In News, Skills

North East England has been selected as the latest Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) community, the first outside of the United States, it was announced at a celebration event with teachers, students and their parents, at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

Since last September, three pioneering local schools, Excelsior Academy, in Newcastle, Churchill Community College and Norham High School, both in North Tyneside, have been introducing elements of the Ford NGL education model into the school curriculum, with the support of education charity the Edge Foundation and the North East LEP.

The schools have followed the Ford NGL ‘road map’ which starts with local employers, students, parents, teachers and community groups coming together to create a ‘leaver profile’, outlining what skills, knowledge and attributes young people need to successfully move on to further education, training or employment when they leave school.

Each school’s Industry Alignment Manager initiates and manages relationships with local businesses who work with teachers to create projects for students. As part of one such project with People’s Kitchen, which supports homeless and disadvantaged people in Newcastle, students at Collingwood School of Excelsior Academy recreated the Jarrow march and learned about the history of the shipbuilding industry and the impact on local communities of its decline.

They filled shoe boxes with gifts and essentials for Friends of The People’s Kitchen, each one with a personal message from each child. The projects aim to solve real-world problems and make learning in the classroom relevant to the work place and the wider world. This project based approach also gives students profound employer engagement opportunities, helping them to develop critical skills like communication and team-working and giving them valuable insight into careers and help them make informed choices.

The Ford NGL model has transformed schools across the United States increasing academic achievement, lowering dropout rates and impacting on local economies by generating a strong talent pipeline for employers in the area.

Ford NGL’s executive director, Cheryl Carrier, said: “Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work. The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that improves their chances for future success and will benefit the workforce and economic development needs of a region for years to come.”

Youngsters from Norham High School learned about local history via a project led by Go North East. Working with local charity Age UK North Tyneside, students interviewed older people about their experiences of the changes in public transport over their life-time and also gained insight into the career opportunities in the transport sector.

Go North East’s Training Manager, Keith Robertson, commented: “I think it’s fantastic. There’s not enough engagement with schools at the moment. This is a great opportunity for us to be able to get into schools and let them know what’s out there.”

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “The fact that the North East is the first region outside the USA to be designated as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community is a testament to the vision and drive of the schools, teachers and pupils who have been a part of this programme.

“Working in partnership with our Skills team from the North East LEP, together we have built on the pioneering work which has been bringing schools and employers together in the North East over the past few years.

“We’ve seen the positive impact it can have on outcomes for students and we will continue to work with more schools and colleges in the region to give each and every young person the best possible start to their working lives.”

The Edge Foundation introduced Ford NGL to the UK and has been working in partnership with the North East LEP as part of its North East Ambition initiative to address skills shortages and youth unemployment across the region. In September, three more schools in the area will join the pilot embedding project based learning into the school day.

Claire Goodwill, the Principal of Milburn School, Excelsior Academy, said: “It has been inspirational to see pupils and parents working with employers and community groups to discuss what skills and attributes are needed. On the days that project based learning takes place, attendance is excellent and the behaviour incidents that we log are lower on those days. It really is having an impact.”

At Thursday’s event, students from all three schools gave presentations about the work they’ve been doing to teachers, parents, employers and representatives from Edge, the North East LEP and from Ford NGL. Ford NGL personnel flew to Newcastle especially for the occasion and to present the schools with their trophies recognising them as part of a Ford NGL community.

In 2017, Ford Motor Company Fund invested more than $18 million in scholarships and other innovative education initiatives, such as Ford NGL.

The next three institutions to take part will also be announced, Castleview Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, James Calvert Spence in Amble and Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form which constitute Education Partnership North East.

The Edge Foundation’s Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, said: “We witnessed first-hand the incredible work Ford NGL has done in the United States and could see clearly it could benefit young people, communities and local economies in the UK. At Edge we believe all young people should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential; that means not just acquiring knowledge, but being able to apply that knowledge in the real world, to be creative and curious, nurture those critical skills which the 21st century workplace demands and learn as much about the wider world of work as possible to be able to make informed decisions about their future.

“Using project based learning, profound employer engagement and involving the whole community is a compelling approach to learning which has been shown to help young people thrive, regardless of their background or assumptions about their abilities.”

Find out more about the North East LEP’s Education Challenge programme,which aims to reduce the gap between the North East’s best and lowest performing schools and to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

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