An image of the Eight Essential Skill icons. Listening, Speaking, Problem Solving, Creativity, Staying Positive, Aiming High, Leadership and Teamwork.

Ensure accessible skill development
for all your learners

The essential skills are being embedded in a range of mainstream and specialist settings to ensure skill development is inclusive and accessible for all learners, including those with additional needs.
Explore the Expanded Framework
The front cover of the Skills Builder Expanded Universal Framework.

The Skills Builder
Expanded Universal Framework

An example of how the framework steps within the Expanded Framework are broken-down into separate sub-steps.

This free toolkit comes with the Expanded Framework, which breaks progression down, by placing three simple Stepping Stones between Steps to give more extensive scaffolding.

Download now

The best part is the freedom to adapt to existing practice.

Skills Leader working in Inclusion in London

Join a movement around essential skills

We're bringing educators, employer and impact organisations together to support everyone to build the essential skills for success.

schools and colleges
organisations and employers

Transform essential skills

The Skills Builder Universal Framework provides the national standard for teaching essential skills. It breaks each skill into steps, supporting progress for students of all ages and abilities - including those with special educational needs.

The Skills Builder Universal Framework.

Achieve long-lasting change

Refined over a decade, the Skills Builder Principles underpin a rigorous approach to building essential skills and will form the basis of your strategy. Your success embedding these Principles will be recognised with a Skills Builder Award.

The Six Principles. Keep it Simple. Start young, keep going. Measure it. Focus tightly. Keep Practicing. Bring it to life.

The resources are great and it has given us a strong clear focus for our life skills lessons.

Skills Leader working in Inclusion in Hindhead

Three ways to join the Skills Builder Partnership

Individual teacher
Find out more
Start building skills for free with your own group of students
Create your free account on the Skills Builder Hub
Access 300+ Short Lessons and a suite of supporting resources
Add and assess multiple groups, and see impact over time
Digital Membership
Find out more
Unlock Premium Resources to inspire students across multiple cohorts
Access Challenge Days and extended Projects via the Skills Builder Hub
Add and manage multiple teachers and their classes
Download assessment data and track progress over time
Accelerator Programme
Find out more
Embed a strategic approach with support on our flagship programme
Join a national network of 400+ Skills Leaders
Work closely with our team of teachers on strategy and training
Achieve the Skills Builder Award for high quality provision

Click to see full-size.

I have used Projects as a tool to hang lessons on. It has been enjoyable and has helped my SEN young adults address Staying Positive in a useful way.

Skills Leader working in Inclusion in Woking

See how other schools are building essential skills to support their learners in an inclusive way

Catcote Academy

Catcote Academy

Hartlepool, UK

Catcote caters for secondary and post-16 and post-19 life-long learners with a wide range of special education needs. Catcote has been recognised for excellence in careers education as a “Special Educational Needs Champion’ by the Careers and Enterprise Company. They have only been working with Skills Builder since 2020 but have made an exceptional start!

It’s a whole-college approach – students are able to recognise existing skills and identify skills that need to be developed.
Key Stage 5 Lead

Demonstrating Progress

The students at Catcote have a range of learning needs. The Sixth Form uses the Skills Builder Passports to help students measure their progress against the different skills. In turn, this helps students to evidence and articulate their essential skills outside of the classroom.

Challenge Wednesdays

Catcote Sixth Form uses the Skills Builder Challenge Days and extended Project resources as part of a Challenge Wednesday in school. Students focus on developing their essential skills in new and engaging settings, linked to the workplace.

Short Lessons

Catcote maximises the impact of the Short Lessons and skill videos from the Skills Builder Hub by making time for class discussion and reflection after using them. Supporting the students to talk about the skills with confidence is really important, and the language of the Framework makes this easier.

Chadsgrove School

Chadsgrove School

Birmingham, UK

Chadsgrove is a Special School in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire which caters for pupils aged 2–19 years whose Special Educational Needs arise from their physical disability or a complex health need.  The school’s aims, values and ethos are built firmly on mutual respect and enabling everyone to develop as an individual, and they offer a rich and engaging curriculum which focuses on creativity and first-hand experience both inside and outside the classroom.

"The Framework will continue to be an integral part of preparing our pupils for transition into adulthood."
Emma Nolan, Skills Leader

Preparing for adulthood

Chadsgrove initially introduced the Framework to post-16 learners during their ‘Preparation for Adulthood Transition’ lessons. Having identified focus skills, teachers introduced learners to the language and what this looks like in different contexts.

Developing independence

The school recognised the role of the framework in developing learners’ independence. Students recognise their feelings when something goes wrong and name them with specific terminology that is used in the Framework, opening up dialogue.

Tracking progress

Keeping track of learners’ progress allows staff to record successes as well as identifying further areas for development.  Each teacher completes an assessment and uses the Framework so lessons continue to focus on the most relevant skills for their learners.

Elmwood & Penrose Federation

Elmwood & Penrose Federation

Bridgwater, UK

The Elmwood & Penrose Federation provides 3 phases of education to pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.  The Federation is made up of Penrose (primary), Elmwood (secondary) and The Jean Rees Centre (Elmwood School sixth form).

"Students are more familiar with identifying these skills and it has supported students with self-assessment. Work experience targets are also set for each student and the Skills Builder framework is used to ensure they are purposeful."
Ryan Parker-Binns, Middle Leader for 6th Form and Careers Lead at The Jean Rees Centre

Supporting the curriculum

The Framework is embedded within the careers programme for the federation; each of the elements of the careers framework has been linked to one of the essential skills. The curriculum is mapped over three years and each term focuses on two skills, allowing students to focus.

