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The Careers and Enterprise Company CEO Claudia Harris visited Didcot Girls School (DGS) on Thursday 13th June, with Rachael Warwick - Executive Headteacher and ASCL Vice-President - to hear from staff and students about how the school is helping prepare young people for the world of work.

Last month it was announced that the all-girls’ comprehensive – which has a co-educational Sixth Form shared with St Birinus School – will be part of the Oxfordshire Careers Hub.

The Careers Hub - part of the OxLEP Enterprise Adviser Network - will bring together group of schools in the area to work collaboratively to improve careers guidance for young people in the area and develop good practice to share countywide.

DGS is at the leading edge of career provision. They have a Link Governor for Careers – Paul Smith, a Senior and Entrepreneurial Careers Leader – Stuart George, and have been working with Mike Foster from Oxford Innovation – their Enterprise Adviser since 2016. In fact, Mike was the first Enterprise Adviser in Oxfordshire.

The school uses Compass to evaluate their provision and invest focus and time in careers. The results are impressive. Just as an example, four of the career initiatives listed below:

  • Careers Champions – a dedicated member of staff across each department within the school, ensuring students have visibility of career opportunities across all subjects.
  • Challenge Placements – a way of raising aspirations through work experience in the higher paid and more technical professions that women are less well represented in.
  • The Takeover Challenge – where students take over senior leadership positions in local businesses – including supermarkets and manufacturers.
  • Sixth Form Mentoring for over 200 students – which has had 100 per cent positive feedback for the past two years, building on students’ interviewing skills, CV writing, confidence and ability. The school have built a bank of 26 mentors and have rolled the programme out to three other schools locally.

All of this work was brought to life by Sophie and Lilly, two very talented students from the school, delivered a wonderful presentation pitching their own social enterprise model to tackle homelessness in Oxfordshire.

Part of this project included donating boxes of socks and much needed items to the most vulnerable people in the area – while funding this initiative through selling biodegradable, cost-efficient dog toys. Sophie and Lilly told the group that the best part about the project was learning new leadership and teamwork skills, while being entrepreneurial and more prepared for the world of work.

Claudia Harris – Chief Executive Officer, The Careers & Enterprise Company

“Didcot Girls’ School is an example of everything in a careers strategy coming together. The school has total senior leadership through the governors and executive head, as well as a dedicated and highly entrepreneurial Careers Leader. Strong programme design starting with Compass diagnostic. Seamless partnership with a committed, innovative and can-do Enterprise Adviser in Mike Foster. The results speak for themselves. Sophie and Lilly’s presentation captures everything brilliant about this programme. This is a fantastic standard for what great practice looks like and it was a pleasure to be able to see it first-hand.”

Rachael Warwick – ASCL Vice President and Executive Headteacher, Ridgeway Education Trust

“Today has been really inspiring for me because it has brought together the work that governors, Enterprise Advisers, and our own Careers Leader has done in the school. It has shown what you can achieve when you have really good people working together to inspire young people about their futures and the types of careers journeys they can set their sights on, in their own school.”

Stuart George – Head of Personal Development and Careers, Didcot Girls’ School

“This meeting was fantastic because it really gave us an opportunity to raise awareness of the things we’re doing incredibly well. It was also great to get some feedback from The Careers & Enterprise Company about what is happening both nationally, and in Oxfordshire.”

Mike Foster – Enterprise Adviser to the School from Oxford Innovation

“I really enjoyed today because it was an opportunity to review, reflect and highlight some of the activities that we’re delivering as part of our Careers Strategy here at Didcot Girls’ School.”