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National Curriculum

Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in English


What are we trying to achieve?

The new secondary curriculum focuses on developing the skills and qualities that learners need to succeed in school and the broader community. The development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) is essential to meeting the three national curriculum aims of becoming successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The individual subjects, which make up the curriculum, provide the essential range of activities, learning opportunities and contexts essential for the effective development of these skills.

The framework comprises of six PLTS:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participators

  • reflective learners.

PLTS underpin the whole curriculum and can transform young people’s engagement with learning. They support learners’ understanding of themselves as well as their relationship with others and the world around them. Effective development of PLTS can raise achievement and make a considerable impact on learners’ ability to succeed, both now and in adult life.

How do we develop PLTS?

The English programmes of study provide a rich and exciting range of opportunities to develop PLTS as an integral part of subject teaching and learning. Explicit and implicit opportunities are present in the key concepts, key processes, range and content, and curriculum opportunities.

Independent enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • structure their own research

  • explore questions they have identified for themselves about texts, language and experiences

  • analyse and examine information, judging its relevance, value and validity

  • investigate with increasing independence, challenging ideas and assumptions.

Creative thinkers

Learners can develop as creative thinkers when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • generate their own ideas, making fresh connections with the ideas of others

  • use their imagination to convey ideas and create settings, moods and characters

  • identify and try out for themselves alternative and imaginative solutions and increasingly inventive approaches to what they say and write in familiar and unfamiliar contexts.

Team workers

Learners can develop as team workers when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • recognise their own strengths and those of others to allocate roles and tasks, and take responsibility for their own contribution to achieve effective outcomes, for example in organising a presentation

  • select for themselves and use e-technologies to extend their language experiences, for example use web or satellite links with another school or theatre workshops

  • provide and respond to constructive feedback taking account of different views and developing the confidence to resolve issues.


Learners can develop as self-managers when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • take personal responsibility for organising their time and resources to carry out and successfully complete work, for example preparing an individual presentation

  • use commitment, perseverance and understanding to prioritise actions and work towards their identified goals, for example in completing an extended task

  • make informed choices about how they communicate formally and informally

  • respond to new or changing priorities, actively embracing change, for example the challenges of investigating a new text or role.

Effective participators

Learners can develop as effective participators when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • engage actively with topics, issues and events in school and beyond, which they select for themselves, for example participating in debates, discussions and drama activities

  • take different views into account and modify their own views in the light of what others say

  • develop listening and negotiation skills to reach and express their own, well-reasoned responses, for example on the qualities and distinctiveness of texts of other cultures

  • consider alternatives represent or express views and beliefs, including those that may differ from their own.

Reflective learners

Learners can develop as reflective learners when they are provided with opportunities in English to:

  • invite feedback from peers and others, evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses to monitor and improve their performance in speaking, listening, reading and writing

  • adapt and refine their ideas as work progresses, identifying opportunities for further development, setting themselves realistic goals with criteria for success

  • continuously self-monitor and seek increasingly challenging ways to meet the goals they have set for themselves.

How do we plan for PLTS?

Effective planning for PLTS in English needs to ensure that they are embedded into sequences of work, teaching approaches and learning outcomes. When this is done well, it will enrich the experiences of learners and support their progress in English while increasing coherence across the curriculum.

The following are some questions we might ask to support the development of PLTS through English.

  • Are there planned opportunities for learning and teaching, where the six PLTS can be taught, practised and reinforced in a range of contexts?

  • Are planned experiences sufficiently ‘open’ for learners to draw on personal experiences and set themselves personal challenges?

  • Do activities encourage learners to explore a range of settings, for example collaborative work, individual work, in the classroom, the school and events in the community?

  • Are learners encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways?

  • Are there opportunities to make coherent links to learning in other curriculum areas to effectively connect and enhance learners’ experiences?

  • Are e-technologies used effectively to enable and support such learning?


The teacher plans for learners to write modern fairy stories for young children. The stories are to be published in the local library and shared and evaluated by children from the feeder primary schools. A key aim is to develop learners’ skills in creative writing, but to also develop the PLTS  team working and reflective learning through this context.

In carrying out this activity, it is important for the learners to develop the skills to become increasingly independent, and take responsibility for solving problems and controlling the direction and format of their work.

Learners are taught a range of approaches to creative writing, which they explore and develop. They will imagine and create for themselves their characters and storyline, and conclude by producing their story using word processing and publishing software available at the school.

Learners will work in groups over several lessons, taking on a range of roles and responsibilities, ensuring that each group member contributes effectively to the final outcome. The stories will be evaluated by learners for storyline, characters and design using criteria that they have designed and agreed themselves.

This activity involves learners in:

  • deciding on a format and approach to the task and dividing up roles (team workers, self-managers)

  • researching the traditional fairy tales (independent enquirers)

  • discussing and agreeing the plot (creative thinkers)

  • discussing different ways of presenting their story (team workers, creative thinkers)

  • taking responsibility for preparing different aspects of the book, reviewing work in progress, giving constructive feedback to others and making adaptations (team workers, reflective learners)

  • publishing and presenting their story through displaying it in the local library and primary school (team workers, creative thinkers, effective participators)

  • evaluating their performance, taking account of feedback from peers and teachers, and setting targets to improve (reflective learners).

Are we achieving our aims?

In planning for progression, it is important to develop a clear picture of how learners demonstrate PLTS in the context of teaching and learning in English and how those skills can raise achievement in this subject. For example, learners may demonstrate that they are:

  • making personal choices about their learning and identifying ways to improve their work, for example by planning their own individual explorations, investigations and research

  • increasingly drawing on their own experiences and making connections across the curriculum

  • extending their understanding and ability to express themselves, for example by using language in increasingly unfamiliar contexts with more confidence and creativity

  • engaging with and applying their knowledge and skills beyond school contexts for a specific purpose, for example reading for pleasure, participating in a theatrical production.

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