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Newcastle College takes on a creative approach to careers education in 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools, colleges and universities to find new, creative ways to engage learners; particularly around areas such as careers education, where it’s been very difficult for young people to experience meaningful encounters with employers because of COVID-19.

The North East LEP’s recent collaboration with Newcastle College to bring theatre to audiences in the North East, whilst at the same time giving students a valuable live work experience brief in a safe and secure way, is a great example of the creative approach that has characterised teaching this year.

Students studying Performing Arts and a range of other courses in the creative industries at Newcastle College were invited to work alongside local media company The Social Co. to create and record 12 festive performances to screen to primary schools across the region during December.

The project was designed to give students some real, valuable employer encounters in a year when regular work placements have not been possible. Throughout the project, all physical interactions between the students and The Social Co. were delivered at a safe, social distance, in keeping with government guidance.

The result is 12 new festive performances - inspired by 'The 12 Days of Christmas' - recorded and performed by students from the college, in partnership with The Social Co. Each performance is designed to encourage primary school pupils to have conversations with their teachers, and each other, about a range of issues including the environment, British values, equality and diversity. The performance Calling Birds tells children not to worry about COVID-19 spoiling Christmas, whilst Swans are Swimming emphasises the importance of diversity. Lords a Leaping is a celebration of ambition and self-identity. You can view all 12 performances on the Newcastle College YouTube page.

The project was also a collaboration between the Primary Pilot and College Hub at the North East LEP, which through the North East Ambition programme work to ensure all students in the region benefit from good-quality careers guidance.

Lisa Hamilton Murray, Vice Principal at Newcastle College, said: “Newcastle College’s Work Experience Team has worked hard to find engaging and exciting alternatives to traditional work placements this year, and this is an excellent example of how collaborating with external stakeholders can offer our students fantastic opportunities.

“We are delighted with the feedback from the schools and we hope we’ve helped to bring a little festive cheer in these unusual times. Our students have really benefitted from the experience of delivering these performances, it’s been a great confidence boost for them and will no doubt support their future progression.”

In total, 29 primary schools from across the North East LEP screened the performances as part of assemblies and classroom teaching.

Clare Garrett, Deputy Headteacher at Stephenson Memorial Primary School in North Tyneside, said: "We watched the performances in class every day. The children loved them all and asked to watch them every morning.

“They were excited to see what the students were going to perform and their faces showed pure delight - just what was needed after a very unusual term at school!

“I think their favourite was Two Turtle Doves because they got up and danced.

They also loved the Grinch, but they thought the man was very naughty and needed to stop shouting!"

As well as being an important part of Newcastle College’s commitment to offer learners the chance to work with real industry employers, this project was also about spreading some much-needed festive joy to everyone in the region’s education sector that has worked so hard in 2020.