Offering students a fresh spark of inspiration

With his sights set on a career as a welder, Aaron knows where he is headed.

Determined to develop the core skills he needs, including English and maths, he said: “You have to realise when you need to shape up.”

Offering students a fresh spark of inspiration

He is one of 14 pupils currently accessing Northfield School & Sports College’s inclusion base. Part of his motivation has come from a new alternate training programme being delivered in partnership with the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

The scheme offers the students who, for a whole host of reasons, no longer follow the school’s mainstream curriculum, the chance to try their hand at different vocational skills in a college or training environment.

For Aaron and his classmates that has included the choice of having a go, one day a week, at some basic engineering skills at Stockton’s NETA Training or hair and beauty sessions at The Skills Academy.

It was during the NETA workshops that the 15-year-old first tried welding. He said: “It seemed okay and not too stressful.” And as it turns out, he was pretty good at it too.

“This is why we created the programme,” said Etc.’s 14 to 16 Manager, Tracey Laycock. “It’s about offering our skills, expertise and facilities to help motivate and re-engage these young people.”

The bespoke programme at Northfield, builds on the school’s existing provision which in itself is helping to reduce the need for permanent exclusions.

Deputy Head Teacher, Gary Ankers, said: “We have had an inclusion base here for many years which is pretty rare in a secondary school. While it is not all about those with challenging behaviour, there are students accessing the provision who would have otherwise been at risk of permanent exclusion.”

He explained by removing the pressure of working to a full mainstream curriculum, the students can focus on developing core skills such as English, maths, IT and science. The addition of the bespoke Etc. programme has opened up further vocational sessions in subjects they wouldn’t typically be able to access.

The college group also provides a year-long personal development programme through The Prince’s Trust, delivered one day a week at The Skills Academy.

Northfield student Jay, 15, recognises the difference it could make to his future. With ambitions to one day become an architect, he said: “Things like NETA and The Prince’s Trust are stepping stones for us. At NETA we get to learn practical skills and then the Prince’s Trust is about working in a team, communicating and helping you develop as a person.”

Future pipefitter Bailey, 15, said: “It gives you a starting point, trying something different.” While 14-year-old Chay added: “It’s getting us ready for a working environment.”

Aiming to equip all of their students with the best skill set to maximise their future life chances, Northfield’s Deputy Head Teacher Gary said: “While GCSE grades are very important, they will never be the be all and the end all for all students and this programme is designed to reflect that. There are other skills our students need to develop, including ‘softer’ skills such as resilience and teamwork, and that is what we are doing here.”

For more details about Etc.’s bespoke alternative 14 to 16 provision which can be delivered in schools email:

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