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Ryhope Junior School

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Ryhope Junior School
Ryhope Junior School is a two-form entry junior school (Years 3-6) in Sunderland. We have always had high expectations of and for the children we teach but as the school sits in a varied catchment area, some children's expectations for themselves do not mirror our own. One of the main focuses of our school has been to raise the aspirations of our pupils, their families, and others in the local community. This was one of our main priorities when applying and taking part in the Careers Benchmark Primary Pilot as pupil priorities and aims for the future were low. We felt that many of the skills in the Accelerator programme would encourage and support these aims alongside the work already started with Careers in school.
Overall impact
We feel the Accelerator programme has really helped us understand how teaching skills to all of our children can support them in many other areas of the curriculum and their wider lives, now and in the future. Due to the training offered, all staff fully understand the resources and how best to use them with their whole class or with smaller intervention or nurture groups. Because of the small steps within the skills, they can so easily be adapted for all year groups which has made it easy to support all staff with introducing the programme. A highlight for us was the Operation Moonbase Challenge Day which we used as a whole school as part of our British Science Week activities. All children took part in the challenge on the same day and later in the week, parents were invited into school to listen to the children's presentations. All children and parents were very complimentary about the event and we were very proud of all children standing to speak in front of unfamiliar adults. We would recommend this day to any school starting the programme!
Keep it simple
To embed the skills quickly with pupils, we made sure all eight skills are prominently displayed across the school so all children and any visitors are aware of them wherever they are. This also makes it easy for all staff to reference the skills to children wherever they are in the building and whatever lessons they are teaching. Each month, we have focused on one specific skill across the school as our 'skill of the month'. The specific monthly skill has been used and promoted across the school through home learning challenges, referencing in PHSE floor books, promotion in our weekly rewards 'Shine' assembly, parent curriculum leaflets, and on our school website. Governors have also been kept up-to-date in School Improvement Committee meetings. All children are able to reference the skills and will often point out the skills posters during lessons if they feel they are using one or more of the skills.
Start early, keep going
In our school, all children from every year group are taught the 8 essential skills for their future. As a junior school, it was important to us that all children were given that opportunity from the moment they join us in Year 3, to them leaving us in Year 6. This was part of the motivation to have the skill posters displayed prominently around school for all children to reference. Moving forward, it would be wonderful to think that our feeder infant school and main secondary feeder school could also adopt the skills into their practice to ensure a common thread for all children.
Measure it
Measuring skills has not always been easy as we have not had a big focus on teaching Skills Builder as explicit lessons, instead using the skills within our current curriculum where we fell they work best. Teachers use the 8 key skills as a reference point when planning and consider what skills are being taught in lessons alongside the knowledge being taught through the subject. As we did not want to add to teacher workload, it seemed laborious for teachers to have to add the symbols to their planning; it is enough to note down when they are being taught or used in a lesson. As one method of evidence, each year group (2-form entry) keeps a track of one child's books and sticks in a 'skills token' when a skill has been used in a lesson. Skills Builder has worked well alongside our weekly PHSE lessons in school. Each class records the 'Skill of the Month' in the PHSE floor book to show what aspect of the skill they have used or learned more about.
Focus tightly
When first starting the Skills Builder Accelerator programme, we knew that, across school, there was no more time in a very packed timetable for any additional lessons so had to make Skills Builder work for us. As previously mentioned, this meant highlighting the skills being taught and used by the children in the lessons we already teach. We feel this has taught the children how widely used all of the skills are, rather than approaching them stand-alone. Particular skills are highlighted as a 'skill of the month' but all skills are taught and used weekly as part of everyday lessons. Each Friday, a group of 6 children who have an EHCP work with some teaching assistants as part of a 'life skills' group. This session covers many different activities and they try something new each week but always link with one or more of the 8 key skills. These are referenced in their own floor book of evidence.
Keep practising
Many of the ideas we have used have supported school in embedding Skills Builder as part of our everyday school life and shown how the skills are used by all children and reinforced by school staff. Staff have taken part in the teacher training session - led by our skills leader in school having been given information and resources to use by our Skills Builder Associate - so they understand why we are using Skills Builder in our school and the importance of it. Some of the key ways it is used and reinforced often are: Skill of the month, referencing in class, Parent curriculum maps, Challenge days and Virtual trips. During transition days with classes for the next academic year, teachers focused on 'Aiming High' which was our skill of the month for June and July. Every class discussed having high aspirations, both for the year ahead and beyond.
Bring it to life
Since September 2019, we have been one of the many schools in the North East working alongside the North East LEP as part of the Careers Benchmark Primary Pilot. During that time, we have focused tightly on how we raise the aspirations of all pupils in school and broaden their knowledge of the careers and training available to them in their lives. We are proud that we were able to continue with that work in school throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns by centering our efforts on what could be achieved in school rather than visits out or visitors into school. Sunderland University came to work with all children in school, completing workshops, assemblies and even staying for parents evening. We have consistently had a careers display in school to inspire children to try different routes and think about how far they could go. Challenge days and Virtual trips in school have been particularly beneficial for the children to see how they can use these skills in the real world.
What's next
We plan to stick with using the Skills Builder resources in school next year and aim to include more Virtual Trips, Challenge Days and Projects as they have worked so well this year. We linked to Science this year and there are obvious links to PHSE, but we would also like to link further with ther areas of the curriculum. We trialed using the Leadership resources with Head Boy and Girl and the School Council but this did not get started until later in the year. We would like to start this from September when they are first elected in the new academic year.
North East England
United Kingdom