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Cheshire West and Chester Council Skills and Employment

This content was written by
Cheshire West and Chester Council Skills and Employment
The Government reformed the Special Educational Needs and Disability system through the Children and Families Act in 2014, leading to a greater focus on preparing young people with SEN for adulthood, including employment. To help these young people achieve sustainable paid employment through the right preparation and support, Cheshire West and Chester council's Employment Support Team have responded to the need for a Supported Internship, creating the now called 'New Ground' programme in 2020. The New Ground Supported Internship programme connected with Skills Builder during a local networking event organised by 'The Pledge'. A meeting was arranged with a representative of Skills Builder to discuss the Accelerator programme and how this would benefit CW&C Supported Interns. New Ground saw great value in utilising Skills Builder as a tool to create synergy between how essential skills were developed and monitoring in both the classroom and work place settings.
Overall impact
It has been clear to see the development in the students and this has provided one of the highlights, seeing the results from the second benchmarks. I decided to colour all the scores that had gone up in green to provide a striking visual reference. It is reassuring to know that all the hard work to embed the skills and facilitate all the target work is paying off. Another highlight has been to hear from a Job Coach that a learner had drawn their own independent reference to one of their essential skills at work and the development of this in that moment. It has been a joy to watch their progress in class, hear them using the language regularly and demonstrate their understanding of how to apply these to a range of situations.
Keep it simple
All learners have a set of the icons that have been laminated so these can be out on tables to help jog their memory at the start and to keep out as reference to remind them what they are working on/how they are using them. Learners are encouraged to review the session activities themselves to decide which skills might be appropriate. Job Coaches are liaised with using emails and an online tracker to maintain a holistic approach. I ensure goals are identified and progress is kept up to date. I have added the skill icons to LO sheets so they can indicate which they are going to be using in the session and at the end they can evaluate these. They place their essential skill target and those related to their EHCps in the target section. At the end of the session they complete the target section to record any progress made, especially towards their EHCp target and then use the Essential Smart Target Progress sheet to specifically note progress made towards their chosen goal for this session.
Start early, keep going
All learners on the programme have the essential skills outlined at the start of their journey and continue to access this work throughout their programme. We have a range of learners 16-24 all with SEN/EHC plans. All learners have assessments at the start of their course that incorporates their individual understanding of essential skills and as soon as possible, benchmark scores are collated once on programme. These are completed again at regular intervals throughout the year to monitor progress. Liaison takes place with Job Coaches throughout the programme who work with the individuals at their job placements. Regular communication between everyone allows information to be shared on progress ensuring a holistic approach to this work. Parents are involved throughout this programme.
Measure it
At 6 week intervals, learners reflect on the essential skill target progress sheets and Learning Outcomes to track overall progress made. Feedback on any progress spotted by staff each week can be added to the tracker for all to see and when targets change, these are adapted. Photos of learners taking part in activities in the classroom and in the work place are stored to aid discussion when reflecting upon progress made. 'Areas to improve' language is being differentiated to help learners translate these into SMART targets. A review of benchmark scores reflecting the amount they have gone up has been shared recently. I have encouraged students to create their own graphs to reflect this progress and they will be making badges that have the essential skill icons adapted to include the word 'champion'.
Focus tightly
Sessions have incorporated the essential skills: staying positive and aiming high recently, as they have been completing building confidence and self-esteem unit work. They have been working on goal setting, challenging themselves, developing self-awareness and identify sources of support, whilst using the online modules and 'build it' sections to increase independent working. I have been exploring the training area and hub to plan further sessions by identifying what the group needs to work on as a whole as well as individually. Planned presentation work will promote creativity and staying positive and support speaking and listening skills. Problem solving activities like 'escape room' will also support leadership, aiming high and teamwork. They are currently using a devised community map that will help them identify job description skills that they will match to the essential skills, providing a strong visible reference and source of information.
Keep practising
I have been working with learners in small focus groups to concentrate on specific skills and EHCp outcomes such as speaking and listening. I put three together, one needed to work on her listening skills and not take over too much, one needed to develop her ability to be more assertive and initiate conversation and another needed to work with people less familiar to them. The small group played a board game, during which, I facilitated the change of leadership. As a result, the first learner experienced what it was like to be led, developing more self-awareness. The second initiated conversation and went on to interact more with others in the room, something they hadn't done in this way before. The third developed more confidence by working with people less familiar to them. All were able to reflect on the essential skills built in speaking, listening and teamwork skills.
Bring it to life
All learners begin sessions with a reflection on which skills they have used over their week, including on work placements, examining their targets to see what they have achieved. They record progress made towards these targets on specific essential skill progress sheets, reflecting on activities both at home and in their work places. Job Coaches help to raise awareness of this progress through regular contact, using the PfA tracker and by sharing photos of activities in the workplace. Throughout the sessions students continue to reflect on the skills they are using for each activity, marking any progress at the end of sessions. Students have been able to map essential skills to wider activities recently to develop social responsibility awareness. These have included a visit from the local mayor which involved a Q&A using speaking and listening, and through a visit to the local park to pick up litter, involving problem solving, leadership and teamwork.
What's next
The plan is to adapt the current curriculum to improve its value, with more emphasis on stretch and challenge. I want to fully embed the essential skills into the new curriculum, matching these to each project throughout the year. For example, job preparation involving Interview Skills will focus on speaking and listening and then again for communication at work once on placement. For on-site job training, Health and Safety will focus on problem solving, teamwork and leadership and so on. I would also like to have themed weeks and run activities such as the escape room for problem solving and map these skills to placement work. We have talked about getting Job Coaches involved in the six weekly reviews and moving forward, the Employment Support Officers will liaise further with employers to ensure greater understanding of the essential skills and how to be involved.
North West England
United Kingdom