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Someone to lean on

Inviting guests to school to liven up social care lessons has proved invaluable for Vanessa Gaskin

Inviting guests to school to liven up social care lessons has proved invaluable for Vanessa Gaskin

Inviting guests to school to liven up social care lessons has proved invaluable for Vanessa Gaskin

This is a lesson I've used with my BTEC first diploma health and social care Year 10 pupils, although it can also be used with A2 students who have to understand what a voluntary organisation is.

We invited a visiting speaker into school from a local voluntary organisation that provides respite care for disabled people. The speaker talked about the organisation, how it started, how it was funded, how services are accessed, and a little about her job. Then there was an opportunity for pupils to ask questions they had previously prepared. The pupils enjoyed meeting a real carer. There is also a real need for pupils to learn about care organisations and the jobs that are available.

The aim was to understand the nature of a voluntary care organisation and how it works in partnership with others. We also aimed to explore job roles in that organisation.

At the end of the lesson, the pupils were able to prepare a case study and talk knowledgeably about what goes on in a care organisation.

This sort of approach covers a lot of the material needed for a unit that could be dry without it. It is a good way of getting that external expertise into the classroom.

It's difficult taking a class of 20 pupils out into the community to small organisations when the need for confidentiality and respect has to be paramount, so this is a much more effective way of getting the same message across in the classroom.

We had a short questionnaire for case studies, with sections on qualifications, skills, training, career pathways, day-to-day skills, what they like and dislike about the job and examples of how they use teamwork and liaise with some other organisations.

I made a video I used in school, and then went on to make a DVD with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which can be used to support this type of lesson. Unlike the first version, this was filmed in a studio, and included footage of the speaker, disabled children enjoying a Saturday play scheme, and case studies of people who work for the organisation, showing their career pathways and explaining their qualifications.

It also demonstrates how to organise those kind of visits and work experience places, and each section can be accessed separately.

If you are planning a similar lesson, but can't get a speaker, then the film will be available as a free download soon on the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust website

Vanessa Gaskin is director of vocational studies at Sheldon Heath Community College in Birmingham


- Prepare the questions in advance, to ensure you get the material pupils need.

- Make sure everyone has a question to ask.

- Video the event, as pupils will need to go back and listen again for information. It will also help absent pupils.

- You know the lesson is going well when all of the pupils asked the questions that they had prepared. They start to relax and really listen. They ask spontaneous questions.

- You know it's time to pull the plug when they've run out of questions and the silences grow.

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