A REVOLUTIONARY way of educating youngsters, which is being pioneered in Darwen, has seen students head out into the workplace.
Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio, for ages 14 to 19, opened in September and is temporarily housed within Darwen Academy in Sudell Road.
Children complete the usual GCSEs in maths, English and science, but there is an extra focus on readying them for the world of work, and youngsters in all year groups spend time with employers.
Students have done work placements in firms, including Crown Paints and Capita, as well as smaller companies such as Ewood Bikes, Pamela’s Cafe, Jackson Designer Clothes Shop and Earnsdale Farm.
Sixteen-year-old Year 12 student Sarah-Jane Singleton, of The Sidings, has been working at Blackburn marketing firm MDA.
She said: “It is what I want to do when I leave school so I have learned some really useful skills that will help me in my career. I have really enjoyed working there.”
Abbey Almond, 14, of Fitzgerald Drive, has been working at East Lancashire Hospice, helping patients with arts and crafts.
She said: “There are better opportunities for me here than there would be at high school as I am more of a creative person.”
Year 12 student Curtis Godber, of Essex Street, said he had been on placement at Capita TV Licensing in India Mill and, although it wasn’t linked to what he planned to do as a career, it was an invaluable experience.
He said: “I spend eight hours a day working as a call centre agent, and I get paid. It is more about the money and gives me an insight into working life.”
James Hull, 14, of Anyon Street, wants to join the Army when he leaves school and has been one of three youngsters working at The Loft gym.
He said: “It has been interesting seeing how the business operates besides the basic gym facilities, as there is a lot of paperwork and other stuff involved.” Enterprise Studio principal Ruth Bradbury said the new way of teaching was essential and provided youngsters with the vital employability skills they needed once they finished school.
She said: “There are two types of placement, really – one that gives an experience of the workplace and, in some cases, a salary, and one that gives an insight into the particular career the child wishes to pursue.”
Helen Knowles, director of employer engagement at the studio, said students also received a full-time coach who guided them on their journey through school, and helped them to build their CV.
The school is on the look-out for any local businesses, particularly in the field of graphic design or photography, who wish to offer placements.