ACE Schools is an Alternative Provision in the South West, providing education for students with a wide range of additional needs across a number of sites in Devon and Cornwall. As a school, we are proud to support all of our students' personal development and believe that Skills Builder is fundamental in securing a greater understanding of the key skills required to be successful at Post-16 and in a wider life context. We have been working to develop a culture which builds students' self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence in the skill sets they already possess, as well as those they can look to build on. Across ACE, staff are fully committed to ensuring that students have access to the education, support and opportunities they should expect from their time at school, taking a student-centred approach in everything we do and focusing on the individual needs of every young person. Our Careers Programme is built around our whole school strategy and vision, with three key objectives: "Employability, Experience and Opportunity". As such, our vocational programme is included within this - we recognise and understand the value and importance of personal development, which is a key focus in our Careers curriculum centred around knowledge, exploration and accessibility. ACE is committed to providing the right environment, care and support that young people need to access their skills and unlock their talents, centred around raising aspirations, broadening prospects and further developing key essential skills for the workplace and the wider community.
This is our second year as a Gold Award school and as such we have seen an increase in student engagement across all ACE sites. We have mapped the Essential Skills across all curriculum areas and have honed in on key objectives and outcomes associated with academic progress, within each curriculum area, to correlate with the acquisition of skills. An inclusive approach to Skills Builder has been successful at connecting students, no matter what their ability, utilising every aspect of learning to incorporate the teaching and practice of skills' education. Students understand what they should do to improve, coupled with the understanding, with the added value of their education. As an AP, we have worked to ensure that Skills Builder can be embedded within our setting in a number of useful ways: using a 'Group' set up on the Hub to record data of an individual student, instead of a larger group, allows a bespoke approach; EHCP targets include links to specific 'steps' and Essential Skills, with the addition of a weekly document shared between mentor and student, encouraging engagement, focusing on progress towards their individual EHCP targets; policy changes and updates; training sessions and most recently, resources for Early Years educators, have all assisted in supporting our staff to work more closely with the Skills Builder framework. Students are making secure links between their skill sets, learning and qualifications, recognising their progress and the benefit to them as an individual, both in the classroom and in the wider community. Our PE and LOTC (Learning Outside the Classroom) curriculums both support the Key Principles of "Practice" and "Bringing it to Life" which encourages a direct correlation between qualifications and the acquisition of skills. Work Experience opportunities and our vocational programme support "practice" in a wider context, and students are making progress, whilst gaining key insights into the range of skills required by employers. Confidence in their abilities is growing and they are starting to value and appreciate both the skills they have, as well as those they can continue to build on. Success can look and feel very differently for many of our students, and we are now seeing many of them experiencing what success looks like for them, in a variety of ways, throughout their school day. It is our goal to ensure that every student, at every stage on their developmental journey, can maintain a positive outlook and are ultimately successful in their endeavours, which is fundamental, no matter what their background or social circumstances.
Our Primary setting utilises the assemblies and the overview from the Skills Builder Hub to engage students in understanding the Essential Skills and the direct relationship with their learning and personal development from KS1. Students in KS3 and KS4 have weekly sessions focused on Skills Builder in PSHE and tutor time, where appropriate, as well as curriculum lessons now, with academic outcomes linked directly with the acquisition of skills. All curriculum learning references the Essential Skills and laminated cards/posters/Power Points/worksheets etc. allow for immediate reference to the skill steps, relating to specific learning and development, whether in the classroom or off site on PE, when taking part in LOTC (Learning Outside the Classroom) or in the wider community.
Each Half Term there is a whole school focus on a particular Essential Skill, which allows all staff to keep up to date with recording baseline data for new students, as well as to record the progress data for each student, on the HUB. When introducing the skills focus for the half term, students are given the opportunity to access the overview of each skill and to explore it further, using the workshops and lessons on the Hub, where appropriate. A specific focus in PSHE lessons, on-to-one interventions with mentors and tutor time is where students use their Skills Builder Passports to evidence and map their progress throughout the week. Academic Leads and mentors use the Skills Builder Hub resources, and students with an EHCP will now also be able to track progress on their set targets, with a clear link to the Essential Skills, on a weekly basis with their mentors.
Class teachers, academic leads and mentors use the Skills Builder Hub to engage students in one-to-one interventions and in group activities in tutor time and lessons. This allows for a bespoke focus centred around the individual, as each student has their own 'Group' on the Hub, enabling us to be able to record and access accurate and specific data at any given point. This generates a clear focus as to the appropriate steps each individual should work on to make progress, within each Essential Skill. Progress is shared with students and parents in termly review meetings, collaborating with them, and consolidating our home/school partnership, sharing where they should focus their efforts in order to further develop their skills. Every teacher has a pack of stickers for each Essential Skill, which they personalise to reference the steps achieved in lessons on completed work, when marking/giving feedback. This can then be discussed with teachers and mentors in their next lesson.
All curriculum areas refer explicitly to the 8 Essential Skills across all teaching and learning, using a common language and visual cues. Whether working in groups in a classroom setting, or one to one, all academic study is now linked to the development of skills. Subject curriculum maps and resources include explicit references to both the Essential Skill and any specific steps within the selected skill, to encourage and explore consistent links between teaching and learning and the acquisition of knowledge with skill sets. Our vocational offer to students and Work Experience opportunities also encourage the use and practice of skills, whilst experiencing the world of work. Learning Outside the Classroom also provides a weekly, and daily opportunity in some cases, for staff and students to engage with practising the Essential skills whilst out in the wider community.
At ACE we encourage all students to engage with visiting speakers and employers, whether on site or out in the community, so that they can make links between learning in school and the significance and importance of this when outside the classroom and in the 'real' world. Most students have the opportunity to take part in Learning Outside the Classroom, allowing them to both further develop and embed Essential Skills in the wider community when: den building; map reading and orienteering; learning to build a fire; beachcombing; accessing local amenities and local transport, for example. These are daily/weekly opportunities, where we encourage students to engage in activities that are key to being successful outside of school, ensuring that they understand how the acquisition of skills are an integral part of personal development for life and not merely academic achievement.
We are continually striving to consolidate and build on our successes. The recording of data should be more consistent across all sites, and directed time is given to this each half term. As Careers Lead, I have created an induction video/slides, outlining our Careers Programme in detail for all new staff, and Skills Builder is a key part of that, including links to training modules on the Hub and resources for staff to support their Performance Management, using the Benchmark tool. CPD will be delivered to all sites throughout year; supporting Curriculum Leads with updating units of work/lessons to reference Essential Skills. All teaching staff have resources to take with them when Learning Outside the Classroom, in PE lessons and when out in the wider community. Skills Builder will continue to be a key part of the whole school strategy; rewarding staff and students will be a termly event to further build and embed Skills Builder as a as a culture across all sites in our school.