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“There’s no better reward” - celebrating partnerships during National Volunteers’ Week

01 Jun 2022

Richard Osborne is the Founder and CEO of Business Data Group Ltd which supports entrepreneurs start-up their own businesses across the UK, and serves as Enterprise Adviser at Northgate School Arts College in Northampton - a SEND School for children with moderate to severe learning difficulties and a range of other cognitive needs. 

Susan Nembard is Deputy Head Teacher at Northgate School Arts College. 

Richard and Susan sat down to share their experiences on working together: from being out of their comfort zone, overcoming preconceptions about working in SEND schools and the positive impacts their work has delivered for the young people of Northgate. 

Out of your comfort zone 

Both Susan and Richard acknowledge that bringing the worlds of education and business took them out of their comfort zones. But both knew the importance of connecting the school with local businesses and giving the students opportunities they’d previously been missing. 

Susan: “I’m and English teacher by trade, so can’t really claim I know anything about business. That’s why the Enterprise Adviser role is so important to us. We have lots of young people with high aspirations, and it’s so important they can have experiences with employers.” 

Richard: “Working with a SEND school frankly filled me with fear! Like most, I had preconceived ideas about what this entailed. This was totally out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t feel like I could say no either, because I knew there was a genuine need of support.” 

Delivering ‘marginal gains’ 

Susan describes the Enterprise Adviser as being like Sir David Brailsford, the man credited with turning the British Cycling team from also rans into a global powerhouse through his ‘marginal gains’ theory -  the idea that tiny improvements across the board can add up to major improvements overall. 

“It’s about tiny improvements and accumulating those to then make bigger improvements. Our EA joins our meetings, reviews our action plans, and sometimes just sits back and listens. Richard has helped us shape our intent but also reviewed our impact. It’s about having that critical friend who can give you that quality assurance without it feeling like an Ofsted inspection.” 

Richard: “The position of the Enterprise Adviser is a strategic role; it doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s just offering your input and advice on what’s being delivered and how it aligns to the jobs available now and in the future.” 

Young people win, careers leaders win and businesses win 

Richard says that once you start working in a school and can see the difference you’re making “there’s no better reward”. He remembers the impact on one student in particular – an autistic boy who during an internship never said a word to anyone. 

“From the outside, it didn’t feel like he was gaining much. But afterwards I got a letter of thanks saying it had really helped him formulate what he wanted to do and boosted his confidence. He is now designing the navigation systems on cruise missiles. We couldn’t be prouder of the small part we played in this.” 

Susan credits working with Richard for helping her develop skills and building important relationships – “working with Richard has really helped me to develop my relationship management skills and build new relationships with school leaders”.  

A message for businesses 

Both are keen to stress the importance of businesses coming on board and more Enterprise Advisers supporting SEND schools and colleges – “The children might have additional needs but it’s so important to see them as children. For businesses it’s just about removing as many barriers as possible.”

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