From education to employment

Nottinghamshire and Derby schools among first to take part in ground-breaking Our Future project for SEND pupils

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A GROUND-BREAKING careers project which aims to raise the aspirations of primary school pupils in the East Midlands has been praised by teachers for its inclusivity.

The Our Future primary project is designed to enhance social mobility, challenge gender stereotypes and expand opportunities for primary school children with a range of fun, hands-on activities delivered by experts at Learn By Design.

It has been specially adapted to make it suitable for everyone, as the Government announces much-welcomed changes following a review into support for children with special education needs or disabilities (SEND).

And pupils at a Nottinghamshire special school were among the first to try out the project, which saw them get hands-on with various activities including a wooden cow – nicknamed Buttercup – which pupils were able to ‘milk’.

Ruby, a pupil at St Clare’s School in Derby, took part in the Farm to Fork session, where she enjoyed ‘milking’ Buttercup the cow. Image: Penguin PR

The session was called ‘Farm to Fork’ and followed the process in the food chain from agriculture production to consumption – in this case, how the milk from a dairy cow in a field is turned into the cheese which ends up in our sandwiches.

Laura Whyatt, Deputy Head at Oak Field School, in Bilborough, said: “I have nothing but praise for the sessions which were delivered by Learn By Design. We have had wonderful feedback from children and teachers who were involved in the sessions.

“The workshop was practical, interactive and our children – who have a range of special educational needs – engaged with the activities, which were adapted to their needs.

“The ‘cow’ was a huge hit with the children. Careers schemes tend to be for those youngsters in secondary education, predominantly in mainstream schools, so this session was refreshing for its inclusivity.”

St Clare’s School, in Mickleover, Derby, have also taken part in the project.

Richard Jackson, assistant head teacher, said: “The sessions were delivered to pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 – those between the ages of 11 and 14 – who are working at primary school level.

“I’ve received so much great feedback from pupils and staff. One of the classes built a huge tower using cardboard boxes; they were engaged throughout and Paige, Beth and Charlotte who delivered the sessions on behalf of Learn By Design, were brilliant.

“Beth and Paige both have a background in teaching and their expertise shone through during the sessions.”

For the past two years, the Our Future project – delivered by a consortium of experts including Learn By Design, a market-leading education outreach company, dmh associates, who are specialists in careers policy, research and practise, and national charity Education and Employers – has helped to broaden the horizons of primary school pupils.

And, after a successful pilot in Derby, it is now being rolled out across the East Midlands.

Last year, 1.4 million pupils in England were identified as having special education needs or disabilities. That figure has been growing since 2017.

Dr Deirdre Hughes, of dmh Associates, said: “It is vital to ameliorate restricted views of children and young people’s capabilities by broadening horizons and raising aspirations for pupils, especially for those with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

“A key point for consideration is whether career-related learning should be adapted or altered in SEND schools. Drawing on her extensive experience of working with, and creating frameworks for, SEN schools, expert Yolande Burgess, of London Councils, argued in a TeachFirst report (2019) that any framework or training programme should be designed in such a way that it should not need to be adapted for SEN schools.

“Put another way, she notes that if a career-related learning framework is sufficiently well designed, it should work for any child. She outlined that as the outcomes are sufficiently similar for children attending SEN and mainstream schools, namely that programmes should broaden aspirations and improve the skills needed for life and work, any careers framework should encompass all children, at all schools.”

Lauren Croll, of Learn by Design, said: “The idea of the Our Future sessions is to educate children about future career opportunities that they would never have even considered.

“We do that by having career volunteers visit schools and, for St Clares and the other SEND schools we are working with, we have adapted the sessions to make them suitable for everyone.”

It is hoped that the Our Future project, which has funding until August 2022, will leave a lasting legacy and that schools in the East Midlands will be able to call upon a ‘bank’ of resources and a database of volunteers.

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