Wednesday, March 16, 2016

News: SOS for SEN


Companies are being called on to do more to offer work and volunteering opportunities to students with special educational needs (SEN) - which are all too often reliant on individuals within organisations.

Rob Mulvey, co-head teacher at Hilltop School in Rotherham and Mike Smith, Lieutenancy Officer for South Yorkshire and director of a Mental Health Trust, hope to work together to improve arrangements for long term work placements and employment through the Enterprise Adviser programme.

Rob describes how too often, the placements identified by school were dependent on a relationship with an individual in an organisation, rather than being embedded in the CSR policy of a business or organisation. It means that the school spends significant time and resources managing this workplace churn, and that when sympathetic staff move on, placements are in jeopardy.

Rob (pictured, centre) said: "It might be that someone knows someone in a shop or supermarket, and their relative has special needs and therefore they'll help pull some strings and facilitate a work placement. But the drive is coming from that person, rather than that organisation. We'd love to see big companies get on board with this programme and offer a sustainable number of placements across a number of schools. It would be a more systematic approach and save time and resources for schools, and benefit more students."

Hilltop student James, is a success story. He has an impressive work record, undertaking his fifth work placement, he has found a niche working one day a week at Dinnington Library. James helps with sorting books, displays, tidying and cleaning and Rhyme Time. He is supported by his work "buddy" Alison, a member of staff who helps him integrate, supervises his work and "job carves" – breaks down long tasks into manageable chunks for him to complete. James loves his placement, and aims to maintain his placements when he leaves Hilltop for college. He said: "I don't want to lose my placement. I'd be really sad. I like going there."

Mulvey added: "At the heart of every good placement is a person like Alison. Alison is there for James, she is kind and patient, and she's thought about tasks for him that are manageable for him, and helpful to her. Basically, we need more "Alisons," and we need more companies to make having an Alison a part of their corporate social responsibility.

The Enterprise Advisers programme aims to bridge the gap between education and work, and promote the skills needed by the workforce of the future. The national Enterprise Advisers programme, sees volunteers from the world of work and business team up with schools to increase the quality and quantity of careers and enterprise learning for young people.

SCR Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is part of the national programme, after being one of five pilot areas that helped to develop the scheme last year. The LEP wants to match a volunteer Enterprise Adviser from the business and public sector with every secondary and special school and college in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

Hilltop's Enterprise Adviser Mike Smith (pictured, right), is one of three volunteers who is working with Rotherham Special Schools to help make a difference. He said: "I hope that the Careers and Enterprise Company nationally, and the Enterprise Advisers network locally, can help inspire big companies to get involved and provide work placements. It really stuck with me what Rob said at the network launch – "I've got a workforce no-one wants" – it shouldn't be like that.

"The opportunity to be in the world of work means everything to James. He's developing his skills, he’s socialising, he feels valued. More students want and need that, and James shows that with a little support it is possible."

Mike will be working with former Head of Enterprise at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheila Quairney, who has been matched with The Willows Special School and Patchwork Pig owner Charlotte Scothern.

Sheffield City Region Enterprise Adviser Network website

Images: SCR Enterprise Advisers / twitter


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