Better Learners Better Workers Programme at Firth Park Academy
Firth Park Academy is an 11-16 comprehensive school in Shiregreen, to the north of the city centre. The Better Learners Better Workers programme is a core part how the Academy supports students to build their aspirations and strength of character.
Better Learners Better Workers offers a standard programme tailored to different employment sectors. Firth Park started early on with the manufacturing (STEM) and healthcare programmes and has recently started on the computer science programme. Inspired by Better Learners Better Workers, the Academy also developed a programme for the culture and arts sector which has since been adopted by the overall Ambassadors programme.
Rob Simcock, Director of Alternative Provision, co-ordinates the NHS Ambassadors programme at Firth Park. The programme extends over two years; students are recruited at the end of Year 9 and take part throughout Year 10 and up to February of Year 11 before preparation for GCSE’s takes over as a priority. The programme is run entirely as an extra-curricular activity, with monthly twilight sessions at one of the hospitals, plus work experience.
Rob explains, “The NHS programme working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is focused on employability and giving the students experience of the NHS. It stretches the students. The feedback is really good.”
Rob continues, “Yvonne Byrne at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals gets to know the young people and matches them up to relevant work experience for their characters and interests. They like being involved in real activity; for example, some of our students looked at mental health issues for their Ambassador project and then did an excellent presentation to fellow students in some of our PSCHE classes.”
Rob adds, “We gain from the Better Learners Better Workers programme as a school. The programme gives us opportunities to engage with employers, which we’re always seeking. The Skills Passport is very useful because it was developed by employers so we are now using it more widely across the school. The Awards Ceremony, in the prestigious surroundings of the Cutlers’ Hall, when the students receive their Skills Passports at the end of their programme makes a big impression on parents and guardians. It’s more like a degree ceremony now, with hundreds of students receiving certificates – the scale of what has been achieved already is impressive.”
Kieran, Muna and Anna are all Better Learners Better Workers Gold Ambassadors at Firth Park. Each year, eight students are selected for an extra award, Gold Ambassador, to recognise outstanding progress, creativity and all round excellence. In 2016, three of these Gold Ambassadors were from Firth Park Academy. Kieran and Muna, who graduated from the NHS Healthcare programme, and Anna who graduated from the Engineering programme.
Anna leaves the programme with great memories of the experience and says “It has helped me with my work at school, by helping me improve core skills in numeracy and literacy. It has also given me the desired work skills and qualities that employers search for such as resilience, integrity, communication, self-belief, and confidence. It has made me stand out from other students.”
Speaking on why she applied for the NHS programme, Muna says, “I applied because I always liked helping people and I like the care side of things in what the NHS does. Being in the medical field, I thought it was all about doctors and nurses but it’s also about being able to conduct yourself in a professional way, learning new skills and being able to communicate.”
NHS work experience as a hospital porter was the highlight of Kieran’s time on the programme. He says, “They didn’t treat you like a child, they treated you as an adult, like you were already part of their team and had been there for years. You also got really involved in stuff, so up in the post room we were sorting out post to every GP in the Sheffield area as well as hospitals in Barnsley and Rotherham.”