Open to schools with pupils in secondary and/or post-16 provision, judges were looking for excellence and/or innovation in pupil outcomes, or curricular or non-curricular programmes, evidenced as above.
Bredon School is a boarding and day school in Gloucestershire which specialises in teaching students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning difficulties (SpLD).
Many of Bredon’s students excel in the practical aspects of the School’s curricular and extra-curricular provision; for example, there is a focus on students taking vocational qualifications which, in many cases, better suits their learning style. And the school offers BTEC qualifications in career-focused subjects such as catering and hospitality, engineering, farming and IT.
In 2016 Bredon introduced a year-long work experience programme for students in Year 12; offering them the opportunity to spend one day a week (year-round) in industry supporting their vocational learning and enabling them to gain valuable, practical skills ready to take them forward in to the next stage of their lives, whether that be into paid employment, an apprenticeship or Further or Higher Education.
All students are visited within their chosen workplace every half term in order to maintain contact between the school and the placement company and feedback to date has been great.
As well as employers offering students jobs as regular members of staff (primarily holiday work, or for after their studies have completed), parents have praised the scheme also.
Maree Evans’s son Stefan has completed a year-long work experience placement at Stratford Butterfly Farm. She said that before Stefan started work there, he had no concept at all of what it was to have a ‘work ethic’.
She says that this has now changed: “Thanks to the work experience placement, Stef now understands more about the importance of planning a routine. The fact that the placement happens each week, and isn’t just confined to a single week’s event, means he’s developed skills in time and self-management.
“He has to make sure he’s organised and prepared for the day ahead, he gets himself to his placement enabling him to practice independent travel and developing key life skills. He really does put all his effort into work and really enjoys it. He was delighted recently when the team threw him a little party for his birthday!”
This success is made all the more noteworthy as Stef has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and finds adapting to change very challenging. Since starting on his placement Stef has decided that Animal Care is the career he wants to pursue and will leave Bredon at the end of his academic studies this year to enrol on an Animal Care course at nearby Pershore College.
He has also been offered a permanent role at the Butterfly Farm.
Year 12s Rebecca May has completed her year-long placement at Tewkesbury Town Council where she was able to contribute towards the development of a Youth Service Scheme in the area; securing funding for the scheme. She has also worked on the feasibility of solar lighting on cycle routes around Tewkesbury.
As a result of Rebecca’s work, and her insight into what it is that youths want, the Council has upped its offer of placements for next year, offering two dedicated work placements for Bredon students in 2017-2018.
Catering and hospitality student Connor O’Neil has enjoyed working at The Marina Court Care Home for the elderly. Connor is looking to pursue a career in the food industry and has been helping to prepare meals for residents and also taking part in social events! The residents have really enjoyed his company and are always pleased to see him.
Will Checkley has been busy working at the Pershore Activity Centre. Will has a natural affinity for practically-based maintenance tasks and has progressed from a half term trial, to a full time placement! He has developed his skills in lots of practical areas.
When a staff member visited him in the work place, it was noted that she showed great maturity and confidence and the success he has enjoyed from being successful on his placement has translated back into school work and life; Will has benefitted hugely from this much-needed confidence boost, so much so, that he has applied for the Head Boy position at Bredon for his final year. He would not have had the confidence or self-belief prior to his work experience, to do this.
There are many other stories of success, but perhaps the best measure of all is that the school is now extending placements to students in Years 12 and 13 as it has been proven to have such a beneficial effect on their school work, career choices and self-confidence. The school is currently in talks with West Mercia Police, who are keen to support work experience in a wide variety of areas.
For students who need to learn ‘by doing’, or who learn in different ways due to their unique learning profiles, this new initiative is proving innovative in the most beneficial way.