Category Archives: Uncategorized

Linking the curriculum to the World of Work

img_0495What a brilliant mix of speakers we have had today! Sirius Minerals, Jelf, James Cook (NHS) and the Army have delivered a diverse range of sessions that highlight the importance of skills learned in English lessons to their particular world of work. It has also been great to be supported by TVCA adding a real careers edge to the day.  Of all the events and activities we do here, none other hits better what the research tells us will be effective in raising aspirations than ‘World of Work’ days.

The students from Hillsview and Hummersknott Academies have shown why we love working on days like this. Their maturity and enthusiasm to ask pertinent questions and get as much as they can from these days has been a real credit to them. Unfortunately Hillsview have had to head back to school but I’ve included below quotes from some of the Hummersknott students that spent a few minutes at the end giving me some feedback on the day.

This is what some of the students thought:

Scrapheap January 2019

Happy New Year!

We kick off this year’s programme of events with the latest Scrapheap Challenge. We have 90 brilliant pupils from Wynyard, Thornaby and Saltburn Primary schools here taking on this year’s challenge. As ever, the focus of the day is developing teamwork skills and solving problems in a creative way. The way that we structure the day, the language we use throughout and even the prizes at the end are planned around these skills and attitudes. Speaking to one of the teachers earlier it brilliantly fits into the way that they work in school as well to help develop independent, well rounded learners. We will be live here from about 1.55pm but in the meantime, marvel at some of the creative ideas that they have brought to life:



New Year and MORE to come

Happy New Year!

img_5295We had such a busy year last year with over 80 events both at the centre and in schools, working with over 10 000 pupils from primary to college. It was also great to see one of our biggest supporters (and regular speakers) Bill Scott, CEO of the Wilton Group get an OBE in the New Year Honours list. His work in industry is well documented and a huge success story for the local area but many people might not know how much he supports local schools and organisations that help pupils raise their aspirations and achieve great things in their lives just like he has done.

Our focus is always on developing social and cultural capital, supporting young people in developing the belief that the world is an ocean of possibility that they can navigate around. Without that expectation, that you can achieve great things with hard work and the right attitude, you end up with disengagement. Knowledge of the world of work is one thing but the belief that you are just like like the people that work there, that you could be them, is a different ball game altogether. There is a growing body of evidence that identifies effective approaches to widening cultural and social capital and how that will likely have a positive on both social mobility and later life achievement. ALL events and activities at Inspire2Learn are based around the factors contributing to these positive outcomes. Schools find it hard to design and fit these sort of activities into their busy curriculum and businesses find it hard to create and deliver quality outreach that has maximum reach for the time they have available. We will continue to be the bridge between the two and this year and we have an even wider range of activities planned that will supplement our already packed programme. Having waiting lists of 400 for some events shows the demand is there, we simply need to make it happen.

Part of our plan is to upscale what we already do so that EVERY pupil in the Tees Valley has the opportunity of being involved. Tees Valley Combined Authority have a clear plan set out using their devolved funding to engage more businesses in the Tees Valley with this sort of activity. It works both ways; pupils get meaningful experiences that help them aim higher and staff in businesses get great CPD through design and delivery of the experiences, which is where we help. The outcome is that longer term there will be more local school/college/university leavers coming through the system with a positive, engaged approach to the rest of their lives.

We already work really closely with schools in all of the 5 boroughs of the Tees Valley and hundreds of businesses across the NE without whom we simply couldn’t function. We know that if we charge schools to come they will have other priorities that need the money so we make everything fee free and also help to contribute to transport costs. This is too important to let barriers get in the way. It complements the hard work that our schools are doing on qualifications and like so many things in life both aspects are vital to improving life chances.


Support through the Careers and Enterprise Company (we won their award for best Provider in the North), Cleveland Scientific Institute, Sirius Minerals and of course TVCA in the last year has allowed us to reach more pupils than ever before. With that comes a need for more businesses but with the support of TVCA’s plan, the growing international investment in the area and the understanding that a collaborative approach has the biggest impact, we are poised to really upscale our provision for pupils in the Tees Valley.   We really hope that if you work in the Tees Valley and agree with what is written above you will contact us and be part of a growing number of companies who are making a long term difference through a small donation of time just once or twice a year.

