Making Things Happen

Work X – Students Practise Skills

“A brilliant alternative to work experience”


St Hild’s Church of England School in Hartlepool is a specialist engineering college with an excellent local reputation.

When the local authority took the decision to discontinue work experience for Key Stage 4 students, Rachel Gilhespie, St Hild’s Leader of Business, Work Related Learning and Enterprise, and Lesley Smith, WRL Co-ordinator, looked around for something of value to take its place for their Year 11 students. They turned to Bright Futures.

Rachel also approached her colleague, Louise Day, the Director of Engineering, to see if it would be possible to develop an engineering theme for the day.

Bright Futures were asked to run a three-hour programme for half the year group at a time, covering all of Year 11 during the day. Lesley asked BF to organise team-based challenges which would give the students an insight into the work place and help them appreciate the skills and attitudes required at work. She also asked BF to link the challenges to an engineering theme.

The result was a programme which began by introducing students to the concept of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Through several team challenges, students were encouraged to ask themselves the questions: how am I smart? how am I clever? how am I intelligent?

St Hild's

After this preparation, teams were set an engineering-related challenge. This involved agreeing a design, purchasing the materials needed for construction and preparing an advertising slogan. Teams “earned” money by demonstrating good teamwork, designing the best-looking model and inventing the most imaginative name and logo. It was fun: there was a great deal of hard work and much laughter. Each team then faced the final challenge where the cars were raced down the straight. The maximum distance achieved on the day was 3.3 metres.

Students’ Comments:

St Hild's
  • I learned how to get along in a team with people I didn’t know;
  • I enjoyed working in groups to discover each other’s strengths;
  • I learned that work + teamwork = success;
  • It really helped me understand what employers are looking for.

Staff were encouraged to join in during the day and here are some of their written comments:

  • Our students learned to work together in groups they would not normally work in;
  • They also had to keep to strict time limits and work out how to cost their project.

Lesley said: Today met all our objectives. Bright Futures were as good as their word. Our students had a brilliant time and, in just three hours, they experienced at first hand those skills they need to develop for the work place and the attitudes that employers are looking for. It was a brilliant alternative to work experience.

Louise Day, Director of Engineering, said: “This was great. Our students enjoyed the problem solving and, through it, they learnt about the application of science and engineering to real situations.”

St Hild's

Colin Reid, Headteacher, commented: “Once again, Bright Futures were true to their name. It is clear from the feedback that our students learned some very important lessons today.”

St Hild's

Mike Watson, Director of Bright Futures, in conversation with the School’s Head of Engineering, Mike Rowe, said: “This was an opportunity for young people to learn about those skills and attitudes needed in the work place and the students at St Hild’s rose to the occasion.”


Colin Reid
St Hild’s Church of England School
King Oswy Drive, Hartlepool, TS24 9PB
T: 01429 273041

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