Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Careers advice - at school and beyond

There was plenty of coverage last week about MP's concerns over the decline of Careers advice in schools (click here for BBC coverage).  Having an education which not only gives young people the skills to thrive in the workplace but also an insight into different career paths is absolutely crucial - especially in a time of economic uncertainty.

I cannot help wondering if the decline in Careers advice is linked in with the increasing emphasis on measuring schools by a narrow range (e.g. the limited number of subjects in the English Baccalaureate and how many pupils study 'facilitating subjects' at A Level).

Once again, I feel very fortunate to be working in the independent sector where there is greater freedom to select the right balance and ensure our pupils have a proper, rounded education.  Last term we launched a web-based Careers site for our current and former pupils called 'The Jobs Network'.  It draws on the expertise of current parents and former pupils (Mentors) who are willing to offer advice on their chosen career practical help with work experience, CV writing and interview skills.

For our current pupils, this has already led to CV writing clinics, workshops on preparing for interviews and introductions to different careers.  Later on this term we are setting up mock job interviews for our Upper Sixth pupils.  There is a graduate entry job specification for which they will submit a letter of application and their CV and they will then have an interview with one of our Mentors and receive feedback on the process.  Far better to make mistakes and learn from them at school than later on in life.

This sort of opportunity is invaluable.  Especially with very few universities interviewing for entry, often the first such experience comes towards the end of university when a job is at stake.  It is not difficult to build this into education.  For example, we are currently interviewing pupils for Sports Scholarships and have deliberately used the format of a job interview so that they have an experience which develops those skills.

For our former pupils, this sort of Careers advice is particularly important and points out another problem nationally in seeing Careers advice as something done in schools.  We can do a huge amount with our pupils while they are with us but we fundamentally see our association with pupils and parents as being a lifelong process.  A real education not only prepares you to leave school but also sustains you beyond the school gate.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Partnership through sport

Recently at King's we completed a deal with the local Council which is an interesting model of partnership and one worth sharing and explaining.  A short distance from our school is a sports centre which was built for the town by the Council.  It offered a great range of facilities including the sports hall, gym and several tennis courts but over time it had become dilapidated, public use declined and due to lack of demand it was often closed.  We have two sports halls at King's but were using the sports centre to broaden what we could offer to our pupils and out of this came the idea of how the school and council could work together for mutual benefit.

Last term we signed an agreement with the Council whereby we acquired what is now called 'King's Rochester Sports Centre'.  We are now running the Centre and putting in half a million pounds of investment to dramatically improve the facilities.  Our pupils will have use of excellent sporting opportunities which is great for them and supports our programme of development.  Crucially we are also running it as a public Sports Centre which means our local community gains a huge benefit as well.  With excellent bar and catering facilties it can become a social as well as sporting hub; indeed the childrens' parties and roller skating sessions are particularly popular which as a parent makes me very happy!

One aspect which has got real potential to transform sport locally is our plan for tennis at the Centre.  Curiously, there are not many courts in the area but we have several at the Centre, although currently only three are even halfway playable.  The LTA have been fantastic in offering their support and expertise and we are shortly going out to tender to totally resurface the area to LTA specifications. 

In two weeks time we are holding assessments for five new sports scholarships at King's to celebrate the acquistion of the Sports Centre and later in the year the refurbishment will be complete.  It is a genuinely exciting project and one which I am gaining a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from.  This is the sort of venture which shows how an independent school and local Council can work together to great effect and provides a platform for the legacy from the Olympics which we all want to see.
King's Rochester Sports Centre - artist's impression