As a secondary school in Cumbria delivers a unique programme designed to improve their pupils' career prospects, our staff have been able to play a significant part.
Walney School in Cumbria has launched several initiatives to help make pupils more resilient and better prepared for the world of work. It centres around the School's unique employability programme and we are delighted to be involved.
As well as attending different careers events on campus, we, like many other local employers, have developed a working relationship with the School and our Chief Executive Godfrey Owen is now acting as the School’s Enterprise Adviser. Brathay staff have also been delivering our 3.7 resilience programme to pupils identified as needing additional support and a Leadership Development residential at Ambleside has been offered to more able pupils.
And according to Eve Hills, People Officer for a northern McDonalds franchise, local employers are already seeing a difference.
‘I am all too familiar with interviewing school leavers who think nothing of answering their phones in front of me, or using bad language and shrugging and chewing gum, but the pupils at Walney are different. They are taught how to address adults and open doors for you. They come forward to shake your hand, and can look you in the eye when talking.’
This is music to the ears of Allison Redshaw, Deputy Head at Walney and the person behind the School’s ambition to get every pupil thinking positively about their future from Year 7 upwards. Not only are appropriate workplace behaviours being actively taught in school, but pupils are engaged in events and projects designed to broaden their horizons and better equip them for the world of work.
Legislation has put increasing responsibility on secondary schools to deliver their own careers provision and every school must have a CEIAG (Careers, Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Policy). It’s no mean feat, bearing in mind that the education system is already busting a gut to meet National Curriculum targets with diminished funds and non-teaching pastoral roles disappearing overnight.
Yet Walney School has been resourceful: under Allison’s direction they’ve hosted Learner Conferences where business delegates discuss the local job market and ways of making meaningful connections between pupils and employers.
'Research shows that pupils who regularly come into contact with employers have a significantly better chance of identifying and following their chosen career paths,’ says Allison, who is all too well aware that schools can no longer rely on work experience placements alone. ‘Pupils benefit from engaging with employers and the wider local community throughout their school life which is the thinking behind our employability programme.’
One feature of the programme is ‘Futures Friday’ – a careers event involving the entire school where up to 600 pupils get the chance to meet employers, past pupils, and local colleges to chat informally and ask questions.
'Visitors are asked to share their personal life stories,’ says Allison. ‘It’s helpful for students to see that as adults we all make mistakes, change direction, have a re-think and re-train. We want to empower pupils to see that as well as their academic results, they each have something worthwhile to offer and life is often about making the most of unexpected opportunities. Our careers programme is aimed at equipping pupils to see what is potentially available to them and make positive choices along the way.’
It’s an interesting approach and one that appears to be catching the pupils’ attention. At the School’s most recent Futures Friday, Year 7 girls were involved with one major local employer in creating a model submarine, while other employers ran teamwork and problem solving exercises. An ex-pupil who left teacher training to work full-time locally talked about the pros and cons of university versus work; an actress and a poet came along, as did Judith Wren who set up her own artisan drinks business late in life having had career changes along the way. ‘I realised that I was organised, determined, hard working, and never afraid to ask for help.’ she said. An inspirational example, if ever there was one, of the value of transferable skills.
Each year, students work towards acquiring their ‘Employability Passport’ progressing from Bronze level in Year 7 through to Platinum in Year 11. They must provide examples of leadership, teamwork, practical tasks they may have taken part in, volunteer work, part-time jobs, National Citizen Service, Duke Of Edinburgh Award and interests outside school.
Support from Brathay
‘We know from our work running training courses and apprenticeships for companies that the digital workplace is ever-changing and complex. Employers are looking for adaptable and confident individuals who can think creatively, work well in teams and solve problems as they come along,’ says Godfrey Owen. ‘Walney School is making a difference in terms of enabling pupils to think and behave this way. The Employability Passport can only help to raise self-esteem, develop aspirations and self-belief, and enable students to plan and prepare for their future.
‘Our work with the School is part of a wider range of projects we are undertaking across the Furness area as we strive to help local communities prosper and thrive.’
Godfrey Owen, Chief Executive