In recent editions of Vocational Education Exchange, we have featured a number of articles exploring how vocational courses taught in workplaces can help students prepare for employment - links provided at the bottom of this page. This month we examine how Foxes Academy has adopted this approach to improve outcomes for disabled students. 

Foxes Academy is situated on the seafront of a busy holiday town in Somerset. The academy is ideally placed to offer vocational education programmes from a commercial hotel for people with a variety of disabilities. 

The academy provides work experience in catering, hotel management and housekeeping while learners work towards vocational qualifications. By focusing on students’ employability, the academy encourages learners to become more confident, independent and able to take personal responsibility for their decisions.

Four ways Foxes Academy improves outcomes for disabled students:

Teaching in a working environment

By basing their educational programmes in a commercial hotel, Foxes Academy prepares students for work from the moment their course begins. At the earliest opportunity students are encouraged to begin practicing real activities including cooking meals and undertaking housekeeping duties. 

Initially learners may require high levels of support but levels of support are consistently reviewed and gradually reduced as students develop their skills. 

Teaching in a working environment helps students apply lessons to practical situations. It also helps students learn more subtle skills such as how to deal with customer complaints and how to respond if mistakes are made. 

KERRY MCCARTHY, FUNDING AND MARKETING EXECUTIVE 

“We believe the most important factor in excellent vocational training for our learners is that the training takes place in a real-world environment with the public as customers. Instilling the work ethos and its attributes such as punctuality, teamwork, customer care and personal appearance lead the way to sustainability of work once learners have left the college.”

Tailored placements

As well as experiencing a work environment within the academy, all students experience a placement outside of the hotel. Every placement is tailored to the needs of the student; both in being realistically achievable and linked to each individuals goals. The school is extremely careful to match the needs and ambitions of the learner to the experience that the employer can offer.

The academy also works to offer guidance and support before and during placements. Partnership work between the academy, employers and other learning providers attempts to be genuinely collaborative, with feedback and observations from employers influencing the learning and training provided in the hotel.

Skilled staff

All vocational tutors have experience and expertise in both hospitality and catering, and are also qualified further education teachers. This means that they are adept at running the hotel – they continue to run the hotel in college holidays – but also in teaching others these skills. 

Tutors keep up to date with industry best practice through visits and placements with organisations considered leaders in the field. Tutors also attend national conferences and training to ensure that they are continually improving their craft, and bring fresh ideas and perspectives back to the academy.  

CONNECTING STUDENTS WITH EMPLOYERS

The academy sees its role not only as educating students while they are enrolled on courses but also as managing their transition into work afterwards. The academy achieves this in a variety of ways.   

During college holidays, learners are encouraged to find work experience close to their homes. Learners are supported in their applications and provided with opportunities to practice interview techniques. As learners prepare to leave the college, more formal links with potential employers are established. 

The academy attempts to cultivate relationships with potential employers. For example, employers who might want to organising conferences or other events are encouraged to use the hotel as venue. This enables employers to experience the high quality of service offered by the academy’s students. The academy also organises a yearly event to celebrate the contribution of employers. 

To read the full Ofsted case study, click here. 

To read more about Foxes Academy visit their website here

If you would like to comment on this article, please email VEE@britishcouncil.org and join the debate. If you would like to submit your own article, find out how here.