Providing equal work experience opportunities for SEND students
A child or young person has special educational needs and disabilities if they have a learning difficulty and/or a disability that means they need special health and education support, we shorten this to SEND. We work with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and organisations such as the Department for Education (DfE), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and voluntary organisations to make sure that there is support and services for children and young people with SEND.
It’s time to reinvent work experience. By creating a virtual work experience programme, employers can provide scalable, accessible and engaging work experience for students, regardless of their social background or location.
The pandemic created a surge in demand for virtual programmes, as the ability to enter workplaces was restricted, with the NHS facing more difficulties than most. Despite the adaptation of programmes from in-person to virtual, for SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) students, regular work experience remains a challenge.
Springpod has previously worked with North West London Trust on their own virtual work experience programmes. They created virtual work experience as a way to maintain engagement and offer young people ‘hope’ and a way forward with their career planning at a time when for many young people, planning careers, felt hopeless.
Deputy Director of Organisational Development, Ali Webster understood the challenges faced by young people, however, she felt there was still a larger need to help SEND students who had been equally, if not more affected by the pandemic. She reached out to Project Choice for support.
Project Choice is an independent specialist college that helps to support students with disabilities, learning disabilities, difficulties and/or Autism (SEND). They work within NHS organisations to support young adults to find work experience to improve their employability and independence skills.
After a positive previous experience, Ali and Project Choice approached Springpod with the idea of creating a programme designed specifically for those with special educational needs, including content that was engaging and celebrating progress at each stage of the programme.
Springpod’s content team worked closely with Project Choice and Ali to adapt the programme to meet the unique needs of students with special education needs.
Ali Webster explained:
“We recognised early on that to make this work, we needed to think and work differently. The team at Project Choice, who are experts in adapting learning for SEND students, were able to work with Springpod to ensure the materials were engaging, fit for purpose and most importantly, recognised and rewarded achievements throughout the programme.”
It was important to ensure the programme was accessible, whether this meant additional subtitled videos or changing colours to meet the needs of colour blind students. The interactive quizzes meant students remained engaged throughout and were provided with continuous feedback, reducing the risk of drop off prior to completion.
Springpod also worked on how to provide additional guidance and support for teachers too, using guides to explain how to support students through the process, as well as providing a certificate for every student who enrolled, giving them a confidence boost that the students can achieve the same opportunities as others.
The SEND programme can be supported by large numbers of SEND schools across the country and in doing so, provides a project that gives hope to many, enables wider participation and can act as a lead into Project Choice Supported Internships.
The scalable programme means that trusts have access to fill their recruitment pool for future potential employees and gives students the opportunity to access supported work placements once they leave school or college.
“We developed the programme to be delivered in SEND schools with the support of the Project Choice work experience leads and teachers. This will enable us to appropriately select students for progression onto the Supported Internships, as we can see those students that are able to engage and progress.”
Lindsay McCafferty – Project Choice Regional Manager
“This programme has enabled us to bring Project Choice work experience to large numbers of students throughout the country, something we couldn’t have done at this scale without the support of Springpod. Our team has not only enjoyed producing the content for the programme but really enjoyed working with such an innovative company.”
Linda Selby MBE - Project Choice National Lead – Operations
Many NHS Trusts are unable to have dedicated teams of staff assigned to support work experience and so having a virtual work experience offering means that all Trusts are able to offer the same quality of content which isn’t dependent on the size of their team. It also allows students to access work experience, regardless of their geographical location. By eliminating the need for face-to-face work, students can complete their experience from anywhere.
The programme was initially rolled out to 6 schools with 8 modules, and students have already begun to complete the programme. Springpod will continue to work closely with North West London and Project Choice to evaluate the programme and monitor its feedback to ensure it is engaged with its students.
The next step is to offer the online work-related learning programme out to more SEND schools across the UK, reaching even more students and not only giving hope that they will one day be able to access a career in the NHS but starting the path to make this a reality.
Springpod has a library of content available for NHS organisations to use when creating programmes as well as bespoke options available. To learn more, speak to one of our team.