Making Things Happen

Work X – Enterprise & Employability

An imaginative alternative to work experience

Joe White

St Michael’s Catholic Academy, situated in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, is a successful, popular, over-subscribed school. It has been a specialist Science school since 2003 and then in 2008, having been recognised as a High Performing Specialist School, it added a second specialism of Applied Learning. Headteacher, believes that this combination helps them to continue to improve standards and to provide all students with a variety of learning experiences.

Anne Jones

Anne Jones, Head of Work Related Learning, has been responsible for spearheading many WRL initiatives in school over the years. So it wasn’t a surprise when she came up with a new model for the Year 10 students after the School and the Local Authority, Stockton Borough Council, decided on a trial to curtail the one-week block work experience for some of the year group.

Anne worked closely with Wendy Starks, 14-19 Advisor at Stockton. A strategic decision was taken six months before to allow 40% of the Year 10 students to go out on work experience. These were the ones who, they felt, would really benefit. Many of them would be self-placements. The other 60% were to experience a mixture of day conferences, intensive careers advice, visits to nearby major employers and a day at Middlesbrough Football Club. Bright Futures, who have worked in the school over many years, contributed a day on enterprise and entrepreneurship. The week-long alternative to a block placement would offer the students several opportunities to develop those key employability skills so necessary in the workplace.

With four months to go, Bright Futures attended a planning meeting at the School. Here we suggested that our day on enterprise would be enhanced if parents came in for the last session. The School and the LA took up this idea with enthusiasm.

So how did it go? For the best answers, we can do no better than quote the comments made by the students, the staff and the parents on the day.

First of all, students described what they had found most helpful about the day. They enjoyed:

  • working as a team;
  • being in a team I would not normally work in;
  • negotiation skills;
  • the opportunity to be competitive in a relaxed and friendly environment;
  • the radio ad we had to do;
  • the ‘everyone had to say something’ aspect;
  • the activities showed us how actually to be enterprising;
  • working on different tasks to make things appealing;
  • having to get up and use the mic, speaking in front of everyone, helped my confidence.

Staff said what they thought their students gained from the programme.

  • They were working together, negotiating and finding their strengths and weaknesses;
  • They were linking enterprise skills with the world of work;
  • They gained a good understanding of how important team-working is;
  • They experienced how learning can be fun;
  • Each time I came in, the pupils seemed to be on task, focused and enjoying the activities.

In addition, here’s what staff said that Bright Futures might have done better.

  • I was only there for one hour but what I saw was really good.
  • Nothing: it was high quality in every respect, so motivating for the students – excellent.
  • I have to say that everything I have seen today was well-structured and very well presented. Impressive!

Here are some of the comments made at the end of the after-school session by the parents.

  • It was really good because it got the parents involved.
  • It helps parents with teaching the kids job skills themselves.
  • A great idea – and the food was fab.
  • I thought it was a good idea; very interesting to find out about how students learn and useful to find out what they had been doing.

Finally, students commented about the parents’ session:

  • It was really good; we should definitely do it again.
  • It was great getting parents involved and all the activities were really good.  It’s nice to show them what we do.  Thank you.
  • I would recommend that other schools should do it.

Wendy Starks commented to Bright Futures at the end of the week: “I have heard some very good feedback verbally – especially about the day that you delivered.”

Matt Watson, Managing Director of Bright Futures, observed: “St Michael’s has often been at the forefront of WRL developments and I feel sure that other schools will be very interested indeed to read about this successful new model which offers students a valid alternative to work experience.”

St Michael’s Catholic Academy, Billingham
Beamish Road, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, TS23 3DX
T: 01642 870003
F: 01642 370618

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