Last year two members of our staff were discussing how many students were leaving school without some of the skills that would really set them up for their future. Conversations like this probably happen regularly in school staffrooms around the world. What makes this story a bit different is that these 2 teachers decided to do something about it.
In May last year, Bronwen Wilson and Kat Wells set up a meeting with me to pitch the idea of a Life Skills Programme. Their staffroom discussion had developed into a shared document where they put together a proposal. The proposal was to combine the skills of staff at Lynfield College with outside specialists to deliver a programme covering topics such as mental health, careers, digital citizenship and sexuality which were considered useful for student’s lives but which they might not get the chance to be developing through their normal curriculum.
The idea obviously had real upside for our students so I took it to our next SLT Meeting and and they were quickly onboard as well. We worked out that an easy way to implement this was to target Year 13 through their study periods at the start of the year, i.e. before the need for this self-directed time really increased.
Kat and Bronwen invited other people to join in the planning and we added sessions into a schedule and started making bookings of outside specialists to help us out. The programme ended up covering:
- Careers advice
- Consent and Relationships
- Creating Positive Digital Footprints
- The NZ Election Process & how to get involved in causes you care about
- Dealing with Stress
- Financial Literacy
- Rights under the Law
- How to apply for Scholarships
- Time Management
- How to help our adult ESOL community
Special thanks to Savy Schools and Constable Rob Kennerley (find out how to work with your School Community Officer here) for their help in delivering these sessions. Otherwise it was staffed by teachers from the school who taught these classes in their non-contacts in most cases. In some lessons, relief was needed to ensure that students in all timetable lines were able to get the benefits of the sessions.
An issue for scheduling was the uneven size of study lines: 26-97 students. These sizes also stopped us from pursuing some ideas such as food for flatting.
At the end of the programme we asked students for their feedback. A summary of this is below:
Most Useful Sessions:
Scholarships Alcohol Time Management Police
Mindfulness Elections Financial Literacy Stress
Any sessions we shouldn’t offer again?
Most common answer was No. Majority of students felt that all sessions were useful in some way. Most common sessions to be named were: Alcohol, Time Management, Elections and Community which were also some of the most popular sessions.
Anything you want a workshop on in T3 or 4?
Around half said No but there were a few topics that came up a handful of times each: Tax, another Scholarships/Uni session with advice on how to apply for Uni, Revision/Study Skills before exams, Stress/Mindfulness.
Improvement suggestions for next year
- More practical/interactive – overall feeling that too many of the sessions were being talked at (nb: this actually matched our original intent which got lost along the way)
- Same number saying Make them Optional vs Make sure everyone shows up
- Easier to know what is on each day
- Use part of week for Life Skills and part of week for Study periods (lots of comments along this line)
Staff involved in the programme read over these comments and then added their own evaluations:
From here we are looking to run some possible workshops in Term 3 that are relevant for students at that time. We have shared the above evaluations with Faculty Leaders and sought ideas from them for Life Skills version 2. We are also going to speak wider with staff on other ideas they feel could be added in. In Term 3 we will work with our Year 12 Student Exec to plan what they want in their Life Skills programme next year.
Overall we will be making the session schedule more visible for the school community than it was this year (this year it was emailed out to students and only in the daily notices some weeks). The big push will be on making sessions more practical than just speaking at the students.
What would you include in a programme like this? Have you run similar programmes at your school? Please let us know so we can help each other to improve the outcomes for our students.