Teachers, employers and support

Raising Aspirations at Cockburn John Charles Academy

Raising Aspirations at Cockburn John Charles Academy

Cockburn John Charles Academy is an 11-16 secondary school in Leeds, and is part of the Cockburn Multi Academy Trust. Approximately 1,100 students attend the school, 47% of whom are eligible for free school meals and 22% of whom have SEND. Over half of the students speak English as an additional language.  


Engagement with SEND Hub

Staff from the school attended the SEND Hub launch event in January 2020. Since then, their involvement with the Hub has involved the following:   


Mock interviews   

The school worked with Ahead Partnership to organise a day of mock interviews for Year 10 SEND students. Volunteers from NatWest conducted the interviews with 44 students and provided verbal and written feedback on the students’ performance. Students were asked questions about their favourite subjects and hobbies, their future aspirations and how their teachers were likely to describe them. 


Links with colleges   

The school works with Leeds City College and Go Higher West Yorkshire to provide students with information, advice and guidance about further education. Plans are also being made for face-to-face campus tours at Leeds City College for SEND students from the school.    

Business partnerships  

The SEND Careers Hub Enterprise Coordinator has helped the school develop a relationship with a local bed manufacturing company. Discussions are now taking place about bespoke activities for SEND students in the next academic year, including visits to the workplace and mock interviews.



Staff spoke very positively about how well the students engaged with the mock interviews. Every student was on time for their interview and the NatWest volunteers were impressed with their professionalism.   

“The students were amazing; there was a real buzz about the school.” (School staff)  

Staff commented that a significant benefit of the activity was that the interviews were conducted by people from outside of the school. Their view was that, had the interviews been conducted by teachers or other school staff, students would not have taken them as seriously.   

“They were nervous, but it’s good for them, it brings the outside world closer. It’s helpful for them to work on professional language and to put that into practice.” (School staff)  

The students that contributed to the evaluation said they enjoyed the interviews and felt comfortable (after some initial nerves) speaking with the NatWest volunteers. They found the opportunity to prepare in advance very helpful – one student practiced her answers with a friend whilst another wrote down how he might answer the practice question.   

The students were pleased with the feedback they received from the volunteers. They were told that they had given good answers and had been polite and professional. The most common advice they received was to try and speak with greater confidence when answering questions.    

The students agreed that they would feel more confident in a real-life interview having taken part in the activity.  


Success factors 

Coordination of the mock interview process by the school Careers Adviser was key to the success of the activity, especially given the challenges associated with them being online.  Staff also commented that the enthusiasm of the NatWest volunteers was key and helped to put the students at ease.  

“The volunteers were phenomenal.” (School staff)  

The school hopes to repeat the activity with future Year 10 groups.