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Happy Times Junior School

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Happy Times Junior School
Happy Times Junior School is a private school, located at Wobulenzi town council in Luwero district, Uganda, 40 miles along Kampala–Gulu highway, with learners aged 3-14. Prior to working with Skills Builder, we had been teaching life skills to help our learners be hardworking, good listeners and team players so as to prepare them for the changing environment.
Overall impact
As regards skills, our school had already learnt the British Council’s six core skills which were being taught to the learners. However, Skills Builder’s Accelerator programme has a clear framework for all these skills, and ways of handling and assessing the learners’ progress. Overall impact: children have gained confidence; respect for one another has improved due to various group work tasks; there’s been a change in their listening skills during lessons, leading to improvements in performance; teachers have also improved their methods of teaching, from teacher-centred to learner-centred methods; teacher- pupil-parent relationships have improved; we are also proud that our parents and visitors have realised how their children have become so polite. I thank our facilitators of this programme for the knowledge they have imparted in us, and my teachers for the effort and time put in to see that the programme runs smoothly.
Keep it simple
After training 1 (led by our Skills Builder contact), we organised internal training sessions for the teachers, led by the Skills Leader. We decided to have a work plan for the term and also fix Skills Builder on the timetable for easy implementation by all teachers. Displays were put up in all classrooms, not only the focus skills but all the skills for reference in all lessons. A parent meeting was held in order to take them through the essential skills and obtain signed consent forms. For teachers, a platform (Whatsapp group) was created to pass on information, videos and photos as regards essential skills; this helped us to capture learners’ attention during activities. The British Council organised a meeting for us with UNEB and NCDC where we shared ideas on how the skills can be integrated into different subjects.
Start early, keep going
When the term started, we introduced the programme to the whole school in two general assemblies. We then decided to embed students’ skill education in classes during normal lessons. For ages 4-8, we would emphasise steps 0-3, and for ages 9-14, steps 0-6.
Measure it
We have had reviews of skills during lessons and assemblies where we ask children to tell us the steps for a certain skill. Also after any communication or any activity, we ask the learners the step and the skill they have learnt/applied. The offline assessment tool is used to track progress, and assessments are used to inform teaching.
Focus tightly
We identified a particular skill for the week, and then focused on the skill steps, teaching the content of a specific step. We asked questions and introduced tasks to check the understanding of the skill steps. We then followed this up by highlighting where the skill is applied in other areas, and awarding or recognizing the best learners for a particular skill.
Keep practising
The essential skills simplify the teachers’ work of teaching if all children build their skills. It was therefore integrated in all our learning areas of the curriculum. Different skills were applied in: normal lessons for the different subjects, quiz competitions; debates, physical education activities, ball games, music, dance, drama, and in student leadership activities
Bring it to life
Covid disruptions meant that our usual events didn't take place. Still, all students (aged 8-12) engaged in debates to apply their Teamwork and Speaking skills. We invited neighbouring schools for a competition. Students also engaged in school leadership elections to apply their Leadership skills. We also organised competitive ball games for teachers and parents in our community, a chance for all to practise their Teamwork skills.
What's next
Some of the things we would wish to do as our next steps include: rewarding essential skills certificates in assemblies, training new staff, and continuing to reinforce the skills in our normal lessons to help learners have a better future. As Happy Times Junior School, we promise that we shall remain focused and hardworking in order to instil these skills in the learners and community at large.