Gayle Duffus

“Bringing the curriculum to life is vital to engage and motivate young people. This cannot be the role of teachers alone. To understand the world outside the classroom walls, powerful partnerships are vital.

“The Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) strategy made clear the commitment to give young people exposure to careers and pathways in order to develop their own potential. This is particularly important in the STEM subjects where there is a raft of perceived barriers and a lack of understanding of the subjects’ application in the world of work.

“Striking up meaningful partnerships is key to giving young people experiences which excite and resonate. One of the lessons I have learned through managing the RAiSE programme is that establishing partnerships is far more than a one-off, tick box exercise. In order for any relationship to flourish and grow, the investment of time is vital.

“Over the past few years, we have worked closely with the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh. They were committed to primary outreach and had developed materials but were keen to extend their reach and impact. Astrobiology is such an exciting topic and, looking at the opportunities and expertise from a primary practitioner perspective, we were able to develop an offering which addressed a wide range of curricular drivers, promoted creativity and innovation, engaged pupils, upskilled practitioners, and addressed issues such as gender balance in an age-appropriate way. That is where the collaboration between expertise and education is imperative to develop an offering of real potential.

“The feedback from practitioners and pupils was incredible. Together we brought space and technology into the classroom, profiling cutting-edge research in extreme environments for children. To see the excitement on the pupils’ faces was wonderful and it’s these STEM experiences that will stay with them.

“From this relationship, which we have spent a lot of time cultivating mutual respect and understanding, we are now working with another university developing a suite of materials for a fellow RAiSE authority.

“Effective networking, which involves more listening than asking, is a strategic investment in the depth and breadth of current and potential relationships.

“It is about mutual offering of support. Many of the partners we work with will check in on all manner of educational outreach, not just directly RAiSE activities. We appreciate their trust in us and know this cultivates commitment to our programme and objectives.

“It is through conversations which are open and flexible that opportunities flow. Renewable energy company Quaybridge wanted to work with schools. With them, we identified that there was a lack of awareness of the diversity of roles relating to wind farms, and issues with gender balance of the workforce within the sector. Through this process, we have moved from an initial, welcome, resource focus, to the company developing an interactive website with child-friendly graphics showcasing the careers and pathways related to the renewables sector.

“I value the time these companies and organisations have committed and want to ensure they, and the practitioners and young people, are getting the most from the opportunity. We want them to share our objectives and feel pride in the part they’re playing in developing our young people. To achieve these goals, partnerships must be treated as respected, invested relationships.”