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Aspire Case Study

Published on : 08 November 2020 / Categories: General

Having joined The Hyndburn Academy (HYA) in September 2019, Phil Harter, PE teacher and Director of Student Engagement, was soon tasked with driving forward the school’s involvement in the Aspirations Programme. Despite the academy’s best efforts, as a result of Covid-19 and the nationwide closure of schools, the programme did not run as smoothly as hoped in its first year. However, the start of the 2020/21 academic year has given the programme renewed focus and Aspire is now successfully underway for students in Years 7-10.

“As a school, we decided to focus our Aspire offering on students in Years 7-10. Given the recent disruptions, we want our Year 11s to be able to fully focus on their academic learning and preparing for their upcoming exams.” Phil Harter, Director of Student Engagement at The Hyndburn Academy

To ensure they could get Aspire off to a flying start this academic year, Phil started working with Jess Deeming, Aspirations Lead at East Learning, at the end of the 2019/2020 summer term to put together a detailed plan. The year began by incorporating Aspire into the academy’s Inset day so that staff knew what was involved and what was expected of them. Phil then devised a schedule to ensure that all students would have access to the necessary IT equipment to complete the first Aspirations survey. They also decided to put in place a three-week deadline to ensure all surveys would be completed by the start of October.

“Giving all form tutors a three-week deadline for their students to complete the survey made it very difficult for staff not to buy-in to Aspirations – they really had to get it done.”

Having analysed the data from this first survey, the school identified three priorities for each year group and drew up a plan for how they can be addressed through Aspire. This half term, the plan is being put into action and students are starting to enjoy all that Aspire has to offer. At the end of term, the academy will then review Aspire and survey the students again to see what the initial impact has been.

In Years 7 and 8, the survey showed that students want to take up more sports and fitness-based activities, as well as learn more about the fashion and beauty industries. Going forwards, the PE department is therefore offering a range of after-school sports clubs for Key Stage Three students three times a week. Alongside this, the school is planning a series of Virtual Hair and Beauty sessions this half term, where students will get the chance to hear from professionals about the different roles available and how they can be a success in the beauty trade.

For Year 9s, Aspire has been designed to boost their confidence and provide them with the additional creative opportunities they said they want. For example, the school’s Performing Arts department is set to lead Year 9 in a special virtual Christmas performance. Likewise, since many students in the year group showed an interest in a career in the armed and rescue services, the academy is now offering students the chance to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Whilst this year’s award will look slightly different to previous year’s, given the current Covid-19 restrictions, it remains an excellent opportunity for students to develop their communication and teamwork skills, as well as their confidence – all of which are vital to success in any career.

Findings from the survey showed that students in Year 10 want to learn more about careers pathways and work experience opportunities. As a result, the academy has decided that the last period of every day will focus on developing their knowledge in these areas, including helping students with their personal statements, setting up virtual work experience opportunities, and discussing routes to college and Sixth Form.

Whilst Year 11s are not directly involved in the Aspire programme, the academy felt it was important to continue offering wider opportunities to any interested students, where they can develop new skills and engage in the school community. As a result, the academy is facilitating a HYA version of the national Football Beyond Borders programme. As part of this, Year 11s who previously participated in the initiative themselves will take on the role of student leaders and, through football, will be supporting some of their peers in Years 9 and 10.

Phil’s Top Tips:

  • Get your form tutors and Heads of Year on board as they’re the ones who make sure students are completing the surveys properly and on time.
  • Circulate the survey early in the term and ensure they’re completed quickly. Try not to let them drag on because then some responses will become out-of-date.
  • When you receive the data from the survey, keep what you decide to offer simple. You can’t offer every student every single opportunity they want – working to three priorities per year group probably fulfils the wishes of two-thirds of the year.
  • Do what works for you as a school. Whilst it’s important to collaborate with and take inspiration from other schools, you have to tailor your offering to what your students want and what you are able to deliver.
  • Make sure you only ask students to complete the survey between three and four times each year – anything more than that and they will get disillusioned.

In the spring term, after what he hopes has been a successful few months of Aspire, Phil is planning to focus more closely on specific groups that might benefit from a bespoke Aspire provision, for example students with access to Pupil Premium funding and EAL groups.

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