Is a Smartphone Free Childhood the answer to our nation’s smartphone addiction? I’d say no.

Teenagers using a smartphone at school

By Mark Saxby – Positive Social When two Surrey mums made it big with their campaign to stop children and smartphones mixing, the UK’s media got very excited about it. Not that it was a new idea. One of my friends had already agreed a smartphone-free arrangement among a group ofparents in their Scottish primary school. They had all decided they would hold off giving their children devices. Wonderful. Inspired, I tried the same thing in my daughter’s primary school. The Year 5 dads were all in a WhatsApp group. I suggested us all holding off on smartphones until our children went to secondary school. I was largely met by silence except for one dad who said he and his wife had already given their nine-year-old boy his brother’s old smartphone and they were confident he’d be sensible. There lies the problem – while some parents, like the Surrey mums and my Scottish friend, recognise their children shouldn’t be on social media at such a young age, many other parentseither just don’t understand the dangers or have the capacity in their lives to even consider them. Some children will have smartphones and others won’t. And then the well-meaning parents will face immense pressure to buckle. As one mum said: “My son will be a social pariah if he doesn’t have a phone.” I’m not saying that the campaign for a Smartphone Free Childhood is a waste of time. For starters, it’s helped many parents see there is another way. And the more children without a smartphone, the better. But I believe the answer is in education, not a ban. The majority of time spent on phones by young people is spent using social media. Our charity, Positive Social, has run sessions with thousands of young people in classrooms across the country. We don’t tell the students to come off social media. Instead, we help them understand that social media is addictive; that misuse could damage their now and their future; and that they can enjoy life more if they spend less time on their phones. Ultimately, we give them the permission to make a choice – to have a different relationship with social media and their phones. And they make amazing commitments to change. They say they’ll: • Leave WhatsApp groups where they’re bullying other children. • Delete the Instagram app because it’s making them sad. • Spend more time with their parents because they’re more important. • Leave TikTok because it’s washing their mind. • Stop taking their phone to bed with them. We find that young people don’t want to be on social media as much as they are. They’ve just been allowed by their parents to spend time on their phones without boundaries. Many of them confess they just don’t feel good when spending an excessive amount of time on social media. Some schools we visit report a drop in social media issues. Other schools run our free follow-up Social Ambassadors programme so social media stays on the agenda. Of course, there are some children who won’t follow through on their commitments. Or they’ll forget about them. Or they just won’t be able to resist the pull of social media. After all, doctors liken our addiction to it as that suffered by crack cocaine users. But the childrenwill never forget our sessions – or that there’s a different way of looking at social media. Will they ever go smartphone free? I doubt it. If us adults can’t manage it, then why should we expect our children to. But it’s definitely time to empower our children to choose a different type of relationship with social media and their phones. Mark Saxby is one of the founders of the Positive Social charity, a national organisation which runs interactive classroom sessions in primary and secondary schools. You can find out more at

Barnardo’s Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies: The PATH to Success

