Project opens up world of work for special needs children

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The world of work is being opened up to teenagers as part of a specialist school’s drive to improve life skills for its pupils.

Students from Keelman’s Way School, Hebburn, head out on placements every week – ranging from horticultural work to office jobs.

The aim is to give the teenagers – who have a range of special educational needs including autism, speech and language problems – the chance to gain work experience, extra qualifications and to show prospective employers what they can do.

Katharine Harbinson, class teacher for post 16s, said: “When you ask our students, all they want when they leave here is a job and there are many jobs out there that they can do. It’s all about giving them the chance and the opportunity.”

Placements include working with South Tyneside Homes, Bede’s World, Saltwell Park, in Gateshead, South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, and even in the school as teaching assistants.

As well as teaching the core curriculum subjects, the school has created a life skills department. It’s focus is to teach pupils how to live independently, budget their finances, cook and clean.

It’s all about giving our students the chance and opportunity. There are jobs out there they can do.

Katharine Harbinson, Class teacher

Katherine said: “These are all things many people take for granted and do without a second thought but, for our pupils, it has to be taught.

“Enabling them to have their own independence helps to build their confidence in their own abilities and, while they won’t gain GCSE’s, they will achieve a range of recognised accreditations and qualifications including City and Guilds Award.”

The school’s work experience placements is being supported by Project Choice, run by South Tyneside Council.

Katherine added: “The curriculum is very much student-led. It’s about asking them what they want, what they think will help them live as independent life as possible as an adult.” The school is looking for more businesses willing to come on board and offer tpupils work experience placements.

Katharine added: “The more places we have available to us the more variety of work placements we can offer to our pupils.

“If any business thinks they could help us in any way, I’d love them to get in touch. We carry out the risk assessments and to see if the position being offered is suitable for our students.”

The school is holding a transition day on March 16.  

The event is open to all 14 to 19-year-old students and parents in the area.

Visitors will be able to find out more about the school and what it has to offer to teenagers with special educational needs.

The event runs from 1pm to 5pm.

Any business able to offer work experience placements is asked to contact Katharine Harbinson on 0191 4897480.