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Skills Leader Network Event: Special ways to bring essential skills to life

Ideas and resources from across the partnership to bring essential skills to life for your students

As an educator, do you want to ensure that your students see the importance of essential skills in the real world? Maybe you are already doing things to bring these skills to life for your students? Or you’re just starting to think about this and want to hear ideas from fellow educators?

In our latest webinar for Skills Leaders working in our schools and colleges we: 

  • shared highlights from our 2023 Impact Report 
  • recapped Principle 6: Bring it to Life
  • heard from two guest speakers 
  • shared some practical, quick-to-use resources to bring skills to life for your students

During the webinar we covered the following topics (with time stamps):

  • Why? Highlights from our 2023 Impact Report (2:06 mins)
  • Embedding Principle 6: Bring it to life (5:29 mins)
  • Guest speaker: Paul Freeman Myers, Assistant Headteacher at Hexham Middle School (14.02 mins)
  • Guest speaker: Adam Judson, Assistant Head of School at Central and Bothal Primary Schools  (25.53 mins)
  • Insights from the Education Team @ Skills Builder (40:08 mins)

Watch the 30 minute webinar recording here. 

Can’t watch now? Here’s a handy summary:

Why? Highlights from our 2023 Impact Report (2:06 mins)

Lead Education Associate, Laura, opened the webinar reflecting on why it is important to bring skills to life for the students we work with. She highlighted key insights from Skills Builder’s recent 2023 Impact Report, noting that the Universal Framework addresses a major challenge that young people face - making the transition from education to employment. The Framework can support this crucial transition, helping students to develop those skills which are essential for employability - something that both guest speakers reiterated later in the webinar. 

Bringing skills to life  (5:29 mins)

What do schools and colleges on our programmes do well when it comes to bringing skills to life? 

They make the essential skills real by bringing the working world into the classroom, showing learners how important these skills will be throughout their lives. This boosts their transferability beyond education. 

Laura encouraged everyone to reflect and consider: 

1. Are there existing links to employers which could be used to support building essential skills?

2. Are there opportunities where students can practise their essential skills in different settings?

3. What resources do you have currently or what resources do you need to provide these opportunities?

Guest Speaker, Paul Freeman Myers, Assistant Headteacher at Hexham Middle School (14.02 mins)

Paul gave an insight into how essential skills are built in Hexham Middle school, drawing upon a range of examples and highlighting their impact.

Paul clearly articulated the school’s “commitment to developing the essential skills,” noting how they “really tried to embed Skills Builder into our being”. Paul reflected that the essential skills were an integral part of the school’s personal development story and there remains “a massive focus across the trust, middle and high school, on developing these skills.” 

Specifically referring to Challenge Day resources, Paul shared that they decided to use these resources as part of the school’s strategy, “ to focus on and celebrate skills development”. He felt that the Challenge Days were “a real opportunity to build momentum and celebrate, looking at all 8 essential skills.” 

Over the last 3 years Hexham Middle School have used 3 Challenge Day resources. The first one was Operation Moonbase, used at the end of the academic year. This Challenge Day was chosen to make links between communities as part of the relationships strand of their PSHE curriculum. Paul went on to share how they used ‘A Day in Politics’ to coincide with National Parliament Week in November. ‘Creative Spaces’ was used to focus on the arts - working towards his  goal to “spread the challenges across different areas  of the curriculum.” Coming up next is a focus on the sport curriculum, supported by the ‘Game On’ Challenge Day. 

Paul reflected that as leader (now Head of PSHE), “it felt right that we weren’t just using the Challenge Day as one day of drop down opportunity, but that it was really reinforcing the curriculum - the intent of the curriculum.” 

“Despite some initial reservations… of something that was  new and unknown, there was overwhelming positive feedback from pupils. That matched the optimism of the staff.” 

Paul shared a range of top tips based on his experiences: 

  • As a Skills Leader, make sure you have a good understanding of the resources
  • Review the suggested timings - the delivery can be adapted to suit your context
  • Advertise and engage parents if you can
  • Maximise links with local people, places and companies where possible
  • Consider opportunities for competition and rewards
  • Use the crib sheet as a starting point to share an overview - a space for notes worked well to support with staffing changes throughout the day
  • Introduce the Challenge Day with an assembly 
  • Create time for staff and students to share feedback

In conclusion, Paul reflected on the wide ranging impact of the use of Challenge Days with students at Hexham Middle School. He felt that Challenge days were a different, but important approach to learning, and as a result “pupils are able to articulate with examples of how they’ve explored and applied the different essential skills.”

