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