I was delighted to have the pleasure of visiting Westfield Arts College last week. It’s an SEN school which values every student. Matt, who helped organise the day, was not only very passionate about learning, but is doing his best to give the school’s students the best opportunities. Matt was once a store manager at PC World but was looking for a career change after he saw a decline in sales in store due to customers increasingly shopping online. He had always enjoyed training staff at his store so decided on pursuing a teaching career.
Not only does this mean Matt has a strong knowledge of the skills required for jobs outside of teaching, but he also believes in teaching students coding from Key stage one. He hopes that these students will then gain coding skills and work at a higher level than his current year ten and eleven students. The school already has a number of students who are very good at coding and computer science.
The school was hosting a Career Footsteps event which went incredibly well, with all the students fully engaged and asking some wonderful questions. I think both myself and all the volunteers felt that spending some time and sharing our experiences and career history had been useful to the students, and the whole experience was very rewarding for us.
Our volunteers were Alicia, Commercial Executive Director for Condor ferries, James, an engineer for Cobham PLC, an aerial refueling company, Tony, who works in events and hospitality, Lotte, a self-employed plumber and Hannah who is a make-up artist and also works full time as a GP IT trainer.
The event began with some networking where students were free to ask questions, and find out facts about our volunteers’ jobs and their careers. They then broke out into group sessions where they were able find out more about our volunteers and also do some practical work such as drawing a makeup design and cutting copper pipe. It was good to get this interactive element of the day as it not only kept students engaged, but also helped the students get a better understanding of what everyone’s job entailed.
Many of the students have very high aspirations and were keen to share their plans with the volunteers.
The school is located in Weymouth where almost 45% of all jobs are in wholesale, retail and repair, accommodation and food services, and construction. All are fairly low skilled jobs, however there is a lot of competition as the local demographic includes a high proportion of skilled young people.
Unfortunately, local employers tend to spend more time interacting with other local schools whose students tend to get higher GCSE grades. This means that despite their enthusiasm and ambition, students from Westfield Arts College get less opportunity for interaction with local employers. Needless to say, they didn’t waste this opportunity!