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City of London Academy, Highgate Hill

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City of London Academy, Highgate Hill
City of London Academy Highgate Hill is a mixed non-selective Academy within North Islington. The Academy is diverse and located in an area of higher than average deprivation. We are part of the City of London's Multi-Academy Trust and the Trust has been working hard to narrow the skills gap highlighted in a Nesta report commissioned in 2018. COLA Highgate Hill has been working with Skills Builder for three years in an effort to achieve a common language when talking about skills and to raise the profile of education where skills are developed. Our focus as a school this year was to develop work around the three C's - Creativity, Collaboration and Communication and using Skills Builder to facilitate this.
Overall impact
The development of essential skills has been a priority this year and fully supported by our senior leadership team. I believe the whole school feels much more comfortable, (and knowledgeable) when talking about essential skills and students and staff are continuing to develop a common language. This is now being reflected in audits with the majority of departments where they can clearly explain the rationale in their SOW for the teaching of essential skills. The introduction of Skills Weeks where good practice is shared and the introduction of achievement points and certificates for students when the essential skills are being developed effectively has allowed students and staff to focus more tightly on the next steps. The Accelerator programme has helped me to strategically develop a whole school approach to essential skills. It would be fair to say Highgate Hill is seen as a leading school within the Trust in this area and we were asked to deliver a presentation on exemplary practice within the MAT.
Keep it simple
Skills Builder posters are in all classrooms and communal areas. Skills Builder icons are embedded into all lesson presentations and referenced by staff and students. This year we have introduced Fusion Skills Weeks with various foci throughout the year. Our weekly highlights, (a bulletin that goes out to staff and students) shows various lessons, trips and projects where Fusion Skills were developed and the icons are referenced within these presentations. We give achievement points where skills have been used and students are awarded certificates at the end of each term. Staff CPD has been focussed on how we can develop Fusion Skills among our students, with an emphasis on communication, collaboration and creativity as well as Aiming High and Staying Positive)
Start early, keep going
All departments must reference which skills are being developed at the various stages of their schemes of work - this is for all KS3 & KS4 SOW. SOW are planned as part of a spiral curriculum where knowledge and skills are revisited throughout the year, (and between years) to ensure students are constantly developing essential skills. Parents are aware of the various initiatives we have put into place through newsletters and emails home. We have sent links to the Skills Builder website to parents and invited them in during initiatives such as careers week where our work on developing essential skills has been shared.
Measure it
Various departments use their own tracking tools to measure knowledge and skills development: We use a variety of different assessment approaches which assess a variety of different fusion skills e.g. speaking assessments, annotation assessments, writing assessments, analysis assessments. Most departments now use a 'before learning' strategy to capture where students are before topics are taught. There has been a focus on questioning techniques this year and this has been used effectively by staff and best practice shared in terms of skills development. We have started to work with Voice21 and Unifrog who use Skills Builder as part of their framework - the intention is to use tracking tools within Skills Builder for some collaborative projects next year.
Focus tightly
We plan group work into all of our SOWs and make sure this is conducted in a productive and supportive way. We use a lot of talk in lessons and, as departments, celebrate rich discussions which might deviate from the original lesson plan. We work hard to ensure our curriculum is diverse and representative of as many voices and experiences as possible to engage students and support their wellbeing, (aiming high and being positive) We further skills development beyond the classroom with our enrichment opportunities after school such as, Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge, Speaking Out Year 9 Poetry Slam, Culture Mile SOW collaboration, students attending Debate Mate competitions and events, National Space Rocket competition, to name but a few. All classroom/enrichment opportunities are linked to the essential skills with reference to the icons and using Skills Builder videos - this is especially true in PSHCE/Careers topics.
Keep practising
We use a variety of approaches as outlined above - since we have returned from lockdown and remote learning there has been an emphasis on raising the cultural and creative capital of our students through trips, enrichment as well as collaborative projects with outside providers inside and outside the classroom. As well as developing their essential skills, this has also helped us to promote positive mental health and wellbeing within our community.
Bring it to life
This year we held a careers week with professionals from a diverse range of professions - all were briefed to share with our students the essential skills they have developed through their education/careers. Year 10 have just had work experience and they were asked to reflect on the essential skills they developed in their practice. Careers education runs across the whole school in PSHCE as well as other subject areas - outside providers are used, (such as Into University) who facilitate workshops with all year groups to develop skills and embed skills development.
What's next
I think we are moving towards a whole school approach with essential skills - I have asked senior leaders whether our achievement points can be limited to just the essential skills to further focus students and staff on this area. We have a number of collaborative projects in the pipeline for the next academic year and the intention is to use the tracking features and resources in Skills Builder to help deliver these. Staff CPD will continue to build on the work we have done so far - we will also need to train new staff and also engage parents further.
Greater London
United Kingdom