Immanuel College in Bradford have been working with us to build their students’ essential skills since 2015. Their focus on developing skills like Staying Positive and Aiming High is clear in their ethos of ‘perseverance, character and hope’.
One of the easiest ways to keep it simple when teaching essential skills is to use a consistent set of skills when working in class. Staff at Immanuel College have undergone training that details the eight essential skills and how they can be actively taught as part of the everyday school life – including through use of our short video activities that are perfect for tutor time, and our comprehensive Handbook, which offers practical strategies for teaching essential skills in the classroom.
Teachers are keenly aware of how these skills are important in different contexts across the curriculum.
‘There are certain skills that we use that are needed in different subjects. For example, Listening skills are really vitally important for us to use, regardless of the subject.’ – Teacher
Students can see clearly why skills like Aiming High are important:
‘You always want to go for the highest point – in your life, really – and get the best job out of your whole career.’ - Student
‘When you all agree – it’s a really nice feeling when you’re all agreeing. And then when you agree you obviously get along better and then you can keep progressing through.’ - Student
So that learners have time to master the essential skills, it’s important to start young and keep going. Students at Immanuel College don’t just build these skills as they’re about to leave school: their preparation for the outside world takes place across multiple years.
‘It’s actually really important, I think, to embed these skills at a young age, and it’s important that we nurture communication skills in later life as well as at a young age. The ability to communicate effectively is a key skill, and this takes time to develop, and therefore the more we do it at a younger age, the more they’ll develop themselves.’ – Teacher
‘I think it’s better if you learn from an early age because if you try to cramp them all in when it comes to having to have those skills, it’s a bit difficult. So if you learn them from an early age you can put them into practice.’ - Student
For students to make real progress with the skills, practice is essential. That’s why Immanuel College have a wide programme of events across the school calendar – including a Careers Fair, ‘Dragon’s Den’-style contest, and our own Challenge Days that encourage students to develop essential skills like Presenting, Creativity and Teamwork. Over the years, learners from Year 7 to Year 12 have been involved in a number of Challenge Days – such as Commit to Confidence, where students learn how to deal with a number of professional scenarios; and Operation Moonbase, which involves designing a brand-new society on a distant moon, complete with laws, occupations and wildlife.
Students appreciate the chance to develop these skills actively and can see themselves making progress:
‘I stick to a certain group of people and now I’m talking to some people I wouldn’t normally talk to in my form. Learning to be more confident, I guess, because I’m doing something that I normally wouldn’t volunteer myself to do.’ - Student
‘If you’re working with people that you’re not so close to, they give a lot more ideas. It’s really cool when you’re working in groups because you get loads of different ideas which you’d never thought of.’ - Student
A key principle of the Skills Builder approach is bringing it to life by linking the skills built in class to their relevance in the world of employment and higher education. In the past, we’ve connected Immanuel College with a host of local employers, including professional services network PwC, who have run inspiring workplace trips for students of different ages. Students had the opportunity to collaborate with employee volunteers on a day-long challenge that build essential skills in a real-world context.
‘Having most of these skills will be helpful for interviews and getting the job you want and things like that.’ - Student
‘It’s really important to learn skills now because if you learn them quite late on it can be hard to keep them in your head, but if you learn them from earlier on, you can keep revising and revising and then you get it right – when you need it.’ – Student
We're very excited to continue to work with Immanuel College, and help them to expand their approach to teaching essential skills.