Properly prepped for life after school

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Encouraging children to remain at school for longer has always proved difficult for educators and the challenge is even greater in areas of social deprivation. Kevin Wilson, headteacher of All Saints Catholic School and Technology College in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, has tackled the issue head-on with considerable success. He discusses how, by introducing collaborative schemes with local businesses and using proactive interviewing initiatives and training, he has been able to ensure that his students graduate successfully and, in many cases, go on to further education opportunities in order to be  more employable in later life. 

Cause for concern

Following the fifth annual Not in Education, Employment or Training ( NEET) Conference which took place in early February this year, there is, once again, a spotlight on the challenges faced by educators  to keep children in school. Recent statistics show that 1,026,000 (17.1 per cent) of young people aged between 16 and 24 nationwide were classified as NEET during the third quarter of 2010. Despite being slightly down on the equivalent period in 2009, this figure was worryingly deemed as ‘still too high’.

Getting started

“At All Saints we have been aware for some time of the issues faced by students from disadvantaged backgrounds and we have chosen to act on them.  By providing a nurturing environment for our students and offering a strong support system, we help to raise their personal expectations and standards so that they regularly reach and exceed their goals. We teach our students to respect and value their peers, but more importantly, we teach them to believe in and value their own abilities. We introduced the Year 10 Interview Day almost four years ago when work on the initial stages of OFSTED’s report Moving through the system – information, advice and guidance, first began. The report focused on the importance of providing high quality information, advice and guidance to enable young people, parents and carers to make well-informed choices regarding their education. It highlighted that the quality of advice and guidance failed to meet the needs of some of the most potentially vulnerable young people, which immediately sounded alarm bells for us due to the location of All Saints. One of the key recommendations for secondary schools was to improve the planning and quality of careers education and work-related activities in schools, and so we took this onboard in its entirety. 

Many of our students have tremendous potential but their ability to present themselves in a confident and articulate way is not their strength.  It is very often their lack of verbal communication that prevents them from projecting a true picture of their qualities and talents in an interview situation. By enabling students to practice various interview processes we are removing any intimidating or daunting elements from the exercise. Students are better prepared for future real life scenarios and learn valuable skills in showcasing their employability.

A little help from our friends

When we decided to reach out to local agencies and businesses for support, the response we received was inspiring. Over 20 businesses including BT, MacDonalds, Connexions, Unison and Keir Construction and Local Government, immediately volunteered their time, expertise and advice.

All Year 10 students, 180 in total, participate in a 30-45 minute interview with representatives from the individual businesses. The process is designed to mirror a real life interview scenario; students are briefed about the company they are going to be interviewed by and it is their responsibility to research the company and prepare accordingly. Immediately after the interview they are given constructive written feedback assessing factors that relate to self presentation such as body language, eye contact and verbal projection. When meeting with potential employers we want our students to have the ability to promote themselves and highlight their achievements with confidence, and the feedback is designed to support this.   The comments that we have received from the students indicate that they benefit greatly from the experience. Similarly, the local businesses enjoy connecting with the community on a personal level, and fostering that sense of ‘giving back’.

Going Forward

In addition to the Interview Day initiative, we have implemented incentive and reward schemes, carry out a lot of work in assemblies and talk regularly about role models that the students can relate to. Our staff are outstanding: industrious and committed, they always have the pupils at the centre of their work. The wider community also plays a supportive role is shaping our students. By continuing to explore confidence-building programmes that encourage students, continued teamwork and positive community involvement, I am certain that our successes will carry on long into the future.”

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