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Skills development project across a cluster: Castlebrae in Edinburgh

Last updated:
26 June 2017

What is this?

​The aim of the project is to equip learners across the Cluster, as early as possible, with all the skills they need to succeed at later stages.

The first part of the project involved identifying the key skills in each subject area and creating subject specific Skills Rubrics that clearly show how and when learners should be developing these skills.

Secondary staff have created these, in consultation with Cluster colleagues, and they are now being used to inform learning and teaching in primary and secondary.

The second part of the project involved the creation of a coherent cross-curricular approach to skills development, focusing on key literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing skills that cluster staff identified as being of particular importance. These Cluster Attainment Skills, as we have termed them, have been shared with all Cluster colleagues, many of whom helped to identify common strategies that secondary teachers can use to teach these skills. The hope is that learners experience a continuity and consistency of skills based teaching, across these key areas, from early years right through to the end of secondary.

Who is this for?

​Any teacher in primary or secondary. Early years practitioners may find it of interest as the intention is to make the skills approach 3-18.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

This could be used to improve practice in the following ways:

  • Encouraging staff, at all levels, to reflect on the key skills in their subjects and how they incorporate these into the BGE. This will then allow them to begin thinking about how these skills allow progression into the senior phase and the importance of teaching the skills as early as possible to allow pupils to enter the senior phase fluent in the skills they need to succeed.
  • By sharing the rubrics with pupils, pupils are easily able to see the purpose of lessons as they can see how learning intentions and success criteria clearly relate to skills development from the BGE into the senior phase. They can, in essence, see their pathway in that subject or area very clearly and can then begin setting their own targets. Pupils at Castlebrae are doing this, and taking much more control of their own learning.
  • Lastly, the development of the CAS has allowed staff to think about what areas of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing staff at secondary think they need to focus on to improve attainment and then working with the Cluster Primaries to identify common strategies to teach these. This in turn has prompted much discussion about skills in general; assumptions of levels when pupils enter secondary; and how best to ensure consistency of teaching core skills across our secondary school and, indeed, the cluster.

Improvement questions

  • How effective is our whole school overview in ensuring children’s skills and knowledge are built up appropriately over time?

  • Do we have a shared understanding of what progression looks like?

  • How do we effectively embed this skills-based approach in L&T across the whole Cluster, from 3-18?

  • How can we effectively and simply assess the long term impact of the rubrics and the Cluster Attainment Skills on attainment?


PDF file: Cluster Attainment Skills poster

PDF file: Skills development rubric: Music

​What was the impact

Subject specialists in Castlebrae Community High School have created their skills rubrics and are now beginning to use them to drive learning and teaching. This takes the form of informing learning intentions, activities, assessments and also helps to better inform progress through the BGE. These rubrics have been shared with all Cluster primary and early years centres. As part of the funding, staff are working closely with one primary school in particular. There, colleagues have recently been using the rubrics to inform teaching in social subjects, science and technologies, as part of an IDL project. Any significant impact of the use of these rubrics on senior phase attainment will therefore not be seen for some time. However, in the short term the impact has been obvious and quite significant too.

For example pupils across various subjects, both in primary and secondary, have commented on how helpful it has been to use the rubric to identify their next steps in their learning and set their own targets. They also like seeing exactly where they are going in their learning, and practising the skills they need to succeed. Teachers have commented on how the rubrics have helped them to clarify the BGE, help plan lessons and help them to make sense of how the BGE leads into the senior phase. For pupils and teachers alike, therefore, the learning and teaching process has been clarified and made more purposeful through the creation of the rubrics.

In terms of the Cluster Attainment Skills, these have only been rolled out to staff and pupils in the last month, following consultation with Cluster staff and the subsequent training of secondary staff in how to teach these skills consistently across the board. Already, however, teachers have commented on how useful it is to be able to point to cross-curricular skills (literally, as there are posters showing them in every classroom) and discuss the importance of these in class with pupils. Longer term, we have plans in place to begin looking at assessing and tracking progress across these skills, on a whole school level.

What was done?

Castlebrae High School teachers created skills rubrics for their subject, with support and guidance, using templates provided. Staff are now using these skills rubrics to inform and drive learning and teaching. These rubrics are shared with pupils via an ITunesU course that allows the pupils to access them at all times and therefore monitor their progress and set targets across different subjects. All subjects now have a rubric in place and these have been shared with the Cluster primaries , who were also consulted when secondary staff were identifying what was viable at early, 1st and 2nd level.

Via the same ITunesU course, all pupils can access support to work towards the Cluster Attainment Skills that we are focusing on. This support comes in the form of, for example, links to websites on punctuation, spelling strategies and mental health, as well as a numeracy booklet and help sheets for extended writing tasks. Also, posters showing the Cluster Attainment Skills, are up in every classroom so teachers can refer to them in their everyday learning and teaching.


The curriculum leader for social subjects has been using a rubric in social subjects for two years and the impact on attainment on  1st, 2nd and 3rd years has been profound: pupils have a clear understanding of subject specific vocabulary (evaluate, analyse etc) and many are able to tackle National 4 and National 5 skills-based questions with confidence, because their learning has been skills driven in social subjects since the beginning of S1.

As this approach was working well in social subjects, it was decided that the school should try to roll it out across all subjects and create a BGE curriculum where learning and teaching is explicitly skills driven.


Scottish Attainment Challenge

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) links

Learning styles