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Skills Leader Network Event 3 - Linking Skills to the Curriculum

Essential skills and the curriculum

Teachers want to build essential skills. This is because most teaching professionals (92%) view explicitly teaching essential skills as important in preparing learners for both life and work according to new research

As evidenced in the Essential Skills Tracker, teaching essential skills in education is an incredibly popular policy with teaching professionals. A total of 94% of teachers surveyed support this approach. A very high proportion (85%) see threading essential skills throughout subjects as being important to them being taught successfully.

Not only is this approach widely supported, it is also proven to be successful. Regular, sustained instruction and clear progression are key to building essential skills. Mapping these skills directly into the curriculum is a key part of successful skill development.

How can a Skills Builder programme support teachers to map essential skills to the curriculum?

We’re incredibly proud of this year’s cohort of schools and colleges and the commitment they are making to building essential skills. 

Our recent network event, ‘linking skills to the curriculum’, shared the successes of schools who are leading the way in this area.


Watch the recorded webinar

The live webinar is available to watch now, and covers:

  • Why build skills into the curriculum (01:16)
  • Guest Speakers: Matthew Goodwin, Blythe Bridge High School & Sixth Form (07:48), Zoe Baker, Association for Citizenship Teaching (26:12)
  • Practical ideas to link skills to the curriculum (41:50)
  • How Skills Builder can support you (46:20)

Can’t watch now? Here’s a summary of the curriculum mapping webinar:

Why build skills into the curriculum (01:16)

To open the webinar, Education Associate Sarah Ritchie shared research from the Essential Skills Tracker. 

Sarah reflected that continued practice is necessary to master anything, and this is why we encourage schools to enhance focused teaching with additional opportunities for learners to use their essential skills.

She discussed just some of the benefits of integrating essential skills with the curriculum. Essential skills can unlock curriculum learning, support a retrieval curriculum, build staff confidence and provide real world connections between subjects and careers. Ultimately, it will deepen the impact of building essential skills for students.

Sarah highlighted that around 18% of the working population has an above average education level, including literacy and numeracy knowledge, and yet a very low essential skill score. This group was found to have the worst job and life satisfaction. They also earned much less than their peers. 61% of parents view a school’s provision of skills building opportunities as an important factor when choosing a school for their child, rising to 73% amongst parents with a high skill score. 

Additionally, guidance also tells us that subjects should support students to identify essential skills, which will ultimately support their pathways into their chosen careers. As mentioned previously the skills can help unlock learning in the classroom and show students the benefits of what they are learning for their future. This is explicitly demonstrated by the DfE in their 2023 Careers Guidance. 

Sarah shared how the Universal Framework is a great place to start when considering how to map the skills onto your curriculum. The Framework breaks down eight essential skills into 16 tangible steps, each building on previous learning. This meets Ofsted’s requirement for a coherently planned curriculum: “The school’s curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment.” Ofsted Inspection Handbook, 2022.

Consequently, by mapping aspects of the Universal Framework into the curriculum, teachers are able to plan sequential learning of skill steps and provide time for deliberate practice. In this way, building essential skills sits alongside the critical knowledge and subject specific skills students are learning.

All schools working with us on an Accelerator Programme build in continuous practice as part of embedding Principle 5: Keep Practising, whilst working towards either a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award level.

Many more examples from across schools and colleges within the Partnership can be found on our Case Studies Showcase.

Guest Speaker: Matthew Goodwin, Blythe Bridge High School & Sixth Form (07:48)

Here are a few snippets taken from the presentation shared by our guest speaker Mathew:

“One of the hardest jobs as careers leader is getting a coherence across all school curriculum areas, and ensuring that teachers see the importance of careers in curriculum. Essential skills have been paramount to overcoming this challenge.”

“Staff appreciate the essential skills as a natural way to link careers to the curriculum. They can reference the essential skills as part of what they already teach in a way that is manageable and doesn’t increase workload.”

Mathew then gave examples of how subject teachers in his school have used essential skills to make key links between subject teaching and careers. 

“Every classroom has skill icon displays so the skills can always be referenced. This way, even if the staff member hasn’t referenced the skills, they are there visually for the students.”

“All our social media posts are now linked to essential skills. This keeps a strand of essential skills through everything we do and creates an expectation of staff and students.”

“We appointed careers champions in each subject area. These members of staff were responsible for adding skills to curriculum plans. This may sound like a big task but teachers found that adding skills to already existing curriculum documents followed naturally and was a manageable task.” Mathew then detailed how having the essential skills linked to a wider curriculum document has facilitated adding the skills to lesson resources.

“Essential skills, alongside other whole school careers provision has improved students’ understanding and ability to think about future pathways. For example, their ability to talk to visitors during careers fairs and have meaningful conversations with the careers advisor has improved significantly. A lot of this is down to the practice of essential skills.”

Thank you to Matt for sharing such a detailed account of the impact their Skills Builder programme is having at Blythe Bridge High School. Read the school’s Silver Award Case Study.

Guest Speaker: Zoe Baker, Association for Citizenship Teaching (26:12)

Zoe spoke about how essential skills can support citizenship teaching. Here are some highlights from her presentation: 

“The range of skills in the Universal Framework fit in perfectly with citizenship teaching. 

“It’s not about introducing new things, but using the Skills Builder framework to help them develop and feel more confident.”

Zoe gave examples of how each essential skill supports different aspects of citizenship teaching. 

“Citizenship lessons require students to develop a critical mind and develop their own views, therefore it is essential that through every lesson they use the skills of listening and speaking. We also expect students to demonstrate their ability to aim high every lesson, especially if it is a challenging lesson or topic. These are things that can be built in easily to all subjects.”

“We have found that young people struggle with resilience, therefore we see problem solving as a highly important skill. This skill supports students to plan their active citizenship work and make real changes either in school or in their community. The skill of staying positive supports students to keep going when they hit a roadblock, and learn from their mistakes.”

Practical ideas to link skills to the curriculum (41:50)

The next section of the event looked at practical ideas to link skills to the curriculum. Sarah shared how it is important to consider how building skills into the curriculum is going to be most impactful for you and your learners. Some schools and colleges use a specific project as a basis to apply the essential skills to a real like basis, for example creating a radio show. Whereas,  some look for opportunities in subject areas, for example creating and delivering a presentation in English. 

To start integrating essential skills with the curriculum:

  • Include visual cues in lessons.
  • Include an essential skill/s in the learning aims/outcomes.
  • Include a reflection task.
  • Refer to essential skills during specific tasks.

To integrate essential skills with the written curriculum:

  • Visually refer to essential skill steps.
  • Feedback on how learners are practising this step during a lesson
  • Build essential skills into the wider curriculum
  • Begin linking essential skills to the written curriculum. 

To embed essential skills into the curriculum:

  • Ensure essential skill steps are in all curriculum lessons. 
  • Have regular reflection opportunities in all curriculum lessons. 
  • Highlighting the importance of essential skills through the wider curriculum. 
  • Include essential skills steps in curriculum and lesson plans.

Join a movement of educators building essential skills

If you’re currently working with us and want to do more, just get in touch with your Education Associate. If you’re not currently working with us, but interested in building essential skills at your school, applications are open for the 2023-24 Accelerator programme. Find out more and apply online.  

Would your learners enjoy building skills on a challenge day?

Take your learners on a journey of essential skills development through practical and engaging teaching like challenge days. Explore the possibilities on the funded Global Accelerator programme for educators worldwide – apply now.