Students engineer paths into careers

Building an off road buggy: (from left) ' Level 3 Diploma in Engineering students Scott Hissee, David Forster and Connor Pickett. Photo: SG031111-115TW
Building an off road buggy: (from left) ' Level 3 Diploma in Engineering students Scott Hissee, David Forster and Connor Pickett. Photo: SG031111-115TW
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SPALDING Grammar School is pushing the boundaries in a number of unexpected ways.

Appointing a business manager may seem less unusual in these days of cash-strapped educational institutions.

However, the man they have appointed – Shaun Barton – has since qualified as a pub landlord in his bid to increase the number and variety of lettings of the school’s relatively new Business and Conference Centre.

“I have to look at ways of generating income into the school and giving us a more sound financial footing,” says Shaun, who can now be regarded as the designated public licence holder and premises supervisor at any function held at the centre.

Shaun’s mission is also to integrate the school into the business world, not only encouraging firms to use the school’s facilities, such as the board room, but by being involved in the process of turning out students fit for the world of work.

“Employers want a more rounded individual,” he says.

“We are trying to create a basis of more independent learning where students take a lot more ownership of their own actions and learning.”

The grammar school is also pushing the frontiers in terms of what has traditionally been offered to students in terms of education.

It is in the third year of a Level 3 Engineering Diploma that is giving pupils what Shaun calls “a foot up the ladder” for a future career in engineering.

Students have state-of-the-art equipment and workshop space and the school has also invested in staff with strong engineering backgrounds.

Head of engineering and technology Dion Jones has worked all over the world, and has spent time in manufacturing guns for the front of frigates as well as being a plate welder, while engineering teacher Philip Ibbs worked in aircraft and racing car design.

Dion says: “I think the Level 3 Diploma is pushing the boundaries of what schools had previously been offering pupils. It’s a lot more in depth.”

Assistant headteacher Cathy Lee adds: “The course is unique in the area.

“If a student knows at age 16 they want to do engineering, this is the best course they can do to support their career plan because no one else is offering the Level 3 Diploma in Engineering and these fantastic facilities for students to get hands on.

“It’s allowing an early specialism if that’s the path they want to follow.”

Cathy explained that the school was already strong in science and maths, and engineering technology studies had been developed alongside those core subjects to give students interested in a career in engineering a competitive edge in terms of getting on to good university courses or directly into the business world through apprenticeships, a passage smoothed by the school’s links with local industry.

Cathy describes the Level 3 Diploma course as a “more holistic approach” designed to give students the opportunity to learn about the engineering world and the jobs that exist in industry.

The Diploma is a double award, equivalent to two A-levels, and alongside that students will study two other subjects, either in the conventional subjects of maths and physics if they are aiming for top universities, or students might choose to combine the engineering diploma with other subjects, such as art if they are looking for an entry into architecture.

Current students may have come up through the school, such as Tak-chi Ho, who hopes to study Mechanical Engineering at university when he finishes his diploma.

Tak-chi studied the Level 2 Diploma from Year 10 – a GCSE in engineering is also offered – and enjoyed it so much he wanted to continue to study at Level 3.

He says: “I like how the engineering diploma is targeted at developing a number of very important skills, which are invaluable for successful professional engineers.”

Other students have transferred to the school in order to take the engineering diploma, such as Kevin King, who says: “I chose this as the diploma was much more focused on industry and the processes that would be used. You are left to your own devices more and are required to motivate yourself.”

Another student to transfer because of the diploma is Connor Pickett who was impressed by the equipment available and adds: “I was interested in that because engineering is my passion.”

The school’s business manager would probably agree: Shaun is another staff member with a strong engineering background as he spent 25 years as an engineer with the Air Force.

n Find out more about the course at an open evening planned on Wednesday for Year 11 and 12 pupils (7-9pm).