New research reveals teachers’ support of teaching and evidencing essential skills

New research underscores clear support among UK teachers for integrating essential skills into education, highlighting a consensus for reforming curriculum and assessment methods to better prepare students for future success.

Across the world bodies such as the World Economic Forum, the OECD and a growing number of countries are being explicit about the range of skills and dispositions they want young people to acquire, alongside the knowledge that they need, and are building these skills into their education systems.

In the first piece of research of its kind, the Skills Builder Partnership 2024 Essential Skills Tracker, focusses on understanding teacher perceptions and views of essentials, adding more evidence to the growing body of literature.

The research paper shows that teaching professionals in the UK are overwhelmingly in support of building essential skills in education – and suggests that policy makers should introduce essential skills into assessment, accountability and the curriculum not only because this is popular with teaching professionals, but because research also shows that higher levels of essential skills unlock higher wages, job satisfaction, life satisfaction and social mobility.

Key Findings

  • Teaching professionals value essential skills even more highly than the overwhelming levels of importance attributed by the general population. Of UK working-age adults, 92% believe that essential skills are important for success within their career. There is a very clear view that a portfolio of skills is viewed as important for learners’ success in education and in securing employment opportunities.
  • The research demonstrates demand from teachers with 98% responding that they think essential skills are important for their learners’ employment opportunities. However, only 3% report that they believe the education system prepares young people very well for life. It is clear that teachers are pushing for curriculum and assessment to move forward and better prepare their learners for the future.
  • Only a quarter of teaching professionals agree that essential skills are currently being taught sufficiently in education (24%), with a very small number agreeing strongly (3%).
  • Teaching essential skills in education is an incredibly popular policy with teaching professionals. A total of 94% support this approach, with the majority (52%) “strongly” supporting building essential skills in education.
  • Teaching professionals also see the potential for assessment to shift to being more holistic to include essential skills (86% support this) as well as multi-modal (92%).12 Shifting to multi-modal assessment that gives young people the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through different types of assessment would be particularly well-suited to allowing learners to demonstrate skills like speaking, listening and teamwork.

Curriculum & Assessment

Essential skills are those highly transferable skills that everyone needs to do almost any job, which make knowledge and technical skills fully productive. The research shows a nationally representative consensus among educators with 94% in support building essential skills into the curriculum. Teaching professionals see the potential for assessment to shift to being more holistic to include essential skills (86% support this) as well as multi-modal (92%). This holistic, multi-modal approach would move beyond standardised assessments to give young people the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through different types. This would be particularly well-suited to allowing learners to demonstrate skills like speaking, listening and teamwork.

Teacher Voice

The 2024 Essential Skills Tracker is the first to explore teacher opinions on essential skills based on the widely adopted Universal Framework, following fieldwork by YouGov of a panel of 1,006 teaching professionals across the UK, that enables nationally representative findings.

We know that providing structured and comprehensive opportunities to build essential skills in education leads to higher levels of essential skills. The report states that, ‘For securing employment opportunities, teachers almost unanimously see a portfolio of essential skills, literacy and numeracy as being important for employment opportunities, at 98%, 99% and 96% of respondents respectively.’

Cultivating key skills and dispositions are essential for addressing disadvantage and promoting social mobility. Developing skills enables learners to put their knowledge into practice and, we believe, should be systematically embedded across the system to enable all young people to thrive. At Rethinking Assessment we think essential skills should be explicitly taught and evidenced, and teachers should receive training on how to build them in the classroom.

Check out our Field Guide to Assessing Creative Thinking

Also see Melbourne Metrics Assessing Complex Competencies

Read about Cheadle Hulme School on the design of their skills Diploma

Take a look at Aspirations Academy’s Power Skills curriculum on our blog

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