Banardo's PATHS programme for boosting mental health

The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK/NI Version) The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK/NI Version) promotes the positive mental health and well-being of children in pre-schools and primary schools across the UK.  With its roots in the US, it’s now taking the UK by storm! Since 2008, the programme has grown from being in just 6 schools in Northern Ireland, to now being delivered in almost 500 (497) schools and pre-schools across in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.   Barnardo’s team of specialist SEL coaches support settings over a 4-year period to implement high-quality evidence based social emotional learning.  Through specialist training and ongoing coaching support, schools and pre-schools are well supported to deliver the programme with fidelity.  Key to the success and sustainability of the programme is embedding a whole-school approach to SEL; and our coaching team support schools to do just that!  From supporting classroom delivery to generating cross-curricular links; from training school staff to training parents & playground supervisors; and from supporting with SEL themes outside of the classroom (e.g. assembly, playground games etc) and within core policies – we have you covered to fully place the PATHS® Programme at the heart of your school. With positive outcomes not only for behaviour, attention & concentration, and social emotional competencies, but also improvements in the wider school ethos and environment –  it’s easy to see why teachers, parents and pupils all love the PATHS® Programme.     This year, 18 schools and 6 pre-schools across the UK have also achieved ‘SEL Worldwide Model School Status’ – an award which recognises the high-quality whole-school implementation of the programme, and their commitment to embed the programme in all aspects of the school day – and beyond!.  In total, 93 establishments have received this accolade through Barnardo’s and SEL Worldwide. “We applied to take part in the PATHS® Programme because we felt that it offered a more structured whole -school approach, especially towards dealing with emotions and anger management strategies. We wanted a programme that offered a common language and approach for everyone to use with the children i.e. teachers, non-teaching staff, lunch time supervisors etc. We also felt that the PATHS® initiative gave every child the vocabulary and opportunities to express their feelings and provided them with clear strategies to use when they were upset.” (In School Coordinator, N Ireland School) “The PATHS® Programme through Barnardo’s has brought so much to our school, and we cannot now imagine life without its principles firmly embedded into our everyday practice. Our children love the familiarity of the programme’s approach and it is an absolute joy to see them not only applying the strategies themselves, but also teaching them to their families at home.” (Head Teacher, St Helens School)  “Through the programme we have been able to empower our youngest learners to develop these key skills including social problem solving, self-control, emotional understanding, peer relations and self-esteem which will hopefully enable them to make positive choices in their future lives.” (Setting Manager, Pembrokeshire Pre-School)

Ofsted in the spotlight – How much of a rating is decided before an inspector sets foot inside a school?

An inquiry into why teachers are quitting begins on November 14

Are some schools more likely to get better Ofsted scores, based solely on their student intake and school characteristics? Ofsted ratings are very prevalent in the media and are often under scrutiny. As recently as 29th January 2024, a cross party group of MPs recommended a complete overhaul of the grading system, in light of the tragic death of headteacher Ruth Perry in 2023. Nonetheless, parents continue to use them as a method for selecting schools for their children and they are held up as a way of holding senior leaders within schools to account. A lot is known about the characteristics most associated with better achievement in education, such as certain ethnic groups, parents with more education and a wealthier upbringing. Additionally, there has been research into whether attending a school with a higher Ofsted rating is significant in predicting higher educational achievement. However, less is known about what school characteristics are most typically associated with better Ofsted ratings. Is it simply reflective of the respective affluence of a local area and hence student intake, or is there more to it than that? Simply, how much of a rating is down to factors that the school cannot control? New analysis New analysis from Inspire Economics covers data from Ofsted inspections of over twenty thousand state funded English schools suggests that London schools are 8 percentage points more likely to be graded as “Outstanding” than schools in the rest of the country. This is even when controlling for factors known to be associated with differing educational achievement, like ethnic make-up, the proportion of students on free school meals (FSM) and speak English as a first language. Schools that are selective (13 percentage points) and that are single sex (8 ppts) are also more likely to be outstanding, but it should be noted this represents only a very small proportion of the English state school system. Religious schools are less likely to be outstanding, as schools that are bigger than average and academies. Whilst the academy finding is interesting, this is likely to reflect the fact that schools are encouraged to become academies after a poor Ofsted result. Schools with a greater proportion of white British or FSM students are less likely to be outstanding, but only by a very negligible amount when controlling for other factors. Focusing only on primary and secondary schools brings similar results that are more profound in places. The London impact is slightly higher at primary level as is that of being a single sex school. Interestingly, having early years provision attached to a primary school makes that school 7 ppts less likely of being outstanding. It is not clear from the data why this might be and seemingly isn’t due to having a greater number of pupils – being above average size has a slight positive relationship with being outstanding. At secondary level, no relationship was found with Ofsted ratings and being an academy, a religious or above average size school or having more students with English as a first language. The London effect is less pronounced at secondary level but is still present. In a similar result to that with early years provision at primary level, having a sixth form suggests schools are 4 ppts less likely to be outstanding. Given what has already been stated about this not being a product of more students, it is perhaps a suggestion that schools offering additional services are more stretched and as a result are under-resourced. What does this mean? The London difference is really stark and opens up a lot of questions about what could be driving this. Given the prevalence of the North/South divide and “Levelling Up” in modern political rhetoric, there is perhaps much to be learned about what this means for students growing up outside of the capital. Barnaby Lenon of the University of Buckingham outlines several reasons that could be driving this disparity. The London Challenge programme, where schools where data across schools was compared and used to challenge lower performance and create a culture of accountability, is suggested as being a significant reason behind this. This ran from 2003-2011 and brought significant praise from Ofsted. READ MORE: It’s time to scrap the one word Ofsted ratings READ MORE: Are mobile phones being banned in schools? Lenon also discusses improvements at primary level bringing improvements at secondary level further on. This makes sense, but the difference is not as pronounced in this dataset and does not explain why primary schools in London are much better than elsewhere. There is a suggestion by Greaves (2014) that this is because of London primary schools being pilots for Numeracy and Literacy challenges but not much additional explanation is offered. Higher prevalence of academies and free schools, the Teach First programme and the higher levels of ethnic diversity in London are also given as reasons for the disparity. Whilst the white British group do perform worst academically and are least represented in London that the rest of England, this analysis controls for ethnicity, so shows that even when that is accounted for, the disparity remains between London schools and those elsewhere in the country. The results also suggest only a very minor impact (0.2 ppts) on the probability of being outstanding of having fewer white British students. Similarly, academies and free schools are also controlled for in this analysis and aren’t shown to have significant impacts on the Ofsted grade. Teach First was started in London in 2002 and brought in an influx of graduates who might not have considered teaching previously. Whilst it has had arguably more impact in London (it’s most represented area for sending recruits), for over ten years has sent graduates around the country. It therefore feels unlikely that it would be driving the level of disparity that we continue to see in 2024. Hence, it feels to me that there is more to this issue than has been suggested previously. I could only speculate on what the driving factors are and likely it is a

