Our intent in Life Skills is that pupils learn about themselves and others.
The National Curriculum dictates that all schools should promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’ This is a key focus for us within the Life Skills department.
Covering the requirements of Religious Education, Citizenship and PSHE Education, The Life Skills department aims to provide all pupils with significant knowledge and understanding of their own feelings, views and beliefs as well as the feelings, views and beliefs of others. Students will consider how these impact and shape life in Britain. We aim to prepare students for making informed personal decisions on matters relating to morality, belief, citizenship and their own lives. We will do this by fostering an environment of tolerance and dialogue rooted in an understanding of ourselves and others. We aim to give students the skills to express and explain their own opinions, where applicable supporting them with evidence and examples and to be able to compare these opinions to those of other individuals and groups within society. Students will be able to analyse and critique opinion and evidence considering reliability and intent in order to reach evaluative conclusions. Life Skills is taught within timetabled lessons and tutorial sessions at Key Stages 3 and 4 and by a comprehensive tutorial programme, external speakers and compulsory conferences at Key Stage 5 which enable students to develop their knowledge and understanding from prior learning.
Choice of content
Religious Education – The National Curriculum Handbook (DfES 2000) asserts that: ‘Religious Education makes a distinctive contribution to the School curriculum by developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding of religion, religious beliefs, practices, language and traditions and their influence on individuals, communities, societies and cultures. It enables pupils to consider and respond to a range of important questions related to their own spiritual development, the development of values and attitudes and fundamental questions concerning the meaning and purpose of life’ In Life Skills lessons and tutorials we use a range of thematic, conceptual, humanising and world view approaches to give pupils the opportunity to achieve all of the above. We follow the National Curriculum requirements along with the Medway Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education which the Head of Department as an SLE and member of the local SACRE was involved with the development of and have implemented changes required for the new September 2019 version; ensuring pupils have the opportunity to consider a range of worldviews. In addition to the expectations set out in the Medway Agreed Syllabus we cover a wider range of religious groups in order to reflect the variety of religions represented within our school and Britain as a multicultural society. The delivery of our curriculum enables us to assist pupils in the development of the traditional British value of mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. The department works closely with the local authority’s Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education and local RE Hub to ensure best practice is maintained. We also work with the Pop Up literary program which enables us to further develop our cross curricular work by giving pupils the opportunity to read and meet the author of a novel based on Islamic themes and cultures. We utilise the religious places around us by visiting the local Cathedral and gurdwara. Pupils are given the opportunity to express their own spirituality by use of a supervised pupil prayer room. We have now reintroduced GCSE Religious Studies and have chosen to study Buddhism alongside Christianity. We have chosen Buddhism to act as a clear contrast to Christianity, meaning that we are studying one Abrahamic and one Eastern religion. We believe that this will help pupils develop a deeper understanding of the varying nature of religious traditions across the globe.
Citizenship – The National Curriculum for England says that a high-quality citizenship education helps to provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society. In particular, citizenship education should foster pupils’ keen awareness and understanding of democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld. Teaching should equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically, to weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments. It should also prepare pupils to take their place in society as responsible citizens, manage their money well and make sound financial decisions. Life Skills lessons provide pupils with all of these things. We follow the requirements of the National Curriculum with guidance from the association of Citizenship Teaching where applicable. Pupils gain a strong knowledge base in the subject but also gain opportunities to put the knowledge they have gained into action through activities such as meeting with a magistrate, mock trials, house debating competitions, elections, volunteering through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and our work as a Rights Respecting School. The delivery of our curriculum enables us to assist pupils in the development of the traditional British values of democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty.
PSHE – The Life Skills department is committed to providing pupils with the knowledge and skills required to meet their needs both now and in the future. We deliver a comprehensive PSHE program which is based on best practice and advice from relevant organisations. We deliver RSE education in line with the Secretary of State’s guidance. In addition to this we were early adopters of the additional statutory elements of PSHE education as well as encompassing much of the non-statutory but advisable (as directed by the PSHE association) content. We are supported in our delivery of lessons on radicalisation and extremism by interactive resources provided by the University of Kent and work closely with advisors from Medway Health Directorate to ensure we are meeting the needs of our pupils at a local level. Lessons and schemes of work are designed to be inclusive and to direct pupils towards additional support where this may be required. Pupils are taught the skills to listen to each other in a sensitive manner. Topics are taught at an age appropriate stage and are often revisited at relevant points during the year, for example Mental Health awareness week or Internet Safety day. At Key Stage 5 pupils continue to be supported in PSHE by their tutorial program and a variety of external visitors to school.
The department adds to this a strong focus on both oral and written communication with students from the start of year 7 being expected to plan, structure and deliver extended evaluative essays which build to a substantiated conclusion. Pupils are provided with individual ‘even better if’ teacher comments on assessed work which enables them to make ongoing progress and develop their essay writing skills.
