BLOG: Apprentice employer Judith's story

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As part of National Apprenticeship Week we are shining the spotlight on some of the apprenticeship employers we work with. Judith from Barbara Priestman Academy tells us in her own words what apprentices bring to the organisation and how she's been supporting them through the pandemic.

I'm Lead Practitioner of Teaching and Learning at Barbara Priestman Academy in Sunderland; a secondary special school for students with autism spectrum disorder or complex needs.

As part of my role in school, I lead on induction and support our newly qualified teachers and any students we have on placement from local colleges and universities. When we began working with Gateshead College on the apprenticeship scheme, it fitted naturally within my role.

Being part of the apprenticeship scheme has had significant benefits for us, as a school. The teaching assistant apprentices are trained on the job so are able to build up strong, lasting relationships both with staff and students which is key to supporting our young people effectively in their learning.

The ethos of our school is that we are all lifelong learners and staff are continually looking to complete further qualifications at varying levels. This is something we actively encourage and facilitate for all our staff. The apprenticeship programme fits nicely within this and as a consequence, apprentices are a valued addition to the staff while they are training.

Another advantage to the apprenticeship programme is that apprentices are an inclusive part of school and are seen as a member of our team; they are quickly able to understand the ethos and values of our school and feel accepted and have a sense of belonging. They attend staff meetings and in-house training, support students within their lessons and with their personal learning plan targets and play an essential role in our school. While they gain from this experience, they also bring into school their knowledge from their learning and are able to apply it to the classroom and our setting – this includes coming up with new ideas and ways of working.

Covid-19 has brought with it challenges for the apprentices; the opportunity for face to face teaching has been limited and much of the training from college has happened remotely. As a consequence, the working relationship between school and college has needed to be even stronger in order to ensure that the apprentices are receiving everything they need in terms of their training.

Maintaining support for the apprentices from both sides has been vitally important, with regular one-to-one sessions with the tutor identified and reviews continuing to take place at the correct intervals. Where there has been the need for additional support, joint meetings between school, college and the apprentice have taken place to ensure that there is a clear plan moving forward and a shared understanding of expectations.

During the lockdown, our apprentices have been involved in supporting both with the delivery of online lessons and short one-to-one sessions with individual students. They’ve also been included on the rota for working with key worker and vulnerable students in school.

Being part of the apprenticeship programme can be extremely beneficial to all parties and the key to this is the professional working relationship between all involved.

Sat Jul 31 2021