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Talk about Talk Secondary

The start of a new I CAN pilot is always an exciting, if usually very busy time. Talk about Talk Secondary (TaTS for short) is the latest project for secondary schools and we’re now in full flow on this pilot which runs until March 2017.

Last term we were busy recruiting 18 mainstream secondary schools who were keen to make a difference to their students.  Meeting with our Advisory Group, thinking about evaluation tools and reporting progress to funders were the big jobs on the project manager ‘to do’ list. And then, over the summer holidays, we  worked hard to get pilot materials ready for the start of term so that we could get straight into training in schools.

TaTS is a programme that will train and support young people with poor communication to deliver workshops about communication difficulties to local employers. And in delivering these workshops, we expect young people’s communication skills to improve. That aspect is more ‘straightforward’, because at I CAN we are confident that we know how to target and measure these communication skills in simple and meaningful ways. But what of the other ‘soft’ skills that help young people get and then keep a job in today’s competitive employment climate. What are they and how do we develop and measure them?

In the USA recently, much has been made of the concept of ‘grit’ as a key skill for life success, with Angela Duckworth, the scientist most closely associated with the concept, designing a ‘grit scale’ which is increasingly used in schools. However, much of ‘grit research’ is based on self-reporting. That is, if you want to find out whether someone is ‘gritty’, you simply ask them to grade themselves on statements such as, “I am a hard worker.”

In England, the concept has been widened to one of ‘character’ and the recent introduction of character awards by the DfE recognises schools who help students develop perseverance, resilience, confidence, motivation, drive and respect. These, amongst other skills, they see as necessary to succeed in life and work. A recent report by The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, based at The University of Birmingham describes interesting ways to measure these concepts in a more robust way using a mixture of surveys, moral dilemmas and semi-structured interviews.

In our evaluation of TaTS, we will use research on both sides of ‘the pond’ to help us shape the best tools for the outcomes that we’re hoping for. In the meantime, we have developed a survey to find out from employers themselves which communication skills they value the most.

If you know of employers who may be interested in completing this survey, please get in touch!

Exciting times ahead!!

To find out more about Talk about Talk Secondary, please visit our website.