Learning at Work Week – why teachers should skip school

I have had the privilege of visiting a number of schools and there is no doubt teachers are under pressure. Getting through the significant quantity of content that has been deemed necessary to pack into the new GCSEs, leaves little room for anything else and as a result many schools are starting them in year 9. For many GCSEs have become a three year test A project we have been working on at the Edge Foundation is helping to bring a bit more variety to this knowledge driven diet, through Project Based Learning (PBL) and Teacher Externships. So far we have piloted these on a small scale with teachers and employers in the North East and East Midlands.

So what’s it all about? Think of a topic you are struggling to teach and imagine if there was a way to make it more relevant and accessible for students. Well, through linking with a local employer we aim to help learners understand how the things they are learning about in the classroom are used in the world of work; from mathematics to science to geography.

This is how it works. Teachers get the opportunity to spend a day or half a day with an employer where they find out about the career paths and opportunities in that sector and also how their curriculum area is applied in the work place. Back in the classroom, teachers set projects using the employer and their business as a context. In the most successful partnerships, the employer is part of this process and continues to link with the teacher, challenge the students while they complete the project and feedback after it’s completed. It is early days in the programme, but an independent evaluation of the project shows spectacular outcomes! The project also helps schools start to address Gatsby Benchmark 4 and 5 linking the world of work with the curriculum.

The overwhelming majority of teachers who took part (85 per cent) said their externship had increased their knowledge of possible career paths and 80 per cent said it had given them insight into the world of work. Students clearly benefitted too with 95 per cent saying they had learned about jobs they had not thought about before. 

At the heart of the project is the quality of the relationship between the employer and the school. This is not just an exercise in corporate social responsibility.  One company taking part said they recognised a skills gap in their workforce, and were keen to increase awareness amongst young people of the career opportunities in the construction industry. 

The teachers attended a presentation about the business, visited a building site and interview staff from different department about their career journey. It clearly gave them a fresh perspective with some teachers talking about a possible industry into maths project.

And finally, the staff at the construction business got a lot out of talking about their career journeys. One said, ‘It reaffirmed to [staff] that training and upskilling is a positive thing.’

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