Crikey! Now for the Big Animators…

Well, big – ish! Today we welcome St Benedicts and Acklam Whin Y6s to the centre to round off a week where we have worked with almost 300 pupils. Again the focus is animation today and we have spent the morning looking at specific animation skills using the brilliant (and free) Stop Motion app. Walking, speech and timing is important to ensure that animations have a realistic feel. On top of that the children can then add a creative layer; a layer where animation allows the impossible to happen. I’m often asked why we run ‘animation’ days here, it isn’t even mentioned as required in the National Curriculum. However, the animation is unimportant, it is the collaborative working in a team towards a goal that is important. Identifying how to solve a problem on a new project in a way they probably haven’t worked before brings learning, learning, to learn to the forefront. We make constant reference to it throughout the day. We also make those links explicit about their attitude to getting g the job done here with what the world will expect of them later in life. We are also fortunate that Teesside University is one of the best in the world for studying animation and digital media….and it is on their doorstep. Here are some of the images from the skills sessions:

They have the skills so now the task can now be set! I have challenged them to create a short animation that will act as our e-card for the centre this Christmas. They have access to all the crafts they might need as well as various pictures of some of the staff here. I can’t wait to see what they come up with! They certainly look well planned and determined:

Well, after a frantic afternoon of creativity, problem solving and ethical use of music clips from open websites (!) I present to you the final creations. Well done everyone:

More Brilliant Animators!

An endless supply it would seem as today we welcome St Josephs RC (Loftus) and Wynyard Primary to the centre with their Y2 children. Very few of them have done any animation before but that does not matter. What we are developing is teamwork and effective listening skills. That is showing in abundance. Although they are only 6 or 7 years old we have insisted on a high level of detail in their work; no dodgy camera angles filming the table, care with movement, speech bubbles lasting a decent enough time to read and so on. They have taken these key ideas and then applied their own creativity so as I type they are producing some magnificent pieces of work. Using the Stop Motion app (free on iOS) the mechanics were simple, the execution needed care.

Have a peek at their working:

You might also notice some of the fantastic ambassadors we have from Hillsview Academy in some of the images. Their help at multiple events over the last few months has been invaluable for us and a great opportunity I hope for them to develop their skills. They certainly have been a great advert for their school.

So the videos! I’ve pulled them all into one long masterpiece. Some have music, some don’t but enjoy them either way. I also want to point out that some of the children had nothing of any merit to show by 1.30pm and I told them so (nicely) because by recognising what was wrong, they learned really well how to make it work better. Well done.

Brilliant Animators

Today we welcomed the fantastic Y2 children from Yarm Primary. After a last minute jiggle around with dates we managed to squeeze them into an event because they had been on our waiting lists for a loooooong time. Hopefully the wait was worth it and we certainly enjoyed their enthusiasm and creativity. They had done some animation before but this was their first time with Stop Motion app.

As you can see they planned a simple story and created characters and props to tell it. However, when you watch the videos below I would like you to appreciate the progression in their work during the day. Their first attempts were pretty much binned at lunchtime. I played Mr Grumpy to really bring home the fact that there was no excuse for having the camera showing lots of table, for characters to move too fast, or for words to be left on the screen for a split second. Absolutely there are some slips in what you will see below but the difference between what they managed to achieve and the level at which they were performing just an hour earlier is really awesome. Well done to every group who managed to get something completed. It was a fast paced day with high expectations that you met brilliantly.

As always the teachers and assistants who attend these days make all the difference. The staff today were brilliant and really got into the spirit of what we were trying to achieve. In addition we had four of the creative ambassadors from Hillsview Academy who got stuck in all day and made a real difference to what the children produced. That wasn’t an easy job so well done to you! Now for the animations:

Our Young Enterprisers….!

