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Great Denham Primary School

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Great Denham Primary School
We are a large primary school, of 560 pupils, just outside Bedford. We have pupils from Nursery up to Year 6 and we are a relatively new school, only having been open for nine years. When the school was opened it was developed around a creative curriculum with large classrooms, breakout areas and a fully immersive curriculum based around REAL projects. This has developed over the years, but we have few tables in classes and, in non COVID time, pupils are encouraged to work in the way that suits them best, at a table, on the floor in one of the breakout areas, outside or in any part of the school. A massive part of this curriculum is around developing pupils independent learning skills to enable complete the tasks they are set for their project books and prepare them for the wider world. From Nursery upwards our 'soft skills' have been an established part of our core values and learning. Currently we have 6 skills; Resilience, Creativity, Communication, Improving Myself, Independence and Teamwork. Each of these skills has a 'Teddy' who represents it and each class has a set of these teddies which are given to pupils to look after each time they show this skill. They are also rewarded with a family point each time they show one of the skills. Each child also has a 'soft skills book' which, very much like the Hub Passports, allows pupils to track their progress against each skill and they take this all the way through he school with them. When I discovered the Skills Builder Hub I felt that it offered the missing piece of the puzzle. Whilst our 'soft skills' are firmly embedded into our school ethos, we were not explicitly teaching children how to develop these skills and the Hub offered this, hence why we applied for the Accelerator Programme.
Overall impact
Teachers and pupils have given really positive feedback about using the Hub and the quality of the resources. It has really helped us to fill the gap in the explicit teaching of the life skills without adding to teachers workload. Because of the high quality of the resources, it has enhanced both teachers' and pupils' understanding of the skills and how they can be developed and applied in real life and on a daily basis. The training for teachers has really helped to familiarise staff with what the Hub offered, answer questions and give them the confidence to use this in class. The planning sessions for myself have helped focus us on what we want to achieve, formulate a clear plan of action and ensure we worked hard to met these.
Keep it simple
Our current soft skills are an embedded part of our curriculum. They are one of the three tenets on which our entire curriculum is built, along with our school values and REAL projects, as is outlined in our curriculum intent document which is available to parents via our school website. During parent tours and information evenings prior to pupils joining our school we always talk about our 'soft skills'. Each of our pupils from reception upwards, has a school planner which they use on a daily basis and is shared with parent to record reading in. All of our soft skills, the teddies and what they represent are listed in the planners. Each child also has a 'soft skills book' which, very much like the Hub Passports, allows pupils to track their progress against each skill and they take this all the way through the school with them. Each time pupils show a skill they are rewarded with a family point and they are constantly reminded and encouraged to use these skills when working.
Start early, keep going
All of our pupils from reception up to Year 6 have accessed the resources and skills lessons are timetabled a minimum of every fortnight. Year groups have shared the assemblies in their classes, as due to COVID we are not able to hold collective assemblies but we are hoping to do this in September. Skills are displayed in classrooms and all classes have a way of recording the family points that children earn when they display a skill. Some parents and families have been directed to the Skills Builder Hub for home learning where this has been appropriate to a child's needs.
Measure it
This year teachers have assessed the pupils three times, in the Autumn term after the first training session as a baseline, they re-baselined after children returned from lockdown 2 in the Spring and they have completed a final assessment this half term as a final point. Next year assessments will be half termly as we aim to focus on one or two linked skills, so teachers will baseline the skill at the start of the year and then re-assess at the end of the half term they focus on that skill.
Focus tightly
All teachers must plan a Skills Builder lesson into their timetable a minimum of once every fortnight, some teachers are doing this more often. Pupils are also encouraged to reflect on the use of this skill in different areas of the curriculum, particularly project work which they work on independently and self directed. Teachers use a range of resources on the Hub, lessons, videos and other resources.
Keep practising
Our skills are built into all aspects of the curriculum and are integral to our project work. Pupils are encouraged to show the skills in all that they do - whether a formal lesson, sports, play times and even outside of school, the language of the skills is applied to all aspects of school life and forms a key element of our behaviour system.
Bring it to life
These normally consist of events such as a fashion show, farmers market, banquet, play, art gallery, museum etc, depending on what the project is that the children have been working on. These often have a community, charity or legacy element so the children's work can have a real impact and purpose and all of these are completely planned and created by the children using all of their skills.
What's next
Next year we have already re-designed and re-named our soft skills to life skills and aligned them with the skills on the Hub as well as introducing new teddies and integrating all of this into the children planners. We have also used the Passport Ladders for each skill up to Level 6 and these will also become pages in the children's planners to help them monitor their progress through the year and onwards. As a whole school we will teach a different skill, or two linked skills, each half term so that all 8 are covered over the course of the year and are introduced via assemblies. Teachers will baseline at the start of the year and then re-assess at the end of each half term. I will also be using the skills and the SEND ladders to support the new nurture group that I will be setting up in September.
East of England
United Kingdom