Tuesday, September 26th, 2017.

Excelsior College Assistant Principal Deon Krishnan 

Excelsior College Assistant Principal Deon Krishnan is part of a top North East delegation visiting the USA this week to learn about a pioneering programme to boost attainment in schools.

Deon is representing Excelsior Academy as part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s delegation to schools in Nashville, Tennessee.

The North East has been chosen as the first place outside the USA to implement a new model of learning which has succeeded in dramatically raising student attainment in schools across the USA.

In 2005, 12 secondary schools across Nashville implemented a new approach to learning which places employer engagement at the heart of students’ education, resulting in an almost 23% rise in graduation rates since then and significant improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

The Academies of Nashville model has since been successfully adopted by more than 30 US school districts and now the North East has been selected to be the first place outside the USA to translate the model internationally.

Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for Careers Education at the North East LEP, explained: “We have been selected by The Edge Foundation, an independent education charity, to work with schools and businesses in Nashville and the North East to see how the region could benefit from this approach to learning, which has transformed 12 of the lowest performing schools in the US into some of the highest.”

Representatives from the North East LEP will travel to Nashville with The Edge Foundation, Ford Next Generation Learning, the CBI and teachers and careers leads from three North East schools. During their five-day visit, they will meet students, teachers, businesses and other key people who were involved in transforming Nashville’s school system.

Later in the year, a delegation from Nashville will visit the North East.

In the Academies of Nashville model, as well as studying core subjects, students enter a ‘Career Academy’ within their school.

In the ‘Academy’ all learning is set within applied contexts and students can complete courses which relate to specific professions which they are interested in, from engineering to healthcare, as well as work-based placements and projects with employers.

More than 350 businesses are partnered with the Academies of Nashville, and teachers spend time completing ‘externships’ – placements in industry directly working with an employer and developing cross-curricular projects for use in school.

“Students in Nashville learn in a practical, hands-on way, and the system helps them to see the relevance of their studies to their future careers,” said Ryan.

“We’re not planning to simply replicate exactly what has been done in Nashville. We will be looking carefully at which elements could work for schools and employers in the North East and then working together to develop and trial these in schools from September 2018 onwards.

“Long term, we hope to raise attainment for students and put business needs at the centre of education, helping young people make a successful transition into their careers and secure more and better jobs.”

Deon said: “We are delighted to be invited as part of the delegation to Nashville as well as being a lead pilot collaborating school in the UK. This is directly on the back of our recent Gatsby Benchmark successes with the North East LEP at Excelsior.

“We have an excellent careers, education, information and guidance infrastructure in place so that students from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 5 benefit from a vast array of activities, support and, since September 2017, dedicated curriculum time.

“We are looking to learn about strategy and practicalities from within the Nashville model especial0ly around engaging business into our school curriculum. Of course, we also hoping to showcase Excelsior’s excellent progress and attainment when our American friends come on their fact finding mission later this year.”

Edge Foundation Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, commented: “Edge is committed to finding examples of best education practice across the world which will enable young people to fulfil their potential and enjoy rewarding careers. We’re delighted to be working with the North East LEP to share those elements of Nashville which will most benefit schools in the region”.

The ‘Next Generation Learning’ project is part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing schools and to target that all schools in the North East achieve ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “As part of the Education Challenge we have been researching international examples of good practice in raising attainment in schools through high quality business engagement in education.

“The Academies of Nashville approach has proven to be one of the most impactful models globally and we will work with three schools and business partners in the region to test elements of this successful model and adapt it for the English education system.”