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How to teach the essential skills your students need to succeed

Imagine your learners  thriving not just in the classroom, but in life. Essential skills are the key to unlocking learning in the classroom, boosting academic outcomes, raising aspirations, perseverance and self belief. 

So many educators’ commitment to teaching stems from a desire for their learners  to flourish. For those who value their learners  achieving improved earnings, life satisfaction and social mobility, then taking a holistic approach to building their skills in education should be a primary goal.

500+ UK schools, colleges and specialist settings are already investing in developing their learners’ essential skills with Skills Builder, on programmes such as the Accelerator.

‍Why are essential skills so important?

The same benefits of early intervention extensively documented in other domains such as literacy applies equally to building essential skills. 

84% of working age adults in the UK believe that these skills should be taught in lessons in school and college 

Those who are given the opportunity to build essential skills in education go on to have higher skill levels, place more value on essential skills, seek out more skills building opportunities, are more likely to be in work or education, go into jobs with more skills building opportunities, earn more money and feel they have better career prospects.

But access to these skills isn’t fair. And where they are missed, it undermines social mobility, productivity and wellbeing.

Everyone, at every stage of their lives, should have the opportunities to build them.

What do teachers think about essential skills?

  • Preparing students for fulfilling and productive lives alongside developing learners’ characters and skills are the top three motivations for teachers to be in the profession, identified as “very” important by 73%, 63% and 60% respectively. 
  • Teachers are supportive of several different routes to building essential skills in the classroom: threading essential skills throughout subjects (85%); separate lessons on essential skills (52%); and special projects (74%).

How to build essential skills in your classroom

Across the UK, hundreds of schools, colleges and specialist settings are building the essential skills of their learners using the open-source Universal Framework. They are using the same structured approach and language to skills as leading interventions like those delivered by National Citizens Service and UK Youth. There are also a rapidly increasing number of employers across sectors using the very same framework in their recruitment and staff development, from firms like A&O Shearman to LNER.

Last year alone, Skills Builder Partnership trained over 20,000 teachers, providing them with the pedagogical foundations for building the essential skills of their learners based on six principles of best practice

The Skills Builder Universal Framework 

The Skills Builder Universal Framework is the national standard for teaching essential, transferable skills like teamwork and problem solving. It breaks down eight essential skills into 16 teachable steps. 

The 8 essential skills are: 

  • Listening: The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas.
  • Speaking: The oral transmission of information or ideas.
  • Problem solving: The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge.
  • Creativity: The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas.
  • Staying positive: The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals.
  • Aiming high: The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them.
  • Leadership: Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal.
  • Teamwork: Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal.
The eight essential skills icons arranged into their categories. Listening and Speaking belong as communication skills, Problem Solving and Creativity reflect creative problem solving skills,  Staying Positive and Aiming High are both self-management skills, and Leadership and Teamwork are interpersonal skills.

What is the Skills Builder Accelerator?

At the forefront of the Skills Builder movement is the Accelerator - the flagship programme for those wanting to develop a complete strategy for building essential skills. The Accelerator is a structured programme offering an impactful and comprehensive approach to skills development for teachers and leaders across the UK. 

The Accelerator programme combines training and planning with a dedicated Education Associate at Skills Builder, who is a qualified teacher. These are complemented by teaching and learning materials and peer learning opportunities.

For every step of every skill there’s a suite of teaching and learning resources. This means that teachers can focus on the specific skill step that learners need to learn next, supporting progress at all ages and for all abilities – including those with additional educational or specialist needs.

By the end of the first year, you’ll have a sustainable, long-term plan, a team of confident teachers, demonstrable pupil progress and a Skills Builder Award.  In 2023-24, the Accelerator included 400+ leading schools, colleges and specialist settings.

The best bit is developing a bespoke strategy for the school that is manageable but also has an impact - best of both worlds.” Skills Leader

There are just 200 fully-funded places on Accelerator 2024-25, available to state-maintained UK schools and colleges, and some independent specialist schools. 

Now is your chance to make an application for a 24-25 programme. Be quick though – funded places are limited, less than 50 programme places remain, and the application deadline is 5 July 2024.

Check if you’re eligible for a funded place on the Accelerator 24-25 now. 

Becoming a Skills Leader to lead a transformative programme

As the Skills Leader, you will be the driving force behind your programme. You will join a network of 200 fellow Skills Leaders. A dedicated Education Associate  at Skills Builder will work with you and your Senior Leaders to deliver a transformational programme in your setting . At the end of the year, you will reflect on your progress and will be awarded a Skills Builder Award, reflecting your impact. You can read case studies written by current and previous Skills Leaders on our Case Study Showcase, to get you inspired.

It is, at heart, an inspiring concept that prompts action towards better practice - and therefore improved student outcomes.” Skills Leader

Ready to equip your students with the skills they need to succeed?  

For a funded place on the Accelerator programme - you'll need to submit a short online application before Friday 5 July. 

Download a preview of the 4 application questions, including some top tips to support your application. 

Get more information and frequently asked questions.

Apply for the Accelerator programme today - there are a limited number of fully-funded places remaining available. Applications close 5 July.