The department takes an approach to teaching Life Skills that places importance on knowledge, dialogue and application. Content is explored both thematically and conceptually with a strong focus on religious, moral and emotional literacy throughout. This allows for comparisons to be drawn between different faiths and world-views and encourages students to make comparisons and contrasts between their own lives and the lives of others.
Following the National Curriculum in England’s requirement to offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based, we teach RE, Citizenship and PSHE throughout Key Stages 3 and 4 under the banner of Life Skills. In Key Stage 5 this requirement is met via an extensive tutorial programme, pastoral offer and 3 university style 6th Form conferences. We also now offer the Religious Studies GCSE.
Current topics taught in Life Skills are:
- Year 7 – Belief & Influences, Impact of belief – Judaism & Christianity, Health & Community, Health & Children’s Rights, Islam, Festivals & Pilgrimage
- Year 8 – Moral Codes, Systems of government, Christianity, Leadership, Citizenship, Buddhism
- Year 9 – Suffering and Death, Relationships & Careers, Initiation and Multicultural Britain, Drugs, Rights and Ethics, Religion, Crime & Law
- Year 10 – Putting Faith into Action, Buddhism / Hinduism, Religion & Science, Relationships, Life & Death, Revision and Skills
- Year 11 – Physical and Emotional Wellbeing, Rich & Poor, Social Pressures , Religion & Politics, Preparing for the future.
- Year 12/13 – ‘What is a good argument?’ Philosophy and critical thinking conference, ‘President for a day?’ Global Citizenship conference, ‘Ethics in an Age of Science’ ethics conference, Sex, Drugs and Alcohol education, Chlamydia Awareness and Testing, Cancer Awareness Talks, Radicalisation Talk, Driver and Passenger Awareness.
Subject content in GCSE Religious Studies:
- Year 10 – Christianity: Beliefs and teachings, Buddhism: Beliefs and teachings, Theme: Peace and conflict, Theme: Human rights and social justice, Christianity: Practices,
- Year 11 – Buddhism: Practices, Theme: Religion and Life, Theme: Relationships and families
- Year 7 – Settling into Math. Introductions to Religion, Positive / Growth Mindset and Mental Health, Families, Stories about Jesus, Money
- Year 8 – The Government, Religious Places of worship, Health, Old Testament Stories, Social Media, The existence of God.
- Year 9 – Human Rights, Religion and Identity, Health, Religion, Politics and the Law, Relationships, Peace and Conflict.
- Year 10 – Money, Living in the Wider World, Religion & Science, Health and Safety, Religion, Life and Death, Relationships.
- Year 11 – War and Peace, Relationships
The department has no specific prescribed approach to the teaching of Life Skills which enables individual teachers to make the most of their own skills, abilities and professional judgement. However, there are common ways in which the curriculum is implemented across the department.
- Staff have excellent subject knowledge and are all subject specialists.
- Lessons use appropriately challenging resources and go beyond a mere factual to include opportunities for personal reflection and critical thinking.
- Students are regularly given challenging in depth tasks requiring them to work independently and/or with others as appropriate. This includes extended homework projects throughout year 7.
- Lessons engage students and encourage them to form their own judgement, welcoming a range of judgements and perspectives. Students are encouraged to question, offer opinions and explore.
- Skills are developed for wider study, including revision and retrieval of knowledge, focusing on the developing of understanding and long term memory.
- Assessment – in the form of teacher assessed or peer assessed work – that informs teaching and gives pupils feedback on the success of the work they have carried out,
- Homework is set regularly, in line with school expectations. Tasks are substantial and make a meaningful contribution to the programme of study – including individual or group project work, research, and revision. During year 7 one homework project every other term is graded using the department’s mark scheme.
- The explanation and use of key technical vocabulary is embedded from the start of year 7, with the expectation that students understand and use this terminology with confidence as they progress in their studies. Particular focus is given to understanding and applying key quotes.
- The deliberate development of literacy skills, with high expectations of students’ spelling, punctuation and grammar, tasks that push students to write confidently and precisely and activities in which pupils engage with appropriately challenging texts and source material.
- Development of explicit conceptual links between topics and year groups, for example the individuals role in society (Community Yr 7, Leadership Yr 8, Initiation Yr 9, Putting Faith into Action Y10 and Rich and Poor Y11).
- SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.
Retrieval Practice is embedded within the department’s schemes of work and specific lessons, in particular in the recall and application of religious quotes and human rights. We have incorporated regular recap and recall questions into our SOW and have begun implementing termly Google Quizzes.
Assessment throughout the key stages takes place via the writing of analytical and evaluative essays. Assessments are graded on a ‘best fit’ mark scheme that focuses on the expected level of progress and ability. This focus on essay writing skills is aimed to have cross-curricular benefits particularly for subjects such as English and History.
