Listening SkillsBuilder
Speaking SkillsBuilder
ProblemSolving SkillsBuilder
Creativity SkillsBuilder
Positivity SkillsBuilder
AimingHigh SkillsBuilder
Leadership SkillsBuilder
Teamwork SkillsBuilder

At Tanfield School, we have many minds but one mission: to get students to attend the best university, or real alternative, succeed in their dream job and thrive in all aspects of their life. We design experiences, a curriculum and systems in order to help each student to be the best version of themselves, prepared for their adult lives and ready to contribute positively to their world.

Tanfield is inclusive and every student is recognised as a unique individual. We develop character through our curriculum and co curricular programmes. We see positive character virtues as being: hard work, trust and fairness. Tanfield students do what it takes for as long as it takes, are honest, have courage and, most importantly, are kind. Tanfield is a team, where every individual’s difference is accepted, valued and nurtured.

Through a wide, rich set of experiences, Tanfield students develop acceptance, understanding, respect, confidence and knowledge. They become ready and equipped for their life after Tanfield and have strategies to keep them physically and mentally healthy and safe, including when online. This is as important as their academic achievements.

We want 100% of our young people to benefit from these experiences, so we timetable co-curricular in Years 7-10. Each cycle, they select an elective that allows them to participate in a project that will develop their employability skills, wellbeing and their talents and interests. This could be physical, an opportunity for volunteering or citizenship work or skills based. We proudly partner with and regularly reward progress in speaking, listening, staying positive, aiming high, creativity, problem solving, leadership and teamwork. Families can also access the website for ideas and resources to support this development at home.

Students in years 9 and 10 can complete their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and we have other clubs, activities and opportunities for all young people throughout the year.


Tanfield School has a high proportion of learners (36%) that are disadvantaged. Our local labour market information indicates that our communities have higher than local and national levels of unemployment and deprivation. The personal development of our pupils is therefore essential for their social mobility, economic, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Our SLT sees this as being equally as important as their academic successes. Our mission is to get students to attend the best university, or real alternative, succeed in their dream job and thrive in all aspects of their life. We see their personal development as being key to this aim and are developing structures, curricula and opportunities to support them all to be the best version of themselves. Prior to this programme, only 36% of the Y7-10 cohort attended an extracurricular activity and student voice told us that they could not connect their experiences in school with their value beyond examinations (i.e. wellbeing, employability skills, aspirations. social mobility). Students at risk of Not being in Education, Employment or Training were choosing not to attend the activities. We recognised we needed to do things differently and better and Skills Builder aligned with our change in direction. We changed our school curriculum and timetabled co-curricular for Y7-10. In each year, there are three 13 week co-curricular cycles: physical, skills and volunteering (along with a residential experience), following the Duke of Edinburgh model. Skills Builder helped us to plan these sessions so that they are purposeful, meaningful and relevant with explicit communication about the skills. Without these essential skills, the knowledge that we are imparting across the rest of our curricula would potentially not achieve our mission. To fully equip our young people for social mobility and the happy future they deserve, we need to build their skills as well as their knowledge.

Overall impact

Our community loves co-curricular and Skills Builder has been an essential part of its success. It has allowed us to have a meaningful, consistent approach to teaching employability skills and to create a culture whereby we celebrate each and every young person's unique strengths.

Keep it simple

Skills are taught in co-curricular electives. Students choose three electives per academic year and only one or two skills are taught in each. This means that our language and communication about skills is consistent and clear. Our teaching booklets and resources across the wider curriculum reference the skills too- and our morning and afternoon meetings explicitly teach skills alongside sessions linked to British Values, Careers and Personal Development. Icons are displayed in every classroom across the school and displays in corridors have the icons and photographs of students completing their electives. Students are rewarded against skills and we have custom made enamel badges which the students wear on their lapels with pride. Progress against the skills is reported to parents and successes are shared on our social media.

Start early, keep going

Our co-curricular team received Skills Builder training and we also accessed Skills Leader training. This meant that we could facilitate access for years 7, 8, 9 and 10 in their timetabled co-curricular lessons. When we launched co-curricular, we shared Homezone with our families. I shared the icons with the whole staff to support their teaching and we ensured that these were built into our wider curriculum. All staff quickly became familiar with the skills through our high profile rewards and through whole school meetings.

Measure it

Co-curricular teachers assessed students completing their electives at the baseline, then tailored teaching to the steps that students were aiming to achieve using the Hub resources. When whole school data was captured, three times per year, co-curricular teachers recorded the skill and step that each young person had attained. This was reported to parents and informed our celebrations. Students received a certificate for the skill they had been developing and a bespoke enamel badge for their lapel. This is tracked and used by all staff to help us to build a culture where all young people wear their badges with pride and are celebrated. Teachers and visitors ask students what they did to get the badge and they are now able to articulately talk about the experiences they have had linked to employability skills.

Focus tightly

As well as being explicitly taught in co-curricular lessons, the skills are referred to in teaching across the whole curriculum. Every Friday morning, the whole school has a British Values morning meeting where skills are explicitly taught too. Likewise, we have three Careers Weeks per academic year and all lessons are connected to the skills. Indeed, external visitors to the school also connect careers presentations to the Skills Builder Framework, referring to them and using the icons, consolidating key messages that students hear throughout the year.

Keep practising

Our co-curricular timetabling is continuing and expanding next academic year and new members of the team have received Skills Building training. Student and parent voice is very complementary of the approach and so we will continue to connect learning with the Framework. The focused, dedicated time will continue in this way, reinforced by all other subject areas.

Bring it to life

Our co-curricular electives utilise project based learning and our Careers in the Curriculum programme similarly uses Workplace Challenges to connect learning with local employers. We have found that this has made the Framework meaningful and relevant for all students.

What's next?

We'd love to achieve the Gold Award, being tantalisingly close this year! We will monitor the reference to skills in learning walks, to ensure lessons support what we can see when quality assure resources.

Skills Builder Silver Award to Tanfield School

Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Dr C Quigley at