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Ashley High School

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Ashley High School
Ashley School is a small secondary school in North West England that delivers a specialised curriculum for students with Autism and Social Communication Difficulties aged between 11 and 19 years. The development of essential skills is a key priority for the school as many of our students lack the basic and transferable skills needed to enjoy a successful, fulfilling and independent adult life. As a school, we were keen to be involved in the Skills Builder Accelerator Programme as we believe that prioritising the development of essential skills early on will improve the confidence and self-esteem of our young people which in turn will help them achieve academic and employment outcomes.
Overall impact
We have evaluated the impact of the programme through pupil progress data and feedback from staff and student questionnaires. The baseline data at the start of the initiative showed a significant gap in attainment of essential skills between lower and upper ability groups. At the end of the initiative, the progress of both low and high-ability groups increased. Before the programme just under a quarter of students surveyed stated that they felt confident in using the 8 essential skills, after two terms this increased to nearly fifty percent. The results from the staff questionnaire indicated that over seventy-five percent of staff felt that their confidence in delivering essential skills lessons has improved since starting the initiative and nearly one hundred percent had observed tangible benefits since delivering essential skills lessons including confidence and self-esteem, increased use of essential skills language and students linking what they are learning to work and life skills.
Keep it simple
Over the course of the last academic year, there has been a dedicated and focused approach to building an awareness of essential skills across the school community. Staff have completed curriculum audits and taken part in several training sessions to develop their knowledge and understanding of essential skills education. From this planning has been adapted to include reference to the eight essential skills and curriculum policies have been updated to reference any subject-specific information in relation to essential skills. All classrooms have essential skills posters on the wall and the skill and skill step is shared at the beginning of each lesson along with the learning objectives and outcomes. Essential skills stickers are used to recognise and reward student progress and build motivation. To help develop a universal language all classrooms have a set of flashcards with the essential skills and skills descriptors on; these are regularly shared and discussed with students.
Start early, keep going
Skills are introduced in Year 7 and worked on right the way through until the student leaves in 6th Form. Reference to the skills is embedded into all lessons and discussions about the importance of each skill in school, in the workplace and in wider life are discussed regularly. The Skills Builder programme has been designed so that skills can be developed sequentially through discrete lessons as well as in curriculum areas.
Measure it
Progress is tracked through a bespoke Essential Skills tracking sheet. At the beginning of the year teachers complete a baseline assessment across the eight skills and progress is recorded at the end of each term. This data has helped us build a more accurate and detailed profile of our learners; it has supported annual review meetings and allowed us to put into place relevant interventions for any students that are not making expected levels of progress. Student surveys have been completed before and after the delivery of each skill to establish what the students have learned and enjoyed, and their confidence levels in using each of the skills.
Focus tightly
To ensure that all students have a chance to develop their essential skills a comprehensive programme has been developed that allows all eight skills to be taught as discrete lessons in Key Stage 3. Students move around on termly carousal and have the opportunity to develop each skill in a practical and engaging way. In Key Stage 4 and 5, the functional skills groups follow a similar programme whereby they receive one dedicated lesson a week and rotate termly. A range of Skills Builder resources are used to support delivery of the sessions including videos, activities, inter activities and workbooks. Skills Builder Benchmark and Launchpad are used by students in Key Stage 4 and 5.
Keep practising
In addition to a dedicated lesson each week, the opportunity to explore and practise the skills are built into all lessons and form part of the school's teaching non-negotiables. The skills logo is displayed on the lesson PowerPoint and at the beginning of each lesson, the skill and step that the student is working on is introduced and then referred to throughout the lesson. All curriculum planning includes reference to the skill and step that is being taught in the lesson.
Bring it to life
Ashley School's innovative careers programme is linked closely to the development of essential skills. All students in the school have the opportunity to engage with a range of employers. Examples of engagement include employer talks, mock interviews, work experience and workplace tours. As a school, we ask the employers to have a specific focus on the importance of essential skills and provide us with feedback on how students have demonstrated each skill. Students also have the opportunity to reflect on their skills and are asked to complete a crib sheet to evidence how they have demonstrated using the 8 skills during these sessions. The schools LOTC curriculum allows students to develop their essential skills away from the classroom setting including DofE, Independent Living and Community Sports sessions.
What's next
We are currently in the process of developing a new skills-based curriculum to meet the changing needs of our student population- opportunities to develop essential skills will be central to this. One of the main changes will be the introduction of Forest/Coastal Schools that will have a key focus on the development of essential skills. Additionally, we plan to utilise the project sessions and challenge days to engage learners and further develop their skills. Finally, we plan to use data collated from our bespoke tracking sheet to write outcomes in EHCPs.
North West England
United Kingdom