We were delighted to partner with Skills Builder for our third Learner Profile Community of Practice session, bringing together teachers and school and college leaders to discuss the importance of explicitly teaching and evidencing skills and dispositions across the curriculum, and how developing a school-wide understanding of skills – and a shared language – are key to a successful integration.
For the event we co-designed and launched two new learner profile Google Site templates built around the Skills Builder framework, which are free to download in the Learner Profile Starter Kit.
Why teach and evidence skills?
Tom Ravenscroft, Founder and CEO of Skills Builder, shared their research evidence which suggests that essential skills predict job satisfaction as strongly as income, and individuals with higher essential skills also report higher life satisfaction. The Essential Skills Tracker 2023 shows that individuals with higher essential skill levels are 25-50% less likely to be out of employment or education, and are associated with a wage premium of about £3,600-£4,600 per year.
He emphasised that the development of specific and identifiable essential skills can be one of the most important parts of a young person's education in realising their potential.
Why do we need a framework?
Tom discussed how the Universal Framework arose from a need amongst teachers and leaders:
“We realised as teachers that there are real barriers to understanding. What do these skills really look like? How do we assess them over time? How can we build those skills in our classrooms? And how might we do this across a whole institution. And that's really where we’ve focused our work over the last 15 years.”
What is the Skills Builder Framework?
The framework is a tool to support a consistent, structured approach to skills and dispositions across the curriculum – a universal framework from early years into adulthood.
In order to make progress in each skill area, teachers needed to define them much more tightly. So Skills Builder created a framework around 8 different essential skills.
The big questions?
- How do you build them in children and young people?
- What is the sequence of steps or tools that one has to learn in order to move from being an absolute beginner in these skill areas through to mastery?
- In Reception or Year One – being able to follow simple instructions, being able to ask for help if needed, being able to explore and find the answer to something.
- Through primary and into secondary – at a more intermediate level, starting to explore complex problems, where there's no one simple ‘correct’ answer, understanding the idea of causes and effects, or being able to use research.
- In upper secondary level – using logical reasoning or being able to create and test hypotheses.
- Higher Education or professional development – being able to create and implement strategic plans, for example, through a higher level apprenticeship or a university course, or career development.
Top tips for curriculum implementation
- Creating plenty of opportunities to have focused time where you can talk to students about specific aspects of the skills that they want to develop
- Building skills little and often, step by step over time (using a framework can help with identifying steps and sequencing)
- Embedding into medium term planning, focusing on one or two skills across a subject areas – e.g. citizenship planning in year 7 – mapping specific steps of a skill into medium term plans and schemes of work
- Emphasising skill breadth across a curriculum area – e.g. in DT, identifying in lessons what skills might be relevant, specific aspects of these skills, where are these opportunities going to be? Insert these opportunities into planning so they aren't missed
- Consider extra curricular provision, and provide opportunities for non teaching staff and support staff to also use the same language with learners, so that they're better able to see where these opportunities to build essential skills exist outside of lessons to make the connections between skill development and different forms of learning
- Explore careers provision as a window of opportunity – e.g. some schools provide a plan for each student, linking curriculum – e.g. what students are doing across science – to careers exploration and research, and the necessary skills for that sector
Evelyn shared the importance of essential skills across a learner’s everyday life experiences:
“As a learner, you can see where they are used and applied in lots of different settings, whether it's a maths lesson or an after School Arts club, or the football that you play on Saturday morning.”
Using a Google Site to evidence essential skills
With Skills Builder we have co-developed a Learner Profile Google Site template specifically to support the embedding and evidencing of skills. In the session, Evelyn shared the template as a space to gather together evidence of learning, with the goal of helping learners better articulate their skill set. She said;
“You speak to a learner and say, can you give me an example of where you've shown great teamwork?
[It] has the goal of leading [learners to] internalise and then being better able to articulate when [asked] to talk about themselves… and those examples are really important.”
The Google Site template enables teachers and learners to make those opportunities visible, and create a place to gather evidence, enabling students to identify and then develop their essential skills, and make those connections between different learning experiences.
Skills integration gathers momentum
Across the UK, the impact of Skills Builder is growing. Now used by 900 organisations across education and employment, the Partnership has a touchpoint with 87% of secondary schools and colleges in England. Informal and non formal learning providers, such as the Children’s University and Scouts, also use this approach. As Tom noted:
“Now, we're seeing it being used in schools across the country in colleges and primary schools and secondary schools and alternative provision settings. We're also seeing it being used by employers as they look at how they recruit and how they continue to train and develop their staff. And it's brought to life by a whole group of other organisations, National Citizen Service, Sports clubs, UK Youth, young enterprise.”
Check out the videos from Tom and Evelyn, and you can access the Google Site template, and make your own copy for free. Go to https://rethinkingassessment.com/learner-profile/ and scroll down to the bottom of the page to register and create a free log in.