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Paula Staley is the Careers Leader at Beaumont Leys School, a secondary school in Leicester. Here, she writes about recent activity they have had within their careers provision.

Paula Staley
Paula Staley

On the ground floor at Beaumont Leys School: Liam, in Year 8 takes off his headset and announces, “It’s like you are actually there!”  He adds, “I’m going to take my Nan on a tour tonight, she’s never been to a University.”  

Today is our Year 8 Virtual Reality University Tour day. Widening Participation (WP) mentors from Loughborough University are running a pilot Virtual Reality programme at our school. The event is something that has been delivered in further education, school sixth forms and colleges but never before in schools.  

University is a route that many of our students take as part of their educational journey. Most will visit a local university campus as part of the WP programme, some will visit on subject events, others during family Open Days and a few as part of their ‘Brilliant Club’ experience. We wanted to make sure that every one of our 221 students in Year 8 had an opportunity to explore, for themselves, what University life is all about.

Upstairs, on the second floor, Aiyana (Year 9) is finishing marking a set of Year 7 French vocabulary tests. She’s already assisted in a Year 8 French lesson taking pairs of students out of the lesson for speaking practice. Next, she’s going into a Year 11 class to see what French learning will be like towards the end of her GCSE journey. Along with the rest of Year 9, she’s taking part in a second day of in-school work experience as ‘subject assistant’ in one of their option subjects.

Further down the corridor, Ms Hargreaves is teaching Year 10 about long profile rivers using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Our geography teachers have been working with Jamie from the Environment Agency since our Business Breakfast in January. This support has helped to add to the data students have already collected from fieldwork. The impact on learning is clear. Students have a deeper understanding of what they are learning.

Our Business Breakfast saw 16 visiting employers plan alongside all our teaching staff to impact on learning within the curriculum.  Beaumont Leys is a school that has a strong and long tradition of careers education.  Our school values of Success and Ambition, Best Self and Positive Future Self lead all that we do, fitting cohesively with our Careers work. The opening statement in our careers vision says: We believe that high quality CEIAG (Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance) is an entitlement and the key to unlock the door to improved future social mobility, financial security and therefore well-being. We believe in the moral imperative for creating a climate where our students are given the tools to be confident, employable, aspirational and adaptable learners and employees.

We have invested heavily in careers education for many years. The Gatsby Benchmarks will ensure that all schools invest in careers education for their students.  For us, the Gatsby Benchmarks give us something to aim beyond. They’ve helped us to question what we do, why we do it and what we could do better. As a result, we’ve deepened the experiences, learning and understanding that our students have.

Being the lead school in our thriving Leicester and Leicestershire LEP Hub has given us a platform to share more widely beyond the City of Leicester. Our partner schools, at least one from every district, have made great strides to achieving the benchmarks but more importantly in serving the students at their school with quality careers education.

Having led careers in our school for many years, I know it to be a role that is energising and powerful.  Working in a school where careers is so valued only adds to this.  I welcome the recent spotlight on careers as it can only enhance Careers Leaders’ ability to put careers, and therefore students’ futures, at the heart of everything we do.