Sir Anthony Seldon: Private schools give edge because of focus on ‘soft’ skills

The Telegraph is reporting claims from Sir Anthony Seldon that independent school pupils are “dominant across society” not because of their academic achievements but because of their “grounding in soft skills”.

In a speech at a schools conference [today], the former Master of Wellington College will argue that independent schools are “taking the lead” in preparing students for the jobs required for the 21st century…

Speaking at the Tatler Schools Live! conference on Friday, Sir Anthony will say that the state sector has “much to learn from the success of the British independent school model.” 

“Twenty-first century employers need much more than the skills developed in exams: they also need what are patronisingly called “soft” skills,” he will say. “These are skills of creativity, teamwork, empathy, grit, resilience and honesty. 

“The remorseless drive in state schools for exam success is no longer fit for purpose. Students certainly need to be skilful at maths, science, languages and humanities. But they also need those skills that computers cannot replicate.” 

His comments follow findings published by education charities the Sutton Trust and upReach, which revealed that three-and-a-half years after leaving university, those who went to a fee-paying school take home almost £4,500 more.

Researchers put the difference down, in part, to soft skills, like articulacy and assertiveness, saying that privately-educated graduates “blagged” their way to high salaries…

More at: Sir Anthony Seldon: Private schools lead the way in ‘teamwork, empathy and grit’


Do you agree with Sir Anthony that private school pupils have an edge over their state school counterparts because the independent sector is leading the way when it comes to teaching “soft” skills?

If so what can/should the state sector do to catch up? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Employment and Private Schools.


  1. dchristophy

    SchoolsImprove shame DfE has been so derisive of creative subjects & so keen to reduce cw/project work in favour of heads down exams

  2. egaliteacher

    SchoolsImprove shame DfE has been so derisive of creative subjects & so keen to reduce cw/project work in favour of heads down exams

  3. TheHiveCroydon

    SchoolsImprove We recognise this & have developed ROUTES a programme for young people giving them opportunities to develop these skills

  4. JudithBosavern

    SchoolsImprove Yet again he defends privilege. And shows appalling ignorance of what state schools actually do.

  5. AndyDefinite

    SchoolsImprove Money greed money property money class-divisions snobbery lies lust for power might help those ‘soft’ skills!British Values!

  6. Tim_Media

    egaliteacher SchoolsImprove agree, the new media studies GCSE is horrendous and totally against everything amazing about the subject

  7. AndyDefinite

    SchoolsImprove Same old resources gap in an increasingly divided society keeps poor safely controlled by a bunch of private school thieves!

  8. TeachTalks

    SchoolsImprove RealGeoffBarton but lots of examples of #creativity and #mindfulness in state schools too just have to fit it in somehow..

  9. carol Elizabeth

    I agree with this but it has just as much to do with the more advantaged family life that privately educated children come from. They are surrounded by more opportunities than poorer families. State schools need to work much harder at developing confidence.

  10. alatalite

    SchoolsImprove More ‘blah’ from Seldon Towers: would be more persuaded if commentators took the time to visit some state schools

  11. Value_added

    SchoolsImprove Constant fight to maintain Ofsted grade 2 or above has pushed out extras that made school creative & enjoyable. Blame DfE

  12. LearntSchool

    Tim_Media egaliteacher SchoolsImprove I’d worked so hard in state school, came out ‘top’ and met the elite in corporate; they are better.

  13. TinyTimB

    Seldon, speaking to ‘Tatler’!… It’s easy to talk’ soft skills’ when you come from a background of ‘Hard cash’!… Ofsted, I’m sure, will be listening to Mr Weasley! Hohoho

  14. TinyTimB

    SchoolsImprove why give the Tatler publicity? a tiny minority, with money, power and influence. Most schools under the cosh of Ofsted.

  15. TeaLadyJune

    SchoolsImprove A few ridiculously unfair league tables would soon put a stop to that! He’s scared people R opting out of private system?

  16. writeandraise

    SchoolsImprove A lot of relevance in this view, but equally shows lack of understanding of why a difference exits.

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