With many schools facing enormous difficulty in continuing basic curriculum learning during lockdown, enrichment opportunities for students have understandably become few and far between.
Patcham High and Varndean School in Brighton, working with 'Cities of Learning', managed to rapidly convene a solution by using the schools' parents' networks and local lead partner organisation Future Creators to create an engaging remote industry insights careers fair.
This approach allowed partners in Brighton & Hove to secure a diverse and impressive lineup of speakers, including:
Russell Hobby - CEO of Teach First and parent at school
Grace Carter - singer-songwriter and an ex-pupil of one of the schools
Huw Milward - Senior Director Microsoft and parent at school
Martyn Howe - Assistant Principal GBMET, the local FE college
The 45-minute format on a range of topics from music to further education and entrepreneurship was highly successful with students and was quickly put together by the schools and Future Creators, who urge others to put a similar programme in place by using their parents' networks and local employers, and engaging the further education providers in their area.
The pupils were advised to showcase their skills and interests beyond school to impress potential employers. This is precisely what 'Cities of Learning' aims to help learners do.
Through 'Cities of Learning', led by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), people will be able to develop a digital portfolio of badges to demonstrate their skills in areas from coding to music production. This portfolio can be used to highlight their skills to potential employers.
Pupils can be even be accredited with a badge for taking part in the sessions, receiving a 'Careers Explorer' badge if they can demonstrate what they learned from the speaker presentations.
Across Brighton, arts, education, voluntary sector organisations and others can issue credentials that offer proof of the learning that takes place outside of formal education.
Brighton will be one of the first cities in the UK to roll-out this approach. Similar schemes have already had success in the US, in cities such as Chicago.
This is increasingly relevant given the likely effects of Covid-19 on local jobs. With hospitality and tourism being major parts of Brighton's economy, skills in sectors where there is likely to be work - such as digital - will be highly valued.
To hear more, visit: www.thersa.org/cities-of-learning or www.futurecreators.org.uk
Tom Kenyon, programme lead for Cities of Learning at the RSA, said:
"Digital badging offers huge potential for young people in Brighton to show they have the skills local employers are looking for. This is all the more important given the impact of Covid-19 on local jobs, and the need for quality online learning and careers development advice."
Gareth Hughes, acting headteacher at Varndean School, said:
"I have been really pleased with the contribution digital badges have made to the off-site learning offer at Varndean. Their flexible structure has provided a range of opportunities for students to set their own challenges and rise to these despite the constraints of lockdown. They have provided useful bridging projects for year 11 moving on to 6th form colleges and we have seen some wonderful work as the initiative has spread through the school. It is a fantastic scheme, and we are grateful to Cities of Learning for the leadership they have shown in getting it up and running."
John Mckee, Headteacher at Patcham High school, said:
'Great to see that our Year 10 students were fully engaged and incentivised by the Digital Badge webinar programme offered to them this week. Students have had many questions answered, engaged their thinking about moving on from Patcham High School and a unique opportunity offered for them to look beyond lockdown. So good to hear that they are keen and have been enthused by the fantastic Post 16 choices and a snap shot of careers that are available to them. Much thanks to all those involved, it's been a very insightful opportunity for everyone'
Penny Daly, Enterprise coordinator for the Greater Brighton area at the Careers and Enterprise Company, said:
"I was fortunate to be able to be invited to attend one of the Cities of Learning, digital badge sessions created for the students of Patcham High and Varndean School in Brighton. The session was superbly pitched for the Year 10 audience and wonderfully facilitated by Rachel Carter and her team. The guests were engaging and so informative and seemed to really enjoy the questions from the students. The questions raised by the students were via the chat function which was securely managed by Rachel and her team and showed that the students were inquisitive and genuinely interested in what was being shared. I feel that this online platform not only offers students the opportunity to engage with the world of work but also it opens awareness for the parents/carers who are also supporting their child through this new way of learning."