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Six principles

for building essential skills effectively

Choose a principle to find out more

Listening - click to access this skillSpeaking - click to access this skillProblem Solving - click to access this skillCreativity - click to access this skillStaying Positive - click to access this skillAiming High - click to access this skill

1. Keep it simple

A consistent focus on the essential skills helps ensure everyone’s shared understanding and makes building these skills as tangible as possible. Using the same language all the time makes a big difference.

An Employer volunteer works with a group of school students taking part in an Employer Insights activity day.
An image of primary school pupils holding their hands up in a reading lesson.

2. Start early, keep going

Starting as young as possible allows more time for mastery. The skills are not just about employability, but about thriving in all aspects of life. We work with children as young as 3 years old.

3. Measure it

Take time to reflect on the skills of children and young people – by observing or by self-assessment. This gives a balanced understanding of strengths and weaknesses, highlights progress and shows next steps.

A teacher presents a diagram to their class outlining their skills progress throughout the term.
Two children in a Scouts group are out collecting plants and insects and looking at them through a magnifying glass.

4. Focus tightly

Building skills should build upon a child or young person’s previous learning and skill attainment. It should allow dedicated time just to explicitly build the skill.

5. Keep practising

To accelerate progress in the essential skills, they should be used and reinforced as often as possible – whenever you have the chance with those children and young people.

A team of senior-school students playing netball cheer and hi-five as their team scores.
A group of children on a school trip are shown a 3D printer and have to practice their problem solving skill in finding out how to use it.

6. Bring it to life

Ensure children and young people see the relevance of these skills by linking them with the real world and by bringing real-life problems and challenges to work on.

The front cover of 'The Missing Piece: The essential skills that education forgot' by Tom Ravenscroft. The book cover features an image of a white puzzle piece against a blue background.

Everything we've learned

The Missing Piece: The Essential Skills Education Forgot details the rationale for building essential skills, in the light of a decade of practice with over 150,000 children and young people. It rigorously examines the arguments for and evidence behind the six principles, as well as discussing the thinking behind the development of the Skills Builder Framework. The book also looks to the future, outlining a roadmap for the changes we must make to our education system so that every student can be equipped with the skills, experiences and aspirations that will empower them to succeed in life.

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Download the introduction for free

We build essential skills with a complete framework that goes step by step.

The eight Essential Skill icons: Listening, Speaking, Problem solving, Creativity, Staying positive, Aiming high, Leadership and Teamwork.

We work to ensure that one day, everyone will build the essential skills, experiences and aspirations to succeed. So we created the Skills Builder Framework, which underpins our programmes. It takes each of the eight skills and breaks them down into teachable and learnable steps - from the age of three through to adulthood.

Read over 200 case studies from schools and colleges embedding this approach.

See the Case Studies Showcase
Check out the Award guide

Join a rapidly-growing global partnership

We have built a partnership of schools, employers and other organisations all using the Skills Builder Framework to develop skills with children and young people.

Learn more about the Partnership
An image of a globe surrounded by skills icons and circular portraits of people from a variety of life-stages and careers. The implied meaning is that people are building skills across the globe in all walks of life and ages.
The front cover of the Skills Builder Handbook for Educators, by Tom Ravenscroft.

Get the Skills Builder Handbook

Published in full for the first time, the handbook helps any educator to use the Skills Builder approach with their students - whether in primary, secondary, college or specialist settings.

Download now