Skills for Life & Personal Development

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Using the power of the sea to make a positive change. We are talking to Dr. Cath Hollyhead, Quality Manager from UKSA who is talking to us about their Skills for Life (S4L) framework and how they measure student's personal development whilst on a residential visit at UKSA

Hi Cath, Can you tell us a bit more about your Skills for Life framework and what some of the key parameters are with student's personal and social development?

We define Skills for Life (S4L) as being the 6 steps to success. We measure students perception of their communication, decision making, teamwork, self-belief, determination and resilience at the beginning of the residential visit, and again, at the end of their stay at UKSA. The six skills were chosen to encourage young people to aspire and achieve whilst having fun.

At the beginning of the residential trip, our Instructors talk to students about these skills. Students assess themselves, on a scale of 1 to 10, using a series of questions. For example, those that feel less confident will give a low score whereas those that feel more confident would give a greater score.

At the end of their time here they are given a new survey to complete and access themselves again using the same questions.

By using a consistent measure across all visiting schools we are able to provide not only comparisons for a particular class, but also compare data to other schools and students of different ages. This data can also be combined with our measurements. For example, if there is a correlation between the average increases in S4L v's the Social Deprivation Decile Index of the location of the school.

watersports learning

Why did UKSA decide to measure impact with the Skills for Life framework?

At UKSA, part of our Mission is to "enhance life skills through maritime training".

The Big Lottery Fund defines impact measurement as "the process of trying to find out what effect an intervention (such as a funding programme) is having on people, organisations or their external physical, economic, political or social environment."

Put simply we need to measure what we are doing works. Using this measurement highlights any areas for improvement if one skill consistently lags behind the others.

Through feedback from our partners and our own research, our S4L measure has improved over the past 7 years.

What type of feedback have you had from teachers about the way in which this has affected students that have visited you?

Feedback from schools is shown below.

"Soft Skills that are developed on the residential and are taken back to the classroom, as a result, the school benefits from the whole class working as a team, throughout the rest of the academic year. " St. Augustines School

"The use of the Skills for Life assessment this year was really useful and in keeping with what we are doing at the school. The Instructors referred back to these skills continually to the point where it became second nature to the children to use them in conversation and still do to this day." Blackheath Prep

How many students have you assessed since initiating this incentive?

The program has been running at UKSA since 2011 and so far we have assessed the change in S4L of 6,711 pupils. Each year we have increased the number of School's that participate in the programme. By last year, this included every group that stayed for more than 2 nights – 51 reports in total! This year we are scheduled to assess the changes in S4L of 3,952 pupils across 88 Schools, Academies and Youth Development Groups. (This is a 69.8% increase in S4L pupil numbers).

What results do you see through the assessment process in terms of percentage improvements?

We consistently see an increase in the average scores that the pupils assess themselves as. This can be broken down between the six skills as follows:

Average BeforeAverage AfterPercentage Change
Communication6.907.6210.4%
Decision Making6.437.2613.0%
Teamwork7.187.737.7%
Self-belief6.697.7411.1%
Determination7.157.819.2%
Resilience6.857.5510.2%

Additionally, we can demonstrate we are living up to our Mission. Last year 80% of pupils said they would like to try watersports again, with a further 17% saying maybe and only 3% saying no.

south coast watersports

What are the Skills for Life aims and how do you tie in the activities you offer to the Skills for Life framework?

The aims of the S4L Programme are:

- To enable UKSA to assess the areas to be prioritised during the land and water-based activities.

- Provide data on the progression of young people, as a result of participating in activities. Allows future improvements – what worked what did not.

The Prince's Trust Results for Life Report 2017 states that "Qualifications will always be the key measure of young peoples' success in school. But as our Results for Life report shows, they are not the only thing young people need in order to make a successful transition from education into the workplace". Their report reveals that soft skills, such as teamwork, communication and confidence are considered as important to achieving success in life as good academic grades. All of our water and land-based activities encompass our S4L but by focusing on the weakest areas we can tailor our programmes to address these.

If a teacher is thinking about booking a residential school trip how would you show them the benefit of taking a group to UKSA and getting out on the water vs a more traditional residential school trip?

We would initially ask teachers to come along and have a look around UKSA, to sample our accommodation, food and a watersports taster session. Preview visits are provided, with our compliments and with no obligation.

Having data available from the skills for life reports really helps evidence the value of a UKSA residential.

If you are interested in hearing a bit more about how UKSA can help with your next residential then why not get in touch here.


Find out more about UKSA






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Teacher Reviews: ★★★★★
With over 30 years of experience, UKSA offers young people a fun and safe outdoor environment in which to learn important life skills to excel. Bespoke packages in sailing, watersports, and teambuilding include accommodation, food, kit, and tuition.
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