Teachers, employers and support

Raising Aspirations at Parkside School 

Parkside School is a maintained 11–18 secondary school in Cullingworth, near Bradford. At 17%, the proportion of SEN students at the school is above the national average.


Project summary

Project Altitude aimed to provide early intervention support for Year 9 students at risk of becoming NEET. The school was already running successful employer engagement activities for Year 10 students through its Aspire2Be programme, and felt that a similar intervention targeted at Year 9s (prior to them selecting their GCSEs) would be beneficial.      

“If we get them engaged with what’s out there in the world of work, they’re going to be more engaged in school and they’ll ultimately be more successful learners.” (School staff)  

Suitable students were identified based on various factors including Pupil Premium eligibility, deprivation (using home addresses), academic progress and ‘risk of NEET’ indicators. 

The school had an existing relationship with a local engineering company (the managing director of the company supports the school as an Enterprise Adviser). This provided the foundation for the project and a range of activities took place between November 2019 and February 2020. These included:    

  • A launch event at the school featuring students, parents and staff from the employer.   
  • Two visits to the employer’s factory, with a focus on the development of employability skills.   
  • Three business mentoring sessions with staff from the employer. The mentors helped students to consider different job and career options and supported them to develop CVs.    
  • A visit to the Jaguar Land Rover factory at Halewood.   
  • Creation of StartProfiles for each of the students.   
  • A celebration event where the students gave presentations on what they had learned over the course of the project.   


Engagement and outcomes 

There was strong engagement from parents (attendance at the launch event was very good). Student interest in the project increased  significantly following the first employer visit.    

Students providing feedback for the evaluation described the mentoring as “helpful” and said the employer visits had given them an insight into different jobs. In the main, they expected this to benefit them when making decisions about their future.

Staff at the school considered there to be a direct link between the project and an increase in the self-confidence of the participating students. This was particularly apparent during the end-of-project presentations.     

“Had we said to them at the beginning that they were going to give a presentation, well over half of them would have said ‘absolutely not, there’s no way I’ll stand up in front of people’. But they prepared really well and practiced at home. To be able to stand up and speak in front of their peers, to reflect honestly about what they’ve taken away from the project – that speaks volumes of them and the progress they’ve made.” (School staff)  

Parents were similarly positive, commenting on improvements in behaviour, motivation and decision making. One parent explained that the project helped their child to decide on a career in graphic design and that they are now actively researching apprenticeship opportunities in that field.  


School evaluation

The school undertook an internal evaluation of the project, asking students to complete a questionnaire at the start and end of the project. Students gave a score out of 10 to indicate how motivated they felt to pursue a career, with the mean score across the group of students increasing from 6.3 to 7.3 between the start and end points.  


Success factors

Funding: the Raising Aspirations funding helped pay for the employer’s staff time, the mentoring training provided by the local authority, expenses associated with the visits and a three-year subscription to StartProfile. Without the funding, the project would have had to rely much more heavily on the good will of the employer’s staff and is unlikely to have had such regular or high-quality input.   

Employer engagement: strong buy-in and engagement from the employer was central to the project’s success. In recognition of this, the school nominated the managing director for a local Outstanding Business Engagement award, which she won.     

School project lead: the Assistant Careers Leader at the school clearly committed (and was able to commit) a considerable amount of time to the project. Without this support from senior leaders at the school, it seems unlikely that the project would have been as successful.