Consistent language

They have focused on language, introducing students to the skills so that they fully understand what they mean.  Displays and other visuals has been key in developing a common language. Using them on a daily basis means students take ownership of their own progress.

Tracking progress

Essential skills are embedded in key documents used daily to track learning. These have allowed staff to track progress over time and students are more familiar with the skills, supporting self-assessment.  Work experience targets are also set for each student and the Framework is used to ensure they are purposeful.

Littledown School

Littledown School

Berkshire, UK

Littledown Special School in Slough supports children aged 4 to 11 with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties. It provides a safe and stimulating environment where children develop the skills which enable them to be included in their communities. Littledown has been working with Skills Builder since 2016.

The eight skills are a key part of this programme which links in with other parts of the curriculum enabling the children to use the skills in all subjects.
Nicki Heaffey, Curriculum Lead

Consistent focus

A consistent focus on skills helps ensure a shared understanding and makes building these skills as tangible as possible. Using the same language all the time makes a big difference and that is why essential skills are referenced throughout all lessons. Teachers focus on two essential skills per half-term and highlight to students where these are used in different subjects.

Regular Practice

Students at Littledown have regular opportunities to apply their essential skills to a range of experiences linked to the world outside the classroom through Projects using the interactive resources on Skills Builder Hub. There, by applying focus skills linked to key themes, students have developed reading areas, designed toy prototypes and even baked goodies for their own pop-up bakeries!

Bring it to Life

Explicitly using the essential skills is actively encouraged in all aspects of learning. This includes trips to employer workplaces, where students have learned more about the roles of engineers at a waterworks and the range of roles within a highway service provider. Working alongside volunteers, students applied their skills to industry-related challenges and reflected on the skills used.

Manor Green School

Manor Green School

Berkshire, UK

Manor Green is a special school in Maidenhead for students aged 2–19 with a range of special educational needs. They offer a varied curriculum, enriched by the ACE Model’s components of successful learning: Academic progress, Care and therapeutic support and Enrichment and life skills. Manor Green has been working with us since 2018.

I love the Skills Builder short lessons. They are a really useful tool to work upon students’ skills and super easy to follow and adjust to suit the needs of the class.
Class teacher

Project-based learning

Lessons for Middle School students at Manor Green follow a project-based learning curriculum. Essential skills are embedded throughout this, using Skills Builder project themes as a termly focus to highlight explicit focus skills. These skills are explicitly referenced in all subject areas to highlight the transferability of the skills being developed.

Measuring progress

Essential skills form a key part of students’ development and teachers use assessment systems to identify individuals’ strengths and areas for development. Ongoing observations allow for progress to be monitored, alongside regular reflections and self-assessment opportunities. Teachers support students to recognise these skills in action and articulate their own strengths.

Skills in context

Students take part in a range of activities to bring skills to life in other contexts. These include projects and challenges, with students working on tasks linked to areas of work through class-based activities. Students apply these through their work in the school café, whilst workplace visits have allowed students to see how different skills are used by employers.

Maplewell Hall School

Maplewell Hall School

Loughborough, UK

Maplewell Hall School has been working with us since 2018 to embed essential skills into the school’s teaching and learning, careers and pastoral provision, with a particular focus on the language of skills and how this can support both students and parents with their next steps.

Skills Builder introduces a consistent vocabulary that is a powerful tool for helping SEN students become more self-aware. Understanding their skills is key to building this confidence to talk about themselves.
Skills Leader, SLT

Links with parents

Staff at Maplewell Hall use the Skills Builder Universal Framework to support their conversations with parents about a student’s next steps and development priorities. They have found the tangible descriptors from the Framework really useful in supporting both parents and students to identify their next steps. These conversations have also formed part of students’ EHCPs.

Existing assessments

Maplewell Hall have found it really effective to weave the Skills Builder approach into existing methods for assessment that staff are already familiar with. They have built Skills Builder into the school’s existing assessment mark books. Now, all teachers can see the impact of essential skill development over the academic year.

Supporting pastoral

As well as supporting teachers, Maplewell Hall are ensuring that intervention and pastoral teams are equipped with the tools and resources to support students with their skills development. This includes Learning Support Assistants, Home School Link workers and Behaviour/Pastoral staff working within the COMPASS team.

Orchard Manor School

Orchard Manor School

Devon, UK

Orchard Manor School, in Dawlish, Devon, is a residential all-through school that provides education and care for pupils with communication and interaction difficulties, autistic spectrum conditions and learning needs. The school joined the Skills Builder Partnership in 2019 to help build the essential skills of all students from EYFS through to post-16.

As a special school, the development of the non-academic curriculum is very important and Skills Builder offers pupils the opportunity to develop essential life- and work-related skills.
Bryan Webster, Assistant Principal

Across the Curriculum

In their first year of using the Skills Builder Universal Framework, Orchard Manor focused on one skill per half-term across the school, making reference to the skills across the curriculum. Learners also took part in a number of Skills Builder projects as well as explicitly teaching the skills through twice-weekly life skills sessions.

Skills and Employability

By explicitly referencing the essential skills within learners’ work experience placements, the school is further highlighting the transferability of these skills and giving students tangible examples of applying these skills in a range of contexts.  

Engaging Experiences

This year, Orchard Manor School has been using skills-focused projects and challenge days to bring the skills to life. Year 5 and 6 really enjoyed applying their Listening, Problem Solving and Teamwork skills as they took part in the ‘Operation Moonbase’ Challenge Day.