The Conversation: A head for business

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Forging links with local business can be a great help to pupils, especially if you're close to Canary Wharf. Charlotte Robinson explains how to.

Q: One of your priorities on taking up headship was to improve business links. Why was this important?

A: We found that many boys were unclear about the career opportunities available to them in the City and Canary Wharf - both big employers and very close to our school. Often students had vague notions of wanting a career in finance, accountancy or law but had no real idea of what a job in those areas entailed or how to get there. I wanted to broaden the work placement opportunities beyond the usual shop and school placements during the boys' two-week work experience, and the links with local multinational companies have allowed me to do this.

Q: How did you get things started?

A: East London Business Alliance helped me set up a business support group specifically for Rokeby. We started with an open morning for local businesses - boys took visitors around our buildings and answered questions, and I gave a talk outlining our history and the vision for the future. There was a fantastic response from a range of institutions. The group now meets quarterly to brainstorm and plan programmes that both students and staff can benefit from.

Q: What impact are you expecting from this curriculum development? Have you established any criteria to indicate the success of the project?

A: It is early days yet, but students' responses have been very positive. As one Year 10 boy said, "I never knew there are people like me working in big jobs in the City".

At least 95 per cent of our students will go into further education, training or employment, with an increasing number accessing level 3 qualifications. Our five A*-C, including English and maths, rose from 23 per cent in 2006 to 37 per cent in 2007. This led to more students going on to study A-levels and Btec national diplomas.

We are also improving personal finance skills for students and their families through the introduction of financial literacy in Years 9 to 11 - with accreditation in Year 10 by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Q: As the Olympic borough, how are you going to capitalise on the preparations for the Games?

A: Year 8 and 9 students have been working with BT to produce digital video-diary clips to show the changing community in Stratford and the effect of the Olympics on it. This will continue up to 2012. Students are learning about the wide range of cultures represented in a fairly compact community and about encouraging cohesion through sharing of experience, ideas and expectations.

London Thames Gateway Development Corporation is supporting an enterprise project which will be delivered jointly by the French and maths departments. Students will be investigating the business opportunities that will arise from the forthcoming Olympics. Sixty students will construct surveys in French and travel to Lille on Eurostar to question residents about their travel and accommodation requirements for the Games. Over the next couple of years, we will carry out the same type of exercise but visit other European countries so the different sets of results can be compared.

Q: What is the feedback from other curriculum staff within the school?

A: We have tried to link the visits and activities to curriculum subjects. For example, the maths department helped facilitate the financial literacy seminars with Goldfish, and the French department are taking a Year 10 option group to City Airport to practise speaking and listening. Using subject-specific skills in a real-life context helps motivate students and raise achievement.

Q: You obviously have a lot of good work going on, but who is responsible for establishing and maintaining business links?

A: I have been the link person for this first year. It's been time- consuming, but it has worked in our favour as businesses can see we have a real commitment to allocating time and resources to make the relationships work.

- Kenny Frederick is head of George Green's School in Tower Hamlets.

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