Robots like ChatGPT are taking over – and we should probably let them


Everyone seems to be talking about ChatGPT. Along with other AI large language models such as Google’s Bard, this powerful disruptive technology is currently gathering increased media attention and generating both excitement and concern from the public. Understandably, many education professionals are employing caution around the way that students and educators could use a technology with a dialogue format that can answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises and reject inappropriate requests. It certainly has the potential to transform education in amazing ways. One of the reasons this disruptive technology is ruffling feathers is that it takes us so much further forward, technology-wise, in such a short period of time. Perhaps it’s worth thinking back to the time when search engines transformed the way we searched for information on the internet. They democratised access to information in a truly ground-breaking and exciting way and nowadays we use Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others to find information on the worldwide web as a matter of course. ChatGPT is capable of much more than simple information searching. It interacts with users in a conversational way and can learn to predict answers and even the users’ subsequent enquiries. Inevitably, when technology offers such a huge step forward in potential uses, this massive potential leads to specific pitfalls too, many of which are probably not even being thought about yet. Disruptive and dangerous? Educators are understandably worried about how students may use this technology. For example, a user can request a 1,000-word essay on a specific subject, with suggested style, delivered in a few minutes. When technology can save so much time, how will students, or indeed anyone, be able to resist using it? Some of the concerns around the negative impact of ChatGPT on learning and education include: ChatGPT’s own creators suggest it should not be used for high stakes tasks, recognising that it is still prone to inventing or what they call ‘hallucinating’ facts. They recommend it should be used in conjunction with human review and the provision of additional context. Used well, they argue that AI can transform education for the good. Helping teachers: Helping students: Helping schools and colleges: A Brave New World In conclusion, education providers will need to prioritise evaluating the pros and cons, and drafting of their own use policies around ChatGPT and other powerful AI technology. They may decide to try to block access on school computers, but it is likely that creative young people will find a way around that. AI is a relevant part of their future, so the best solutions will help them to learn how to use this technology to achieve the best outcomes. Some organisations may be concerned with the sheer speed of change that conversational AI is driving, that could leave policy makers trailing in its wake and playing catch up with a powerful technology that is already ‘out of the box’. The CEO of OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, Sam Altman has said that he hopes that the world can move slowly and adapt to the technology. This will, he says, help his team develop the tool in safe ways, seeking potential mitigations and guidance for policymakers. Students and education professionals will need to learn to use AI and ChatGPT safely, and effectively, understanding its limitations, appreciating the risks of inaccuracy and most of all, embracing the opportunities for positive change that they bring. Young peoples’ futures will almost certainly rely on AI – and their jobs may well depend on it too, for example in helping to build a legal argument based on the precedents in previous case judgements, for making medical diagnoses, and for writing computer code that will, in turn, transform the way people work. The advent of AI and ChatGPT will undoubtedly create new job roles and functions, much as the internet did for web designers and SEO experts. We must not fear this change, but embrace it as the next great leap forward in technology that can make our lives better, if we choose it to. By Ann Ramsay, Vice President, Advanced Education Read more features here.

