Wednesday, 11 June 2014


I was with Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, at the Department for Education in London today, at the Independent State Schools Partnerships Forum talking about the Cutlers' 'Made in Sheffield' programme; this radically different and unique programme developed in Sheffield by businesses and schools working together.
The Cutlers Company has always been concerned with standards and quality and 'Made in Sheffield' is one of the worlds great brands and together they stand for world class excellence... principles that have shaped the Cutlers' Made in Sheffield' approach. This brilliant programme was designed two years ago, to address the concerns raised by employers about the students applying for work. Employers in the city were disillusioned with the qualities young people were bringing to the work place or the lack of them. And at the same time concerns were being raised bout the quality of work experience and the quality of careers, advice and guidance. We started with engineering employers and asked them what exactly young people needed to fit into their workplaces and what skills they felt were essential for the world of work. We also looked at the CBI materials which outlined the essential skills young people needed to thrive and succeeded at work and scoured the world to see what the highest achieving countries were doing; places like Singapore, Finland and Ontario in Canada. We also reviewed the research and read the reports; Demos 'The Forgotten Half', the Sutton Trust, Martin Seligman, Carol Dweck and Duckworth's work on character, Tony Wagner's work on higher level skills, Ken Robinson's work on creativity and looked careful at what schools were already doing through their curriculum and enrichment programmes.

And so the Cutlers' 'Made in Sheffield' was developed, to help a select group of schools develop in a small select group of their young people, the Cutlers' Ambassadors', the Cutlers' "Made in Sheffield" skills: character, core skills and higher level skills, alongside their academic studies. The higher level skills were focused around a plan, do, review cycle ( planning and exploring, organising and implementing and reviewing and learning) and focused on critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork.  The real difference in the approach we are developing is that the whole project has been developed working with Sheffield employers who are committed to working with the schools to create employable, 'ready for work' young people with a passion for work!

We know what works; feedback, mentoring, coaching and one-to-one tuition and these elements lie at the heart of the Cutlers' Made in Sheffield scheme and we must be brave enough to expose the myth that environment and deprivation rather than character are a better explanation of why people behave and act as they do. In the past, too many people with vested interests have persuaded us that our energy, efforts and resources should be directed at correcting social problems and addressing poor performance rather than developing strategies and approaches focused on academic and technical excellence, developing higher level skills and abilities, shaping character, resilience and grit and nurturing innovation and creativity. This fixed mindset approach sees young people from poorer communities as needing discipline, command and control rather than opportunities, expectation and esteem. We need to create a learning landscape where we see potential in every child and provide opportunities and help all our young people achieve their goals and release their talent and magic!

If you want to find out more about the work we are doing in 'Made in Sheffield' please let me know.

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