At Key Stage 5 no formal assessments take place. Instead, students are informally assessed via their contributions to group activities and presentations.
The department provides students with a number of trips and guest speakers designed to complement and enhance engagement with their studies. These include:
- Year 7- Gideon’s Visit, Visit from a renowned Muslim author
- Year 8 – Magistrates, Arson talk
- Year 9 – Road Safety Experience Trip
- Year 10 – Gurdwara Trip, Street Pastors, Arson talk
- Y11/12 – Sex, Drugs and Alcohol talk, Chlamydia Awareness and Testing, Cancer Awareness Talks, Radicalisation Talk, Driver and Passenger Awareness.
Special Educational Needs in Life Skills
We ensure that our resources are accessible to all in the Life Skills department. Font sizes are sufficiently large and appropriate background colours are used so as to accommodate for those with visual impairments and conditions such as Irlen Syndrome. Presentation slides across the department have been simplified to reduce unnecessary distraction and reduce load on processing. Where images are included they are selected carefully to aid understanding and knowledge retention. Activities in Life Skills lessons are often ‘low-bar, high ceiling’ meaning that all can access activities but there is scope for high levels of stretch and challenge in work. This is aided by regular opportunities for talk time to enhance comprehension before writing or verbalising responses. Check lists, writing frames and sentence starters are provided where necessary to help students with organising, processing and applying information. Religious quotation sheets are also provided to ease cognitive load and allow students to focus on comprehension and application rather than being hindered by difficulties in recalling information.
We acknowledge that understanding the viewpoints of others can be a particular issue for some of our students on the autistic spectrum in particular. To aid those students we spend additional time in lessons modelling how we consider the views of others and model displaying empathy and tolerance of others viewpoints.
Literacy in Life Skills
Life Skills pays great focus to literacy throughout our curriculum. This is both literacy as a life skill but also disciplinary, subject specific literacy. Recognising that subject specific vocabulary can be a barrier to learning, key terminology is made explicit throughout lesson resources and revisited repeatedly via regular recap and recall activities. Subject specific vocabulary is also a significant focus of termly Google quizzes.
We use talk-time to enhance literacy by allowing students to talk through ideas and concepts. This helps students to comprehend and voice their ideas before committing them to the page. Sentence starters are provided for all students in year 7. These are then phased out as students progress through the key stages, but still provided to those that require it. Writing frames are also provided to model how to structure answers effectively. Essay writing is a big focus of our department. We begin in year 7 by focusing on PEEL paragraphs, breaking down the paragraphs into manageable sections and then building up to full essays later in the year. Students are always given the opportunity to plan essays for their homework so that they have coherent ideas and structures to use in assessments. Department essay planning sheets are provided as an option for all students.
We encourage the love of reading, with the importance of books being discussed a number of times across our schemes of work. We take this as a starting point when exploring the holy books of various faiths. In year 7 we take part in the Pop-Up Author project and all students read a novel by an Islamic author. They get the chance to meet the author, ask them questions about their work and the novel, as well as reviewing the book that they have read.
The impact of the curriculum can be seen through a number of measures.
- Pupils clearly enjoy their Life Skills, as shown through their approach to lessons, the work in their books, and their commitment to its study and responses to termly pupil voice surveys. ‘Lessons are made fun so we want to learn’; ‘the whole class is always involved which makes you want to learn’ ‘Life Skills gives me the opportunity to say what I want to say and has prepared me for my future life’ (2019 Term 5 comments).
- We have had 26 pupils choose Religious Studies GCSE this year and many more seriously considered it. This clearly shows that Life Skills is a subject enjoyed and valued by pupils.
- Pupils demonstrate their interest in the subject through their participation outside of the
Classroom in Life Skills-led extracurricular activities such as the Rights Respecting Schools
and the Mock Trial.
- Students have a sound foundation of knowledge of Religions and World Views, topics of Citizenship and PSHE by the end of Key Stage 3 which contributes to their understanding of their place in the world, the lives of others and British society as a whole. Allowing them to become informed decision makers.
- Internal assessment processes demonstrate that pupils effectively develop both subject knowledge and skills that they can later utilise and develop.
- Formative assessment of reasoning, particularly skills of explanation and interpretation show pupils ability to adopt and use these skills.
- Dialogue with and between students demonstrates religious, moral and emotional literacy, particularly related to fundamental questions around students own lives and the lives of others.
- SEN and disadvantaged students achieve outcomes in line with their peers.
- Cognitive techniques and wider study skills are developed by the department and encouraged throughout the key stages as well as being taught and assessed explicitly in certain year groups.
- Students develop a wide understanding of key aspects of fundamental British values. Social, moral, spiritual and cultural awareness and knowledge is embedded and explored throughout the key stages with students given regular opportunities for personal reflection and expression.