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Didcot Girls’ School is the only all girls comprehensive in Oxfordshire and a member of Ridgeway Education Trust. The schools is taking a lead role in the newly established Wave 2 careers hub and has been nominated for The Careers and Enterprise Company “Innovation of the Year” award.

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 5 C’s career sectors: Cashiering, Clerical, Caring, Catering, Cleaning i.e. largely low skilled, low paid sectors.  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, we wanted to encourage as many students as possible to undertake a placement in a ‘non 5 C’ sector.  At the same time, we recognised where real aspirations and acumen lay in a 5 C sector we wouldn’t, of course, prevent the placement going ahead. We categorised our work experience placements in Yr 10 into ‘challenge’ and ‘non-challenge’ placements. 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.

As well as seeing a marked increase in the percentage of ‘challenge’ placements being taken up, we also decided to monitor how some of our vulnerable groups’ uptake of challenge placements compared to the rest of the cohort. Research has shown that often, Pupil Premium students, struggle to find work experience or ‘quality’ placements as they may not have the networks that other pupils and families can access and utilise for work experience.  We wanted to use our initiative to help address this and so created a group of SEND and PP pupils, who work fortnightly in a tutor time slot with the Careers Lead, Work Experience Co-ordinator and Enterprise Advisor amongst others, to raise their career aspirations, develop their CV, interview and networking skills so that they can source a ‘challenge placement’. These students are known as ‘Careers Pioneers’. 

The next plan is to start an additional ‘Careers Pioneers’ group in Year 9, as we believe earlier careers intervention, including trips to diverse and dynamic local companies, will raise career aspirations which in turn will increase the likelihood of these students seeking a ‘challenge’ placement.

Jas, a PP student, was on placement in a Science Laboratory at Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford.   As part of her placement Jas was helping a PhD student with some research before moving on to undertake some independent research herself.  Jas ended her time there delivering a presentation on her work.  In particular, Professor Sabokbar, her supervisor, commented on her enthusiasm and that the school had produced “a budding scientist of the future."