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Key Steps course helps students develop empathy and cultural awareness

ASDAN’s Key Steps is a comprehensive programme of activities aimed at learners aged 10-14. Penelope Jacques, Multi-Sensory Support Worker at Rivermead School, shares how the Short Course encourages young people to be compassionate members of society.


"At Rivermead School, we researched programmes that would give our students a broad wealth of knowledge and ASDAN's Key Steps came out on top,” says Penelope Jacques. “Since 2019 we’ve been using Key Steps in our enrichment lessons with Key Stage 3 learners.”


Rivermead School in Medway, Kent, is a community special school catering for young people with a range of special educational needs and disability’s (SEND). ASDAN’s Key Steps contains nine modules covering an extensive range of topics, including Citizenship, Personal Finance, Environment, Internationalism and Values.


“The broad subject matter has been amazing for our learners as it allows them to focus on three topics over each academic year, from Year 7 to Year 9,” says Penelope. Students can really get their teeth into each module, it’s been absolutely brilliant.” 



Supporting flexible, interest-led learning


Key Steps accredits a minimum of 30 hours of learning and can be followed for up to three years or less than one year, depending on the learners’ needs. 


“ASDAN’s Key Steps is incredibly flexible and enables cross-curricular learning,” says Penelope. “There’s a topic of interest to everyone and each challenge can be tailored to the individual learners’ interests while also introducing core skills".


“Our Year 9 group were extremely interested in protests and the diverse methods that people use to share their views,” says Penelope. “The flexibility of Keys Steps meant that we were able to stretch out this challenge as part of Module 4: Citizenship to give the learners a deeper knowledge and to continue their engagement.


“There are important topics which can be missed within the compulsory academic curriculum,” says Penelope. “Key Steps bridges the gap to ensure that learners leave education with an understanding of a variety of subject areas and a breadth of life skills.”



Building learners’ cultural capital 


Key Steps is internally moderated and presented as personal challenges to encourage students to develop their personal skills and take responsibility for their own learning.


“One of my favourite activities has been Module 1 Identity: Challenge 7, where students created a family tree to research their personal heritage,” says Penelope.


“They shared their findings with the class and discovered the varying sizes of families. They then discussed the culture around that and it was really nice for everyone to develop mutual respect for each other’s backgrounds".


“Many of our Year 7s have the mindset that what they have, everyone has,” says Penelope. “It was brilliant to be able to widen their cultural awareness and develop their empathy by having them place their own identity within the context of the wider world. At Rivermead School, we have a big focus on SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development) and every Key Steps lesson fulfils those SMSC aims”.


“Key Steps worked really well with blended learning,” says Penelope. “The students were working from home during lockdown when creating their family trees. The flexibility of the challenge gave students the opportunity to be more independent. They gained social skills outside of the classroom and were able to form better relationships at home.”



Developing skills for adulthood


“As part of Module 6: Personal Finance our learners researched different property options. We have students from a variety of backgrounds and social circumstances and some may not be aware that others rent their homes. Prior to undertaking Key Steps, there were large gaps in our students’ wealth of knowledge".


“When I was younger it would have been really helpful to know what council tax was for!” says Penelope. “Key Steps gives us the structure to broaden students’ apprehension on subjects that are practical and crucial for life after school but that often don't get covered in a standard curriculum.” 


Student-centred teaching


“ASDAN’s Key Steps allows a teacher to use it for whatever they want it for,” says Penelope. “The course doesn't dictate what you need to be doing with your learners or how. Being a student-focused environment, our aim is to support learners to get the best out of things. We want them to be knowledge-wealthy in order to form their own opinions and succeed in life. ASDAN’s Keys Steps allows exactly that,” says Penelope.


“We’re excited to move forward with ASDAN courses as the learners have benefited hugely from taking part in Key Steps. They’ve discovered new interests that they'd like to explore further. From learning more about themselves to discovering what tax is, the impact of ASDAN’s Key Steps will be prevalent far into their adult lives.”


Please contact if you would like to share your centre's success story or would like to find out more about ASDAN’s Key Steps.