Employer engagement key subject for college
SCHOOLS need to develop children's employment skills as well as provide them with a first-class education, according to the head of a local school.
Tavistock College's philosophy is based around working with businesses to inspire youngsters and find employers the workforce they need, said principal Helen Salmon.
It involves working closely with businesses and inspiring students to aim for realistic careers.
This, in turn, has boosted exam results leading to a 27 per cent hike in students passing five GCSEs, A-star to C, including maths, English and science.
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"Education is about more than formal qualifications," said Mrs Salmon. "Children need to do as well as they can academically but they need opportunities to learn about the world of work and develop those skills.
The school is involved in "employer engagement" and Mrs Salmon said: "We develop children's employment skills right across the range. It's about being more business focused. We have taken it to a different level."
Mrs Salmon appointed Alison Horn as business manager and gave assistant principal Gary King a special brief to develop children's employability and ease them into the world of work.
The college has now worked with Tavistock Chamber of Commerce on initiatives designed to give youngsters work skills, and with neighbouring businesses too.
"We are trying to make sure our curriculum has real-life experience in it," Mrs Salmon said. "We are not asking businesses for financial support, but they are giving their time and expertise – and that's having an impact on the curriculum."
Mr King said: "It's about preparing children for life. Students need to pass exams, but in the real world there are a lot of transferable skills they need to succeed.
"It's linked to employment, simple things like how to calculate tax."
He said initiatives included an "enterprise and entrepreneurship day", with business speakers coming into the school to impart real-life experience and skills.
"We need to bridge the gap between school and the real world," Mr King said. "That's not just about work experience. We have employers come in, talking about everything from how to shake hands and talk on the phone, in fact all the skills they need.
"And it helps students push their aspirations."
He said an "employers forum" has now been set up, meeting once a term and featuring representatives from businesses, charities and voluntary groups, alongside students.
"There's a dialogue about what their needs are," Mrs Salmon said.
"They were delighted we wanted to listen to them," Mr King added. "Hopefully they will work with us creating opportunities that will benefit young people and staff development. It will provide an experience that will develop well-rounded individuals."
Mrs Salmon said the Aspire programme, which encourages students to apply to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, sits alongside a desire to boost the confidence of children with lesser ability.
Mr King said: "We prepare our students for work experience by learning what genre they want to work in, and do it as if its a job, building that confidence.
"Every Year 11 student has an interview, with their parents, about their aspirations and achievements, exploring things and following them.
"That looks at what children really want to do, and that helps their exam results."