The Trent Academies Group has been linking up with multiple local businesses to develop pupils’ workplace skills and make lessons more relevant to the real world. Rushcliffe School, Farnborough Academy and Arnold Hill Academy are featured.
The projects have seen pupils at Rushcliffe School, The Farnborough Academy and Arnold Hill Academy involved in some pretty unconventional learning activities, such as taking orders in Spanish at a tapas bar, making mobile phone apps, creating landscaping plans for eco houses and designing bags for life. For a forthcoming project pupils will devise a “survival kit” for Nottingham Forest players who get loaned to European teams, containing guides and audio CDs in Spanish and French.
Executive head of the Group, Phil Crompton, says the aim is to create much smarter link ups between schools and businesses.
[su_quote]Unlike more traditional business link ups, which can feel like a tag on activity and extra workload for teachers, these projects are integrating with the curriculum and even bringing duller bits of it to life[/su_quote] he said.
He added: “Employability is right at the heart of why people send their children to school. But so often the world of work bears little resemblance to what’s going on in schools. It shouldn’t be about skills versus facts, we need both.”
Year 12 students from Rushcliffe have been working with Tapastry tapas bar in Nottingham’s new Creative Quarter to help create a really authentic atmosphere for its Spanish cultural events. They’ve been chatting with customers in Spanish while helping out taking orders and they also get to interview the Spanish musicians that provide the entertainment.
Sixthformer Ellen Morgan, age 17 said,
[su_quote]Speaking Spanish in school is very structured but this way anything can happen! I would definitely recommend the experience to other students. It will make my uni application stand out as it’s something different which a lot of people won’t have.[/su_quote]
Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Rushcliffe, Eva Vicente, says the link with Tapastry has allowed students to use their language skills in a real situation. “Having to interact readily with the customers, with the Spanish chef and with the guitarist gives the students not only a real challenge but also a true sense of achievement, which in return has manifested itself in increased levels of motivation in the classroom. In addition, gaining first-hand experience about the actual running and organisation of a restaurant and working tirelessly for a whole evening has put to the test the students’ levels of resilience and adaptability.”
Meanwhile pupils at The Farnborough Academy have been involved with a project linking with national construction firm Keepmoat Homes and housing association Nottingham City Homes, to create landscape designs for their new eco-homes development in Lenton.
“The pressure was really on as we knew NCH were coming to see our designs and we had to get the work finished and make it perfect as it could be used in their actual development. It would feel amazing if our ideas get incorporated into the space because in ten years’ time we could go and see something we created in Year 8,” said 12 year-old Helen Smith.
Nick Murphy, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Homes , said: “We’re only too happy to work with students like this to bring their curriculum to life. The construction sector employs a lot of people. Hopefully we have inspired these young people to consider a career in the sector and they will go on to create the homes and places where we all want to live in the future.”
Mr Crompton also recently organised a training conference for the Group’s 400 teachers and support staff to consider how each subject area can better support employability.
Business expert Rob Brown, who works with FTSE 100 companies such as HSBC and Lloyds , spoke at the event and revealed the top ten skills which businesses look for include “being likeable”, “bouncing back from failure’ and “turning weaknesses into strengths”.
He said: “You can’t necessarily teach all these skills but you can encourage them. We end up with an unemployment problem because kids are out of their depth in the workplace. Let’s see if we can shift things, even just by 2 or 3 per cent. Instead of just getting ‘a’ job, let’s see if we can help them get a good job, or even the perfect job.”
Teachers were also given the chance to quiz a panel of local industry leaders. Jo Smart, Head of HR at British Gypsum, was on the panel. She said: “The approach these schools are taking is essential and businesses must play their part to make sure the skills we need are coming through”.
Spanish lessons take on a new flavour at trendy tapas bar!
Faculty: Modern Foreign Languages, Rushcliffe School
The link-up: The Tapastry tapas bar in Nottingham’s new Creative Quarter holds a monthly Spanish cultural evening. To help create a really authentic atmosphere the owner invited A-level Spanish students to chat to customers in Spanish while serving tapas. Small groups of Year 12 students attend the evening on a rolling basis to take orders and converse in Spanish with the clients. The pupils also get to interview the Spanish musician/s (always native speaker/s) that provide the entertainment during the evening. The experience gives pupils a chance to develop conversation skills away from the more stilted classroom context.
