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In conversation with… North East LEP chair, Andrew Hodgson, who discusses our Industry Alignment pilot project

The North East LEP is recognised as a national leader in careers education policy, pioneering the delivery of the Gatsby Benchmarks for good careers guidance we’ve helped embed in regional schools.

We don’t believe in resting on our laurels and are looking to go one step further to ensure every child in the North East has access to the very best in careers engagement.

As part of this commitment, we’ve looked over the Atlantic to the United States to draw upon the best of their work bringing the classroom and the boardroom closer together.

So it’s especially pleasing to see the impact being made in one regional school in particular by the North East LEP’s Education Challenge.

Pupils aged seven and eight at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy are spearheading an industry alignment pilot project uniting big business with cutting edge teaching.

The project – piloted by our partner The Edge Foundation education charity – builds on the best of the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

The US programme run with car manufacturing giant Ford registered great success in both the classroom and the boardroom.

In Newcastle, experts from Virgin Trains East Coast worked with Excelsior Academy primary pupils to teach them about the essential workings of their business and the different skills of its employees needed to run the company.

Project manager Hannah Cummins helped capture the creative spark of youngsters in the classroom, drawing up business plans to underpin the building of solar-powered models.

The final step in the project was to present their plans and models in the main school hall to the project partners, family and friends.

No small task, but one they delivered with great aplomb!

The impact of the project is many fold. Children have been introduced to the professional and personal skills needed to fulfil roles such as in finance, engineering and marketing.

As well as the professional skills, youngsters now know the importance to employers of personal qualities like a positive attitude, resilience, teamwork and self confidence.

Excelsior headteacher Craig Taylor plans to roll out the project to Year 7 and Year 8 pupils from next September.

The project also worked with Future Me – a collaboration between the five North East universities to help raise children’s aspirations further.

The main aim of the Education Challenge is to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve the social mobility of young people.

It’s helping teachers and governors at Excelsior, Norham High in North Shields and Churchill Community College in Wallsend to integrate careers learning into the curriculum. 

The US model is informing our Education Challenge which we hope will be introduced into schools across the country.

A bold ambition, but one that is built on firm foundations with outstanding partner support.

It’s off to a flying start at Excelsior Academy where youngsters are the standard bearers for its success.









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US-style industry learning shines in North East classrooms

An Industry Alignment Project piloted by the Edge Foundation at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy has proven such a success, it will now be rolled out to two new year groups.

Focused on equipping young people with the skills they need to reach their full potential, the project recognises the need for young people to have skills appropriate to today’s global and digital economy, so that organisations have a pipeline of talent ready for the workplace.

Education charity Edge’s work with Excelsior forms part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Education Challenge programme, designed to address the gap between the best and least well performing schools in the region.

The initial pilot was carried out with Excelsior’s Rainbird Primary pupils, working to a global sustainable energy theme.

Students had the chance to build solar-powered models of cars, windmills and boats, working to plan and budget under the guidance of Virgin Trains experts and showcase their models to family and business leaders at a school event.

The work will now be extended to years seven and eight.

Hannah Cummins, Industry Alignment Manager at Excelsior Academy, said: “We wanted to introduce our students to skills that employers value – confidence, resilience and team work – and raise their aspirations when considering their future careers. They may only be seven and eight years old, but seeing the relevance of classroom subjects in real life can make learning much more engaging.”

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, added: “The impact of the Industry Alignment Project on our primary pupils is profound. We want to take this success and embed it next year into our wider curriculum with students in years seven and eight.”

Michelle Dickinson, Community Engagement Manager for Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “We partnered with Excelsior Academy because we are looking for a future talent pipeline for our business, to support the younger generation to think about jobs earlier in their lives. Getting involved with local schools is a fantastic and rewarding way to do this.”

The North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which the Industry Alignment Project is part of, is built on the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

The long-term aim is to introduce the programme into schools across the country, reducing the gap between the best and lowest performing secondary schools and improving social mobility.

A North East delegation visited Nashville schools last year to see how their industry alignment projects work in practice with local employers.

When introduced to Nashville schools, high school graduation rates rose by almost 23% as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Neil Willis, North East LEP Education Challenge Regional Lead, said: “We are looking at how we can best support schools, colleges and higher education in the drive to engage all students and the Industry Alignment Project with the Edge Foundation and Excelsior Academy is a key part of this.

“Even though the Excelsior pupils were very young, they articulated their project competently, demonstrated their skills development very well and showed how their curriculum is linked to the amazing work they’ve completed.”

“The fact the project will now be rolled out to years seven and eight shows just what a success this has been.”

The project also worked with Future Me – a collaboration between the five North East universities to help raise school children’s aspirations.

