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PDP engages and motivates learners in North Yorkshire school

Students at Stokesley School, North Yorkshire, have thrived in the classroom having undertaken ASDAN’s Bronze Personal Development Programme (PDP). Barry McCarthy spoke to Caroline Byrne to find out more.

Stokesley School offers learners at the end of Year 9 the opportunity to undertake the ‘Bridge Course’. This involves eight hours a week of practical and vocational activities, including work experience placements, for Year 10 and 11 learners, many of whom are underachieving academically. The aim is to prepare learners for life after school, ‘bridging’ the gap to college, an apprenticeship or employment. Those enrolled on the course tend to be those interested in pursuing vocational education, students with special educational needs and disabilities, pupils from the travelling community and young people who are disengaged from education.

ASDAN’s Bronze Personal Development Programme forms a key part of the Bridge Course, which is currently being undertaken by 15 learners at the school. Students achieve Bronze after completing 60 hours of activities, while for schools delivering Silver and Gold the figures are 120 and 180.

One way in which the school uses Bronze is to help structure trips outside of school that broaden learners’ horizons. One of the trips the learners took was to Whitby where they played the role of tourists for the day. Before going, the students had to research the coastal town’s tourist attractions, plan activities for the day, map the location of Whitby and investigate options for accommodation. During the trip itself, the learners took notes, posed questions at visitor attractions and recorded their observations in order to produce a tourist guide to the town.

“Even though it’s only 20 miles away, some of the learners had never been to Whitby,” said Caroline Byrne, Vocational Learning Teacher at the school. “So immediately it was a new experience. The learners went on the Bank Endeavour ship as part of the Captain Cook experience for a trip around Whitby harbour and down the coast and they climbed Whitby’s famous 199 steps attraction. They also visited the pier and the amusements and had fish and chips. It was a fantastic educational and cultural experience for the learners and they conducted some impressive research to produce their tourist guides.”

On a separate trip, the learners visited the British Army’s Catterick Garrison. The students attended a talk on what it’s like to be in the army, had lunch with soldiers and completed an assault course as part of a teamwork activity. Following the trip, each learner produced a ‘story board’ on an A3 sheet of paper where they described what they learned as well as illustrating their experiences through photos.

The school has been delivering Bronze for 13 years and it has been a huge success with each learner involved in the Bridge Course achieving their Bronze certificate.

“The learners are chuffed to bits when they receive their certificate,” Caroline said. “Learners undertaking the course usually end up performing better in their core academic subjects and often achieve better GCSE grades.

“When we evaluate the learners’ work, we don’t look for mistakes, we look for what they’ve achieved. You can visibly see their confidence grow under this approach as they start to feel valued in the classroom.”

Caroline said the benefits to the learners from undertaking Bronze can be observed early on. “Within weeks of starting Bronze, I can see massive improvements in their self-esteem,” she said. “Bronze makes the learners feel successful because they are producing excellent pieces of work and they can track their achievements by building their portfolio of evidence and completing the record of progress page in the student book. The challenges are not prescriptive which gives the learners creative freedom to develop their evidence portfolio. This helps motivate the students and as a result they take ownership of their work.

“Bronze has been absolutely amazing at introducing a different way of learning through project-based work. Learners often undertaking the Bridge Course don’t perform well in exams – they hate the formality of them. But with Bronze there is no exam which helps them access the course and feel engaged.”

ASDAN’s courses are embedded in the school curriculum. In Year 9, learners undertake Key Steps, a programme of activities covering citizenship, PSHE, environment education, personal finance education, enterprise and internationalism. In addition to Bronze, Bridge Course learners are given the opportunity to undertake ASDAN’s Wider Key Skills Level 1 qualification in Year 10, followed by Level 2 in Year 11. The more able learners are invited to register for ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness qualifications at Level 1 and 2.

“We deliver Bronze because there is no better course out there for this age group that’s as flexible, accessible by learners of all abilities, that can be personalised according to the interests of the students, and that covers such a wide range of skills.”

Captions: (top) learners from Stokesley School visit Whitby as part of their research on creating a tourist guide to the coastal town; (bottom) students enjoy physical activities during a visit to the British Army's Catterick Garrison