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Shri Natesan Vidyasala MHSS

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Shri Natesan Vidyasala MHSS
Context
Shri Natesan Vidyasala Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chennai, India, was started 28 years ago with the vision of education for all. Our school has been successful in bringing the vision possible by transforming a sleepy village into an educational hub. The students of our school not only excel in academics but also in their holistic development. The school has taken part in many international programmes with organisations like the British Council. Many students and staff of our school have visited countries like Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, China and Egypt. This is our second year of working with Skills Builder and builds off our work with the British Council’s Core Skills programme.
Overall impact
The Skills Builder approach was introduced to the school in the 2021-22 academic year. As this was our second year, many more teachers were involved in the project at the planning and implementation level. Teachers attended sessions to improve their understanding of skills development and how to effectively deliver it in their classrooms. We also built teacher feedback into our plan this year, with teachers having internal and between department meetings to discuss: ‘What went well ? What went wrong? How can we improve?’ Teacher confidence in teaching and assessing skills improved further this year with support and guidance. We also saw the students improve their listening and speaking skills. They became more confident and self-reliant.
Keep it simple
At the start of the year, groups of steps of the Listening and Speaking skills were chosen by the teachers. This helped our teachers to have a clear focus and taxonomy in mind. With the help of the Skills Builder Hub and resources, we were able to focus closely on the focus skills and help students to enhance these through simple activities. This year, we also had a focus on engaging parents and introducing them to the Skills Builder framework. We did this through the Homezone and Benchmark platforms. We continued to use Skills Builder to focus celebration and success with our students throughout the school and continued to have the icons of the essential skills always on display in the classrooms.
Start early, keep going
Last year, the Skills Builder programme was conducted from Grade 3 to Grade 12. This year, we wanted all grades to be involved in the approach, including the Kindergarten classes. We were delighted to see the improvement in our youngest students! To support this whole school approach, we had to differentiate the curriculum. For example in the Kindergarten classrooms, their curriculum was also focused on activities that allowed them to practise their communication skills and we read them stories. However, for older students, we used the Persona Life Skills platform to help them focus their learning and make it more appropriate for their age.
Measure it
We have chosen many assessment methodologies to understand the improvement of the students. This year, we used events and competitions to focus our teachers’ assessment. For example, Grade 1-5 focused their skills and assessment in the Buds to Blossom project whilst Grade 6-8 used spelling bees and poetry recitation to assess the individual student. The Economist Topical Talk programme was used with the older learners. This allowed our teachers to have a clear focus on when assessment should happen and to give students the opportunity to showcase their skills.
Focus tightly
This year, two periods a week were allocated exclusively for skills building, with teachers using the Skills Builder Hub and its resources to plan sessions based on particular skills and steps. These sessions had a clear skill focus and outcome. Students were given opportunities to discuss the outcome of the previous skills class and given steps or areas to work on and improve. The whole school ran on this timetable.
Keep practising
With our clear skills focus, teachers across the whole school were able to reinforce the skills through their wider teaching. The Skills Leadership monitored this process throughout the year, speaking with teachers and gathering examples. We also ran a huge number of activities across the whole academic year where students reinforced their essential skills. This year, we had projects focusing on Independence Day, Republic Day, Moodhurai (Ancient Wisdom), Panel Discussion, Online Debates through Topical Talk, Recitation, and ‘I learn I share’. Each of these were mapped to particular skills for the students to identify and apply. There were also additional projects for other groups of students. We released a magazine titled “VOYAGE - A journey beyond the classroom “ which had skills content penned by the students and the teachers. Some students stories were also published in the book ‘ONCE UPON A TIME’ by Akshar Publications. We also did collaborative projects with partner schools in Taiwan and France.
Bring it to life
This year, we wanted to engage parents with the development of skills through many activities.They participated in the annual day along with the students and in Rangoli competitions organised for them. In few of the activities, they were the audience. Our work was shared through the school YouTube and Facebook links for the parents to view and give their suggestions and feedback. We also had a Parent club in which a few of our parents visited the school frequently and met with the school authorities and discussed their opinions on skills development. We had received more than 15 parent testimony videos which motivated us to do better. We also ran a number of community projects this year, with students contributing to a fund for Orphanages and homes for children with special needs. Few of our students went and helped children with special needs as a community outreach programme. Students used passports and reflective logs to note how their skills had developed through these opportunities.
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