Case Study: Woodmill High School
Despite having had more setbacks than most schools in a disruptive time for education across the UK, Woodmill High School has maintained its commitment to supporting its young people as they work towards taking their first steps into the world of work through its work with DYW.
Having experienced a devastating fire at the school in 2019, which required an extensive rebuild and restoration project, before also having to manage the many wide-reaching implications for schools of the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020, the team at Woodmill High School has worked despite all odds to maintain an integrated programme of activity to coordinate and facilitate positive career destinations for its young people.
In August 2019, much of Woodmill High School was burned down in a major blaze which resulted in all staff and 1400 young people being displaced across several locations to complete their education whilst planning and phased rebuild of the school got underway.
During this time, there was some fantastic community support from other local educational organisations to help support the rebuild. The school built even stronger links with Fife College, with fifth-year pupils located there, as well as other local schools such as St Columbas, which took on its sixth-year pupils. Immediately after the fire, the school put community drop-ins in place for pupils at local community centres and churches to offer initial support in a challenging time. The growing sense of unity in a very challenging time, echoed in the support from local businesses and people, was a comforting reminder of the existence of community spirit and, in hindsight, really set the tone for what was to come next.
The initial phase of rebuild was completed within five months, allowing for third, fourth, and fifth-year pupils to return to the school in January 2020, whilst first, second and sixth-year pupils remained offsite. There were around eight weeks of normal schooling on the premises when, in March 2020, Covid-19 hit and caused widespread disruption across the UK with local and national lockdowns forcing all schools to create and deliver new ways of teaching and managing learning for young people remotely. For Woodmill, some of their pupils had really been learning remotely since August 2019 and the school rallied to ensure that both educational and development outcomes, as well as employability opportunities through programmes such as DYW, were able to continue.
As with many of the schools who went through the Covid-19 pandemic, social media and digital communications became essential tools to reach young people working remotely. The school began using social media to target key opportunities at relevant groups and found innovative ways of keeping communication fresh and engagement high. Although the environment was different, the commitment to creating opportunities in the world of work remained the same.
A key feature of the experience has been a heightened sense of community for everyone involved. With so much change across all aspects of their education, the pupils at Woodmill had the chance to become much more proactive in their focus on employability. Much to the delight of the school’s teachers, many young people showed their commitment to the process and took on the task of finding virtual placements or workplace opportunities for themselves.
During this time, the school also had some fantastic success with a virtual NHS Nursing and midwifery session which lots of its pupils signed up to attend. Many of the young people left that session with confirmation that a career in nursing was what they wanted to do and were able to focus their studies and activities to help them reach that career goal.
Added value with support from Career Ready
With resilience at the core of the school’s approach to both learning, and rebuilding after the fire, some of the school’s key employability supporters were keen to ensure that its young people were able to continue their work on matching opportunities and career pathways available to them, to help prepare them for their future careers. One of the key supporters who made a real difference to the employability offering for pupils at Woodmill throughout this period was Career Ready.
Career Ready is a UK-wide programme which supports young people through matching them with employers and volunteers who deliver a range of high-quality, careers focused programmes in order to help young people find their next steps from education into the world of work.
In Fife, Mhairi Prenderghast, working as Career Ready’s Central Scotland Manager, was a passionate supporter of Woodmill High School after the fire and continued to offer mentoring support, off-site visits and local opportunities for pupils with Fife businesses, such as Technip FMC, Optos, Fife Council and Scott Group, working flexibly to meet pupils at a range of locations.
“Although we’ve had multiple challenges in the last few years, there have been some real positives for Woodmill High School. We’ve become even closer as a school, and we have seen a growing resilience in our young people that is truly inspiring. As teachers, we were committed to ensuring that, through it all, our young people had a range of opportunities and options to support them as they work towards refining their career ambitions. I think the aim of every teacher in every classroom should be to help their pupils to be successful after school and help them get to where they need to be to achieve this and part of that is through achieving the best grades they can. In addition, we find that often they need an external motivator to see the bigger picture, such as an engagement with an employer through DYW, with lots of information and guidance to support them make the best decisions they can make. Working with employers in this way can be a real driver in helping them to achieve their career ambitions and the ultimate goal is to see them step into a career that they are happy in.”
– Eva Hamilton, DYW Co-ordinator, Woodmill High School