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Hallam Skills Series

Monday 21 October 2019

The Hallam Skills Series is the university's new pre-16 engagement programme, developed and overseen by the Widening Participation & Outreach team in partnership with HeppSY. 

With its focus on skills development, the programme is a departure from the style of content and delivery the pre-16 team have offered in the past. We are now moving away from the general higher education content in our previous, widely delivered 'roadshow' presentations - the Hallam Skills Series will instead see participants developing skills which could benefit them in a variety of contexts, and is a smaller-scale but far more focused programme than anything we have offered before. This has been a new and exciting prospect for the team, allowing us creative freedom in starting to design the programme from scratch with all new content and themes of activities within it. 

In collaboration with local schools and our other partners we identified five essential life skills which the programme aims to develop in participants: confidence, resilience, self-management, critical thinking and citizenship. As a result of our own research, alongside existing reports into employer attitudes, we are confident that focussing on this core group of skills will best prepare pupils for future opportunities in education and employment.

Initially, we will be working with four schools from across South Yorkshire. Thirty Year 9 pupils from each school will have multiple interactions with Hallam Skills Series staff until they complete their secondary school journey in Year 11. 

The sustained nature of the programme also stands out from our previous outreach activities, and having repeated interactions over the course of three years will allow us to build relationships with the students and hopefully enable them to feel comfortable around us, and build a sense of community amongst their fellow participants. Going forwards, this will benefit students by supporting them to get the most out of the programme and enjoy developing their skills, empowering them to reach their potential - both academically and on a more personal level, depending upon the targets they set themselves. 

So, what will our first cohort of students be doing this year? 

We are currently hosting launch events for the programme in each school, inviting the students to attend alongside their parents or carers for an hour one evening to find out more about the Hallam Skills Series, to ask any questions they may have about the programme, and to meet the team. We have hosted two launch events so far, which have been extremely well received by those in attendance, and it has been great to finally meet some of the students who will be taking part, as well as their supporters from home. We are determined to maintain a high level of parent and carer engagement throughout the programme, as we know support from home is a key factor in ensuring pupils remain committed to the programme for its duration; we will be keeping in contact with supporters via social media in order to keep them as involved as possible throughout the programme. 

In November or December, we will visit each school to deliver a two-hour, 'Escape the Jungle' themed skills workshop. As a team, we have always sought to deliver information in a fun and engaging manner, and our new workshops will be no different.   Competing in teams, students will complete a variety of fun and immersive challenges, such as codebreaking, "bridge-building" against the clock, and other team-building activities in order to make their escape.  

As well as this, Hallam Skills Series students will visit the university for a full day in spring 2020, giving them an opportunity to make the link between the hard work they are putting in now, and where it may all take them in the future. 

Alongside the workshops and explicit skills development focus, pupils will be encouraged to reflect upon their experiences throughout the programme, building a bank of knowledge and real-life examples of the skills they possess which they can identify and use on future personal statements, CVs and job applications. We also aim to support and equip students with the emotional tools to support their wellbeing, whether that be helping with resources to combat exam stress, or helping them to learn from mistakes and seek out further opportunities build on their experiences as part of the Skills Series.

On the whole, this is a busy and exciting time to be part of the pre-16 team here at Hallam. While the Hallam Skills Series represents a new style of outreach for us, our aims to support and empower young-people across our region remain at the heart of everything we do as a team. Our first launch events represent the culmination of months of hard-work and preparation; for the young people participating on the programme, they are the first- steps of an exciting, three-year journey, and one that we are thrilled to a part of too. 

This post was written by Georgia Nelson and Lewis Parker, Pre-16 Engagement Team at Sheffield Hallam University 

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