What a fantastic team I have here! Due to unfortunate circumstance I was only able to work with the fabulous St Paulinus and Rift House for part of today but my wonderful team led by Gabriella took the reins wonderfully. The children probably had a better day because of it!

The theme was enterprise and as usual our focus for upper KS1 is to give children opportunities to think about how other people think. Designing a product for a specific audience is our way in. So today, after a few warm up tasks they designed Christmas biscuits and cakes for people that they know. Yes it was an edible glitter fest once the designs were created as they children busied themselves making their designs into real products. These are some of the images from today:

As you can see, the level of engagement, on task commitment and pride in their work was plain to see. I think some of their designs could easily grace the shelves of any of our local bakeries!

Unfortunately Rift House had to leave a little early to get back to school on time but St Paulinus then had time to showcase their work to camera. Well done to everyone today, it was a real treat to come back at the end and see how much you had all achieved.

XR experience

We head into our final week of events at Inspire2Learn for schools in 2018 and what a busy year it has been. Today the fantastic pupils from St Benedicts and Acklam Whin spent time exploring how we can manipulate experiences to create impact through digital means.. HP Reveal, iMax projection, Minecraft collaborative tasks and using our Vive VR set were all on the menu. The morning focussed on a collaborative task where our intrepid pupils were colonists in space who had landed on a Goldilocks planet. They had to divide up their labour into creating the essential elements of a new settlement, watched over by three of the boys who took the role of administrators, allocating land and sorting disputes. The result was phenomenal to watch as a new town slowly emerged from the landscape with clear rationale behind each development. In many ways we could have planned this session to last all day. Here are some of the images of them working:

The settlement was planned on a master list and map and each pair around the room took responsibility for things like houses, school, water supply, energy and so on. These are the result:

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The organisation and teamwork involved was immense and brilliant to see.

Following lunch the children were split into three groups. Three activities – iMax style projection, using HP Reveal and experiencing a full VR setup with our Vive allowed pupils top try different ways of experiencing the technology that is fast becoming a part of everyday life. We were particularly keen to link the activity that they were doing with the very real fact that Teesside University is one of the best institutions in the world for teaching this type of work and it is on their doorstep. With the growth in companies now coming from the university graduates locally, the area is certainly looking very promising for pupils interested in developing their interest in XR and making a career of it.

Scrapheap December 2018

Wow, the last of the year, 1000 pupils later and the ideas are still coming thick and fast! Today we have the fabulous Oakdene, Grangetown and St Josephs Primaries from three of our Local Authority areas. Nearly 100 pupils, plus the ever impressive student STEM Ambassadors from Hillsview Academy helping out.

As usual, the challenge is set and the children have to focus on effective teamwork to develop a plan which can be made as a model from the recycled materials we get from Percy our local Scrapstore. Developing a team plan, assigning roles and then working effectively in the very limited time available has proved time and time again to be a great hit with the children. They are certainly working under pressure to get finished but they seem to thrive on it. As usual there will be live presentations of their work here this afternoon form about 1.50. But for now: planning!

Inspiring STEM

IMG_5288How do you get pupils interested in STEM subjects?

I think it is fair to say that our STEM Days are often the first events that get completely booked up when we release dates each year. To try and compensate for this we have upped the numbers by 20% this year and still the waiting list grows!

A fantastic day saw the usual amazing support by Connor from Cleveland Bridge, Julie from Inspiron Learning, Teesside University (both Student Ambassadors and Dale) and the fantastic ladies from WSP. 120 children from 3 schools were split into smaller groups and spent nearly an hour with each of three workshops. The feedback has been brilliant and pupils seem to love the fun aspect but also having meaningful interactions with adults that that they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. In essence, that is why we create these days. To inspire but also broaden the social and cultural capital that is developing fro each child.

As usual we finish the day with a science showcase in the auditorium with some bloke in a fancy jacket and top hat. And no he isn’t Willy Wonka! The aim of this is not just to leave a really exciting memory of the day, it is also an opportunity to build in some of the really exciting information about the local area in terms of developments and ultimately employment for the children in their futures. And after this week’s announcements that information gets even more exciting!