Helen Beardmore, The Edge Foundation Education Delivery Manager, said: “The key aim is to help teachers access different employability skills. The curriculum is very knowledge based and by linking the schools with employers the students get to develop their skills and knowledge, working with businesses to bring the curriculum alive.”

The North East schools involved in the pilot are Excelsior Academy, Churchill Community College and Norham High School.


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Representing the North East at National Careers Week

As National Careers Week Ambassador for the North East of England, I’ve been delighted to be able to take a proactive role in encouraging employer engagement across the region and promote the benchmarks within the Good Career Guidance Report, which identifies what ‘good’ careers guidance looks like.

Networking across the North East is key to careers guidance success and the generation of meaningful encounters. Experiences of the workplace, between employers and young people is critical in achieving the benchmarks. My role involves liaising with the national ambassador team, sharing resources and case studies to encourage and promote these meaningful experiences.

As an Enterprise Adviser for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, I strongly support the delivery of its North East Ambition programme, which promotes skills across the region to improve the economy of the North East. Good careers guidance and the access to employment that is right for the individual, is a critical part of this drive around skills.

During National Careers Week (5-10March), I attended a series of events, actively promoting the fantastic work that is being delivered across the North East on careers guidance benchmarking and best practice working with employers.

I have been working particularly closely with Sue Taylor, the careers lead at Heaton Manor School in Newcastle upon Tyne. The school has been making great strides to achieve the benchmarks. Sue and the team have identified where the gaps are, and they are taking an innovative approach to making real connections between employers and young people.

To give the students access and exposure to a range of businesses, Heaton Manor School held a series of lunchtime talks for the duration of National Careers Week and beyond for a further week.

Attending employers include Accenture, Tarmac, Virgin Money, Digital Union, NBS, Ronald James, Baltic Training and Equiwatt, a green energy start-up company.

What an amazing opportunity for that group of Year 9’s to get first-hand information from a diverse range of employers, including small business, corporates, membership organisations and self-employed business people – all willing to talk to these students and create just the right conditions for excellent careers guidance.

This is just one example of how the North East is generating engagement between schools and employers and there is a real understanding of the benefits of developing these meaningful encounters with young people.

I am looking for more schools and business leaders across the North East that are making great strides in careers advice, generating real connections and headway in achieving the benchmarks, to use as positive case studies for our region and showcase them on a national platform.

Please communicate your successes on social media, using the hashtag #NorthEastAmbition when you tweet and tag us @northeastlep

Let’s shout about our careers guidance successes across the North East and on the national stage.

I welcome contact from schools, colleges and business leaders that would like to discuss future opportunities to network and create meaningful careers guidance opportunities.

Catherine Boland is currently HR Director at Printed.com until she moves to her new role as Business and Community Engagement Lead with Baltic Training at the end of April. Catherine is National Careers Week Ambassador for the North East of England.

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Nashville success underpins North East Education Challenge

A second North East delegation is visiting schools in Nashville, Tennessee, this week to further learn how a pioneering approach to education in the US is transforming student attainment through industry links.

The Ford Next Generation Learning programme embeds industry knowledge into school curriculum across Nashville and other US cities, equipping students with the skills that modern industry demands.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is leading the delegation to Nashville.

With partners, the LEP will deliver a UK pilot, initially in three North East schools – Excelsior Academy, Newcastle, Norham High and Churchill Community College, both North Tyneside – based on the best elements of the US model.

The North East pilot is in its development stage, ready to be implemented in schools in September. The Education Challenge will embed industry-led projects into lessons and equip young people with the skills employers look for. Its aim is to reduce the gap between the best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility.

The pilot will be rolled out to further schools and FE in early 2019 with a view to creating a scaleable and replicable model.

Education and industry representatives from Ford Next Generation Learning, USA visited the North East last year to share good practice and reciprocally how schools in our region are already at the forefront of Good Career Guidance, part of the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan

Neil Willis, Project Manager, Education Challenge at the North East LEP, said: “Ford Next Generation Learning informed our innovative approach in the North East

“We are working with regional, national and international partners, building effective relationships between employers and teachers, particularly developing teacher continuous professional development – with teachers spending time in industry co-designing provision.”

In Nashville when employers were effectively engaged within education,, those schools went from being some of the lowest performing schools in the US to some of the highest in terms of attainment and attendance.

Excelsior Academy is one of the first three North East schools working closely with the LEP to introduce the Education Challenge into its classrooms.

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, said: “This could be a significant, potentially transformative project for Excelsior Academy.

“If we are going to continue trying to impact positively on our pupils’ lives, we need to look at what we offer and how we present it to them.”

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Education Challenge Project Manager appointed

A project manager has been appointed to support the delivery of a ground-breaking education programme.

