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Haltwhistle Primary Academy

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Haltwhistle Primary Academy
Haltwhistle is a caring and inclusive Primary school, located in rural Northumberland. Our aim is to provide opportunities for all children to develop as independent, confident, successful learners with high aspirations. Through the curriculum we provide, Haltwhistle pupils will become understanding British citizens, able to make a positive contribution towards their community and wider society. The skills builder project, with its continuum of progress throughout school and direct links into the world of work has helped us to broaden the horizons of our pupils and help them to begin to ask questions and develop aspirations about their future life goals.
Overall impact
The consistency of language has been the key benefit. The programme has made these soft skills measurable, which has given improved the focus and attention they have received throughout teaching and pastoral support for our children. The impact can be seen across the wider school including children recognising their own strengths and the strengths of others.
Keep it simple
Our intent was to integrate the Skills builder skills programme throughout our curriculum. Skills builder was a useful development of a programme we had previously used, but the continuum of assessment allowed us to evaluate and evidence the progress picture of this 'hard to see' subject. Staff training enabled the team to quickly make links between our previous approach and the new terminology. The consistency of language across the Skills Builder Programme has been made visible both within the school and within all forms of communication with parents. Governors have received updates on the progress during this first year.
Start early, keep going
The essential skills have been embedded in education from Nursery to Year 6. The skills builder skills link to the dispositions for learning which are taught in early years. Staff promote the skills through the continuous provision, as well as specifically teaching through story and short focused discussion. Parents are informed of their children's progress towards the skills builder skills via our Early Years assessment tool. For children with SEND who are working on elements of Speech and language or social and emotional development, the skills builder skills have provided a framework which staff can use to support intervention planning and monitor developments.
Measure it
At Haltwhistle Academy, we have a focus skill for each half term. This has allowed us to raise the profile and significance of each skill in turn. Some classes have run their own skills development alongside, for example, in one year group children focused predominantly upon listening at the start of the Autumn term in response to the class area of need. Staff and students used the criteria to reflect and celebrate improvements as these became evident. We use the small steps document alongside the main skills builder hub evaluation to track and support children to make progress in each area. Targeted interventions make use of and integrate the small step skill builder strategies to ensure our most vulnerable children are able to make progress towards the bigger targets.
Focus tightly
Focused assemblies teach and develop understanding of a key skill for the half term. In individual classes, we also use the skill builder lesson resources for direct teaching of the skills, however more regularly, we use age appropriate stories to support understanding of the skills. This has helped the skills to integrate fully into our reading curriculum. The skills are then further developed through daily teaching (visible on slides and prompted through teaching). Three assemblies weekly focus on developing understanding of skills and celebrating achievements with skill focused awards.
Keep practising
Essential skills are important in all areas of school life at Haltwhistle Academy. The skills are explicitly taught through focused PHSE teaching as well as integrated across our curriculum. Every curriculum project has an identified key skills builder skill, and teachers add the skills builder icons to teaching slides as appropriate to emphasise an opportunity to practice a specific skill. The deep connection with stories have helped the skills to integrate fully into our reading curriculum. At break and lunchtimes, school staff continue to praise and support children to develop the skills through their play and this has led to improvements during these times. Extra curricular opportunities reinforce the use of the skill builder skills. The skills are make visible to parents through newsletters and social media posts.
Bring it to life
A significant focus for our school this year has been the development of links with employers and local science and industry. We have created opportunities to work alongside the police, fire service, Kielder observatory Scientists and visit Kielder observatory, a joint project 'STEM to Stars' with Kielder, arranged funding for an astrology project with Lancaster University to explore the dark skies of Haltwhistle, and connected with local industry, such as Northumberland Honey Company.
What's next
We have already mapped opportunities to make links with businesses through the first year of our two year curriculum plan and will extend this to include the second year of planning. Whilst we have run project days alongside businesses in Science and the arts this year (Stem to Stars, Street Scientists and Theatre / dance workshops) we will plan a whole school project day. We also intend to link the essential skills to our zone of regulation work for children receiving this support.
North East England
United Kingdom