Stocksbridge High School
After four years, Stocksbridge High School is a veteran of the Better Learners Better Workers Programme. To begin with, Year 10 and 11 students participated, but experience suggested it was better to start earlier so interviews are now held in Year 8 and students start in Year 9 with a choice of four sectors: Engineering, Healthcare, Arts and Culture and, more recently, Computer Science. With up to 12 students on each strand in each year, there are nearly 80 students on programme at any one time and more than 150 students have been through the programme over the past four years.
Claire Jackson is Deputy Head and has overseen the growth of the programme: “We now have students in Year 8 who are desperate to join the Better Learners Better Workers programme. Being an Ambassador is something to look up to, the students take pride in it. When they get their Ambassador badge, it makes a difference to how they behave, react and learn. There is a code of conduct and Ambassadors take it very seriously, they are embarrassed if they fall short. Parents are really enthusiastic about it as well; it raises their aspirations for their children. Some tell me that it’s the best thing their son our daughter has done.”
Students have to apply to be an Ambassador and go through an interview process. Claire Jackson feels that this is the right approach: “They feel chosen and it’s something to aspire to but it’s not elitist. We ensure a wide mix of students are given the opportunity. It’s not just about those who are academically able.
“As a school we prepare our students to leave academically ready for their next steps, but we cannot ensure they are work-ready on our own, we need help from employers. The programme has given us long-term relationships with businesses and employers.
James Tear, Managing Director of The Solpro Group, is the Better Learners Better Workers Business Champion working with Stocksbridge High School: “It’s been an eye-opener for me in terms of understanding what teachers do and the challenges that schools face.”
A regular visitor to the school, James helps to select the Better Learners Better Workers Ambassadors and mentors them when they are on the programme: “I’ve just interviewed all the Year 9 and Year 10 students who are on programme. I asked three questions: Are you going to carry on? Are you glad you did it? Would you do it again? Only one student said they had not enjoyed the programme but they carried on because they realised how valuable it was, which illustrates exactly the kind of resilience the programme is all about.”
“Personally, I have found participating in Better Learners Better Workers very rewarding. So much so, that I have now accepted the invitation to become a Governor at Stocksbridge High School.”
Students who have graduated from the Better Learners Better Workers programme at Stocksbridge High have already gone on to achieve. For example, one student has set up his own business whilst studying at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy. Another student on the NHS programme wants to be a pharmacist and is now looking at job opportunities.
Ryan Howes is a graduate of the Engineering programme and won the Better Learners Better Workers Gold Ambassador 2016 for Outstanding Achievement. Now in year 11 focusing on his GCSEs, Ryan believes that the programme has equipped him with the necessary skills for future education and work: “The programme has made me aware of opportunities that I didn’t know were out there. By meeting employers, it helped me understand more about work and where it can take you. Before I took part in the programme, I never used to put myself out there because I was too scared of getting rejected, but now I can happily go and hand in an application and speak to an employer, and if they say no I realise that there are always other opportunities. I’ve become more confident in myself.”
Claire Jackson adds, “The Better Learners Better Workers programme has become ingrained in how we do things. The challenge is how we disseminate this to the rest of the school – how we grow more sector programmes and offer more opportunities. Inspired by Better Learners Better Workers, we’ve started running Skills Days where students from Year 7 through to Year 10 all get an experience of the skills that employers are looking for. The Better Learners Better Workers programme undoubtedly helps to broaden students’ horizons and develop their leadership skills. We want that for all our students.”