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An Industry Alignment Project piloted by the Edge Foundation at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy has proven such a success, it will now be rolled out to two new year groups.

Focused on equipping young people with the skills they need to reach their full potential, the project recognises the need for young people to have skills appropriate to today’s global and digital economy, so that organisations have a pipeline of talent ready for the workplace.

Education charity Edge’s work with Excelsior forms part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Education Challenge programme, designed to address the gap between the best and least well performing schools in the region.

The initial pilot was carried out with Excelsior’s Rainbird Primary pupils, working to a global sustainable energy theme.

Students had the chance to build solar-powered models of cars, windmills and boats, working to plan and budget under the guidance of Virgin Trains experts and showcase their models to family and business leaders at a school event.

The work will now be extended to years seven and eight. 

Hannah Cummins, Industry Alignment Manager at Excelsior Academy, said: “We wanted to introduce our students to skills that employers value – confidence, resilience and team work – and raise their aspirations when considering their future careers. They may only be seven and eight years old, but seeing the relevance of classroom subjects in real life can make learning much more engaging.”

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, added: “The impact of the Industry Alignment Project on our primary pupils is profound. We want to take this success and embed it next year into our wider curriculum with students in years seven and eight.”

Michelle Dickinson, Community Engagement Manager for Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “We partnered with Excelsior Academy because we are looking for a future talent pipeline for our business, to support the younger generation to think about jobs earlier in their lives. Getting involved with local schools is a fantastic and rewarding way to do this.”

The North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which the Industry Alignment Project is part of, is built on the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

The long-term aim is to introduce the programme into schools across the country, reducing the gap between the best and lowest performing secondary schools and improving social mobility.

A North East delegation visited Nashville schools last year to see how their industry alignment projects work in practice with local employers.

When introduced to Nashville schools, high school graduation rates rose by almost 23% as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Neil Willis, North East LEP Education Challenge Regional Lead, said: “We are looking at how we can best support schools, colleges and higher education in the drive to engage all students and the Industry Alignment Project with the Edge Foundation and Excelsior Academy is a key part of this.

“Even though the Excelsior pupils were very young, they articulated their project competently, demonstrated their skills development very well and showed how their curriculum is linked to the amazing work they’ve completed.”

“The fact the project will now be rolled out to years seven and eight shows just what a success this has been.”

The project also worked with Future Me – a collaboration between the five North East universities to help raise school children’s aspirations.

Helen Beardmore, The Edge Foundation Education Delivery Manager, said: “The key aim is to help teachers access different employability skills. The curriculum is very knowledge based and by linking the schools with employers the students get to develop their skills and knowledge, working with businesses to bring the curriculum alive.”

The North East schools involved in the pilot are Excelsior Academy, Churchill Community College and Norham High School.

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