Researching careers on the internet is all well and good, but sometimes there's no substitute for first-hand experience.
The aim of our project was to put the theory pupils had learnt about health and social care providers into context, so they could broaden their knowledge of local workers and apply this when writing their portfolios for the health and social care GCSE.
Although pupils had evaluated the internet-based projects positively, few had used their peers' research findings in their portfolios and so didn't demonstrate the breadth of knowledge that would have got them extra marks.
One solution was a snapshot project to go in their portfolios and improve their overall mark. Our chosen project was a tour of local providers, so pupils could visit, get the information they wanted and take photographs, which they would put into a presentation, explaining in detail how care providers were funded, and describing the function of the statutory and independent sectors in care provision.
The pupils organised themselves into three groups of four, to cover early years, health care and adult care providers. Each group was given responsibility for teaching the rest of the class about three providers in their allocated field. They researched the workers they wanted to visit and gathered background information. They needed guidance on this because we had to visit them all in a two-hour lesson.
At each location, pupils in the relevant group were responsible for introducing themselves, explaining the project, speaking to staff and getting whatever brochures they needed, as well as taking photographs. Pupils in the other two groups stayed on the bus.
Back at school, we uploaded the photographs on to our school's health and social care intranet site and the pupils worked on putting together their presentations, using the information they had found on the internet, interviews with staff and the brochures. The pupils were responsible for each other's learning and for assessing PowerPoint and poster presentations, using the coursework mark grid to design their own assessment tool. The presentations included information on client groups, their needs, how the care provider was funded and in which sector it was primarily situated. Comparisons were made between the care providers.
Altogether, the project took 11 hours: six hours of preparation work, two hours on the tour and three hours of presenting and evaluating their findings.
There were drawbacks. Contacting all the care providers was time- consuming: I spent many breaktimes on the phone explaining the purpose of the project. I also underestimated how long pupils would spend at each location. As a result, there wasn't enough time to get to every care provider, although one of the pupils volunteered to get photographs and information from those we missed. I also underestimated how difficult it was to turn around and park a minibus in a small car park, something I had not appreciated when I did the tour in my car to check it could be achieved in two hours. The pupils left in the minibus didn't have enough to do. If I repeated this, I would ensure they had an activity, such as writing a description of the area.
But the pupils reported favourably on the project. They said seeing the care provider made it more real, not just a place on a Google map. They worked well together and they helped each other out if they saw another group in difficulty. They reported they had learnt independence, delegation and organising themselves and each other - all essential personal, learning and thinking skills identified in the new diplomas coming in next year.
We displayed the work and made this store of primary evidence accessible when the pupils wrote their portfolios, which made up 33 per cent of their final mark. Time will tell if it has been a success, but the pupils have grown through this project and hopefully that will be more telling than a GCSE grade.
Jackie Rea is health and social care co-ordinator at Portchester School in Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire.