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Central Foundation Boys' School

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Central Foundation Boys' School
Central Foundation Boys' School is an Inner London comprehensive situated in Islington near the Old Street Roundabout. Islington is the eighth most deprived area in the country and the fourth most deprived in London. This deprivation could present many potential barriers to our students' academic achievement. Almost three quarters of our students are eligible for the pupil premium, just under two thirds speak English as an additional language, and one in five are disabled or have special educational needs, all of which are well above the national average. Despite these potential barriers, we have an excellent record of sending students to the top third most-selective universities in the country. Over 50 went in 2021 in large part thanks to their academic outcomes. Skills Builder offered a great opportunity to directly address both the impact of COVID-19 on our young people's personal development, but also a wider trend that we see as a school where our young people have an undeveloped literacy around their personal progression both academically and socially. Our school community is focused on ensuring all of our young people have access to expert teaching. As a result, we are able to support our students achieve academically. However, through our work with the students supporting them with their post-16 and post-18 progression, we have recognised that while our students are able to identify their academic strengths, they are not always able to outline clearly how both their academic and extracurricular/social activities contribute to their essential skill development, and indeed where their own essential skills are in terms of development. Both the structure and focus on language offered by Skills Builder provided a structure from which we can start to incorporate an embedded focus on what essential skills are, how they are developed, and ultimately how important they are to a young person's development.
Overall impact
The Accelerator programme has been very helpful in providing support and structure when trying to incorporate Skills Builder into the school's framework. With such expansive materials and resources available, it can seem overwhelming to try and create a programme of delivery that will be both effective and impactful. The Accelerator programme helped guide us and organise our approach to incorporating Skills Builder and also helped us to identify how we could continue our progress as we move into the new academic year. In terms of impact on the students, it seems they have gained the most from the essential skill focus when considering their own personal lives and experiences. Our young people seem to connect with the essential skills when they talk about their interactions with friends and family and how they manage their personal lives. It is very powerful as it gives our young people real confidence being able to identify how, through their own work and efforts, they are developing skills that are valuable for their future.
Keep it simple
For this principle, we delivered a Year 7 and Year 12 assembly introducing Skills Builder to the students, outlining the skill they would be focusing on across the term and the structure of skills-focused activities that would be delivered to them. We also placed posters for the skills-focus in every form teacher's classroom where the Skills Builder lessons would be delivered as part of the tutorial programme. Teachers also attended two teacher training sessions where they could develop their knowledge of, and ability to, utilise the Skills Builder Framework and tools. Moving forward, we plan to incorporate the Skills Builder language into our Dynamic Process Reporting for parents/carers including verbal discussions around student progress during Parents' Evenings.
Start early, keep going
We introduced Skills Builder to the school focusing on Year 7 and Year 12 in the first year. We hoped to trial a structure of delivery with a smaller group of students to see how effectively it achieved our initial aims, allowing us to adapt the delivery where needed. This way our students who are entering a key transition year received a direct delivery of essential skills teaching after experiencing severe disruptions in their education over the last two years. Our intent moving forward is to roll out Skills Builder across the school. However by starting our Year 7s and Year 12s with Skills Builder this year, we have established a foundation of familiarity and understanding with our transition years allowing them to build on their progress as they move through their education. This will be particularly key for our Year 7 students. By the time they reach Year 11 they would have had four years of Skills Builder.
Measure it
Year 7 and Year 12 form tutors use the Skills Builder Hub to measure how our students are progressing in developing their essential skills. Year 7 form tutors reflected on their group and used the Hub to indicate where they felt the group was on a whole. Our Year 12 tutors used a form lesson time to assess the group through a reflective discussion with students so they could share their thoughts with the teacher on where they felt they were in terms of skills progression. Form tutors will then repeat the process at the end of term, to identify if there has been any progress. As we move forward, I think group discussion with the students is a very impactful way to identify progression as it encourages the students to reflect on their learning and also share where they feel they have developed or still need to focus on.
Focus tightly
Based on our two-week timetable, we have incorporated Skills Builder into our tutorial schedule allowing students to focus on Skills Builder once a week. During Week 1, form tutors will deliver a Skills Lesson from the Hub to the group and then as a homework assignment, students must complete the Skills Passport identifying their own activities where they are practicing the specific skill step. During Week 2, students discuss their Skills Passport in form time and share their examples with fellow students. That week, Year 7 students are required to complete the Skills Workbook.
Keep practising
The core focus for the school moving forward will be to actively incorporate Skills Builder into the curriculum, and we will use our subject-specific workbooks to help students identify where in each lesson they are practicing specific skills. Following our second Teaching Training, some of our form tutors were asked to test incorporating Skills Builder into their curriculum. One of our PE teachers offered the following insight about the experience: "I currently have found it useful to incorporate many of the listening topics covered in my PE lessons. I recognise the value of this skill for all employers and now find myself asking pupils to evaluate their own listening skills in lessons, rather than simply asking questions in a classic question and answer format. This allows pupils to identify why they may be effectively asking and answering questions within lessons."
Bring it to life
This year, we used the work experience resources to bring Skills Builder to life for our Year 12 students. Incorporating elements of the work experience resource into our own work experience workbook gave our students clear objectives to work towards during the work placement and allowed them to set themselves goals related to their essential skills.
What's next
Moving forward, a key challenge for us will be to incorporate Skills Builder across the school and that means securing the support and buy-in from teachers and support staff. These programmes are only as impactful as the engagement from colleagues so the all-colleague teacher training that will be scheduled at the start of the academic year will be key to gaining support for the initiative. Once this training is complete, we will also need to work on incorporating Skills Builder language into our taught lessons, with teachers identifying lessons where they can connect the Skills Builder language to the subject content students are engaging with.
Greater London
United Kingdom