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Manor Green College

This content was written by
Manor Green College
Manor Green College in Crawley, is a dynamic and inspirational West Sussex SEND secondary school for students between the ages of 11-19 who experience a wide range of learning difficulties. The core purpose of MGC is to discover and develop every student's potential in preparation for their adult life, and our fundamental belief is that happy learners learn better. During their journey with us, students will have opportunities to take part and try their best without fear of failure. They will become more self-aware and as a result, learn self-belief and resilience. Skills Builder provides a great way for our students to understand and communicate the skills that they will need to follow their own individual path in the world.
Overall impact
Concentrating initially on the FE department this year, our eldest students took every opportunity to interact with the community outside the college. Situated close to Gatwick Airport, the devastation caused to the local economy had a very real impact on their families and neighbours and it was especially important that we prepare them for the jobs that would return once COVID restrictions began to loosen. Most students had been able to take part in college life during the lock down both online and in person and we were quickly able to build on what we had started, once we were all back together. The Accelerator programme has enabled us all to talk to people outside of the education environment using a common vocabulary, show that we understand the skills that are so important in the wider community and are preparing our students in a very focused way.
Keep it simple
With an incredibly creative staff team, the FE department has been covered with visual cues to support the Skills Builder skills. Each classroom has a set of portable posters which can be moved around the room and placed on desks while a skills is being highlighted, we have posters including the inclusive ones with symbols in every room, a display of students photos showing them demonstrating their skills at home and lots and lots of certificates awarded for specific displays of the skills. We have progressed from Teachers and other staff awarding the certificates, to the students recognising skills in each other and awarding their own certificates which really encourages them to speak to each other using skills language as well as in lessons.
Start early, keep going
Having started with the FE unit only, one of the Year 11 class teachers spotted the posters and came to see what it was all about and they joined us after a term. Together we have trialled a number of ideas and in June we held an all ages Introduction to Skills Builder Day for all students KS3, KS4 and KS5 including our most sensory challenged young people. We followed it up with a colouring book featuring the icons for every student, to help them to fix the colours and shapes as well as the words in their mind. Everyone is really looking forward to rolling it out to all students next academic year and already the language is being used and the icons spotted throughout the school.
Measure it
Due to the very different needs of each student, we started off using the Hub to register each one individually but found this very difficult to keep on top of. Our support staff have been fantastic at spotting the students using the various levels in practice and we are so grateful for their enthusiastic support for the programme and students. Now that we will be including every student, we have devised a much less onerous way to measure, and we are glad that we had the chance to learn from our over-optimism this year with fewer young people to track online! Notwithstanding the difficulties, our students have all made significant, measurable progress. We have found that with SEND students, their development of steps are not always in the same order but that is fine, it just confirms the need to treat every student as an individual.
Focus tightly
Skills Builder skills are being explicitly taught particularly in weekly timetabled Employability sessions and in English to allow time for them to be discussed and demonstrated as the main focus of the lesson. The skills are then included in all other sessions as a matter of course, including social time, visits out and lunches. Life Skills is another great place to widen understanding and relate the skills to practical everyday living not just relating them to the workplace but to every aspect of life. We have a variety of Enterprises including an FE café where the students learn all the aspects of hospitality so much in demand in our local area and there are plans for even more of these next year.
Keep practising
Students take part in many cross curricula activities including Princes Trust, National Citizenship, Duke of Edinburgh, community visits to other groups and engagement with employers. The skills are discussed, spotted and rewarded as they naturally occur. The use of common language is key to this. We also send a sheet explaining what we are doing to visitors and other agencies working with our students and specifically ask them to use the same terms and discuss the skills when they interact with us. We held a Next Steps Careers event where we had employers, colleges and other partners come in for the afternoon and evening to share what was on offer after our students leave us. Each stand focused on one of the skills in addition to their own specialty and provided information on which of the skills would be particularly relevant when choosing their offer. Parents came along in the evening and had their first taster of what will be rolled out further next year.
Bring it to life
This year we have taken part in lots of interactions with employers, other organisations locally and in the summer term we were delighted to invite the KS3/4 to a Skills Builder Activities day. We had stations all around the large hall, one for each skill and each station had two or more interactive challenges to take part in to introduce the skills. 93 students took part and over two thirds visited every station which was fantastic. Students from FE supervised each station and very much led the event, teaching the younger ones how to approach the challenges and in some cases how to play with their prizes at the end! Our students particularly love the opportunity to meet Employer groups during Virtual Trip sessions and we were delighted to host local representatives from our sponsor Employers RSA for lunch cooked by the students. We designed lots of resources ourselves, including a bouncy castle for the Summer Fair, and we are developing some specifically for our most sensory challenged students.
What's next
Next year we step things up to a whole school approach - with students of all ages and abilities joining at their own level. There will be lots of projects and activities for individual classes or groups to choose from, as well as Challenge Days where we will all join together to learn about a skill. We have a new reward system to bed in and targets and assessments will be set at an individual pupil level to really focus in on what will help each student to grow. Our Speech and Language team, Physios and Occupational Health professionals will be using the same language too. After introducing parents, partner organisations and employers to the programme we will invite them in to join us on the journey. Ex-students who need help with jobs searching will be able to use Skills Builder to really showcase their attitudes and skills at interviews. There is a massive buzz around Skills Builder and we are so excited to see how we can spread the good news to our community.
South East England
United Kingdom