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Newark Hill Academy

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Newark Hill Academy
Context
Newark Hill Academy is a two form entry primary school, with 30 pupils in each class. We are located in the East Midlands, in Peterborough and our school is very close to the City Centre. We have a higher than average proportion of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL), as well as Special Educational Needs (SEN). At Newark Hill Academy, our ethos and our values are very much centred around the whole child approach and providing our children with all of the skills they need in order to lead successful lives, not only throughout their school journeys but also in their wider lives too. We began our Skills Builder Journey in 2020. We were keen to enrol onto the programme because we are passionate about equipping our children with the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their full potential in life. We felt that the Skills Builder programme would integrate well into our existing curriculum and support our staff with ways in which to embed the essential skills into their teaching.
Overall impact
The Skills Builder programme has had a really positive impact on both our pupils and staff. Staff have reported that they have found the programme simple and easy to implement within their existing teaching, and also that the resources provided on the Skills Builder Hub are a good support in delivering effective and engaging explicit teaching opportunities. Our children, across the whole school, are able to articulate what each skill means and they demonstrate awareness of how they can make progress within each of the skills. This has been particularly evident from pupil voice.
Keep it simple
Our long-term and medium-term planning highlights which skills are being focused on for each half term. All classrooms, from Reception through to Year 6 and including our STEM lab and art studio, have the essential skills on display so that they can always be referred to and children are able to make the connection visually between their learning and the essential skills they are using. At Newark Hill Academy, we have a whole school reward system in place to recognise pupils' achievements across the essential skills. Our dojo-points system is linked to the skills so that children are rewarded points when they are demonstrating good use of a particular skill. Staff meetings, parent meetings and newsletters regularly reference the essential skills. We use our school newsletter to promote the Skills Builder Framework to our parents, and to set homezone challenges. We also use our half termly 'Celebration of Learning' events to promote the essential skills to our parents.
Start early, keep going
Our essential skill teaching includes all children, from Foundation Stage right through to Year 6. All staff have access to the resources on the 'Skills Builder Hub' and they use these frequently to support their teaching. All year groups and classes have regular and planned opportunities for the learning and practising of essential skills. This year we have developed a 'progression of essential skills' document in order to guide staff as to which steps specifically focussing on (both for teaching and assessing) with their pupils. We recognise that some cohorts or particular groups of children are at different stages with their skills, therefore our 'progression of essential skills' acts only as a guide.
Measure it
We have continued to work to increase the consistency of our assessment of skills across the school. We have the expectation that all class teachers use the formative class assessment tool on the Skills Builder Hub, on a termly basis, so we can observe the progression the children have made and their next steps. Our newly developed 'progression of essential skills' document provides staff with a guide as to which steps to specifically focus on with their pupils. This year, teachers have been given a refresher session on assessment, and newer staff members have been provided with more in-depth training. This year, we have started to trial a more individualised approach to assessment by creating a small 'case study' for a small number of our pupil premium children. It is our intention to roll this out across more year groups next year.
Focus tightly
Skills Builder is embedded into our planning, across the whole school. Each half term, teachers select a small number of essential skills to explicitly focus on for the duration of that particular topic. All essential skills are referenced to throughout teaching and learning, however for this smaller number of chosen skills, time is specifically dedicated for explicit teaching to take place. Teachers choose their skill focuses according to the needs of their class and also how well they lend themselves to the topic covered. Regular opportunities to develop essential skills are given to all pupils, by skills being embedded across all areas of learning and through everyday classroom language. The essential skills are mapped to the themes and topics of each lesson. Across the school, planning demonstrates that all teachers dedicate time to the teaching of skills, pitching teaching at an appropriate level. Teachers use resources on the Hub, lessons, videos and other resources.
Keep practising
Our curriculum planning makes reference to opportunities for practising essential skills across all subjects, making it as clear as possible where the children are given the opportunities to practise particular essential skills within different lessons throughout each day. The skills icons are referenced within learning objectives. This is also the same for homework, the relevant skills icons are referenced, so that pupils and parents can see which skills are being used. Learning walks and teacher and pupil voice surveys are conducted on a half termly basis to monitor curriculum planning and other references to the essential skills. The essential skills are also enhanced within our extra-curricular provision, with different after school clubs focusing in on a different skill area. Parents are encouraged to engage with the Homezone learning challenges. This year we have developed a Skills Builder Committee, made up of a small number of pupils from every year group.
Bring it to life
We host careers events throughout the year and, during these, we ensure that discussions and activities make reference to the essential skills. During our employer live events, we make explicit links to the essential skills and encourage the children to reflect specifically on these. We encourage our guest speakers, and other visitors to school, to refer to the skills explicitly during their discussions. This year, we have developed a Committee who have the responsibility of speaking to our visitors about the programme. Our pupils have the opportunity to attend a careers focussed trips. They are encouraged to link these experiences with the essential skills. During our annual Science Fair, we refer to the skills used by the children in order to highlight where the skills have been utilised. As part of the judgement criteria for each class science presentation, we incorporate speaking into the assessment criteria. As a school we enjoy participating in the challenge days.
What's next
Next year we will continue to embed the essential skills across all aspects of teaching and learning. In particular, we hope to further promote our parental involvement within the programme and provide our parents with even more ways to engage in building the skills at home with their children. It is also our intention to encourage our own staff members to take up opportunities to develop and build on their own essential skills. The Skills Builder Committee pupils will remain the same individuals as this year, to allow them to continue to develop in their new roles as 'skills spotters' across the school. They will take more of a lead role in promoting the essential skills to our pupils and external visitors. In addition to this, we intend to further roll out our more individualised approach towards assessment across the skills, increasing the number of pupils we track more closely.
East of England
United Kingdom