THIS is a blog about a lovely experience that I have had this week when I visited a primary school who have embedded skills learning into the fabric of their school. This is a primary school who have been graded as Outstanding by OFSTED on 3 separate occasions. This same system of learning was also used within another primary school which helped them improve from the OFSTED category of ‘Special Measures’ to receive a ‘Good’ inspection grading.
They said that the reason for gaining 3 ‘Outstanding’ inspection reports is due to their drive to have their whole curriculum based around developing planning, research, teamwork, evaluation and determination (resilience) in their young people. I had the honor of being given a tour of the school and had the opportunity to speak to teachers and saw lessons taking place. I also spent the day talking to the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher about their skills based learning vision. They firmly believe that creating a broader curriculum involving skills learning in the classroom has led to better academic results, as well as the young people having a better ability to learn independently. The children from Year 1 to Year 6 are given the opportunity work in teams and solve problems with very little input from the teachers. I saw for myself the effect this learning had on the children when I witnessed a year 3 class showing a deep understanding of justifying arguments. The children could actually justify with ease the decisions they had made regarding a discussion they had been having. For a class of Year 3 learners I thought this was very impressive!
I was given an example of how they engage the learners. Every year they have an ‘Aspirations Day’ where people come into school who have different jobs and careers. This enthuses the children to want to find out more about specific careers and this sparks further enquiry. The school will follow this up with skills learning sessions where they can do further investigation via planning, doing research or evaluating. The great thing is that some of this learning takes place through ‘play’ and taking part in games. The learners will do 6 projects in a year to show what they have learnt, the progress they have made in certain skills, and also for assessment purposes. The assessment gives the child an opportunity to be able to talk to their teachers and justify why and where they have made improvements in their skills development. They also have the opportunity to make their own choices about how they want to demonstrate their learning through reports, displays and PowerPoint among other options.
Another reason for their success is that they believe in rewarding and celebrating achievement at every opportunity. Like in all schools they have lesson objectives based on what the child will be able to do after a specific piece of learning. Sometimes this is not always achieved by every child which would be common in any school. However, this primary school also have a separate skills based objective where learners have the opportunity to show that they have achieved a separate success criteria based on their skills development. This therefore ensures that the child is always achieving success in one way or another (preferably both). This ensures that the child remains engaged through the various success criteria on offer. Marking in all books that I saw reflected the improvements that are required, or a request by the teacher for the learner to apply the learning to a different situation so embedding the development. The evidence that I saw was that the children had responded to all the comments.
This shows that skills learning is also taking place throughout the rest of the curriculum. The learners have stickers that go into their books where they can identify a skill that they have used in a particular piece of work coming from the other subjects being studied. The learners are also able to articulate how and why they used the skill, recalling thoughts and processes from several weeks earlier.
THIS is why skills learning should be a major piece in the jigsaw for the curriculum in any school. In particular this blog shows how skills learning can be implemented into a primary setting. I am looking forward to the continuation of my work with this school over the next few months and to learn more about their ‘outstanding’ skills based learning philosophy.