Building essential skills for every child

Parents Education
02 July 2020
Tom Ravenscroft Tom founded the Skills Builder Partnership in 2009, having taught in a secondary school in East London. The Skills Builder Partnership brings together more than 550 schools and colleges, 130 employers and 90 other skills-building organisations around a common language and approach to building essential skills. The Partnership won the SE100 Award for Social Impact in 2020. Tom was the 2009 UK Entrepreneurship Teacher of the Year. He has served as a non-executive director of Teach First and has also been recognised as one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs by being elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2017. He holds a BA in Economics & Management from the University of Oxford. His first book, The Missing Piece was published by John Catt Publishing in October 2017. 
As parents, we have a clear sense of what we want for our children. Of course we’d like them to do well academically, to learn lots and build their understanding of the world.

My 5‑year-old is currently working his way through his times tables, and I know from being a teacher that core knowledge like that is vital.

But we also know that a good education and a good childhood is vastly more than that. We want our children to have exciting, inspiring and joyful experiences. And we also know they need to develop some other essential skills to be able to navigate the world too.

Making a difference

Over the last five years at Skills Builder Partnership, we’ve been working to think about exactly which skills all of our children and young people need to thrive. We’ve seen that there are eight skills that really make a difference:

  • The communication skills of Listening and Speaking
  • The flexibility of both Creativity and Problem Solving
  • The ability to work with others through Teamwork and Leadership
  • The power of setting goals by Aiming High and then sticking at them through Staying Positive

These are the same set of skills that support children to have happy childhoods at home, and that support them to do well at school – and, for young people, set them up for success in further or higher education or the workplace.

What’s next?

Recent work from the Edge Foundation has shown that more than nine in ten parents (92%) said they want education to help their children develop exactly these sorts of skills. Nearly all (96%) teachers surveyed agreed that they wanted their pupils to develop a range of skills too.

The challenge is always how to go about doing it. That’s where our work on the Skills Builder Framework comes in. The idea is to demystify those eight essential skills, which can sometimes seem a bit hazy or hard to pin down, and instead turn them into a roadmap for success.

In this way, we can break a broad skill like Listening into 16 steps like being able to listen without interrupting, remembering short instructions, and being able to show that we are listening through body language. In this way, those skills go from things that we feel are important to things that we can really use.

How can I help my child?

In the last year, more than 130,000 children and young people completed one of our programmes in school, building their essential skills as they went. In response to the Covid-19 crisis we recently launched a Learning Hub which provides lots of fun activities, stories and reward systems to support building those essential skills with children. For young people, they can explore the skills and learn how to improve them further, as well as getting daily challenges. There are also resources available for children with special educational needs.

Over the last five years we have seen that it is possible for every child to boost their essential skills, and we’re delighted that we can now support parents as a key part of that vital work too.