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Opening doors and broadening horizons at Fellside Primary School

Fellside Primary school in Gateshead has achieved all eight of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, having taken part in a two-year pilot project to adapt them for primary age children, led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). It has also now achieved Career Mark Primary accreditation.

Ruth Thornber, Careers Leader at Fellside, explains what the school put in place, and the changes she’s seen in pupils.

Starting out

In 2019, when we became a part of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks: Primary Pilot, we began to streamline our careers programmes, bring them in line with the benchmarks and current research.

We realised that our first port of call was to involve all the staff so we had a professional development day to review what we were doing and how we could grow it into a long term plan, with progression from early years though to year six.

We saw opportunities to link careers to all areas of the curriculum. For example, our science curriculum includes a scientist in every topic, and computing includes a discussion of skills and how they apply to job roles like games developing or coding. In history, we look at jobs past and present.

Careers is also linked to our seven core school values (challenge, confidence, change, commitment, collaboration, creativity and curiosity. One of our values is creativity, and our children can talk about creative skills and where those can take you; another is challenge where children are encouraged to accept that things might be difficult but we can learn from problem solving our way through the challenges presented to us.

Change and progression

Now we’re at the end of the pilot we have a progressive scheme of work in place. It’s ever-changing to respond to outside factors like COVID, changes to industry, and the fact that we tailor learning to specific needs of each cohort.

In response to COVID we flipped to virtual interactions with employers and conducted streaming workshops with authors and employers. With the North East LEP’s guidance, we’ve added more information about self-employment and entrepreneurship.

Measuring impact

We do baseline assessments with children and we’re starting to see how we’re opening doors and broadening their horizons.

The children can definitely talk more about different careers and the skills they would need for jobs in different sectors. Interestingly, we are noticing a shift in the understanding of typical stereotypes, with more girls becoming interested in coding and engineering through activities such as our robotics and coding clubs.

When we were assessed for the Primary Careers Mark accreditation, our assessor commented that he could see how careers is clearly embedded throughout the school curriculum and that children could talk about it with confidence and enthusiasm, even after all the disruption of COVID.

Celebrating what we’ve achieved

Careers guidance isn’t statutory at primary but I’d say it absolutely is valuable and needs to be done. We also really need that link between primary and secondary and I think this an area for further development in the future.

There’s a buzz amongst the pupils, especially after they learn about a new opportunity, like when Siemens came and talked to them about wind turbines and demonstrated the roles available in the company, when we had visits from apprentices, or when our Year 6 pupils experienced a day at Nissan. It really does make our pupils stop and think about what they enjoy, what skills they have and what they could do.

Now, we want to celebrate our achievements with pupils, parents and staff, as we come towards the end of the pilot - achieving all eight benchmarks has been such an important accomplishment for the whole school community, as has achieving the Primary Careers Mark demonstrating that, at Fellside, we provide quality careers and worm related learning experiences for all of our pupils.