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Knutton St Marys CofE Academy

This content was written by
Knutton St Marys CofE Academy
Knutton St. Mary's is a Church of England academy with approximately 200 pupils from Nursery to Year 6, situated in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire. We are part of St. Bart's Multi-Academy Trust which is a family of 19 schools in the West Midlands. Our school is committed to enabling every individual to flourish; fulfilling their God-given potential and becoming lifelong learners, so they 'shine like bright stars in the sky'. We believe that our children deserve a school which provides high quality education that broadens horizons, builds resilience and raises future aspirations. For us, in preparing children for their futures in the 21st Century, the essential skills were the missing part of the jigsaw and we knew that Skills Builder would fully support our vision. Skills Builder supports all children in developing the essential skills at their own pace, building an understanding of their own strengths and next steps. This enables all children to experience empowerment and success.
Overall impact
Implementing the essential skills in Knutton St. Mary's has been hugely beneficial for our school community. It has fully supported our vision and has enriched our recovery following the pandemic, with the whole school working together to develop the essential skills. As we have been rebuilding community links, it has given us a clear purpose and Framework which has underpinned our children's development. For example, in our intergenerational work. The training ensured that staff felt confident to teach the skills explicitly and weave them through the curriculum. This is evident across the whole school. The EYFS Lead stated; "It has supported the staff in building strong foundations as the children continue on their learning journey." In Year 6, the teacher commented; "It works well with the curriculum and matches the personal needs of the children."
Keep it simple
Skills Builder is part of our School Development Plan and Pupil Premium Strategy. It is high profile within school life and skills are regularly referenced in staff meetings and with governors. We focus on one skill per month. These are on curriculum plans which are published on our website. The language of essential skills is embedded and used extensively across the school. Our focus skill is rewarded weekly in our celebration assembly when individuals are recognised for developing the skill within the broader curriculum. At the end of each focus, every child earns a certificate. This is shared in our weekly newsletter, on Twitter and on the website. Every class has a Skills Builder working wall which displays the essential skills and scaffolds skill development. In addition, we have a display in the hall which celebrates the application of skills with photographs of the children. We use the essential skill icons across the school environment, including the playground.
Start early, keep going
Knutton St. Mary's has embedded the essential skills across the school with everybody focusing on the same skill at the same time. The use of teacher assessment ensures that the teachers focus on the appropriate steps. All year groups and classes have regular and planned opportunities for the learning and practising of the skills. There is a timetabled weekly session for all KS1 and KS2 classes, whilst EYFS use circle time. Our year group curriculum plans and staff calendar map the focus skill across the year and our website, Twitter and weekly newsletter highlight and celebrate the learning opportunities children have had.
Measure it
All teachers use the Skills Builder Hub to baseline children and use this to prioritise and inform their teaching of essential skills. This ensures that children are being taught and given opportunities to apply the appropriate steps. At the end of a monthly skill focus, teachers assess progress from the baseline. In addition, teachers revisit their assessments where continued application of an earlier focus skill across the curriculum and through wider opportunities has secured progress, such as a visit or a themed day. Other staff involved with the class, including the teaching assistant, contribute to this.
Focus tightly
Across Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, all teachers ensure that the essential focus skill is explicitly taught in a timetabled session at the start of each week. This is pitched according to assessment. The skill is then built upon throughout the week, across the curriculum and rewarded during our 'Celebrate and Praise' assembly. EYFS teach the skill during circle time and then this feeds into continuous provision. The Accelerator Programme has supported our school to embed our approach and the staff training was invaluable to ensure every teacher felt confident in engaging in focused and explicit teaching of a skill. We also use our website to share the focus skill as well as engaging home activities for parents/carers and their children.
Keep practising
All teachers exploit links across the curriculum areas in order to provide opportunities for children to practise the essential skills. In EYFS, this is a focus of continuous provision. In KS1 and KS2, this encompasses the full range of the curriculum, from English and Maths, to PE and Music. We have developed wider opportunities which focus on the essential skills. This includes the KS2 residential and community events. Each January, we start the new year with a whole school topic based on a shared text. During our planning for this, subject leaders worked as a team to develop learning opportunities to use and reinforce the essential skills. All of our extra-curricular activities have a specific skill focus. For example, our Goblin Car club focuses on problem solving whilst our Mindfulness club focuses on staying positive.
Bring it to life
Every child has had an opportunity to engage with project-based learning through our whole school text. We have spent the year rebuilding our wider community links after the pandemic which has enriched our essential skill learning. This has included our legacy learning projects, intergenerational projects, Police Cadets, a Lego challenge day with our local college and employer encounters. We have also achieved our Gold Award during our PDSA careers week and used the Trash to Treasure project. All KS2 topics start with a focus on a linked career which includes discussion about the essential skills as well as academic pathways. This means our pupils are exposed to many different careers and the essential skills they need to develop for these jobs. Therefore, they are introduced to amazing possibilities to inspire them and encourage them to live life in all its fullness.
What's next
Knutton St. Mary's is committed to further embedding the essential skills in order to support us in improving the life chances of all of our children. We will continue to build our wider community links and ensure there are many opportunities to welcome parents/carers into school for project days and events. We have rewritten aspects of our curriculum to ensure that opportunities such as enterprise challenges are planned for from September. As all staff and children are now familiar with the essential skills, we will continue to develop and broaden opportunities throughout the curriculum. We will also explore the use of the Expanded Framework and use the Stepping Stones where appropriate.
West Midlands
United Kingdom