truth is that gaining graduate employment has become increasingly difficult and competitive and girls and boys have to try to stand out,” Price said.

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