South Tyneside businesses help boost work skills of teens

Keelmans Way School  work placement awards
Keelmans Way School work placement awards

Businesses across South Tyneside have been helping teens with special educational needs boost their employability skills.

In the last year pupils from Keelman’s Way School, in Hebburn, have been undertaking work experience placements at businesses in and around South Tyneside.

West Boldon Lodge

West Boldon Lodge

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

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

Earlier this month, all pupils who completed their placements – which range from horticultural work to office jobs – were presented with awards at a special assembly held at school.

Katharine Harbinson, class teacher for post 16s, said: “By giving our pupils the chance to experience the world of work it gives them the skills they need to know what work is all about.

“We could really do with more people coming forward to enable us to offer them more choice.”

Katherine Harbison

“It also helps with their personal and social development and helps to boost their confidence. We have pupils who are quite reserved, who have come back into school and are then able to talk in front of large groups.

“Whenever you talk to our pupils all they want is to work and to be able to show people what they can do.”

At Thrive, in Saltwell Park, those who have undergone work experience have also received additional qualifications while it is hoped in the future those placed at West Boldon Lodge will be able to work towards the John Muir Award – an environmental scheme, which aims to encourage work in the environment.

The school is hoping to expand on its work experience success by asking more businesses to sign up to offer a pupil a place where they can gain valuable work and life skills.

Miss Harbinson added: “We are really grateful to all the businesses who have come forward and offered our pupils work experience places, but we could really do with more people coming forward to enable us to offer them more choice.

“Ideally we are looking for places in Jarrow and Hebburn, so that they can learn how to travel independently.”

The work experience placement is for one day a week between the hours of 10am and 2pm for the duration of the school year and is supported by Project Choice and Project Choice mentors.

Any businesses who can offer a placement email Miss Harbinson on