Digital T Levels at a fork in the road

Two females working at a computer

Two years into the flagship T Level programme would normally be an ideal time to review, take stock, and plot a clear route forward. When those two years coincided with a world-wide pandemic that massively impacted on face-to-face teaching, never mind the practicalities of lengthy work experience placements, the ‘big picture’ is much harder to clarify. This article is an effort to see through the mist to the way ahead for digital T Levels as they increasingly become the focus of post-16 technical study. England’s Department for Education has built great expectations for the digital T Level to provide a skilled workforce in high-growth areas including web development, games design, data analysis and IT support. With employers in these fields pointing to skills gaps, the need for such a qualification is obvious. In IT, however, existing qualifications such as Level 3 Diplomas and BTECs have a long and successful history, with teaching firmly embedded in many colleges and other post-16 institutions. The switch to T Levels has been met with caution but appears to be gathering pace as the threat to end some established IT applied courses becomes more real. The providers that have jumped on board the T Level steam train offer a range of reflections. Many express satisfaction with the rigour and modernity of the specifications for the three digital T Levels: Digital Production, Design and Development; Digital Business Services; and Digital Support Services. The investment in modernising teaching facilities is broadly welcomed, and staff seem to enjoy teaching in them. There have been challenges too, mainly related to the extended work placement of around 45 days. This aspect of the qualification was eyed nervously from the outset by anyone with responsibility for arranging work experience placements, acknowledging how much demand this would place on even the most supportive employer. While ministers claim that 90% of the first cohort of 1,300 students found a placement, some with ‘virtual’ components, there must surely be some adaptation to ensure that all students benefit. Allowing more than two employers to share the placement period, or changing expectations around attendance and supervision, are two of the changes requested by some providers in the first wave. There are calls for a review of the employer project which, say some, repeats aspects of the course content and creates unnecessary time pressures. These teething issues ought to be expected and all are solvable if the will is there. A more significant barrier to the success of T Levels is a lack of understanding of technical qualifications among employers whose support is critical to this learning route. Providers need time and support to engage with local employers – to advocate for the new qualification and increase its perceived value; and to collaborate on curriculum design, industry placements and project briefs. The up-to-date subject knowledge that employers can provide, while highlighting rewarding local careers, are part of a partnership package that could make T Levels a massive success. If digital apprenticeships, HE qualifications, and employer training programmes become filled with diverse, skilled and informed young people, then that success will be worthy of celebration. For resources, CPD and connections to STEM professionals to support with digital T Levels, you can visit the STEM Learning website at By Dave Gibbs, Senior subject specialist computing & technology at STEM Learning

