Teachers call for systemic change to build essential skills in education

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder and CEO of Skills Builder Partnership

With a potential new government only weeks away, findings in the Essential Skills Tracker 2024 from Skills Builder demonstrate the overwhelming support for policy change that enables teaching of essential skills in the classroom.

Why this research now?

A complete education which ensures that all children and young people build the essential skills to be successful has never been more important. That should include the explicit teaching of essential skills, their deliberate practice, and their thoughtful application in a wide range of settings.

These skills feature among party manifestos, with both Labour and Liberal Democrats explicitly committing to building learners’ essential skills, including creativity, problem-solving, speaking and listening, and to broaden the curriculum to develop these skills.

The Essential Skills Tracker 2024 research, with nationally representative fieldwork by YouGov of over 1,000 teaching professionals, sheds further light on the pressing need for a system-wide approach to teaching essential skills, while highlighting the potential to improve job satisfaction within the teaching profession.

 The value of essential skills in education

Long-term sustainable system change in education is more in reach than ever before. An incoming government has the opportunity to ensure that young people benefit from a complete education of basic, essential and technical skills.

To achieve this for essential skills, we need a consistent and joined up approach throughout 4-19 education.  Schools and colleges need to use a progressive framework throughout the curriculum to teach and measure learner’s essential skills and teachers need to be effectively trained to teach them. 

These essential skills support better outcomes throughout education and beyond. Individuals with higher essential skills are 25% less likely to be unemployed, and benefit from higher earnings, job and life satisfaction across their lives. Previous research demonstrates that an ostensibly “good education” that builds literacy and numeracy but omits essential skills is inadequate. And teachers support this too.

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.

In fact, for a significant majority (67%), being able to prepare young people for successful lives, including through teaching essential skills, is important to their reasoning for remaining in the profession.

Unfortunately, just under a quarter (24%) of teaching professionals agree with the statement that essential skills are currently being taught sufficiently in education. Only 3% agree strongly that they are taught sufficiently.

What changes do teachers back to get essential skills into classrooms?

One policy lever for getting essential skills into classrooms is the national curriculum. 86% of teaching professionals agree that the national curriculum should include essential skills, with almost half (47%) agreeing strongly.

A very high proportion (85%) also see threading essential skills throughout subjects as being important to them being taught successfully. Over half (52%) think separate lessons on essential skills are important and 74% see the potential for special projects (e.g. cross-curricular projects).

They see the potential for assessment to shift to being more holistic to include essential skills (86% support this) as well as multi-modal (92%).

The need for upskilling in this to-date under-invested area is clear. 81% of teachers report they would be likely to pursue CPD on how to teach their young people essential skills. Three quarters (75%) say they would pursue CPD to build their own essential skills.

Finally, 87% support implementation of a universal framework – which breaks down the 8 skills into a sequence of teachable, measurable steps – across all schools to enable the teaching of essential skills.

Over three quarters (77%) think the framework would have a positive impact on young people’s employment outcomes, and 66% believe the framework would have a positive impact on education outcomes.

Read the full report: skillsbuilder.org/essential-skills-tracker

Skills Builder Partnership

Skills Builder Partnership has developed a scalable approach. This approach is already used to some extent in 87% of English secondary schools and colleges, with many of those achieving excellence in building their students’ essential skills. In the last year alone, 577 schools and colleges were delivering Skills Builder programmes, with 18,991 teachers having been trained and supported to teach essential skills.

But it’s evident that there is even more opportunity for a sustainable education system that includes essential skills, and gives everyone the chance to reach their potential. That’s why Skills Builder has a clear mission: to ensure that one day, everyone builds the essential skills to succeed.

If you’re a school or college within, or outside, the UK interested in becoming a partner, you can find out whether you’re eligible for a funded place on the Skills Builder Partnership’s education Accelerator programme for 2024-25. This helps educators make a strong start and rapid initial progress in embedding the Skills Builder approach.

Contact Skills Builder: You can get in touch with the Skills Builder Partnership via their website or on social media. The full Tracker report is also available on the Skills Builder website.


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