Stepping out of the comfort zone


The alternative curriculum at Whitley Bay High School encourages learners to step outside their comfort zone and build stronger links their local community.

Students are given the option of taking Applied Studies, which incorporates ASDAN Personal Development Programmes, the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness and GCSE Photography.

During their first week, students are taken on a transition event at an outward bound centre where they participate in teambuilding challenges. They also have the opportunity to engage in sports that aren’t covered in PE, such as ice-skating and horse-riding.

Students focus on completing the Bronze Personal Development Programme during the first two terms of Year 10. Challenges include planning and completing a tour of the school for visitors and researching areas of the site that could be improved. Their plan for improvement is presented to the headteacher and governors.

As pupils start to work on CoPE during the summer term of Year 10, they begin to add additional qualifications to their portfolio – such as a Basic First Aid Award through the school’s partnership with St John Ambulance, a Food Hygiene Level 2 Award and the Positive Choices programme which encourages students to make good decisions in demanding social situations.

David Lee, head of applied studies, says that CoPE is all about developing soft skills through creative and engaging lessons that encourage students to become more independent.

“The alternative curriculum opportunities for students at Whitley Bay High School continues to grow, especially through CoPE,” he explains.

“The scheme of work constantly challenges our students to step out of their comfort zone and think creatively. The opportunities offered prepare them for the next step after their GCSEs and ensures they are prepared to secure a place on a sixth form, college or Apprenticeship course.

“For the international links module we take our students to Barcelona. They are expected to plan the visit and take ownership over booking the flights and hotel. In preparation for the visit our students have 'an introduction to Spanish' lessons and are expected to try to use phrases abroad.

“Over the two years there is a key focus on the development of soft skills with emphasis placed on organisation, communication, attitude, teamwork and participation.”

The school grows relationships with organisations in the community such as North Tyneside Council, Tyne and Wear Fire Service and Northumbria Police. Students complete the Phoenix Project Award with the fire service, which includes a taster day at a local fire station. They also have a mock interview with the police or fire service after being prepared by members of both services in two interview workshops. Finally, students must complete a research project on anti-social behaviour in North Tyneside. They prepare a 50-page portfolio for the Mayor, having gathered the opinions of local residents and investigated recent data.