It’s not every day that Ullswater Community College gets to showcase its work at Clarence House, the London home of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales but, on Wednesday 19th November 2014, I had the pleasure of showing a file starring our students in in vocational subjects to introduce a discussion about what constitutes meaningful and relevant vocational education.
The film showcased work in Motor Vehicle Engineering, Hair & Beauty, Professional Catering, Construction and Environment & Land Based courses. Students and staff starring in the film included Jessica Gardham, who introduced the Applied Learning Centre; Liam Braithwaite, who was shown working on a Massey Ferguson 35X tractor; Ethan Swann, who explained why the Hair & Beauty course was key to his future career and motivated him to improve in his maths and English GCSEs; William Garbarino-Danson, who was seen preparing food in his Professional Catering course; Zach Walsh, who demonstrated his skills in bricklaying and urged policy makers to protect the practical skills in danger of being swamped by too much paper work; and Bobby Atkinson, Leon Askins, Rebecca Ellwood, Megan Harrison, Alex Kay and Ben McGuffog, who were seen working on their small animal care and arable studies in preparation for careers in agriculture and veterinary science.
The Prince of Wales expressed his keen interest and encouragement for the development of vocational education in order that the country’s economic stability and social cohesion are well supported by a knowledgeable, skilled and reliable workforce, as well as ensuring that traditional crafts in a variety of areas continue to thrive.
The seminar was attended by 30 representatives from diverse organisations, including the Prince’s Charities as well as a select group of experts, business leaders, policy makers and practitioners from across the country, including Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education; ex. Secretary of State for Education, Lord Baker; Lord David Sainsbury, ex. Chairman of Sainsbury’s; Sir Mike Thomlinson CBE, ex. Chief Inspector of Schools and Chair of the Working Group on 14–19 Reform as well as representatives from the National Health Service, Royal Horticultural Society, Royal Academy of Engineering and the Duchy of Cornwall.
I was hugely proud of the students at UCC who appeared in the film and of those staff of the Learning Resource Centre in the school who produced the film in such a short period of time for this event. Those present at the seminar were delighted to see Ullswater students working in vocational areas and thought it was a fantastic stimulus for their discussions. It was the first time I have given a presentation to such an eminent group; people who have responsibility for ensuring that vocational education continues to thrive in the country’s schools. It was also the first time I have had to give a presentation in the Heir to the Throne’s private sitting room with members of The Irish Guards patrolling outside, drill sergeants barking orders to the ceremonial troops in The Mall and horse-drawn carriages passing the windows.
In discussions after the event, Prince Charles told me that he had heard a great deal about the successful work of the school and that he hoped to visit to Ullswater Community College in the spring to see for himself the excellent work in the school’s vocational subjects.