Introducing United Learning - Cherwell Business Awards Apprenticeship of the Year finalists

Congratulations to United Learning and the partnership of North Oxfordshire Academy and Hanwell Fields Community School on being selected as one of our Cherwell Business Awards Apprenticeship of the Year finalists 2016! Read on to find out what made them stand out as a finalist...

United Learning are a group of schools which aims to provide excellent education to children and young people across the country. They seek to improve the life chances of all the children and young people they serve and make it their mission to bring out 'the best in everyone' – students, staff, parents and the wider community.

North Oxfordshire Academy and its main feeder school, Hanwell Fields Community School, actively promote this ethos throughout its school community and extending into the work it does within the wider community.

Their first 8 Apprentices graduated with Level 2 NVQs in the academic year 2013/14. Since then, a further 2 Apprentices have qualified, 2 Business Admin Apprentices have moved from Level 2 to Level 3 and from Level 3 to Level 4 respectively and 1 former Apprentice used her NVQ as a platform for a Higher Level Teaching Assistant qualification. This year, they have 4 Apprentices working towards supporting and teaching learning Apprenticeships, 3 at Level 2 and 1 at Level 3. There are great career prospects, with successful Apprentices being offered the opportunity to progress through the levels of Apprenticeships, or branch out into other areas of learning.

Apprentices are fully supported throughout, with optional units carefully selected to allow the learner to grow and develop, whilst being able to complete the knowledge and competency based components easily through their everyday role. This ensures that there is no unnecessary or additional work as a result of the Apprenticeship. In addition, PPA (personal protected allocation) time is provided to allow completion of the NVQ.

Meet the Apprentices

Mollie Woodley completed a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Business Administration at Hanwell Fields, before going to university in September. She returned to work at Hanwell Fields after deciding that university wasn’t for her.

As an Apprentice Mollie said: “I am learning life skills as I earn. I’ve got so much more confident too. It is tiring, but I like learning and I’ll get a qualification and a portfolio at the end of my Apprenticeship. I get to work with people of all ages, I like working with people who are older than me as I can learn so much from their experience. Being an Apprentice in a school allows me to be flexible as it allows me to help with drama and the school play too, which I love.”

Hannah Bryan, 25, volunteered at Hanwell Fields for 8 months, before working part time and then full time as a Teaching Assistant. In 2013, the school offered her the chance to do an Apprenticeship as part of her continuing professional development. Hannah decided that this was a great option for her so that she could further her skills whilst continuing to earn a wage. Immediately following her apprenticeship, Hannah became the 1:1 SEND representative at the school, knowing that her Apprenticeship both helped her achieve that position and prepared her for the new role: writing reports and carrying out observations – skills which she developed as part of her Apprenticeship.  She has since had further promotions within this field.

Hannah says: “The course content covered everything I needed to know in depth – such as safeguarding and meetings with parents. At 23, I didn’t see myself as having time left to study but through my Apprenticeship I’ve been able to develop my career whilst working and earning. The team have been really supportive and the other Apprentices working here have been great too!”

Sophie Overton, who has just completed a Level 4 Apprenticeship in Business Administration and is employed as an Assistant Attendance Officer at North Oxfordshire Academy, was a runner up in the Plus One Personnel Banbury Apprentice of the Year 2015 Award.

Sophie says: “I have found it really valuable to switch from being a student to working at NOA. The students now see me as a member of staff but they can relate to me too as I’m still close to them in age.”

How staff view Apprentices

Sara Billins, Principal of North Oxfordshire Academy, says: “Sophie is an example of how Apprenticeships, when approached in an effective, committed partnership with a workplace, can produce tremendous results. Sophie has approached each stage of the Apprenticeship learning process from L2-4 with great diligence, reflecting on her workplace responsibilities and recognising the need to challenge herself and gain further experience to meet the criterion for each stage of the qualification. Such has been her contribution to the academy and credibility with staff that she has moved seamlessly from student to employee - a challenge which some ex-students would find daunting. Her quiet confidence, efficiency, attention to detail and commitment to both improving herself and the job she does within the academy has made supporting her though each stage of the Apprenticeship a pleasure. She is a role model to younger students in the academy and an asset to the workplace.”

Jo Thorne, who manages Business, Enterprise and Careers Development at NOA says: “Our Apprentices are excellent role models for the students, proving that you can succeed in your career. The students relate well to younger people on the staff team. If the Apprentices are former students too then it’s also really valuable for staff to see students’ progress – not just from Year 7 to A Levels but beyond that – seeing how they have developed and grown and continue to grow in their working lives. Also being an Apprentice in school means that we can be flexible and bespoke to meet the Apprentices’ needs but also to benefit the school too.”

On being CBA finalists...

On being selected as a Cherwell Business Awards Apprenticeship of the Year finalist, Jo said: “United Learning is delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the Cherwell Business Awards for our Apprenticeship Programme running at North Oxfordshire Academy and Hanwell Fields schools. Being selected helps amplify all the great work that goes on behind the scenes to make the programme such a success: all the staff who line manage and support the Apprentices on a day to day basis, the teaching staff who value and seamlessly integrate Apprentices into their classrooms and those staff involved in talent acquisition to ensure that the right candidates are selected who will relish and run with this opportunity.”

Jo is pictured above with Apprentices Zoe Buckett and Sophie Overton, with the Apprentice Torch, which has been touring the Thames Valley to demonstrate the passing of knowledge from employer to Apprentice.