Author Blog

Why the 7Cs are essential for success in the workplace

Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton call on the Department for Education to support employers’ calls for schools to develop the kinds of capabilities Ruby has developed

Imagine you are from the Martian Department for Intergalactic Innovation. (Just go along with us for the purpose of this flight of fancy, please!) 

You are exploring approaches to education which best prepare children for the complex lives they will have to lead later in the 21 Century. You are on a study tour and find yourself visiting planet Earth.  


You head for the Department of Education or DfE and ask ministers what they are planning to do to prepare young people in schools. It’s a confusing interview and you have to check your voicecoder several times to check you have heard correctly. Ministers tell you that, to prepare young people they have decided to:


1. Focus on something they call Progress 8, a set of mainly ‘academic’ subjects about which schools have no choice.

2. Create 500 Free Schools (you struggle with this as, in your briefing notes it says that public education is free and private education is not), and

3. Ask something called Ofsted to use its powers to abolish ‘coasting schools’ by sacking their headteachers. (This last suggestion is especially perplexing as, while there are many malicious creatures on Mars, each with nasty powers such as turning you orange or zapping you into splithereens, it seems an odd use of valuable resources such as headteachers to abolish them.)


How will this possibly help to create Earthlings who can thrive at work you wonder? Confused by your conversation with the education people you head across London to the offices of the Confederation of British Industry or CBI.


The CBI show you an interesting report it has produced, First steps: a new approach for our schools, and ask for your opinions. They tell you that what the government needs to do is develop a clear, widely-owned and stable statement of the outcomes that all schools are asked to deliver. This, they insist, should go beyond the merely academic, into the behaviours and attitudes schools should foster in everything they do. It should be the basis on which all new policy ideas are judged. 


They have some other ideas such as engaging with parents more effectively and naturally they want young people to be able to write, read and do maths well. But you are so interested in their bigger idea that schools should start by thinking about what character attributes young people should have that you decide just to focus on the character idea.


The CBI character list looks like this:


  • Grit

  • Resilience

  • Tenacity

  • Self-control

  • Curiosity

  • Enthusiasm

  • Zest

  • Gratitude

  • Confidence

  • Ambition

  • Creativity

  • Humility

  • Respect

  • Good manners

  • Sensitivity to global concerns.

These seem eminently sensible to you and you make a mental note to use some of these ideas with your own Martian education system. You turn to your CBI host and ask whether these kinds of character attributes can be cultivated in schools which have also to do the new Progress 8 thing. Your interviewee replies: ‘Change is possible – but we must be clearer about what we ask schools to develop in students and for what purpose.


Being a well-trained investigator you decide to check a few other sources of thinking in case the CBI is an outlier. You quickly find others who agree with the CBI. Impetus, a research organisation, suggests its own list of desirable characteristics in a report called Ready for Work: the capabilities young people need to find and keep work. Their suggestions include being:


  • Self-aware
  • Receptive
  • Driven
  • Self-assured
  • Resilient
  • Informed.

While your Martian grasp of English is not always up to the subtleties of some words, you can see that, although the Impetus list is different it is substantially similar. As you search you discover that the DfE actually used to agree with the CBI and encourage schools to develop things called PLTS or personal, learning, thinking skills. But these seem to be very much hidden from Earthling teachers today. Just as you are about to board your spaceship for the brief return flight home you find a book called Educating Ruby: what our children really need to learn. In it two earthling writers suggest that schools need to be teaching the 7Cs – confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship. They go further, suggesting that it IS possible both to succeed at the Progress 8 tests AND develop character attributes that would help a Martian do well. You eagerly start to read about Ruby.


How strange, you muse, that the department set up to oversee earthling education doesn’t seem to get what seems so obvious to you, that young Martians and young Earthlings need  a set of character attributes at least as much as they need to know such 'facts' as how far Mars is from the Earth or even whether there is life on Mars (something that Earthling curricula have so far signally failed to understand!)


Back to Earth now.


Of course it could never happen like this.


Could it?