Neil Willis will lead the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Education Challenge.

The role will see Neil spearhead the Next Generation Learning project, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility in our young people.

Neil brings extensive experience to the role, having spent 16 years as a science teacher and in senior leadership in secondary schools in the North East.

In 2016, he began working across schools as an Education Consultant, developing projects including STEM-specific provision through the National STEM Centre, teacher training and CPD, faculty improvement and school improvement.

Over the past two years, Neil has been involved in North East Futures University Technical College (UTC), which saw him build a significant amount of partnerships with regional industry to enrich the curriculum and bring industry into the classroom.

Newcastle University graduate Neil said: “I am very excited to play a part in shaping the education landscape and driving change through the LEP’s Education Challenge.

“Building on the success of Gatsby Foundation’s Career Benchmarks, the Education Challenge will support teachers, schools, governors and leaders to integrate careers learning into the curriculum to ensure those entering the workforce in the future have the skill level to support our diverse economy and are fully aware of the progression routes available to make this happen.”

The appointment comes after the North East LEP area was selected by Ford Next Generation Learning and The Edge Foundation as the first area internationally to translate elements of the successful ‘Academies of Nashville’ model to the UK.

The Academies of Nashville model transformed attendance, attainment and progression by placing employers and business partners alongside teachers and school leaders to develop highly personalised approaches to progression.

The Next Generation Learning project aims to replicate this success.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “The North East is leading the way when it comes to implementing outstanding careers provision within education.

“Neil brings with him vast skills and experience, which will be a great asset to furthering the aims of the Education Challenge. We are delighted to welcome him to the team.”

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Education Challenge: Join the team responsible for trialling next generation of learning in North East Schools

During 2017 we’ve been working closely with colleagues in Nashville, USA and across the UK as the North East prepares to be the first place outside America to trial elements of a new model of learning, which has already transformed the way young people learn and achieve across more than 30 school districts in the USA.

We visited Nashville in September and hosted a return visit to the North East in November, and have been inspired by the way this approach can really make a difference to young people’s futures – it’s a proven example of international best practice and the fact that we have the opportunity to develop it here in the North East LEP area is hugely exciting.

The Academies Nashville model places employer engagement at the centre of education and, when it was implemented in Nashville, resulted in an almost 23% rise in high school graduation rates as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Pupils learn through project-based learning, completing courses which relate to sectors they’re interested in – from healthcare to hospitality – while close partnerships with employers result in industry placements for both students and teachers.

It’s now time for us to start translating elements of the model for use in the North East so as we enter the New Year, we’re looking for four people to join our project team and help us to make this happen.

We’re already working with three schools – Excelsior Academy, Norham High School and Churchill Community College – who will be the first to trial the approach. These schools will work closely with the North East LEP and our partners at The Edge Foundation, Future Me and businesses across the region.

The first post we’re recruiting for is a Regional ‘Careers in the Curriculum’ Project Lead who will be based here at the North East LEP offices in Newcastle. This person will liaise with employers and teachers across the region, developing opportunities for teacher CPD placements in industry and co-designing project-based learning for pupils. This person will also be responsible for sharing what we learn with the wider region, making sure that as many schools as possible benefit from this project.

We’re also recruiting three Industry Alignment Managers who will be based in each of the three pilot schools. They will work with teaching staff to develop project-based learning approaches in the school, evaluating the impact of the approach and managing relationships with employers.

Each of these four posts will play a key part in this ambitious and exciting project. The project is a core element of the region’s strategic economic plan, where our education challenge. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something which can make a real difference to outcomes for our young people, preparing them with the skills they need to start their careers and helping businesses and schools work more closely together within the curriculum.

We need to find people who are creative thinkers, who can connect a variety of stakeholders with a common aim and who, above all, are enthusiastic and motivated about making a difference for young people in the North East.

Could that be you or someone you know?

The ‘Next Generation Learning’ project is part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility in our young people. The education challenge will support teachers, schools, governors and leaders to integrate careers learning into the curriculum to ensure those entering the workforce in the future have the skill level to support our diverse economy and are fully aware of the progression routes available to make this happen.

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Our Plan for Higher Education – Diverse, Employment-focused, Value for Money

New independent report points the way forward for Higher Education

We welcome the publication of the Edge Foundation’s Plan for Higher Education which sets out how greater diversity of provision, more employer engagement and a keen focus on value for money can ensure that HE helps to close the skills gap.

