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National Curriculum

Personal, learning and thinking skills



The personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) provide a framework for describing the qualities and skills needed for success in learning and life. The PLTS framework has been developed and refined over a number of years in consultation with employers, parents, schools, students and the wider public.

The personal, learning and thinking skills leaflet will support schools in planning and implementing PLTS – the qualities and skills needed for success in learning and life.

The guidance is built around the three curriculum questions:

  • What are we trying to achieve?

  • How will we organise the learning?

  • How will we know when we are achieving our aims?

We want all young people to be engaged with learning and to recognise the value and importance of education in their lives. The advice provided in this leaflet will help you to raise standards, so that all learners can meet the challenges of life in our fast-changing world.

What are PLTS?

The framework comprises six groups of skills:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • reflective learners

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participants.

For each group of skills, a focus statement sums up the range of skills and qualities involved. This is accompanied by a set of outcome statements that describe the relevant skills, behaviours and personal qualities.

Each group of skills is distinctive and coherent. The groups are also interconnected and learners are likely to encounter skills from several groups in any one learning experience. For example, an independent enquirer sets goals for their research with clear success criteria (reflective learner) and organises their time and resources effectively to achieve these goals (self-manager). To develop independence, learners need to apply skills from all six groups in a wide range of contexts.

Independent enquirers


Young people process and evaluate information in their investigations, planning what to do and how to go about it. They take informed and well-reasoned decisions, recognising that others have different beliefs and attitudes.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • identify questions to answer and problems to resolve

  • plan and carry out research, appreciating the consequences of decisions

  • explore issues, events or problems from different perspectives

  • analyse and evaluate information, judging its relevance and value

  • consider the influence of circumstances, beliefs and feelings on decisions and events

  • support conclusions, using reasoned arguments and evidence.

Creative thinkers


Young people think creatively by generating and exploring ideas, making original connections. They try different ways to tackle a problem, working with others to find imaginative solutions and outcomes that are of value.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • generate ideas and explore possibilities

  • ask questions to extend their thinking

  • connect their own and others’ ideas and experiences in inventive ways

  • question their own and others’ assumptions

  • try out alternatives or new solutions and follow ideas through

  • adapt ideas as circumstances change.

Reflective learners


Young people evaluate their strengths and limitations, setting themselves realistic goals with criteria for success. They monitor their own performance and progress, inviting feedback from others and making changes to further their learning.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • assess themselves and others, identifying opportunities and achievements

  • set goals with success criteria for their development and work

  • review progress, acting on the outcomes

  • invite feedback and deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism

  • evaluate experiences and learning to inform future progress

  • communicate their learning in relevant ways for different audiences.

Team workers


Young people work confidently with others, adapting to different contexts and taking responsibility for their own part. They listen to and take account of different views. They form collaborative relationships, resolving issues to reach agreed outcomes.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • collaborate with others to work towards common goals 

  • reach agreements, managing discussions to achieve results 

  • adapt behaviour to suit different roles and situations, including leadership roles 

  • show fairness and consideration to others 

  • take responsibility, showing confidence in themselves and their contribution 

  • provide constructive support and feedback to others.



Young people organise themselves, showing personal responsibility, initiative, creativity and enterprise with a commitment to learning and self-improvement. They actively embrace change, responding positively to new priorities, coping with challenges and looking for opportunities.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • seek out challenges or new responsibilities and show flexibility when priorities change

  • work towards goals, showing initiative, commitment and perseverance

  • organise time and resources, prioritising actions

  • anticipate, take and manage risks

  • deal with competing pressures, including personal and work-related demands

  • respond positively to change, seeking advice and support when needed

  • manage their emotions, and build and maintain relationships.

Effective participators


Young people actively engage with issues that affect them and those around them. They play a full part in the life of their school, college, workplace or wider community by taking responsible action to bring improvements for others as well as themselves.

Skills, behaviours and personal qualities

Young people:

  • discuss issues of concern, seeking resolution where needed

  • present a persuasive case for action

  • propose practical ways forward, breaking these down into manageable steps

  • identify improvements that would benefit others as well as themselves

  • try to influence others, negotiating and balancing diverse views to reach workable solutions

  • act as an advocate for views and beliefs that may differ from their own.

PLTS through subjects

The personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) framework supports young people in their learning across the curriculum. The skills should be developed through the range of experiences and subject contexts available in the national curriculum, so that the PLTS framework supports and complements the subject programmes of study.

Increasing understanding of the six areas of PLTS, and the sets of skills and competencies they encompass, can provide a common focus for learning across subjects. For example, a school day could be chosen for a focus on becoming more reflective learners. Through this students learn to develop and transfer skills across a range of contexts. They can then use what they have learnt to support their attainment across the curriculum.

Many schools plan for developing young people’s PLTS by explicitly mapping PLTS objectives into schemes of work, alongside subject-based objectives.

View PLTS in the curriculum

This tool appears on the right hand side of this page and can be used to see how PLTS can be embedded in subjects. Select a subject and click on the 'go' button to see how it can contribute to the learner's development of PLTS.

Some schools use the skills identified in the PLTS framework to plan and present their curriculum in new and innovative ways. The skills provide the starting point for planning and the statutory programmes of study are mapped against these. Learners in these schools still experience the rich range of curricular experiences promoted through the subject contexts of the national curriculum.

PLTS and other skills frameworks

The PLTS framework complements and works effectively with other initiatives, including the SEAL project, and together with the functional skills of English, mathematics and ICT, it plays a crucial role in preparing young people for successful learning, work and life.

The PLTS framework also reflects competency frameworks and skills taxonomies promoted through other initiatives such as Social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL), RSA Opening Minds and Futurelab's Enquiring minds.

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