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For the whole of March, we'll be sharing exclusive content centred around Innovation On A Budget. How can schools ensure steady progress with often-stretched funds?

"The need to innovate despite limited funds is a familiar challenge for schools," comments leading edu-preneur and Giglets advocate, Helen Bowen. "Innovation ought to bring improvement, but we’ve all encountered examples of ‘the latest thing’ that brought only confusion and delay.

"In this context, the thought of changing practices in an attempt at innovation is easily dismissed. Why spend money changing what we know? I can only recommend that each of us becomes extremely picky when trying new products and services. For example, Giglets is perfect for quickly updating a school library with high-quality fiction and nonfiction books."

Change is good, but it’s also challenging. The best resource is one where you can’t imagine how you ever managed without it – but you need to be ready to take the first step.

Why schools must champion apprenticeships

Sarah Barley

Sarah Barley is currently the director of Careers & Employability for The Education Alliance in East Yorkshire. Sarah launched her Employer Led Programme in 2016.The initiative aims to embed apprenticeship preparation programmes into the curriculum through internships, master classes & industry mentoring experiences. It is a programme that received national recognition in The Parliamentary Review and led to her meeting The Queen in November 2017. Sarah was also named The National Apprenticeship Champion of the Year in January 2018.

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Image credit: Flickr // cabinetoffice. Image credit: Flickr // cabinetoffice.

I spent the first years of my teaching career listening to students and parents talk about UCAS. University was the prime route young people took, and that was primarily because there was a limited understanding on the value of an apprenticeship as the first step into a career.

When I looked into apprenticeships I was surprised to discover just how many amazing opportunities there were in our local area – and also how many employers were struggling to find apprentices to join their organisations.

As teachers, our responsibilities reach further than coaching young people on how to pass their exams, it is also our role to inspire and best inform our students about their future prospects and career opportunities. Which is why I set up an Apprenticeship Preparation Programme.

The Apprenticeship Preparation Programme embeds apprenticeship information, advice and guidance into our curriculum. Students who are interested in apprenticeships are paired up with an industry mentor, complete a full employability skills development programme with two employer partners. They go out on trips and visits, listen to career talks and complete a variety of internships in the local area.

The Apprenticeship Preparation Programme had huge benefits for our students, parents and local employers. We saw students choosing better routes to their careers, parents who were happy that their children had experienced a variety of industries before they apply for roles and employers eager to engage with potential apprentices.

Here are a few budget-friendly ways in which any school can shake up career options and offer students advice and guidance on apprenticeships:

  • Use the #10kTalks resource - schools can be a part of the 10,000 Talks (#10kTalks) movement for National Apprenticeship Week, by inviting a passionate apprentice, or former apprentice, to talk to their students and share their story about how apprenticeships work to help inspire the next generation of apprentices. Sign up at
  • Encourage a member of staff to go along to local business networking events - this was the most important decision for me leading this apprenticeships project, as events like this enabled me to develop connections with the local business community. There are many local business networking groups and clubs that will be delighted to connect with people in schools.
  • Book in employers to host assemblies - this is a great way for your local employers to talk about their organisations and share information on apprenticeship vacancies. Employers love coming in to talk to a full year group to increase the awareness of their brand in the local area. This can start in Year 7 right up to Year 13.
  • Book in an employer to run a workshop - employers can be booked in to run employability skills development workshops and enterprise master classes. These workshops can cover a range of topics and sectors and will enhance and develop student’s commercial awareness about employability skills.
  • Build an industry mentor programme - once you have developed your connections, ask those employers whether they are able to give up an hour or two a term to mentor a student who wants an apprenticeship. HR teams in schools can make arrangements for the completion of DBS forms and induction programmes. This is a fantastic way for schools to develop their partnerships with the local business community.
  • Find quality work placements for those students who want to be an apprentice. There are many employers that can take on a student for a work placement. Students can be asked to find their own placement with the schools’ support, or the school can use their employer connections to organise one for them. This is an excellent way for a young person to experience what their apprenticeship may be like and find out whether it is the right choice for them.
  • Use quality careers guidance software - we use the START profile from U-Explore. Students are able to take ownership of their own careers education by using this digital platform. They can research industries, make their own employer connections, build CVs and covering letters, book in work experience, learn about the CBI employability skills and keep a record of all of their wonderful experiences by storing it in their virtual locker. The software is free-to-use.
  • Develop an alumni network and encourage your current students to play a proactive role in your alumni network. This is an excellent way to track the progress of your apprentices but also gives you the chance to invite them back in for talks or industry mentoring in the future. It’s a great way to inspire your future apprentices.
  • Train your subject teachers on what apprenticeships are and ask them to occasionally mention apprenticeships that link to their subjects. This is a great way for all members of the team to be involved and enables careers education to be an important part of each subject. One careers appointment a year is simply not enough!

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