Thornton College, an independent day and boarding school for girls in Milton Keynes, won the much-coveted Independent School of the Year Award 2020 for its Student Careers Programme. Feedback from judges highlighted the strength of Thornton’s business partnerships and the benefits that these insights provide students.
A year on, Thornton continues to provide individual pathway support, host schools STEM events, provide a careers spotlight series and collaborate with leading businesses delivering quality opportunities for Thornton students.
As a result of the pandemic, businesses have faced unprecedented circumstances, making soft skills, such as communication and leadership, business critical. Thornton College is committed to equipping students with these skills alongside robust academic qualifications. Thornton does this in a number of ways, including extra-curricular activities such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards, but also by working closely with employers and university providers.
During the pandemic, Thornton continued to deliver an extensive careers programme of events on Zoom. This allowed the school to explore different ways of reaching out to employers, and virtual events meant easier access to a range of companies.
Jo Scott, Careers Leader, introduced a fortnightly Spotlight Careers Series, comprising short, bitesize talks delivered on Zoom to all students from Years 9 to 13. The aim is to introduce a range of different job roles which may not previously have been considered. Recent speakers have included a psychologist, speech therapist, human resources and a graphic designer. In addition to explaining their role, delegates are invited to share the skill set that is required for their sector.
This reinforced the need to develop attributes such as problem solving, meeting a challenge, teamwork and taking initiative.
Regular careers workshops and talks from local employers such as Nifty Lift, Unilever, Zenopa and the NHS also inform students about different careers opportunities and benefit corporate partners by giving them an insight into student perspectives and engagement.
“I’ve attended three careers events organised by Thornton, both virtual and in person, as a delegate talking about my careers experience with students. Jo Scott’s enthusiasm is clearly infectious and she seems to have the valuable trait of genuinely wanting her students to find a career that they find fulfilling and enjoyable, rather than steering her students in any particular direction. Even when Jo has had to move the events onto Zoom, they have, without exception, been lovely to attend, and I somehow always leave them even more excited about my own career!” Elin Barrett, Unilever
In September, Thornton hosted a Degree Apprenticeship Information Evening, joined by many students and parents from local schools. Professor Lynette Ryals OBE gave an overview of the programmes and how the teaching will be delivered, and Mark Denton, of Zenopa gave the employer’s perspective. The study programme focuses on problem-based learning with students working in teams to solve real-life problems, for example, relating to supply chains and climate change. Mark emphasised how the learning curve of apprentices is so much faster than that of graduates and how, when selecting applicants, he considered soft skills to be as important as academic qualifications.
For the last couple of years, Thornton has worked closely with MK:U, the new university in Milton Keynes, which has just launched four programmes. Year 10 students formed a consultation group and met with Professors from Cranfield University to workshop ideas on the Data Science Degree Apprenticeship, structure and design of teaching buildings and development of the student app.
STEM opportunities start at a young age at Thornton and recently the assembly hall was filled with wows and gasps as Year 3 and Year 4 were treated to an amazing STEM workshop, led by Ian Hunter from the Junior Stem team.
The girls were taught how to invent, build, program and create with Lego robotics, using an app to make their creations spin, change colour and make sounds. They started by designing their own spinning towers before building and programming fairground rides and
The Thornton annual STEM event in January 2022 will focus on interactive face-to-face workshops, including robotics and spatial design model making.
If local businesses are interested in supporting careers events at Thornton College, they should get in touch with Jo Scott via email: email@example.com
Find out more about Thornton College at the Thornton College website.