Guest Speaker, Adam Judson, Assistant Head of School at Central and Bothal Primary Schools (25.53 mins)

Adam began by setting the scene and celebrating the successes in relation to skills and their careers offer, namely: Skills Builder Flagship Award, Career Mark Award & meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks for Primary. He highlighted, from the offset, that “skills are essential to everything we do and they run right through our organisation.” 

Adam chose to shine a spotlight on 2 types of resources: Challenge Days & Career Insight Sessions. He reflected on their simplicity but spoke of  the “massive impact - for very little input as an organisation.” 

Central & Bothal Primary Schools have run many Challenge Days over the years, from EYFS to Year 6. Adam reflected on the success of running whole school challenges for 1,500 students (at the same time) thanks to their differentiated resources which are flexible, easy to access and deliver. 

In terms of impact, Adam emphasised how they track skills development and careers development across the schools. Based on their experiences to date he shared that “the impact of these are measurable and they show an uptick in skills development immediately through our systematic tracking.” 

Adam went on to talk about the Career Insight Sessions - they are freely available for students on our school and college programmes (from Key Stage 2 +). He reflected on how these 45 minute sessions bring opportunities that extend beyond those offered by their local links, and “they’ve exposed our children to jobs that they otherwise would not have experienced.” Adam highlighted that student aspirations had changed as a direct result of the Career Insight Sessions. 

Insights from the Education Team @ Skills Builder (40:08 mins)

Laura ended the webinar by sharing some insights into how schools and colleges from across the partnership have used Premium Resources to bring skills to life for their students. 

You may have your own resources, activities and events that you link essential skills to. Or you might be interested in using the Premium Resources offered by Skills Builder. 

There are a number of different options depending on the impact you’re hoping to achieve. 

If you’re interested in using any of these to enhance your students’ essential skills, speak to your Education Associate for further support.  

  1. Challenge Days

Skills Builder Challenge Days are an exciting way for learners in a class, year group, or across cohorts, to reinforce their essential skills. Students apply these skills in a variety of scenarios, some with a specific industry focus, or in relation to a range of job roles; others are based on a theme or interest. 

  • Apply all 8 essential skills within the context of a given challenge.
  • Access to a fully resourced day of activities, which is run by your teachers in classes.
  • Differentiated versions included. 
  1. Projects 

Skills Builder Projects provide students with opportunities to learn and apply new essential skill steps in a real-life challenge. Each project explicitly teaches three essential skills. Projects are most commonly used by primary schools, some lower KS3 nurture groups and special schools.

  • Fully resourced projects, with interactive components and minimal printing.
  • 10 hours of learning, timetabled and run by your teachers over a number of days.
  • Each project explicitly teaches three essential skills. 
  1. Work Experience Modules 

Work Experience Modules are a series of interactive, recorded modules. Learners hear from employees and complete scenarios based tasks, which allow them to learn about how the skills are applied in different sectors

  • 8 x 15 minute interactive recorded modules.
  • Focused on different sectors, skills and roles. • Interactive scenarios designed by employees and Skills Builder Partnership.
  • Can be delivered by a teacher in the classroom or used independently by a student.
  1. Virtual Trips 

Virtual Trips provide students with the opportunity to take part in a short project. This culminates in an interactive, online experience, where learners in a class or small group connect with employers and their employees.

  • Fully resourced, real-world business task, developed by teachers and set by the employer.
  • Learners present business solutions and receive real-time feedback, including Q+A.
  1. Career Insight Sessions

Throughout the year we run Career Insight Sessions, which are freely available for students on our school and college programmes (from Key Stage 2 +).

Students have the opportunity to: 

  • Ask questions and learn more about the volunteers’ careers across a range of different sectors.
  • See how the essential skills that they are building in the classroom can be effectively transferred to their wider working (and personal) lives.

With the exception of Career Insight Sessions, these are premium resources, with an associated cost. If you’re on a programme, please contact your Education Associate. If you are new to Skills Builder, look at Digital Membership.

Thank you

A huge thank you to our guest speakers and everyone who attended this networking event. There were some fantastic questions and reflections during the networking session at the end of the webinar. 

If you’re not currently working with us and keen to join us, you can register your interest for a place on the 2024-25 Skills Builder Accelerator Programme here, or find out more about Digital Membership options here.