A recently-formed Anglican church primary school has taken on five apprentices to help with the education of its 500 pupils in a project supported by the Bishop of Durham the Right Revd Paul Butler.
Northern Saints Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School in Sunderland was created after an agreement between the Diocese of Durham and Sunderland City Council.
Its formation brought together Hylton Red House Primary School and Bishop Harland Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School to create the city’s largest primary school.
The Apprentices project is being run as part of a partnership with Sunderland College and three of the people taken on are working with Early Years children, one is assisting with site supervisory duties and the fifth is a business administration assistant.
Northern Saints school headteacher Steve Williamson said: “This is a way of supporting people who want to train whilst they work and we see it as a way of raising our Apprentices’ aspirations.
“As a church school we wanted to put something back into the community. Our Apprentices have aspirations and seeing what they are doing also raises our pupils’ aspirations as well. They will inspire our young people. This is very much a long-term project.”
During his visit, the Bishop met the Apprentices and also opened a newly refurbished part of the school for Early Years pupils.
Site Supervisory Apprentice Michael Leonard (aged 19), whose work includes building maintenance and health and safety, said: “Being an Apprentice gives you experience of a wide range of jobs. It gives you a good grounding.”
Michaela Dodds, one of the education support apprentices in Early Years, said: “Being an Apprentice you get the best of both worlds. You work at the school and one day a week at College. You get a lot of experience.
“Ideally, I would like it to lead to a job. Learning everything as an Apprentice will allow me go on to apply for jobs as a teaching assistant.”
Business Administration Apprentice Dionne Hall is the oldest of the five, having been made redundant from her factory job, which she had held for thirteen years.
The mother-of-two said: “I wanted to make the best of myself. I had opportunities when I was younger but did not have the confidence to grasp them. I am determined to grasp; them now. I see it as my last chance.
“Apprenticeships allow you to learn practical skills and look ahead. For me, it’s the best option.“
Bishop Paul said: “This is a very encouraging scheme having apprentices of all ages in our schools learning whilst they earn is a benefit to the School, the Children and the Apprentices. I would encourage wider creation of apprenticeships – in fact we are suggesting that churches look at how they might get involved when there is an appropriate need.”
“Seeing what has been achieved here and opening the newly refurbished early years outdoor area was a delight. This feels like a very good place to learn and that is clearly happening across the years with Children and Adults alike.”