From education to employment

First for charity as pupil referral unit engages with unique STEM project

Some young people in Blackpool have taken part in a unique project, aimed at helping youngsters understand the opportunities for careers in the Science, Engineering and Technology industries.

For the first time in the charity’s history, EDT (Engineering Development Trust) modified its already popular Go4SET programme for pupils attending Educational Diversity, which is a large pupil referral unit. Educational Diversity support young people who are unable to access mainstream provision because of either social, emotional, behavioural or medical needs.  

EDT’s Go4SET Project stimulates the interest of young people age 12-14 into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The project offers them the opportunity to develop skills as well as raising awareness of STEM careers, working on STEM specific projects while being mentored by industry professionals from credible companies.

Twelve pupils aged between 13 and 14 took part in the project at Educational Diversity, which was adapted from the traditional 10-week Go4SET concept into an intense three-day programme where sessions included hands-on team building exercises, research and project management. The pupils were given a brief to research and design their very own eco-classroom and, on the third day, had to present a model of the classroom, along with their methodology and ideas, to a panel of assessors.

The project was deemed extremely successful, with pupils exceeding expectations and staff from Educational Diversity were thrilled with the outcomes. In feedback after the event, 100% of the young people said they felt it had developed their research skills, while 91 % said the experience had improved their ability to work in a team.

EDT is committed to enabling all young people to have experiences of industry which direct them towards the excellent careers in STEM industry and to gain some of the skills that are needed. This involves striving to provide such experiences to young people from socio economic backgrounds where such opportunities are typically rare.

In 2017, Blackpool was identified as an ‘area of opportunity’ by the Careers and Enterprise Company and Government funding was made available to give young people in schools and colleges access to employers, to enable them to have the encounters they need to be inspired and prepared for the world of work.

Educational Diversity was interested in EDT and the Go4SET programme but quickly realised that, due to the diverse needs of its pupils, some major modification of the programme would be required.

Educational Diversity Head teacher, Wendy Casson, said:

“Our young people often have a number of challenges to face on a daily basis. We do everything we can to support them in overcoming some of these challenges, to enable them to become confident young people who are able to achieve at the highest level.  The fact that the Go4SET was adapted to suit our learning requirements was an opportunity not to be missed. Our young people got so much out of the experience in terms of their own personal development and ability to work as a team. We are so proud of them all.”

Cllr Kathryn Benson, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, commented:

“No child should miss out on educational opportunities. I am thrilled that the students really benefitted from the programme and enjoyed it as well.  The students involved I am sure have been inspired by this experience and it will help them in their learning journey.”

Nicola Day-Coiley, Schools Projects Delivery Co-ordinator North, at EDT said:

“Working with the students at Educational Diversity was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Their engagement with the project far exceeded our expectations. Not only did Go4SET increase their awareness of STEM careers but it also gave them a positive learning experience which will help to raise their aspirations.

“We were all very proud of the students when they presented their project and we hope they were proud of themselves too. We are hoping this project will give EDT a platform to work with more specialist schools and therefore reach out to a much more diverse population of students across the UK.”

Nicola Palmer, EDT’s Head of Industry Engagement, added:

“Attending the unit as additional support for the last day of the programme, I was unsure of what to expect. However, I was absolutely blown away with the quality and accuracy of what the students presented and the dedication and enthusiasm displayed by all for the project. I also want to say how fantastic the teachers and support staff were during our whole experience and we can’t wait to go back and deliver to the next cohort of students.”

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