Skills Training UK partnered King Ethelbert School in Birchington, Kent, to design and deliver a “transformational” programme which supported vulnerable students to complete their GCSEs. The school was working with the Education Business Partnership to help retain students in Years 10 and 11 who were at risk of dropping out of school and becoming unemployed.
The programme was part of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (SELEP) Skills Support for the Unemployed (SSU) Enhancing Apprenticeships Programme, delivered by local training and education partners under the direction of Skills Training UK.
It supported students aged 15 to 16 who were from disadvantaged backgrounds or had become disengaged from education. The students were supported to re-connect with their school or progress onto a Traineeship, Apprenticeship, further education or employment.
Students on the programme were challenged with weekly practical workshops to help improve their confidence and career skills, and they received one-to-one mentoring and support to find work placements based on their career ambitions. They were supported to develop a positive attitude to learning ahead of the crucial GCSE exam season with renewed confidence, motivation and improved personal skills such as communication and leadership.
Since the programme launched in October 2017, around 100 students have been supported at secondary schools in Kent, including King Ethelbert School.
Deputy Headteacher Vicky Willis said: “The programme has been transformational for us. It has allowed us to deliver a bespoke programme to identify and support vulnerable students, some of whom might be quite fearful about transitioning into the next phase of their life.
“It has developed their resilience and confidence, improved their happiness, and given them a much better chance of being successful in the workplace.
“We are now working much closer with apprenticeship providers and local employers, finding out what employability skills they want to ensure our students are better matched. I really urge Headteachers to sign up now without hesitation. It is a fabulous programme with a lot of spin-off benefits.”
Alec Gibbons, project lead at EBP Kent, said: “Schools do a fantastic job with vulnerable students but the numbers are increasing. In our one-to-one sessions and group workshops, they develop the communication skills, confidence and hands-on practical skills sought by employers to overcome barriers and ultimately progress into sustainable careers.”
Year 11 student Tyler Buckley, one of the participants, said the programme had turned his life around. He now aims to become a self-employed electrician and study at East Kent College. He said: “It’s been incredibly helpful. I used to be nervous about speaking to people but now I’ve developed the confidence, leadership and communication to lead a group, work collaboratively and express myself. I feel like a bigger person.”
Classmate Brandon Blake, another participant, said: “I have grown in confidence and become a better listener. I’m planning to attend Canterbury College and study towards and work in the travel industry. I’ve really enjoyed it and made new friends.”
The SSU Enhancing Apprenticeships Programme is jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
“The scheme is proving to be an innovatively brilliant way of reducing the number of young people in Kent becoming NEET (not in employment, education or training). Dozens of vulnerable students have benefitted but we want more schools to sign up.”
Mike Rayner, Participation and Progression Manager (West Kent) at Kent County Council