Headteacher Blog - January

Posted on: 8th Jan

I hope you and your families had a good Christmas break and I wish you a belated Happy New Year.

In this issue of the blog I wanted to talk about the comprehensive careers programme we offer students at The Downs School. Preparation for employment is integral to our curriculum, and we are aware of the responsibilities that we have in helping guide our young people to make the right career choices.

We wrote to you in November to let you know that we had been re-accredited with the Careers Quality Mark through Investors in Careers, the nationally validated quality mark awarded to schools and colleges in recognition of the excellence of their careers work. We were particularly proud that the assessor highlighted one of our strengths as ensuring that “there is a whole school ethos of ‘careers being everyone’s responsibility’ whilst the Careers Leader holds a watching brief and provides effective support.”

This award fully demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the school to ensure every student received the best possible Careers Education to help them prepare for their future. Whether our students go onto further or higher education, employment or self-employment once they leave us, we want their time at The Downs School to have provided them with the skills and knowledge to make the best choices for them.

There are many different strands to the careers programme we offer. These include providing:

  • up-to-date information about the local employment market;
  • independent and impartial careers guidance;
  • opportunities to meet employers in school and for work experience;
  • curriculum links to real-world careers;
  • CV and application advice.

    For students in Year 9 who have to make subject study choices this term ahead of their GCSE exams, we ran a careers event designed to get them thinking about the link between the subjects they take and their future careers. For example, if they have a firm idea on a career, they may need to take certain subjects at GCSE. For the majority of our students who have yet to decide on a career, we encourage studying a range of different subjects to keep their options open. Every day next week the cohort will have introductory assemblies for each subject available at Key Stage 4. This Friday (10 January) our Year 11 students will take part in a subject taster day, giving them an overview of subjects they weren’t able to study at GCSE but may wish to take either at A Level or as a Level 3 BTEC. Subjects include Philosophy, Law and Applied Science.

    When students are in the Sixth Form, we as a school are unique in that we can offer our students the services of a dedicated UCAS Manager, whose role is to support students one-on-one with their university applications. For those who decide that university is not the right path for them, individual support from the Sixth Form Student Support Manager is available, we also offer a number of events, workshops and employer visits for those interested in apprenticeships, employment or self-employment.

    One such event was our recent Apprenticeships Awareness evening. Attended by over a hundred parents and students, the event gave a general overview on apprenticeships - what they involve and how they work - alongside the opportunity to talk to local organisations including Telefonica, Cisco, the Army and Bowmer & Kirkland on the opportunities they offer. We were also delighted to welcome back former students who are now undertaking successful apprenticeships with local employers who could offer current students advice and first-hand experience. There is an opportunity for all students to attend an Apprenticeship event in school at lunchtime next Tuesday (14 January).  There will be a number of local employers and training providers attending the event in the Walcott Hall.  For those students leaving this year it will be a chance to find out about vacancies this September, but any student is welcome to attend to find out about opportunities in the future.

    Experience of the Workplace is key for students to gain an understanding of a business environment and there are opportunities to do this in Year 10 on the Work Shadowing Programme and Year 12 during Work Experience Week. Not only does this give students the opportunity to relate their school studies with a workplace, it helps them make informed career decisions by assessing their aptitudes and interests, and prepares them for the demands and expectations of the working world.

    These are just a selection of a number of events we put on during the year, full details are available on the careers section of the school website and we always welcome the help and support we receive from parents. We would therefore ask that if you work for or own a company that could support our existing careers programme, in particular provide work experience opportunities or apprenticeships for students,  then please contact Penny Allum, our Careers Lead via careers@thedownsschool.org  

    Thank you in advance for your support and we look forward to a busy and productive term.

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