Excellence in Pupil Development Award

Rationale and Aims

Introduction to the award: the rationale behind the award

The need for teachers and parents/carers to develop children’s personal skills to live in a rapidly changing world has been recognised in educational research. It forms the basis of UNESCO’s drive to teach global citizenship skills to children and young people starting with early years education. It argues that education today requires a specific focus on education which can develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, values and attitudes learners need for securing a world which is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable. In addition, education requires the development of certain soft skills:

‘social skills such as empathy and conflict resolution, communication skills and aptitudes for networking and interacting with people of different backgrounds, origins, cultures and perspectives; and behavioural capacities to act collaboratively and responsibly.’ (Keevey, J. and Chakroun, B. (2015) Level-setting and recognition of learning outcomes: The use of level descriptors in the twenty-first century. UNESCO: Paris).

There is therefore a growing awareness in education that the development of pupils’ personal development skills has significant long-term impact on academic outcomes, long-term success and happiness. Research into this area, however, is relatively new in this country but more advanced in the US. The Primary National Strategy’s SEAL curriculum was a well-used approach to developing pupils’ social and emotional skills. The resources for this is archived here. It provides a very useful whole school approach to developing pupils’ personal development from early years through to Year 6.

The impact of Covid 19 on schools, children and young people’s development cannot be underestimated. Developmentally, it is thought that some younger children have regressed in their social, emotional and communication skills, as a result of the huge disruption to their schooling and social interactions. A strong personal development curriculum is therefore crucial for their development.

While academic success is one aim of schools, preparing young people for life in an increasingly complex world, so that they can manage their lives, understand their responsibilities towards themselves and others and make a positive contribution to society are key aims which will sustain them in the long term. Actively developing pupils’ life skills so that they can be critical thinkers, creative, tolerant and empathetic people are necessary characteristics for citizens of our modern society. Employers recognise that developed personal skills are sometimes sorely lacking among young people, hindering their chances of employment and progress. This award is more than an approach to developing citizens of the 21st century, it is a way to ensure young people are equipped with the personal skills and knowledge which will help them manage risk and setbacks in their lives, as well as enhancing their wellbeing.

One of the greatest tensions for schools is to develop a curriculum which improves pupils’ life skills and personal growth, while at the same time meeting increasingly challenging academic targets. Truly successful schools remain true to their values, aims and ethos and ensure that the whole child is nurtured and developed. This is integral to their core purpose. It is not surprising that a key feature of all hitherto Ofsted frameworks has been the focus on pupils’ personal development and community and societal responsibility. These are essential components of a well-rounded education.

This award is ambitious, ground-breaking and exciting. Once you have completed this award successfully, it is hoped that you will have reviewed and improved a range of aspects of your school’s provision to improve pupils’ personal development and skills. Your school will have implemented systems to monitor the effectiveness of this work and thereby leadership skills will be strengthened. Your school will be responsive to pupils, parents/carers, partners and other stakeholders, so that further improvements can be made. Most of all, pupils will be much more aware of themselves and others; respectful and empathetic. They will have a developed sense of responsibility towards their community, the environment and the world in which they live. Importantly, they will be prepared for life beyond school.

Aims of the award

The EPDA aims to provide schools with a structure and systematic approach to develop a ‘skills for life’ curriculum. The objectives outline the essential requirements to embed a culture and ethos which aims to develop pupils’ personal development and skills.

Objective 1 requires that leaders, including governors, in the school must actively subscribe to the aims and process as a starting point. Including the award as part of the school’s development plan will enable the progress to be monitored regularly. A full review of the school’s current position through the self-evaluation task at the start of the award is essential to devising the action plan. There are then key policies which need to be reviewed and in place to ensure that all members of the school community understand the ethos and practice expected in the school. This forms the basis of Objective 2.

Objective 3 is possibly the most important and critical aspect of the award. It focuses on the content of the curriculum. This is because developing pupils’ knowledge is a prerequisite to ensuring that pupils become more skilled.  It is deliberately not overly prescriptive; however, there are essential elements that school should consider when devising their curriculum. The KPIs in this objective help schools to strengthen these elements of their curriculum. It is up to schools to decide the best approach and resources to meet the KPIs. This is an opportunity for schools to review their pastoral and academic curricula and ensure the two support each other consistently and effectively.

Objective 4 is the first part of the work to strengthen the school’s links with other partners both national and international, including charities and other professional bodies. By building these strong links pupils understand the support available to them especially in relation to their safety and wellbeing. Pupils are encouraged to get involved in national and international issues. By so doing pupils are encouraged to develop their world view and attitudes towards others, perhaps less fortunate than themselves.

Pupils’ behaviour, conduct and attitudes are directly addressed in Objective 5, although the other objectives all contribute. Attitudes are distinctly separated from behaviour. Schools are encouraged to develop a positive behaviour strategy. Ideally punitive action should not outweigh the positive and positive role modelling is encouraged. Pupils’ attitudes towards each other, difference and their learning are closely monitored in this objective.

Objective 6 ensures that staff are effectively trained to support safeguarding and implement the pastoral curriculum. The quality of the knowledge and skills among staff is critical to the success of this award. You will notice that the award does not require schools to present evidence to meet statutory requirements, such as safeguarding. However, aspects of safeguarding are covered in these KPIs as they relate to pupils developing the knowledge and skills necessary to manage risk and improve behaviour and attitudes. Pupils’ skills are likely to be well-developed if they have a strong set of knowledge about themselves and others, the support available to them, society and the world in which they live. It is for this reason that the quality of the curriculum features so heavily in this award.

Whilst similar to Objective 4 in that it encourages the school to forge external links, Objective 7 seeks to develop the school’s partnership specifically with the local community, including parents/carers. This aims to encourage pupils to value what is available to them locally, and to understand their place in the community and how they can contribute. As we know from our other awards, strong parental partnerships promote positive behaviour and attitudes. In this way, schools extend their reach to support pupils’ personal development and their vision and thus impact goes well beyond the school gates. The use of stakeholder evaluation forms and visitor evaluations and feedback activities with local residents and businesses will assist schools in determining the effectiveness of their work to develop pupils’ personal skills. Finally, in Objective 8, schools are required to outline their plans for the future in maintaining the provision they have established for pupil’s personal development and skills, to ensure the legacy of the award continues.

The emphasis throughout the award is to encourage leaders to check the impact they are having on implementing their vision and plan to prepare young people for life. The award process supports leaders to evaluate and continuously improve this aspect of the education they provide in their schools. By the end of the process you should have:

  • a positive and well-embedded culture and ethos
  • clear systems and policies
  • more effective leaders and teachers
  • a curriculum which is fit for purpose, relevant and successful
  • and most importantly, pupils who are confident and socially aware.

Rather than imagining a school is preparing its pupils well for lifelong learning and life beyond school, this award asks schools to make sure they actually are!

This award is an ambitious undertaking but highly rewarding for the whole school community if carried out successfully. The need for schools to closely address pupils’ personal development and recognise their experiences during the school closures has become all the more critical in the aftermath of the pandemic. Pupils and staff have experienced significant changes to their lives. Many require social and emotional support like never before. Schools that are attuned to these changes are making sure their pastoral support for pupils and well-being for staff is strong and effective. Schools that have been successful in achieving this award so far have testified to its transformational effect across the whole school community.