Art Workshops and Teacher Training for Primary Schools

Art Room work showing drawings of flowers

Hi, my name is Christine and I run the Art Room. I used to work as a primary school teacher and now I specialise in supporting schools to teach art and DT. This is usually carried out as part of a whole school inset session, where I can target a few key areas of improvement. Another very valuable part of my job is the one-off workshops I offer. These allow children to learn a new and exciting craft. I am always on the lookout for new crafts to offer, but at the minute I teach willow weaving, felt making, paper making and mosaics. Each one can be adapted for children in foundation, key stage 1 and key stage 2. I have also visited a few special schools and run workshops specifically tailored to their needs. Many schools link their projects to their topic work, art week or leavers projects. To find out more, here is a bit of information about each one. Willow Weaving There are two willow weaving workshops which I offer; living willow and dried willow. When the willow is fresh (from January to March) I can work with the children to plant willow to form a den or tunnel. During the spring and summertime, the willow will grow and you will have a lovely new feature as part of your school grounds. To make a willow sculpture out of dried willow can be timetabled at any point throughout the year. I have worked with many schools in the past, making willow wreaths at Christmas time, weaving crosses to celebrate Easter and designing trees and other logos for Year 6 leavers projects. Many schools timetable a number of classes throughout the day, so lots of children can get the chance to take part. Wet Felting Wet felting is a great craft to involve the whole school. Using merino wool, it is possible to design and make a picture of almost anything. Also, my workshops can be adapted for children in foundation up to year 6. There is even the opportunity for the work to be sewn into a wall hanging for you to display in school. Past projects include investigating the seasons, landscapes, oceans, nature and characters from books. Paper Making Learning to make recycled paper is a fantastic way to instal an understanding of the importance of recycling. In this workshop the children make their own recycled paper and decorate it according to the topic; this could be learning about the rainforest or a cross-curricular link such as Remembrance Day or Christmas. Mosaics Creating a mosaic is a great way to mark a special occasion at your school. I can work with you and the children to plan, design and make a mosaic. This could be to represent your school values or simply to brighten up an area in your school. If your children are learning about the Romans, I even have a special mosaic workshop linked to the topic, where the children can make a Roman numeral out of mosaic tiles. Art and DT inset In addition, I also offer inset sessions, where I will help your staff master teaching art and DT and show them lots of new skills which they can use in the classroom. The inset sessions are very practical and alongside doing some painting and drawing during the class, staff will identify the key skills to teach art successfully. All resources are included in the session. Well-being Inset My latest, and what I expect is going to become one of my most popular sessions, is the willow weaving inset class. Here, staff will learn how to weave with willow and will make their own willow creation to take home. The most popular things to make are hearts, stars and bird feeders. To get in touch, fill out the contact form on my website: or take a look at my latest updates on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

