Directors back academy with careers focus

Kenton Robbins
Kenton Robbins
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PLANS for a new business-
focused free school to get pupils ready for the world of work are being developed with the backing of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in a Yorkshire city.

The Future Directors Academy could open in 2014 based in city centre office space in Bradford.

The new secondary school would focus on both academic results and raising young people’s career aspirations to help to tackle youth unemployment in the city.

Time would be spent at the end of each school day for pupils to consider what skills they had developed during their lessons which could boost their CV and career prospects.

Pupils at the Future Directors Academy would also have access to both teaching and business mentors.

Formal plans are expected to be submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) in December and parents who are interested in the plan are being invited to express their interest on a school website.

The project is being led by Bradford teacher Gerard Liston with the support of the IoD in Yorkshire which aims to provide business expertise to both help to run the school and enhance the curriculum.

Kenton Robbins, the IoD’s regional director in Yorkshire, said; “For a long time now, businesses have been calling for the education system to better prepare youngsters for the world of work.

“The middle of a recession is the right time to model how schools can motivate students by seeing what the future might hold for them and for employers to get involved in bringing learning to life.

“This proposal is coming to the right place and at the right time.”

Mr Robbins said that as well as ensuring pupils achieved academic success, schools also needed to be able to help pupils develop “emotional intelligence and the softer skills” to ensure they could give a good account of themselves in job interviews or when representing an employer.

He also told the Yorkshire Post that having experienced a lack of good career guidance himself in school he was determined to help young people to get the support they needed to start their careers.

Businesses are expected to work with the school to show pupils how what they are learning in the classroom is relevant to the world outside

The IoD also aims to support the day-to-day running of the Future Directors Academy.

Mr Robbins said: “Some services the school will be commissioned but we are mainly looking to get people involved on a voluntary basis. The IoD in Yorkshire’s membership could give the school access to businesses that employ 1.2 million people.”

He also told the Yorkshire Post the IoD would be interested in backing more free schools in future if this approach proved successful.

Mr Liston said: “What we need to do is get young people to connect their future success with hard work and academic attainment in school.

“Time will be spent on every single day for young people to reflect on what skills they have developed and what effect that could have on their future success.”

He told the Yorkshire Post the business expertise would be used in and outside of the classroom. Future Directors Academy would use a “balanced score card “ human resources system to help to evaluate and support school staff and would also look to external providers for sports facilities.

“It should not really be rocket science, it should not really be innovative for a school to look to use best practice from business but actually it is,” he said.

“Employers will be used to bring lessons to life. Research shows that this form of learning leads to greater student engagement and academic success. There are also lots of benefits for the employers involved.”

The school’s premises could also help to prepare pupils for work. Mr Liston said the school was looking at a number of potential office sites in Bradford city centre.

“When they come into the school it will feel more like coming into an office. It will be a totally different experience to the ‘chalk and talk’ style of lesson,” he added.

The planned school would have 120 pupils in its first year group and aim to expand over five years.

Mr Liston said this number was thought to be large enough to ensure the school could have a broad and balanced curriculum but small enough that pupils could feel supported.

The Future Directors Academy would have a Bradford district wide catchment area and use a system known as fair banding to ensure it took on pupils from a broad range of abilities.

The Future Directors Academy teaching programme is being developed in partnership with the Curriculum Foundation, a social enterprise set up by leading figures from education. The academy hopes to be among a number of schools that develop a “World Class Curriculum Mark”.

Mr Liston was previously involved in an unsuccessful free school bid in Bradford.

He said this process had helped develop ideas for the Future Directors Academy.

The original vision for the Bradford District Free School was for a school based in a mill in the city which would give pupils a sense of pride in their local area while equipping them with skills to meet the needs of the local economy.

However it failed to secure backing from the DfE.