Skills for life: Local business and broadening educational horizons

Healing Primary School reached out to businesses in the local area and students reaped the benefits

At Healing Primary School in Grimsby the understanding is that it’s never too early to start broadening horizons. Last year assistant headteacher Melanie Nurse received the Golden Apple award for ‘innovation’ – recognised for the links that she has helped the school build with businesses in the local community. The aim, she says, “To give students the opportunity to see what’s out there – especially in our area – in terms of jobs for the future.”

Healing Primary’s motto is ‘Enjoying today; preparing for tomorrow’; very fitting considering their approach to education. Healing Primary School has a very focused approach when it comes to the future of their students, not only providing them with the academic tools to succeed, but also broadening their horizons by introducing them to the possibilities of the working world – their tomorrow. This has been achieved by building relationships with businesses in the area, using them as resources to boost curricular activities – what better way to learn about electricity than visiting a power station – but also to give students a glimpse into the working world, the career opportunities out there and, importantly, to see what their local community has to offer. So, how did all of this come about?

If students don’t have that support at home, and schools don’t give them that opportunity, who will? It’s a passion to give equal opportunities to children across board

Who you know

“It started when I joined the school. Our first point of contact was with a local power station – where my husband works,” Melanie recalls. Using this connection an annual trip, which linked with the science curriculum, was arranged. But it also gave students a view on how this learning can be applied – it’s everyday practical application and the careers that it leads to. Such visits enable students to experience a working environment and gives all students an opportunity to develop ideas about their futures. “If students don’t have that support at home, and schools don’t give them that opportunity, who will? It’s a passion to give equal opportunities to children across board,” Melanie explains.

It was a case of getting other parents and friends involved as well

Broadening horizons

The enthusiasm these visits stoked in students sparked the evolution of school’s programme and pushed Melanie to reach out to more businesses in the area. “It was a case of getting other parents and friends involved as well,” she explains. “The next place we went to was a training venue for young people that covers engineering and industrial jobs – again, we had internal connections, which helped.”

As a training facility, it’s not an orthodox destination for a school trip, and there are certain things that need to be considered – for example, Melanie has to help carry out risk assessments, and she confesses it takes a great deal of planning and organisation.

They’re still struggling to get secondary schools on board with the careers and the opportunities in our area

Since then Melanie says that the project has snowballed. One parent has been particularly supportive, providing contacts for companies in the local area; this has led the students of Healing Primary to go on excursions that have taken them to the heliport that transports workers to oil-rigs in the North Sea and the national training academy at the Humberside airport, which trains apprentices in the maintenance and servicing of UK fighter jets.

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The worst they can say is…

The secret to securing these events? Contacting the companies! “I make that contact and ask if we can visit their facilities, provide them with an outline of some activities we’d like to do and they usually say, ‘Yes’,” Melanie explains. In addition to sourcing connections through the school’s community, Melanie has made some additional connections through winning the Golden Apple award – one such is the Grimsby Institute, which is the local college.

Part of the community

I asked Melanie whether having local connections in the community has had an impact on the school and her answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’ “We’re about to launch a new project next week called Project Blight. It’s something that’s been happening in southern schools for some time but for us it’s new and a part of the City of Culture science fair,” Melanie explains.

The companies in the area have money that they want to give schools to work on these kinds of projects

Project Blyth will see a team of Year 6 students from Healing Primary work to design, engineer and build a model racing car to be entered into a race with other schools. The support of the school community – particularly the links of one parent – has helped the school to secure sponsorship. And the support is not just financial; for example, a local offshore wind company will be sending their engineers to the school to guide them in their endeavours.

Corporate responsibility

“The companies in the area have money that they want to give schools to work on these kinds of projects,” Melanie says, adding that, if you are going to take them up on this offer, you need to be willing to take on the extra work that comes with it. “We’ve had to sell it to them,” she says, but their efforts have been worth it, and the school has some big-name sponsors based in the area that want to get involved with the school and its projects.

If you want to see what the local business in your area can do for your school, Melanie offers the following advice. “Don’t be afraid to go out there and make those links. It’s extra – and hard – work, but the benefit to students makes it worthwhile.” It’s also important that you have the right support behind you; “School’s also need a supportive head who will give staff the time to ensure these projects are successful,” Melanie says.

Call to action
With pressure to succeed academically weighing on schools, often – even in the case of secondaries – the importance of gaining hands on work experience can be overlooked. At a recent education and skills workshop Melanie attended, where there were secondary schools present, she says that, “They’re still struggling to get secondary schools on board with the careers and the opportunities in our area.” The general consensus at these meetings, Melanie says, is that young people need to be engaged and that primary is a good place to start. At 13 they need to start choosing subjects and the choices made at this point guide the futures of students – they need to be well-informed about their options if they are to choose wisely.

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