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Excelsior Academy pupils impress HRH The Duke of Kent with project showcase exhibition

As part of a two day visit to the North East, HRH The Duke of Kent, met students and teachers from Excelsior Academy at a showcase exhibition in his capacity as Royal Patron of the Edge Foundation.

The visit included a showcase by pupils on a project set for them through the Edge Future Learning initiative. Pupils embarked on projects aligned to one of the main economic growth sectors in the North East. They worked in teams to solve real problems, helping them to develop transferable skills like team working and problem solving. These experiences provided cross-curricular learning supported by STEM experts from the businesses.

Pupils from Year 7 showcased projects on;

  • Climate change and renewable energy, working alongside Northern Gas Networks, Northumbrian Water and the Port of Blyth.
  • Housing and community needs, in partnership with New Tyne West Development Company and Newcastle University.
  • Supporting vulnerable friends in the community as part of a continuing relationship with the People’s Kitchen.

Meanwhile, students from Year 8 showcased the work they have been completing with the Atlantic Dream Challenge – focusing on how local men, Paul Hopkins and Phil Pugh recently achieved the challenge of a lifetime, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean for charity.

Edge Future Learning is an initiative set up by the education charity, the Edge Foundation who are working to shape the future of education. The initiative has been running in the North East since 2018. The Edge Foundation leads the development of EFL, working with two Founding Partners – Ford Next Generation Learning and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive, the Edge Foundation, said:

“Project based learning like this helps prepare young people for life and work in the 21st Century. Students and staff at Excelsior Academy have worked extremely hard on these projects. Showcasing their work is an important part of students’ learning and development so we are delighted that our Royal Patron, The Duke of Kent was able to join us for this important celebration.”

David Thornton, Executive Principal, Excelsior Academy, said:

“Excelsior Academy is proud to be one of a few schools in the North East that is piloting this new approach to learning and by bringing learning to life we hope to transform outcomes for our students. The Showcase Exhibition presents a fantastic opportunity for students to be able to present their work to The Duke of Kent.”

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“By developing their approaches to careers learning, schools and colleges in the North East are focused on ensuring all young people gain the skills they need for their future. Building and sustaining relationships with employers and partners enables teachers to apply context and purpose to lesson content, engage students with the subject and help them understand real-world situations. Since introducing Edge Future Learning principles, teachers have seen an improvement in students’ motivation, oracy, teamwork and overall confidence.”

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North East England is chosen as the first Ford Next Generation Learning Community outside of the United States

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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Local MP sees new way of learning being piloted in North East schools

Local MP Chi Onwurah heard from children who have been working with local employers as part of an initiative to transform learning in the North East.

National education charity the Edge Foundation, have partnered with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to pilot the teaching model in three schools in the region. They invited Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, to meet students and teachers from Excelsior Academy in Newcastle, Norham High School in North Tyneside and Churchill Community College in North Tyneside, who began projects in September last year.

Students in years 7-9 have been learning about subjects like local history, digital technology and sustainability via projects run in partnership with local businesses. The approach encourages children to develop critical skills such as team-working, communication and problem-solving, see the relevance of what they learn to the real world and gives them insight into the world of work.

Chi Onwurah said:

“It was truly inspiring to hear the students talk about their projects; the pride and sense of achievement shone through. I’d like to praise the schools which took part and the dedicated teachers who invested their time. The structure of our economy and the challenges society faces are changing; young people need to be equipped to be active citizens with the skills to succeed in jobs that have yet to be defined. Skills such as problem-solving and team-working, creativity and resilience, promoted by this approach, are what is needed to enable the economy in the North East and beyond to adapt in a competitive and ever changing world.”

Chi saw presentations by the students at a showcase at Excelsior Academy and met teachers and staff from the schools.

Edge Foundation Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, commented:

“We are bringing together all our research, the most robust evidence and best practice pedagogies from the around the world and want to share this with schools in the UK as part of Edge Future Learning. The projects the students did last term have been tremendously successful and the feedback from teachers, students and their parents and carers has been overwhelmingly positive. We want to shout about this and invite other schools in the North East and beyond to join this transformation.”

Neil Willis, Education Challenge Project lead at the North East LEP, said:

“The North East is leading the way in piloting this new approach to learning in our schools and it’s fantastic to be able to demonstrate the impact this is already having on pupils’ engagement and attainment. By bringing schools together with local employers we hope to transform outcomes for young people in the North East.”