What the pupils said: “The best thing about the experience was being able to speak in Spanish to the guitarist and one of the chefs. It was great to be plunged into the culture of Spain. We learnt a lot about Spanish traditions which I knew nothing about before. It was also good for learning how to think on the spot and work under pressure.” Lucy Jepson, age 17 and in Year 12
“Speaking Spanish in school is very structured but this way anything can happen! I would definitely recommend the experience to other students. It will make my uni application stand out as it’s something different which a lot of people won’t have.” Ellen Morgan, age 17 and in Year 12
What the employer said: “It’s great to have the students on board to communicate with the customers. I’m really impressed with them.” Matt Longfoot, Owner of The Tapastry
What the teacher said: “The link with Tapastry has allowed students to use their language skills in a real situation. Having to interact readily with the customers, with the Spanish chef and with the guitarist gave the students not only a real challenge but also a true sense of achievement, which in return has manifested itself in increased levels of motivation in the classroom. In addition, gaining first-hand experience about the actual running and organisation of a restaurant and working tirelessly for a whole evening has put to the test the students’ levels of resilience and adaptability.” Eva Vicente, Head of Modern Foreign Languages
Terrific tech: designing a mobile app with help from the experts
Faculty: Computing, The Farnborough Academy
The link-up: Successful Nottingham app design company MultiPie supported Year 9 pupils on a project to create a school mobile app using code. Programmers from MultiPie recorded a series of short video masterclasses offering expert tips and inspiration for the project. They also came into school to provide individual advice and feedback on the designs and to talk about programming as a career. Pupils were able to ask them about the skills needed for programming and the latest industry practices. The videos are now being used by the faculty on an ongoing basis.
What the pupils said: “It makes it more exciting hearing from people who are so experienced.” Shelby-Leigh Stokes, age 14 and in Year 9
“I would love to be a programmer. I asked them which languages to learn and how to start an app business. I learnt it’s harder than I thought to get into it but that’s made me more motivated.” Rohit Gurung, age 13 and in Year 9
What the professional said: “I think the pupils have been really energised by this process. Some of them wanted to know everything and were still asking me questions after the lesson had ended.” Steve Haley, Lead Developer at MultiPie
What the teacher said: “It’s made what we say as teachers more valid. When we ask for something to be done, rightly, pupils questions whether that’s reality or not. The videos and links with MultiPie verify what we say. It’s also been inspirational for a few really keen pupils – they’re coming back at break and lunch. I’ve even got one of their apps on my phone. I’ve also had a phone call from a really happy parent. It’s given this study unit an edge that it didn’t have before.” Alex Booth, Head of Computing
Young actress inspires pupils to act out their ambitions
Faculty: Performing Arts, Arnold Hill Academy
The link-up: Professional actress Adriana Ionica took time out to visit GCSE performing arts students and answer their questions on what the job is like and what you need to do to break into the industry. A big part of their GCSE is to research career paths in the performing arts and create their own portfolios. Usually it’s done through desk research but the visit meant pupils got a first-hand account, as well as advice on how to progress their ambitions and give their portfolios the edge.
What the pupils said: “I haven’t spoken to a real professional before who has experience and credentials within the theatre industry. We’re usually in an environment where it’s all GCSE exams and coursework and it can feel kind of removed from the real world.” Janet Tokitsu-Tizon, age 15 and in Year 11
“We’ve gained a really useful insight as to what it’s like in the professional industry. It will help us in devising our performances in the future because we know now which skills are important.” George Sullivan, age 16 and in Year 11
What the professional said: “I would have loved to speak to someone in the industry when I was their age. I didn’t get to do that until I was 23.” Adriana Ionica
What the teacher said: “It was great having a real person for them to talk to. They were able to ask really targeted questions. It helped them think about the key skills they need and how hard you have to work. Adi talked about drive and having 7 jobs in a week. I don’t think they realised people actually do that!” Jade Richards, Drama Co-ordinator
Textile students see their bags for life come to life
Faculty: Textiles, Rushcliffe School
The link-up: Year 9 Textiles students designed their own Nottingham-themed Bags for Life with help from Europe’s’ biggest producer of re-usable bags, Direct Trade Bags, in Melton Mowbray. Managing Director of the firm, Mark Somerfield, visited the school to talk to the pupils about how the jute and cotton bags are printed at the factory. He showed them manufacturing specifications and explained what pupils should think about when designing their own bag. The pupils then produced prototype bags using techniques such as screen printing, sublimation, appliqué and embroidery. Their designs were sent off to Direct Trade Bags and its employees voted for the best ones. A tour of the factory followed where the pupils got to see 100 of the winning bag design, by Bayley Atton, being screen printed and coming off the production line.
