June 2019 was a landmark month for the North East. We have officially become the first place outside the USA to put in place a new method of teaching and learning, which has been shown to transform outcomes for students.
We’re very proud to have been designated as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community at a celebration event which took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, and which was very ably compèred by year seven students from Excelsior Academy in Newcastle.
The students took centre stage, alongside their peers from Norham High School and Churchill Community College in North Tyneside, as it is they, along with their teachers, who have been putting this new model of learning into practice in the North East.
The Ford NGL model was originally piloted in Nashville where it resulted in an almost 23% rise in graduation rates and significant improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance. It’s since been adopted by more than 30 US school districts.
Students learn through engagement with employers, working on real life projects and interacting with people who work in businesses in their local area. Bringing the workplace and classroom closer together really helps pupils understand how what they learn in the classroom applies to the world of work and their future careers.
Since we began working with the three pilot schools here in the North East, we’ve successfully adapted the Nashville model for our region. Students have worked with employers ranging from Go North East to the Great North Run and they’ve met surgeons, engineers and entrepreneurs.
The students who spoke at the celebration event were clearly enthusiastic about what they’d experienced, talking about the projects they’ve worked on and explaining how it’s helped them to learn.
The positive impact of this approach has been clear. We’ve seen pupils develop in confidence and teachers have observed improvements in motivation, oracy and teamwork skills. The students themselves have told us that they now have a much better understanding of why they are studying different topics, through linking the curriculum to real life situations.
As we continue on our drive to create more and better jobs in the North East, we need to ensure that the next generation has the skills to successfully move from education into employment.
Working with Ford NGL and education charity the Edge Foundation to implement this exciting new way of teaching is just one part of our skills programmes in the North East – but it’s a vital part.
I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together and it couldn’t have happened without the dedication of the schools and our partners. And of course, we’re hugely grateful to the employers who have been involved, inviting young people to play a part in their businesses.
The next step is for us to involve more schools, and we’ll be adding three more to the project over the next few months.
Ultimately, our aim is to make this approach available to all schools in the North East and to share everything we learn with our colleagues throughout the country, so that we can make sure that all young people can reap the benefits of the North East’s new status as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community.
Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East LEP.
The Ford Next Generation Learning pilot is part of 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.
Find out more at northeastambition.co.uk/education-challenge.