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Buzz Learning School

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Buzz Learning School
Buzz Learning is a small, friendly school and college specialising in preparing young people with SEND for adult life. We do this through the provision of a broad and balanced learning experience which promotes our learners' educational, spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development. Whilst we recognise qualifications to be important, we also recognise the need to build essential skills in our learners. These include the ability to creatively solve problems, to manage themselves, to communicate effectively and to work well with others. The Skills Builder Accelerator programme provided the platform we needed in our commitment to building high quality essential skills education. Our aim was to build a skills based framework and align it to our current curriculum plans. We are now equipped to model best practice and deliver on our ethos which is to enable our learners to be all they can.
Overall impact
Together with strategic support from Skills Builder, we have developed a complete implementation strategy for embedding high-quality essential skills teaching. Our learners now have opportunity to employ the essential skills in their learning during lessons, on work placement and during work experience. This has enabled our learners to become more positive, sociable and resilient in their learning and daily lives. Through their skills development, learners have been enabled to synthesise knowledge and use it in new situations such as during work experience. Our data shows that the programme has improved achievement of core aims and non-accredited activities. Pupil voice has been positive with 90% of learners expressing their enjoyment of using Skills Builder. Staff voice has been equally positive with all teachers stating their like of the structure of a skills-based framework. The programme has had a positive impact on learners' ability to self-reflect on their progress in learning and share their success stories with application of their skills in their daily lives. An important part of the programme was to foster opportunities for teachers to watch, learn from and model effective practice. It provided a platform for staff to share and lead learning whilst creating an atmosphere of cooperation and support. One staff member volunteered to work as 'Skills Champion' to lead on aspects of the project. The Accelerator programme has provided opportunities to develop links with the wider network, essential for a new school such as ours. Collaboration with external partners has ensured that the programme is delivering its intended impact. We have also built-up partnerships with employers to plan the overview of the Skills Builder framework, drawing on research to formulate a clear plan and the development of skills across the curriculum. This has been shared through staff training, with governors and with parents.
Keep it simple
The shared language of essential skills is used extensively across the school; with learners regularly discussing the skills and skill steps they are working on. Visual cues and reminders are on display in all classrooms, in corridors and in meeting rooms. Teachers use activities from the Skills Builder Hub and ensure learners see the relevance of essential skills across the curriculum. For example, the skills are incorporated into debating, speaking, and listening and are referenced regularly in lessons. Essential skills have been integrated into reflection time each lesson and staff are equipped to deliver training to others. Teachers use activities from the Skills Builder Hub. We recently delivered a workshop to parents and carers to encourage and support them to utilise Skills Builder resources at home. Home Zone is now used by parents to support their child with understanding the importance of the skills and putting these into practice at home.
Start early, keep going
Our curriculum framework is closely aligned to the Skills Builder framework with planned opportunities for the learning and practicing of essential skills. All lessons have a clear and focused learning objective which correlates directly with a skill focus and steps each learner will work on. Steps to success are shared with the learner at the outset, reinforced throughout the lesson and used as an assessment tool at the end of the lesson. As our learners follow different programmes and work at varying levels of ability in different groups, some of our teachers use the expanded framework as part of their curriculum planning for teaching essential skills. Short lessons from the Hub are included in curriculum planning as well as practical activities and projects so that learners are encouraged to utilise and explore further what they have learnt in lessons.
Measure it
The quality of teaching of essential skills has been monitored through measuring quantifiable learner progress over time and working with staff to ensure the impact of the programme improves the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching in school. The framework is now used alongside our current SMART Goal system, which closely monitors the achievement of personalised 'SMART Goals' linked the learners' individual key objectives. Teachers now embed the skills into their schemes of work, and use the available online resources to monitor impact through skill attainment. The results of staff voice have shown that the initiative has been successful. Staff feel more confident with embedding the skills in their teaching practice and some staff have taken the initiative further by developing their assessment methods by adding skills links and to record progress towards learners' EHCP long term outcomes.
Focus tightly
The framework is now fully embedded in all subjects. All medium-term plans reference the skills and all teachers track learner progress using their assessment tool on the Skills Builder Hub. The learners are required to reflect at various points throughout the day on skills development and record specific examples of skill development in their Skill Passports. Weekly mentor meetings provide learners with the opportunity to further discuss their progress with skill development and agree the next steps and skill they need to work on.
Keep practising
Teachers use activities from the Skills Builder Hub, and learners are encouraged to reflect on their progress in the Skill Passports which they carry around with them during the school and college day. The skills have also been embedded in extra-curricular activities and lunchtime clubs. Teachers highlight and reward learners applying the skills through the school merit system but also by nominating learners for the 'Skill Champion' Award each half term. Skills icons are referenced in all lesson plans, schemes of work and in learner self-assessment tools. Teaching and learning materials and resources also reference the skills and each week there is a skill focus so learners can reflect on their progress with each skill in every subject. There are regular opportunities for learners to practise the skills across all subjects, with some learners using their essential skills development as evidence towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Bring it to life
Our learners have had the opportunity to apply their essential skills in topical, work-based challenges through 'virtual trips' with global bank UBS and law firm KPMG. Learners enjoyed the 'Imaginative Inventors' virtual trip where they were able to showcase their skills to employers. Partnership with Skills Builder has also led to us forging links with Globalbridge, a pioneering education and technology platform which has allowed our learners to create their own digital profile to showcase their skills and plan their future career pathway. Employer engagement has emphasised the importance of linking essential skills to the world of work. Our learners have also documented their progress with developing their essential skills as part of reflections for their Duke of Edinburgh Award volunteer work and work experience. In our partnerships with employers, we are encouraging essential skills in workplace conversations and discussions to demonstrate the importance of the skills.
What's next
Working in partnership with the Accelerator Programme has allowed us to pioneer a deeply integrated, long-term approach to essential skills education by structuring a whole-school programme. The impact of this is our learners develop the eight skills explicitly and progress can now be measured year on year. We have plans to further establish close links with key stakeholders and employers so we can provide our learners with opportunities to further build and contextualise essential skills and practise them in a specific work context. After success of the initial part of the programme, we will now lead a new phase to integrate the Skills Builder Framework into an online platform. We have developed a three-year plan for embedding skill development to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks. As part of quality assurance processes, we will continue to review progress over the year to continuously drive improvement with using the framework across the organisation.
North East England
United Kingdom