Barnton Community Nursery and Primary School is a large primary school and nursery serving a semi-rural location near Northwich, Cheshire. As our Headteacher states in her welcome on the school's website, "As a school of opportunity, we deliver the best possible education and experiences for all of our children. Our aim is to inspire our children, to believe in themselves and to achieve their full potential. Our learning environment reflects our high standards. Learning inside and outside the classroom provides children with the knowledge, skills and understanding to ensure social and academic success." We have been an 'Inclusion Quality Mark' Centre of Excellence for 9 years, and a Flagship School for Inclusion for the past 3 years. At the last review, our IQM Assessor stated that, 'BCNPS is a superbly inclusive school, not only for its pupils, but for its staff, its families.' The school's stated mission is to inspire every one of their pupils to believe in their own abilities to achieve their absolute best by providing a welcoming, safe, happy school where everyone is respected and listened to; where pride in themselves and their achievements, enables pupils to develop responsibility and become confident and successful learners. It was during the national Achievement For All conference in 2018 that we first encountered Skills Builder and their Essential Skills curriculum. We knew instantly that this was a great 'fit' for our school ethos, as we were committed to ensuring our pupils developed confidence to become innovative, independent learners, who took responsibility for their own learning and actions. From September 2019 and throughout Covid, we continued to build these skills - especially Staying Positive and Aiming High - which we believe played a huge part in creating resilience for children learning at home. In 2021 we achieved the Skills Builder Silver Award.
At Barnton CNPS, we firmly believe that having the essential skills curriculum as part of our Recovery Curriculum after Covid, has expedited the response of our pupils to learning in the classroom again. In the past 12 months, the skills have been embedded in such a way that the confidence of pupils is unrecognisable compared to September. As well as unlocking learning for all, the key outcome for us has been the role the skills have played in overcoming the difficulties and challenges of the past 3 years. As staff, we have all enjoyed the creativity and skills application of the Projects, and are looking forward to the Food Fair and Gallery event on 12th July. As a school of Inclusion, it encompasses our vision that all children can take pride in their achievements, whether they be academic, creative, sporty or social. We are planning a change to the way that children in Years 4 - 6 set and monitor their essential skills targets. As they are now more familiar with the programme, we would like them to use their Chromebooks to record the progress across the year in their skills. They will have the starting step for each skill, and then record how and when they have used the skill during the year - at school and at home. They will be able to open and add to this document at any point, rather than just having one opportunity every half term to reflect on their targets.
Barnton CNPS focus on 2 essential skills every half term, to ensure that all the skills are covered during the academic year. These are written into our Curriculum documents and are referred to explicitly during the introduction of the skill, and throughout all teaching and learning. Teachers use the language consistently, and the skill logos or widget cards are used next to the WALT where a skill is being used during a core subject or foundation lesson. Our weekly Family assemblies for both KS1 and KS2 have an award specifically linked to one of the essential skills, where one pupil receives a Head Teacher's award. Furthermore, the children have a personal target every half term based on one of the skills, in line with the step they are on. Every classroom has a display with the 8 skills prominently displayed. The essential skills have been written into our 'Behaviour Policy' and 'Teaching and Learning Policy' for the past 2 years, thereby making it central to our school's ethos.
As our Essential Skills curriculum is written into our policy, it applies to all pupils at BCNPS from the 2 year olds in our Nursery to Year 6 children about to transition to High School. The Framework is used to provide a progressive sequence so that skills can be built up, year on year. In the Early Years, one of the main focuses is on 'Listening' skills. Learning tends to be scaffolded through modelling and lots of practice. Pupils becomes more independent in KS2, choosing their own targets and reflecting on their own progress and how they are developing in the 8 areas. As well as the formal Skills Builder CPD, the Skills Leader at Barnton CNPS also communicates with staff every half term, with new resources that have been released, or highlighting incidental opportunities where the focus skill can be used, e.g. using Aiming High when creating One Page Profiles with pupils.
We assess the 8 essential skills, alongside the core subjects at the end of every half term. Every teacher uses the Hub to reflect the status of their class as a whole. The explicit steps make this a quick and accurate process to understand where pupils are in their skills journey, and to inform the next teaching steps. This assessment is also part of our transition in Summer term, when we hand over to a new teacher. Pupils also use their Personal targets to recall the step they are working on and in KS2, reflect on when they have used the skill, and if they have achieved their target.
Because we have a focus of just 2 skills per half term, we are able to ensure we dedicate curriculum time to explicitly teaching these. This usually happens during Challenge or Assembly time in the first week of the half term. We then set a personal step target for our pupils based on one of these skills and refer to them during our lessons. Targets are written in Planners, so that it can be shared with parents and carers. In this way, pupils can see, understand and use the skills 'in action'. For some skills, we have to create learning opportunities to practise the skill, but on the whole, most can be inherently taught in core and foundation curriculum and extra-curricular lessons. Each week, we set our families a Skills Challenge, using ideas from the Homezone. These are outlined in our Weekly Parent Bulletin, and we invite children and their families to work together to practise the assigned skill in various creative ways.
We have engaged in the Skills Builder projects this year, which have enabled us to build on the links between the 8 skills and how they are used extensively in the wider world. The opportunity to practise the skills in a project extra to the normal curriculum helps children to see the relevance of skills across a wide variety of business areas. Our Year 6 pupils are currently working on their transition to High School, and as part of their preparation visits, enhanced transition after-school club, London residential, Growth Mindset curriculum and rehearsals for the end of Year performance, they are drawing on all of the skills they have been taught, developed and put into practice in the last 4 years. In Barnton CNPS, we make it clear to our children that the skills are not just about jobs and employment, but that they can be used every day - at home, in school, in clubs and teams - to help them be successful in all areas of their lives.
The effects of Covid have been far-reaching across our Community, but we recognise that there are many other issues affecting our children and families. We have a number of projects planned for 2023, including a Community Hub, training to become a Trauma Informed School and the implementation of Worth-It - a programme to improve the wellbeing of young people. All of these projects will have links with specific essential skills. It has always been our aim to target some specific children or groups to improve their self-esteem by building the skills, which we have started this year with our Year 6 Transition Club. We intend to develop this by looking at children with EHC plans in our Resource Provision, and also thinking about raising awareness for adults in our community who may have never been given the opportunity to develop these skills in their own school or employment settings.