The LEP and local employers commit to supporting young people with special educational needs and disabilities

Delivered by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), work has now started to connect 29 SEND schools and colleges across Calderdale, Leeds, Wakefield and York and support them in improving careers support to their pupils.

In June 2019, Leeds City Region was announced as the UK’s second careers hub to help transform careers education for special educational needs and disability (SEND) pupils.

The work of the LEP supports Mencap’s Learning Disability Work Week campaign launched earlier this week which celebrates the benefits that people with learning disabilities can offer employers.

The SEND Careers Hub has been designed to encourage schools and colleges to work in partnership, creating a sustainable network of teachers, careers leads and local employers where best practice is shared, careers support can be strengthened and work experience and training opportunities are offered. An event in January will be held in Wakefield for all participating schools to meet, discuss progress and hear from employers and key speakers.

Paula Wilkinson, TLR post holder, responsible for Preparation for Adult Life at Applefields School said:

'It is very beneficial, meeting with other SEND schools and colleges and having the opportunity to share ideas and good practise and discuss any problems. Our school's Career education and guidance programme will be improved by us being part of this SEND Careers Hub and this will help our young people as they progress in their lives.'

Tim Dowey, Career Lead at Minsthorpe Community College said:

“We are delighted to be able to enhance our Careers Education & Guidance programme by being part of the SEND Careers Hub. As an outward facing College, we look forward to sharing strategies which can support our most vulnerable students in progressing onto the next stage of their education, work or training.”

Meaningful employer encounters for SEND pupils will also be increased through employability workshops, employer lead curriculum/schemes of work and the development of a SEND apprenticeship model which will not only support SEND pupils but also encourage more employers to see the benefits of employing people with a range of abilities.

Cornerstone employers such as ENGIE, Advanced Diesel Ltd and Covéa have all committed to working with SEND young people through the Careers Hub. More employers are set to join the hub in the near future.

Sarah Hopkinson, Social Value Manager (Contracts) at ENGIE said:

“ENGIE on the Wakefield Partnership are delighted to have been invited to become a Cornerstone Employer for the Leeds City Region SEND Careers Hub. As a business we are committed to working with young people of all abilities to raise awareness of career opportunities enabling informed choices to be made and working with schools to develop employability skills. The SEND Careers Hub provides an excellent opportunity for partnership working which is targeted and focussed to maximise impact and outcomes for young people and we are very pleased to be involved.”

The SEND Careers Hub was launched following the success of the Kirklees Careers Hub, also delivered by the LEP where eight schools achieved all eight Gatsby Career benchmarks, a national criteria for careers provision, which launched in September 2018. Kirklees schools and colleges are amongst those in the first wave of Careers Hubs which are already outperforming the national average across all aspects of careers education.

The SEND Careers Hub will follow the same model and support the acceleration of all eight Gatsby Benchmarks in relation to preparation for transition, measuring quality and impact of meaningful encounters and making informed careers choices for SEND schools and mainstream schools with SEND provision.

Ray Henshaw, Strategic Lead for the Leads City Region SEND Careers Hub said: 

“Improved support for students with special educational needs and disabilities should be placed at the centre of the agenda to break the link between poverty and educational underachievement. Pupils from the poorest families are more than twice as likely to be identified as having SEND – but are less likely to receive the support they need. Students with SEND are more likely to be excluded from school or to become not in education, employment or training (NEET).”

Research shows that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more in their career.

Employers are being encouraged to join the SEND Careers Hub to work with local schools and colleges and help tackle the employment issues facing young people with special educational needs and disabilities. For more information employers can contact Matthew.Boyd@westyorks-ca.gov.uk.