What the pupils said: “We got to see a design by a year 9 student printed and alongside that we got to see the people at work in the factory and were taught about the wide range of roles within the factory – such as machine operators, managers and designers – who all take part in the process. It was an interesting and very worthwhile trip.” James Mountain, age 14 and in Year 9
“It was fascinating to see what the world of work is like in a factory’ Raeesa Shah, age 14 and in Year 9.
What the teacher said: “It is clear that industry involvement is a very valuable part of education. This project has opened pupils’ minds to the link between products made in the classroom and those mass produced in industry. They saw how processes which they learn about in school, such as printing, bulk manufacturing, quality control, production planning, costing and health and safety, are applied in a real industry setting.” Alison McDonald, Textiles teacher
What the employer said: “With the recent introduction of the plastic bag tax, the timing of this project was perfect. It was great to show the students how their designs could be recreated in a commercial environment. It was interesting to see their reaction when we demonstrated how the winning design was produced in real life. We felt that a greater understanding of the modern day business world was passed onto the students.” Mark Somerfield, Managing Director of Direct Trade Bags
Making landscaping lovely for a Lenton housing development
Faculty: Design and Technology, The Farnborough Academy
The link-up: Housing Association Nottingham City Housing (NCH) and national construction firm Keepmoat Homes challenged pupils to come up with landscaping ideas for their new development of eco houses on the site of 5 high rise tower blocks in Lenton. They supplied a package of research materials, including architects drawings, site photos and building regs information as well as a recorded message asking students to design a community space at the centre of the development. The students worked on the project over a 6 week period using 3D design software and considering factors such as budget, cycle access, maintenance etc. Their plans were then presented to Keepmoat and the best ones will influence the final design.
What the pupils said: “The pressure was really on as we knew NCH would be here in 7 weeks and we had to get the work finished and make it perfect as it could be used in the actual development. It would feel amazing if our ideas get incorporated into the space because in ten years’ time we could go and see something we created in Year 8.” Helen Smith, in Year 8
“It’s a big change from what we normally do in the classroom. Instead of usual school work we’ve been researching and making designs which might actually be used out there.” Adam Stafford, in Year 8
What the teacher said: “The project has been a fantastic example of how Design & Technology teachers can work with industry partners to provide pupils with a realistic design brief. As a result our department is now seeking to redesign aspects of the curriculum to give pupils more exposure to real challenges involving local businesses and manufacturers.”
What the employer said: “We’re only too happy to work with students like this to bring their curriculum to life. The construction sector employs a lot of people. Hopefully we have inspired these young people to consider a career in the sector and they will go on to create the homes and places where we all want to live in the future.” Nick Murphy, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Homes
A creative side to science, promoting Nottingham eco-houses
Faculty: Science, Rushcliffe School
The link up: Housing Association Nottingham City Housing (NCH) and national construction firm Keepmoat Homes asked students to help them promote the benefits of energy efficient eco-homes and to come up with new house design ideas to help keep them cutting edge. They supplied a package of resources including floor plans, architects plans and energy efficiency tables. The Year 8 pupils then began a 6 week long homework task, creating posters and leaflets advertising the importance of energy efficient housing and highlighting the savings made by Keepmoat’s new Lenton flats , designing model houses of the future and researching new materials which might revolutionise house-building.
What the pupils said: “I’m not usually that good at science but I have really enjoyed the project, it’s allowed me to be more creative and to do the work in my own time rather than rushing to finish homework because it has to be done before the next lesson” Ruby Smith.
“The flats are near to my Grans house, it’s great to know how the lesson and homework I am doing in science are linked to the real world and the jobs that some people have”
What the teacher said: “The pupils have loved doing this because it’s a real-life project, not just something in a classroom – atoms and elements – but something that relates to real jobs, real people and to making things better for the community. The ones who are not hard-core scientists got really engaged with it because they could be creative. One student used stop motion animations to show how he designed his eco house from Lego. They’ve had to work in teams and learn about pulling their weight and not letting people down, so important for employability.” Leon Jackson, Head of Science
The pupils’ work will be showcased at an event this term where Keepmoat and NCH will pick the winning projects.