G6 Developing key skillsSkills for Life through

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					G6 Developing key skills/Skills for Life through
work-related/work-based learning

KSSP consultant: Lin Norman
Local project manager: Jean Westwell

Wales High School is an oversubscribed, 11–18, mixed comprehensive school
situated to the south of Rotherham, South Yorkshire. We take pupils from the
local Wales and Kiveton Park area, as well as a number of outlying villages.

Our aim is to provide a balanced educational experience for all members of our
community and we seek to promote a caring and rich learning environment. In
2003, we gained Specialist School status as a Business and Enterprise College.
We have 1510 learners on roll, 300 in the sixth form. We deliver a strong
vocational curriculum, which includes key skills Communication, Application of
Number and ICT at Levels 1 and 2 in the sixth form, and Level 3 on request.

Our strengths

      A well-established key skills programme delivered to lower sixth students
       who are studying vocational subjects

      An experienced and competent team of staff with appropriate specialisms
       to deliver the key skills

      Portfolios have been successfully moderated by Edexcel, confirming our
       accredited status

      A well-established programme of 1-day/1-week work experience for lower
       sixth students on vocational courses

      A range of vocational courses: GNVQ Intermediate/Foundation; BTEC
       First Diploma

      A range of subjects – retail, health and social care, engineering and
       catering – for male and female students, thus avoiding gender imbalance
       and providing vocational choice

      A working party of senior staff and sixth form tutors investigating how
       Progress File can best be used to support vocational students

      An annual evening of mock interviews that enables all lower sixth students
       to be formally interviewed by someone from a local business or industry,
       or the armed forces.

Areas for development

      Specialist key skills teachers not given enough lesson time to deliver their
       specific unit – 1 hour a week

      Key skills not directly linked with the world of work; projects are either
       written by teachers to meet key skills assessment criteria or selected by
       students to identify work from their courses

      Progress File not established in the sixth form as a way of supporting
       students to develop life/work skills

      No structure to help students to identify, determine and record how their
       day-to-day school and work experience activities are already developing
       their skills, which skills they need to develop, and the importance of such

      Work experience not focused on the development of key skills

      1-year vocational students are typically ‘non-academic’ and find it difficult
       to engage with lessons, thus jeopardising successful outcomes for both
       vocational courses and key skills.

Our aims
Key skills lessons would be timetabled differently. Investigations showed that, in
general, students undertaking the BTEC First Diploma in Retail benefit most from
studying the Communication key skill at Level 1 and/or 2; learners need most
support in this skill in relation to the content of the subject specification. Similar
needs were identified within other subjects. Engineering students benefit mostly
from Application of Number lessons; child care students from ICT.

Key skills guidelines would be relaunched with vocational team leaders so that
they could promote the importance of developing ‘their’ key skill within the
specific vocational course. In effect, using the subject matter as a tool to develop
the particular key skill for that subject and using the key skill as a tool to help
students learn and understand their vocational subject with more confidence and

The E-Progress File would be introduced to lower sixth students as:

      a tool to support skills development
      support for students to work through their vocational course
      guidelines and a portfolio to collect evidence of both key skills and work-
       related skills within work experience
      a way to improve their confidence.

The E-Progress File would be used within the key skills programme to enable
students to identify their own strengths and areas for development through the
use of the diagnostic tools, monitoring, target setting, actioning and reviewing
their progress in their vocational studies.

What we achieved

      Vocational pass rate 92% – 30% Merit. Final pass rate will probably be

      Key skills pass rate 61% (excluding proxy); 69% (including proxy). Final
       pass rates will probably be higher

      All vocational students using E-Progress File to identify, monitor and
       record their career/work-related progress, especially regarding work
       experience and the development of key skills.

A SPOC survey showed that 75% of students found the E-Progress File easy to
use and of benefit in helping them to identify their achievements, needs and
future targets. All were surprised at how many skills they had learned on work
experience, and all enjoyed recording their skills.

Vocational and key skills staff have been trained to manage and use the E-
Progress File so that they can discuss students’ progress with them from a more
informed base.

All teaching staff have started E-Progress File training. Further training is to be
organised by the director of work-related learning.

The benefits of integrating and timetabling vocational provision and key skills
have been obvious. There is improved coordination across the vocational area
and key skills, as well as strong teamwork among the staff involved. This re-
organisation of the key skills strategy, timetabling and delivery has been seen as
a major step forward in the sixth form curriculum.

Students’ attendance at vocational and key skills lessons has improved
considerably, as has their motivation. They see key skills as an integral part of

their vocational course, so understand the importance of good attendance. They
see how key skills actually give them the skills to tackle their vocational course.

How did we get there?
Key skills lessons were marketed as an integral part of the sixth form vocational

Each key skills unit was integrated with one vocational course, depending on the
needs of typical students taking each course.

The E-Progress File was introduced to the sixth form vocational students as a
tool for them to identify their achievements as they progressed through the
vocational/key skills course. It helped them to:

      identify their own strengths and areas for development in relation to their
       vocational/key skills course and to their work experience
      self-monitor and review their progress in their vocational studies.

Key skills and vocational staff were trained to understand the E-Progress File.

The most successful part of the project was the integration of key skills with one
specific vocational course. This meant that students from the different vocational
courses received their own key skills training separately from other courses,
which helped them and the key skills teacher to focus more clearly on the links
between that one particular key skill and the corresponding vocational subject.

We had intended all the lower sixth tutors to be actively involved with the E-
Progress File part of the project, for example, by undergoing training so that they
could support and help the students in their own tutor groups. PSHE time could
be used as a way of monitoring and supporting individuals. However, this did not
happen and we amended our original plan to train all of the staff. This has been

What unexpected outcomes did we achieve?
This project has been of particular benefit to the teachers who have delivered the
course. It helped key skills teachers to prepare assignments and project work
with a much clearer focus because it was relatively simple to relate topics to the
specific vocational area. So, for instance, Communication tasks all related in
some way to the different retail units, such as marketing, merchandising and
display techniques; sales and profit; stock control; fashion retailing and so on. It
was possible to develop each task to coordinate quite clearly with one specific
key skill assessment criterion, such as C1.1.

The vocational teachers were able to develop tasks and assignments with the
support of their linked key skills teacher, who provided specialist knowledge of
the particular requirements of the key skills unit. This meant that vocational tasks
and assignments could be ‘tailor-made’ to fit both sets of criteria.

It was also found that students could really pick and choose the particular pieces
of work they would eventually put into their key skills portfolio of evidence as
there were plenty of examples of good work that they had produced over the

We had hoped for an improvement in all-round results – in both vocational
courses and key skills. However, we have been particularly surprised by the key
skills results. With the exception of ICT, which was linked with the child care
course, results have exceeded what we hoped for and we are convinced that
there are three very clear reasons for this:

      students have had to focus on only one key skill instead of three, so
       progress has been made at a faster pace

      because each key skill has been linked to a vocational course, students
       see the key skills training as important in relation to their success on the
       vocational course

      students have learned their key skills in smaller groups; they have been
       with fellow classmates and this has helped them to work with more

With regard to ICT and child care, this course comprised a small group of girls
who, for various reasons, left school quite early on. The three low-ability girls who
remained did not complete their qualification and will probably return in

What will we do next?
The benefits of integrating and timetabling vocational subjects and key skills
have been obvious and this re-organisation of strategy, timetabling and delivery
has been a major step forward in the sixth form curriculum. This new model has
been adopted and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Key skills student logs now include specific subject-linked tasks and projects,
thus students gain support in seeing further relationships between the elements.


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