Journey to Excellence

Critical skills in practice

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Discover the importance of critical skills. Staff and pupils within a primary school outline the key features and benefits of critical skills.


Teacher 1: This school has been using Critical Skills for over 6 years. It has formed an integral part of what goes on in the school. The children are thoroughly motivated for it - it gets them really interested in what is going on in a motivating way that wants them to continue to learn.

Pupil 1: I think you can learn as a team and hear what other people have to say.

Pupil 2: I like working in a group because if you are stuck on a question you can use your friend to help you.

Teacher 1: There is a common language happening. We speak a lot about quality within the school. So the children… when we say we want a quality audience it just happens because the children have thoroughly discussed year and year out what quality is - they discuss not only what a quality school is but they think about what a quality pupil is and indeed what a quality pupil councillor is.

Everybody has a part to play when the children are involved in anything to do with Critical Skills, everybody…every single person is involved and that’s what makes it work.

Pupil 3: Normally we get put into groups that we normally wouldn’t work in or choose ourselves. So if we get grouped by someone we don’t know too well or not to keen on we can get to know them a bit better and know how they work and you might have a lot in common. It’s the same like when you’re older and you work in an office or you are at college you maybe put in a group and since you will be older then you wouldn’t be expected to go “I can’t work with them because I don’t like them.” That’s why I think it helps me.

Pupil 4(discussing with other pupils): We weren’t working well at the start, we were arguing we couldn’t decide but we just sort of turned it around.

Teacher 1: It’s not just about knowing the right or the wrong answer to something - they have to consider why they are saying something. They have their own opinion as to whether something works or not so that way we are taking their ideas, valuing them for what they are because that is really important. If people don’t feel valued they won’t take part and our community makes them feel valued.

One of the hardest bits with critical skills and indeed as a manager of the school is to sit back and let people collaborate without intervening. Very difficult for a teacher to do too but because of the way Critical Skills sets things up, we do that really well. We have to stand back and it’s really empowering everybody else to share and to work as a team so you don’t get involved. It’s also interesting for assessing children and how they take part in thing. You can see all the different moods that they have and how involved they get in their learning and they can evaluate their own participation in a group at the end of a session. And that leads them on to knowing what they have to improve for the next time.

(Pupils discussing)

Teacher 1: We share what they have got; we look at the process they have gone through; we consider the challenges to be if you like problem solving - it’s about what they do to get to the end; what do they put into the challenge? They can do what they want. That’s why they have got their resources manager so that that person can set them up. If they think the best way to present is to make a film that’s what they do; if it’s better for one person to speak that’s what they do - they make it their own. It’s really important that the children feel that you are empowering them to do what they think is right. Not what you want them to produce in the end because it’s not about the product - it’s about the process.

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