It has been my privilege this week to interview so many brilliant Year 11 students as part of our GDST scholarship programme for 6th Form study. As is always the case, I learned a lot from talking to these engaging, perceptive young women. I learned, for example, of one student’s irritation that schools in England and the United States will not be taking the new international Pisa “Global Competence’. This is intended to test how well young people are prepared to work alongside people from different cultures and with different beliefs. It will measure tolerance, cultural awareness and how well teenagers can distinguish between reliable sources of information and fake news and will be carried out alongside maths, reading and science, as part of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests. While schools in Scotland, Australia and Canada will take the new test, other countries including England, the United States, the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland have decided not to, although they will take the other core academic subject tests.
 I’ve also been asking the girls about their hopes and aspirations for the future and learned that the straight path towards a university degree is by no means now the only option for bright, ambitious young people. The girls I spoke to were very savvy about so-called elite apprenticeships, for instance (see this Times article for more information: Unsurprisingly with young people who have never known a world without internet, discussions ranged from their general support for the “Me Too’ movement to their scorn for the vlogger, Logan Paul. What struck me most of all was the seriousness with which students engage with contemporary issues and also the degree of caution they express when discussing their own use of social media.
Much of what I learned this week is borne out by a recent piece of research into the 16-24 age group commissioned by The Guardian and carried out by VCCPMedia. ( Titled, Debunking Gen Z, it’s an interesting insight into how this group sees itself and its future. Topics include generational differences, further education, activism, politics, social media and identity. Notable results were that:
30% of young people think they’ll be worse off than their parent’s generation
32% have boycotted a brand
46% of young people think healthcare is a more important topic than tuition fees (22%)
68% were influenced in how to vote in the General Election by online news
Over half, (57%) regularly put money into savings and think it’s important to start saving for a pension as soon as possible (55%)
The whole piece makes interesting reading. It’s clear that young people are acutely aware of what they want from education and what they need to do to succeed. They have political and ‘influencer’ power at a much younger age than their parents and they take their health and wellbeing very seriously.
The adult world for our Year 11 students will be in many ways different to that of previous generations; however, given what I’ve seen of them this week, I am very confident that our girls are more than equipped to face and embrace the challenges of Gen Z.