Cookham Rise Primary in Maidenhead have recently joined the Skills Builder Partnership, and are already taking excellent steps to embed essential skills into the everyday curriculum.
In November, students from across the school took part in our Crime Scene Challenge Day, where they worked in teams as police investigators to solve the case of the Sugar Snatcher. Analysing evidence and following police procedures was a fantastic opportunity to develop Problem Solving skills in a non-classroom context, and gave students a chance to hone their Teamwork and Leadership skills at the same time.
Our approach to building essential skills supports Cookham Rise's core curriculum drivers: Opportunity, Community and Creativity. Firstly, the school works to introduce the children to a wide range of experiences and possibilities, including school trips; we're working with more than 130 employers from a range of sectors to run inspiring trips where students can collaborate with volunteer staff on a skills-building challenge (check out our recent trips here).
Secondly, the school focuses on engaging students within the community, both in the UK and the wider world. We agree that this is crucial, and many of our Classroom Projects encourage students to consider the needs of their peers and the wider community around them - for example, working out what kind of new buildings would be most beneficial in our Construction Counts Project.
Finally, the school is committed to fostering creativity, both in how the students are taught and in the students' everyday curriculum. We have found that collaborative, creative project-based learning is the most effective way to engage students, and we build Creativity skills explicitly in our Challenge Days and Trips to Employers - as well as providing classroom resources to help teachers develop these strategies at any level.
Of course, building essential skills is not just important for contexts outside of school. Proficiency in skills like Listening and Aiming High can unlock learning in the classroom. If students can absorb information effectively and ask intelligent questions, they will retain information better; if they can set their own goals and put together realistic plans to achieve them, they can be independent and self-driven learners.
Although they have only been working with us a short period of time, the school has implemented some exciting changes. Teachers are using our classroom activities to focus on particular skills in class, building up to a Classroom Project day at the end of each term. Essential skills are a regular focus in the whole-school assembly, and each week, a certificate is given to a child in each class who has demonstrated one of the skills particularly well.
Teachers at Cookham Rise can already see the impact of the Skills Builder approach: 'It's lovely to see how articulate the children are when they talk about the skills and the qualities needed to demonstrate them,' says headteacher Helen Daniels.
The school plans to spend a year exploring the various resources available to them as members of the Partnership - including our Skill Handbooks, which give pedagogical advice and practical activities for building each essential skill at any age. We look forward to continuing to integrate essential skills teaching into the everyday curriculum.