From education to employment


Pupils and teachers from Beech Grove School in Nonington, Kent have been praised by Ofsted for their innovative extra-curricular programme titled “Navigating our World”. Alongside learning about personal finance, online safety and how to apply to university, sixth form students are given the unique opportunity to go out to lunch with leading figures in business, enterprise and the charity sector. 

Since “Navigating our World” was piloted in September 2019, 23 students have had lunch with representatives from charities such as Save the Children, as well as lawyers, architects and employees of the political think tank The Centre for Social Justice. As thescheme has been so successful in helping to foster independence, conversational and social skills, Beech Grove School plans to develop the programme in further years. 

Beech Grove School, which is set within the Bruderhof community in rural Kent, has been consistently rated “Good” by Ofsted since it first opened in 1997. The Bruderhof are an intentional Christian community of more than 3000 people living in twenty-three settlements on four continents. They renounce private property and share everything in common.

Development Director from The Centre for Social Justice, Alex Le Vey says, “It was such a pleasure to meet with two students from the Bruderhof to discuss their studies and interests as well as the work of the CSJ. Providing students with the opportunity to meet professionals across a variety of sectors seems like an invaluable experience that is also relatively easy to facilitate. It is something I would have hugely valued the opportunity to do myself when I was at school. I would warmly encourage other schools to follow the Bruderhof’s lead and launch similar schemes.”

The school’s head, Tim Maas says, “With the support of people like Alex, parents and others in the local community, the programme has helped us to equip our students with the skills and confidence to communicate more effectively with people from various sectors, while exposing them to a variety of career choicesStudents that have had the opportunity to participate in the club have been thrilled with what they have experienced. To have Ofsted commend this initiative in our recent inspection report only served to validate the effort we put into it. This is an initiative that could also be rolled out by other schools with minimal effort, which would benefit many more young people.”

Danny Maendel and Janice Fischli, students from Beech Grove were two of the first to pilot the scheme. 

Danny says, “I travelled with another student to London where we met Alex Le Vey of the CSJ, a think tank which works on the root causes of poverty. A day out and a nice lunch was the fun part, but I also did some reading ahead of time and tried to formulate my opinions about topics that might come up. It sounds odd to prepare for a conversation, but it really helped. Many of us would benefit from chances to improve our conversational skills outside our peer group and engage in conversation with someone much older than us about unfamiliar topics.”

Janice says, “We met with Richard Young and two of his colleagues and found out about their work with Save the Children and they asked us about our school and favourite activities. I found the conversations interesting and informative and learnt a lot from them. This trip was a chance for me to be more independent and learn from people who have chosen work that really makes a difference in children’s lives. It’s making me think about how I want to use my life.”

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