Facing the Cyber Threat in the Education Sector

Cyber threat in the education sector - image of hacker

Cyber security has long been a challenge for the Education sector, but with the recent increase of cyber attacks against academic institutions, awareness and action is urgently needed now more than ever.  Schools and universities can be lucrative targets for cyber criminals, both in terms of data and money. If hackers gain access to a school network, they can acquire all kinds of data including teaching resources, financial records, and staff, student and parent information. What we have then seen in the recent rise of ransomware attacks, is the hacker demanding a sum of money to prevent the data being released to the public or the Dark Web. When schools have an important responsibility to safeguard their students, this can be a particularly worrisome consequence of a cyber attack. The National Cyber Security Centre released multiple alerts between September 2020 and June 2021 to help bring the ransomware threat to schools’ attention and encourage action.  “This is a growing threat and we strongly encourage schools, colleges, and universities to act on our guidance and help ensure their students can continue their education uninterrupted.” – Director of Operations at the NCSC These attacks often start out with a phishing email to an unsuspecting target active on a school’s network, which may be a student or a member of staff. If the email successfully convinces the recipient, malware can enter the school’s IT systems, encrypting files and data and rendering them inaccessible until the school pays a ransom, usually in the form of cryptocurrency.  Image by B_A from Pixabay  The pandemic has exacerbated this threat for the sector, with many schools forced into an online environment with little time to prepare. Cyber criminals were able to attack a school’s network through remote access systems like remote desktop protocol (RDP) or virtual private networks (VPN) and exploit out-of-date software and poor password security. The challenge According to Government figures, in the last 12 months, 36% of primary schools, 58% of secondary schools, and 75% of universities have experienced a cyber attack. These numbers are of course much too high, but maintaining a fully secure environment is no easy feat for education institutions.  Although educational institutions are starting to see the importance of cyber security, most struggle with tight budgets and usually other priorities end up having to take precedence over cyber security. Cybercriminals know that schools are not well funded in this area, making them ‘soft’ targets.  The volume of devices on a school network and students using their own mobile devices further adds to the cyber security challenge for the education sector. BYOD can be a security nightmare for IT departments because students’ devices are unlikely to be secure to an adequate standard, increasing the chance of data leakage and malware infections. Both students and staff lack proper cyber awareness training further weakening the defence against cyber attacks. Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels Tackling the cyber threat Educational institutions need to take a holistic view towards cyber security and risk management. The most important first step schools can take is to assess their current security posture and address common points of failure. Since resources already run thin, it is a good idea to highlight the most problematic areas so you know where to focus them.  Vulnerability audits can help to give an entire overview of one’s estate and where the key risks lie. Although a cost, the in-depth analysis and insight gained is crucial to overcoming cyber threats. One of the most common vulnerabilities found, for example, are end-of-life operating systems – ones that are no longer supported and receiving security updates. Without locating these on your network, you wouldn’t even know this was an issue before it was too late.  Schools need to also address where most cyber attacks start – the people. While it can be difficult to deploy full scale cyber training programs for staff and students, greater attempt should be made to educate those using your network about the most common risks and how to respond to them. For example, exploiting passwords is a very commonly used tactic for cybercriminals, so users can make a world of difference by creating strong passwords for accounts and applications. Adding an extra layer of security with multi factor authentication will also help to protect an organisation from breaches. Cyber security awareness should be made a part of school culture, delivered throughout the school year to keep it fresh in staff and students’ minds.  Without specialist knowledge and expertise, managing cyber risk can be daunting for educational institutions, so looking to cyber security standards can be a helpful way ensuring your organisation is covering the core security basics – before doing anything else. The Government’s Cyber Essentials standard is recommended by the Department of Education to all UK schools and universities wanting to lay down these foundations. By aligning with the Cyber Essentials technical controls, schools are able to reduce cyber risk by 80% and ensure better data protection and safeguarding. The certification can even be a prerequisite for certain grants and funding. With limited resources and funds and an ever changing cyber threat landscape, it will always be challenging for the education sector to manage cyber risk. But understanding the vulnerabilities, getting the basics right and advocating cyber vigilance within schools, can offer institutions the best chance of protecting themselves and their students against cyber attacks. 

Head Teachers Role in Controlling Legionella in Schools

Child at school desk - paperwork - Head teachers role in controlling legionella in schools

Author: Craig Morning, Senior Consultant, Water Hygiene Centre Ltd If you are a Head Teacher what are your responsibilities in relation to preventing or controlling Legionella in your school? To answer this question, it might be easier to split these into two categories, the first would be where the Head Teacher has full control over the management of water and the second where other bodies, for example a local council, have a significant say in maintenance activities.  In this blog we will try to give you some tips that will allow you to take the appropriate steps based on the situation that you are in. So, you’re the Head Teacher with full control over managing water, first off, I’m sure you are more than likely to be aware that you are going to be responsible for overall health & safety, whether you are classed as the Duty Holder or the Responsible Person. This will include water safety and therefore it would be important for you to understand what you need to do. Under the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and COSHH, the minimum expectation is that a suitable and sufficient Legionella risk assessment is carried out which assesses the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria from work activities and identifies the precautionary measures needed. As the Duty Holder or perhaps the Responsible Person you should make reasonable enquiries to ensure that the assessor is competent and suitably trained and has the necessary equipment to carry out their duties safely and adequately. This does not mean that the work could not be carried out by anyone employed by the school but the ability to prove competence would fall to you, rather than the contractor, to provide. So now you have the findings of the Legionella risk assessment the real work for you and your team starts. There will be one-off works required from the assessment to reduce the risk, some of these will be physical changes to the water systems whilst others will be changes to policies or procedures or the need for members of the team to attend Legionella training. On top of these there will be the precautionary measures that have been recommended, these pre-planned maintenance tasks should be carried out at the correct frequency by suitably competent people. To find out more about these please see our recent blog Legionella in Schools: key points for good water management  If, however you are the Head Teacher of a school where water is managed by an external team then it won’t be as easy to confirm what you need to do. We work with some local authorities where the Head Teachers are involved in the process with the support of a central maintenance / estates team managing works completed by a contractor. In this instance the appointment of a contractor would be completed for the local authority as a whole and it is unlikely that you will be named as the Responsible Person for the school. It may be that your responsibilities lie with the management of the janitor / caretaker at the school and making sure that they are doing their job and completing the pre-planned maintenance tasks. On the other hand, we work with others where the Head Teachers are not involved at all, all works are managed by the central maintenance / estates team. If you are in doubt, then you should start by asking the central maintenance / estates team.