Here, Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at The Edge Foundation sets out his thoughts on Higher Education Diversification

New polling data commissioned by Edge for the report raises some significant questions about perceptions of value for money amongst graduates. The percentage who felt they received good value for money for their degree has fallen steadily from 93% of those who graduated before 1980 to just 58% amongst recent graduates. Meanwhile, the majority of graduates from the last five decades (52%) would choose not to go to university in the current funding regime.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The report highlights some amazing programmes here and abroad that are helping to ensure excellent employment outcomes for students. This includes a diversification of provision to include accelerated, part-time and sandwich courses and a reinvigoration of L4 and L5 qualifications to give us the technicians we need to power industry in the North East. It also includes high quality careers services and employer engagement, which many of the universities in our region pride themselves on.

The report also points to two ambitious international models to provide inspiration for the future. DHBW in Stuttgart is a University entirely made up of degree apprentices studying whilst employed with leading firms and their supply chains. The Minerva Schools based in California is an international university with no campus that achieves excellent results at a fraction of the cost of traditional tuition through innovative online seminars.

We are blessed in the North East with fantastic Higher Education partners and we are keen to learn from the best models nationally and internationally to help them continue to be a powerhouse for skills and growth in the region.

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Gateshead College Principal Judith new business growth board appointment

Gateshead College Principal and Chief Executive Judith Doyle has been appointed to the North East LEP’s Business Growth Board to represent the further education sector.

Her appointment is seen as key in bringing outstanding FE sector leadership and award-winning knowledge to the board which is focused on helping regional businesses achieve and sustain high growth.

Judith took over leadership of Gateshead College four years ago, driving change and turning it from an institution judged by Ofsted as requiring improvement to one rated as outstanding. It is now being championed as a blue print for the sector by Minister of State for Education and Skills, Robert Halfon following his recent visit to launch the government’s industrial strategy.

Thanks to the improvements made under her leadership, Gateshead College is now ranked third in the country for overall success rates, boasting apprentices which are ten per cent above national benchmarks for their achievements within their chosen course and field.

The college is a significant business in its own right with a £40m turnover and more than 600 staff.

Under Judith’s leadership, the college strives to ensure students develop the skills needed for work and that employers have access to the most highly prized employees in the jobs market.

Judith was named the country’s top FE college leader by judges of the prestigious TES Awards, who referenced her widespread regard amongst college colleagues and the wider North East business community.

She is also a board member of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, Queen Elizabeth NHS Trust and a member of the CBI’s regional council.

Judith said: “I am delighted to join the Growth Board and welcome the opportunity to work with such a great team of people who all share a passion and drive to help businesses grow and thrive in our region. A strong infrastructure of education, training and skills aligned to the needs of industry is crucial if we are to achieve our collective ambitions.”

Mark Thompson, LEP Business Growth Board Chair, said: “Judith’s nationally renowned knowledge of the FE sector and proven experience of managing a large business will prove to be an invaluable asset to our board.

“She is ideally placed to help us support business growth in so many ways, for example inspiring leaders by supporting, advising and peer mentoring business people looking to grow their company.”

The LEP’s Business Growth Board oversees a programme of activity to create more and better jobs through a dynamic and entrepreneurial economy that enables businesses to scale up, thrive and grow.

This includes the North East Growth Hub, providing access to finance, mentoring support and a Manufacturing Growth Programme.

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Milestone for land-based education in the North East

The first major development work at East Durham College’s Houghall Campus since it opened in 1938 is now complete.

The £12.75 million redevelopment received £10m from the North East LEP as part of the North East Growth Deal from Government. The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport across the North East LEP area.

As well as an extensive and challenging refurbishment of the main entrance front building, which was built in 1937/8, the completion of the project saw a number of stunning new facilities open September 2016; including a brand-new small animal care centre, agricultural centre, equine centre, brand new science labs and IT suites, and new enhanced access and parking facilities.

The purpose-built Small Animal Care Centre houses a range of small mammals, birds, reptiles and aquatics – as well as a new commercial dog grooming salon and 22-bay dog kennel unit, complete with dog agility and dog walking areas.

The stunning new Houghall Equine Centre boasts a 28-stable block accommodation, training workshops, tack room, automatic horse-walker and an international-standard 40m x 40m indoor arena to complement an existing 60m x 40m all-weather ménage, cross-country trail, schooling field and 20-acre paddock.

The new Agricultural Centre includes a pig unit and cattle unit with forage store to supplement the existing sheep unit down at the farm site.

Each new and refurbished building also boasts additional classroom/workshop space, staff and student changing facilities and welfare support areas.

Suzanne Duncan, Principal at East Durham College, said: “This is an incredibly exciting time in the history of the Houghall campus.

“Completion of our first major development work on the campus since it opened in 1938 is a huge boost to the facilities we can now offer students. These will significantly improve the learning and teaching facilities at Houghall and provide a learning environment fit for the 21st century and beyond.

“This is a real milestone for land-based education in the north east.”