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National Careers Awards 2019

Posted on: 07/10/2019

Didcot Girls’ School was absolutely delighted to pick up 3rd place in the National Careers Awards run by the Careers and Enterprise Company in their ‘innovation’ category.  The award was in recognition of the school’s achievements, over a number of years, in getting more pupils to undertake ‘challenging’ work experience placements, thus ultimately improving their employability. The award is testimony to the efforts of many staff, parents, employers and pupils who have all played their part but particular mention should go to Stuart George (Head of Careers), Hannah Burke (Work Experience Coordinator), Mike Foster (Enterprise Advisor) and Paul Smith (School Governor).

An extract from our entry:

As an all girls’ state school, we were shocked when we came across research that stated that 75% of women in the UK worked in one of the – largely low skilled and low paid - ‘5Cs’ career sectors: Cashiering, clerical, care, catering and cleaning.  We felt that, as a girls’ only school with a mission to develop our pupils as future leaders, we should undertake action to address this issue.

Consequently, as we consider work experience to be of real value and a factor that can shape future career choices, as well as providing inspiration to pupils to progress into fulfilling careers, we wanted to encourage as many students as possible to undertake a placement in a ‘non 5C’ sector.  At the same time, we recognised that, where real aspirations and acumen lay in a 5C sector, we would not, of course, prevent the placement going ahead.

We came up with the idea of categorising our work experience placements in Yr 10 into ‘challenge’ and ‘non-challenge’ placements.  From this starting point we then approached companies in ‘challenge sectors’ to provide more opportunities for our pupils and to persuade more pupils and their parents to seek out ‘challenge’ placements.

Over time, our initiative has proved to be highly successful and the percentage of challenge placements available over the five years since we have been focusing on this has risen year on year, and is now, at 62%, 14% higher than when we started. The percentage of students undertaking a challenge placement has gone up from 52% to 65% with consistent year on year improvements. Of course, being ambitious, we are striving to improve on these figures every year in the future.

We also decided to monitor how some of our vulnerable groups – students in receipt of the Pupil Premium (PP) and students with special education needs (SEND) – take up challenge placements compared to the rest of the cohort. Research has shown that, often, such students find it harder to secure such challenging work experience placements. Through carefully targeted support and concerted effort, we have been able to make a significant difference here too: only 24% of PP students secured a challenge placement in our first year in 2014 but this has now risen to 53% in our latest data for 2019. SEND data shows an increase from 26% to 44% during the same period, something we are very proud of.  Of course, these figures are still below our school average of 62% so there is some way to go but we are determined to close this gap so that all students have access to such placements if they so choose.

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