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Region hosts visit from USA education experts as schools prepare to adapt next generation learning

A delegation of education experts from Ford Next Generation Learning in the USA is visiting schools in the North East, as the region prepares to become the first place outside America to implement a new model of learning that has transformed the way in which young people learn and achieve across Nashville and more than 30 other school districts.

During their visit, the group will be meeting students and teachers at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy, Churchill Community College in Wallsend and Norham High School in North Shields, as well as senior leaders from the CBI and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “In 2005, a number of secondary schools in Nashville implemented what is known as The Academies of Nashville model. It’s a style of learning which places employer engagement at its heart, helping students to gain skills and experience that will equip them for the world of work.

We are working closely with schools and businesses in the USA to adapt elements of this model for the North East, with the ultimate aim of creating closer links between our schools and business community and helping young people make a successful transition into their careers.”

The Academies Nashville model resulted in an almost 23% rise in high school graduation rates since 2005, and significant improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

The model has since been successfully adopted by more than 30 US school districts and now the North East has been selected to be the first place outside the USA to translate the model internationally.

This week’s visit is part of a knowledge exchange which saw representatives from the North East LEP and three North East schools travel to Nashville earlier in the year, along with colleagues from education charity the Edge Foundation, which is leading the project, and Ford Next Generation Learning.

In the Academies of Nashville model, as well as studying core subjects, students enter a ‘Career Academy’ within their school. In the ‘Academy’ all learning is set within applied contexts and students can complete courses which relate to specific sectors which they are interested in, from engineering to healthcare, as well as work-based placements and projects with employers.

More than 350 businesses are partnered with the Academies of Nashville, and teachers spend time  completing ‘externships’ – placements in industry directly working with an employer and developing cross-curricular projects for use in school.

Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at the Edge Foundation said: “We seek out leading educational models from around the world that help really prepare young people for success in their lives and careers.

Building on the fantastic work that the North East has already done on the career benchmark pilots and learning from the Academies of Nashville, we will help create a transformational model here that motivates young people by connecting their learning directly to the world of work. This will be an inspiration to schools across England and beyond.“

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, said: “Excelsior Academy is delighted to welcome our friends from Nashville to learn more about the importance we place on careers provision and partnerships with business to give our students the best possible start to their working lives. We are proud to work closely with the North East LEP as part of the Gatsby Foundation Careers Benchmarks pilot programme, putting best practice in place within Excelsior Academy.

Michelle Rainbow added: “This is a valuable opportunity for us to share best practice and work collaboratively with our peers in the USA. They have shown that the Academies of Nashville model can dramatically improve students’ attainment and we will be working with schools and businesses here to make sure that we adapt and implement elements of this model which could make a real difference for our young people.”

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 schools and to target that all schools in the North East achieve ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating.

The North East LEP will be working with schools to trial elements of the Academies of Nashville model from September 2018.