North East engineering firm helps to Kick Off careers in MEP design

PlanBEE Kick Off Programme - L-R Phillip Hilton-West (B&W), Terry Hanlon (Robertson), Daniel Hancock (NUF), Ben Smith, Steve Logan (Gateshead College), Jack Thain, Cameron Eastlake, Leuan Crawford, Wendy Dawe (Ryder Architecture) and Ish Bamba (NUF).

Newcastle’s Black and White Engineering (B&W) is opening its doors to budding engineers by joining a key initiative to provide career opportunities to young people across the region. The PlanBEE Kick Off programme is led by Ryder Architecture in partnership with Newcastle United Foundation (NUF), Gateshead College and other businesses across the construction and engineering sector. It provides a six-month paid contract for 16–24-year-olds who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. The aim of the placements is to enable young people to gain skills and experience in a specific industry, working in some of the UK’s most innovative and growing businesses. B&W has partnered with Gateshead College to create specific placements for up to seven students. L-R Phillip Hilton-West (B&W), Terry Hanlon (Robertson), Daniel Hancock (NUF), Ben Smith, Steve Logan (Gateshead College), Jack Thain, Cameron Eastlake, Leuan Crawford, Wendy Dawe (Ryder Architecture) and Ish Bamba (NUF).   Alongside their studies at the college, where they spend one day a week in the classroom, they’re engaged with all aspects of the B&W business including mechanical, electrical and building physics design. Steven Horn, Director, B&W Engineering, said: “We’re well aware of the skills shortage facing many industries and, unfortunately, the MEP design sector isn’t immune. “This is why we think the Kick Off programme is such a wonderful initiative. Not only are we providing a vital opportunity to young people in our local community who are struggling to enter the job market, we’re also able to demonstrate why engineering design is such an attractive and exciting career. “If we can provide the opportunities to teach and train young people and invest our time in their development, we can play a key role in creating the next generation of MEP engineers. “We’ve warmly welcomed the students and each of them have been eager and motivated to learn about our industry and what it entails. “Working on real projects and being tasked with solving real problems has proved inspirational and their progress has been fantastic, alongside a proactive, can-do attitude. “The project also strengthens our relationship with Newcastle United Foundation, as we deliver the M&E design on the new NUCASTLE community facility. “We are delighted during the placements, some students have already received job opportunities and we wish them all the best for the future.” The students, Jack Thain, Cameron Eastlake, Leuan Crawford and Michael Metcalfe, are all aged between 17 and 20 years old. Following their placements at B&W they’ll move onto other North East businesses in the wider construction sector. Jack Thain said: “I have really enjoyed my time with B&W and found the staff really supportive. My experience with B&W has definitely improved my skills and confidence.” B&W has a long-standing partnership with Gateshead College, working closely with the leading provider of vocational education on the original PlanBEE programme. Chris Toon, Deputy Principal at Gateshead College, said: “Our flagship PlanBEE programme continues to be a great success, providing real opportunities with the graduates securing roles in some of the UK’s biggest construction companies. “Aimed at young people who would prefer not to go into higher education, the PlanBEE Kick Off programme initiative is supporting more young people to get a foot on the ladder to a job and career in the sector.” “Our Kick Off students are really enjoying their placements and it’s been great to see the progress they’re making through their on-the-job experiences. “They’re getting a real insight into a career in the construction industry which is exactly what the programme is designed to do and ultimately they’ll secure employment and develop specialist industry-specific skills.” B&W has more than doubled its team size in both the North East and their other UK offices in the past year, providing a range of MEP design jobs across the spectrum, from entry level apprenticeships through to senior management roles. For more information about career opportunities at B&W, please visit: