Hornsey School for Girls is serious about preparing their learners with all the skills and experiences to succeed, both in school and in later life. It's this focus on the whole student which brought them into contact with our award-winning approach. After entering and winning a competition set up by Enabling Enterprise attending the launch of the wider Skills Builder Partnership, Hornsey School for Girls have begun to collaborate on a more long-term basis to integrate essential skills teaching into the school curriculum.
Operation: Moonbase - Challenge Day
In their first in-school event as part of the Partnership, Year 7s from across the school took part in a Challenge Day called 'Operation: Moonbase', a day-long project designed to hone the essential skills of Teamwork, Problem Solving and Staying Positive. They were given a space-age task: what kind of civilisation would you build if you were moving humanity to a distant moon? The students tackled each part of this complex question over the course of the day: they planned jobs, industries and infrastructure, invented brand new wildlife and designed a city with different districts based on their priorities.
Head of Enterprise Chimene Peddie has been working closely with our staff of qualified teachers, and we got the chance to both see the Year 7's brilliant utopias and chat about the School's plans for integrating skills explicitly into the curriculum.
Although the school's essential skills programme is in its early stages, lots of progress has already been made. Skills education at Hornsey School will come from two angles: the pastoral and the academic.
Essential skills videos at tutor time
Every morning students have 25 minutes of tutor time, where they deliver parts of their PSHE programme as well as discuss topics in the news. The essential skills are set to become a regular part of this time for Years 7, 8 and 9, as our punchy ten-minute video activities fit into this slot perfectly - especially as they require very little preparation. Teachers can pick from a range of videos for each skill step, depending on their assessment of the class' skill proficiency. It's not just something to watch, either: included in the video are small tasks and discussion points that teachers can deliver with the class, all helping students to learn strategies and reflect on their own confidence with the skills.
Integrating essential skills into lessons
Past tutor time, and in the first year of an expanding three-year plan, several departments in the school are starting to build the essential skills directly into their curriculum teaching, in conjunction with their work to fulfil the Gatsby Benchmarks. To begin with, History, Languages, DT and STEM will all have a staff member (a 'Champion') assigned to oversee lesson-time integration.
Our set of Handbooks are designed for exactly this purpose: they are full of helpful information and exercises that make it straightforward to build essential skills into other subjects. All of these resources - including wall posters and certificates - can be found on The Skills Builder Hub. Teachers can also refer directly to the skills and highlight how they are useful every day - for instance, drawing attention to examples of good Leadership or clever Creativity strategies.
Ms. Peddie notes that in many places, teachers are already actively teaching these skills in one way or another, but that 'a common name for each skill and a way of demonstrating and assessing its use' makes all the difference. This echoes much of our previous experience, in that teachers are acutely aware of the importance of the skills and the need to develop them more explicitly: an in-depth report from the Sutton Trust in 2017 showed that 97% of teachers believed that skills like these were 'as or more important than academic qualifications'.
Ready for anything
Young people today are growing up in a world of increasing political and economic uncertainty. Combine this with the rapid progress of technology, it is more difficult than ever before for students to pin down what they want to be while at school. So it's clear that providing them with the essential transferable skills they'll need in every career is the best way to empower them to choose their own path.
As well as providing a swift and powerful way of assessing students consistently, our online tool Skills Builder Assess can also generate blurbs for each student, summarising their areas of strength and weakness when it comes to the essential skills. These are especially useful when it comes to UCAS and applying for higher education. 'When I was a Year 11 tutor, this would have been ideal for helping students to write personal statements,' says Ms. Peddie. 'Universities will be delighted to get this kind of feedback.'
Unlocking learning in class
As well as preparing students for life beyond school, mastering essential skills unlocks learning in the classroom. Teacher and students need only take a quick look at each subject to see how the skills intersect at every point. Teamwork is a fundamental part of Drama and PE; History and DT require sharpened Problem Solving skills; Staying Positive even when things are tricky is a must when learning Languages. 'If you're a teacher, you can see the benefit immediately,' says Ms. Peddie.
'It's important to make sure everyone is happy with a decision before moving on, otherwise you're not moving as a team.' - Year 7 student
'Sometimes you have to look at what might go wrong beforehand so you can be prepared and react better if it does.' - Year 7 student
'If we listen to each other properly, we can share ideas and improve them more than we could on our own.' - Year 7 student
Hornsey School for Girls will be running further Challenge Days with Years 7 and 8, as well as taking Year 10 students on a trip to our partner Exterion Media. We're very excited to see the School continue to develop their essential skills programme over the years to come.
The Skills Builder Partnership is helping schools everywhere transform essential skills for their students. You can find out much more about our programmes for schools at skillsbuilder.org/schools.