Employer Focus: Longcause Community Special School

Longcause Community Special School in Plympton, Plymouth provides high quality education for children on the autism spectrum. The school caters for around 100 children aged between 4-16 years old, and is committed to enhancing their life, well-being, abilities and successes. We sat down with Donna Maclean, one of the teachers at Longcause, to have a chat about how hiring apprentices has benefitted the school and its pupils.

“We have taken on apprentices for the past four to five years and have a group of them starting every year, all training to become Teaching Assistants. We have a tough recruitment process to find the right people – it takes a certain type of person to do this job so we recommend that apprentices have already done some work experience. Once at the school, the apprentices are monitored by the Headteacher’s PA. Teachers also give them feedback, and help them adapt where needed. At Longcause we have five pupils to six staff and some pupils require one-to-one, if not one-to-two attention. Apprentices can help to provide manpower to meet this number”.

Amelia Ward is currently completing a Level 3 Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship through Skills Group at Longcause. Amelia has now been offered a permanent position as a Grade D TA at the school.

“Amelia is brilliant; to see that much confidence in a young girl at her job is amazing. Amelia has been here for 2 years now and is part of a core team around a particular pupil as she’s working really well with him. I rarely have to give her guidance, she is very good at thinking on her feet, remaining calm and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She now has responsibility for running social communication classes or ‘circle time’ with groups of four children, planning the activities and games. As a TA, she can also lead classes in a teacher’s absence. We offered her a full time, permanent position with us as she’s so brilliant!

“We first heard about Skills Group through one of the Training Coordinators, Tim Scott-Lloyd, who used to work here as a Theatre Therapy teacher. Skills Group is very good at slotting into our timetable and guidelines, and working with us. They also visit Amelia regularly and ask us for feedback. We would recommend Skills Group to other potential employers looking to hire an apprentice”.

Pictured (left to right): Anne Thorne, Headteacher at Longcause Community Special School, and Amelia Ward, Teaching Assistant Apprentice at Longcause Community Special School

I just wanted to say the biggest thank you to Vanessa, my trainer. You have made my journey so much easier, I don’t know what I would have done without you. You have been amazing and helped me to achieve my qualification. You’ve guided me through every step of the way, I really appreciate it, Vanessa, you have been my rock.

Katie Shorland, Level 2 Hairdressing

I always struggled in school as I wasn’t very academic, so knew learning on the job would be a better option for me. I would find it difficult to get up for 9am but now I wake up and look forward to my day. I wanted to try a hair apprenticeship as I’ve always been interested in hairdressing, and by the end of the first week, I already loved it!

Jaimee Benson, Level 2 Hairdressing

I have developed a range of new skills through work including the technical, industry skills required for the job, to personal development such as ensuring I am always on time. The biggest change since leaving school is adjusting to the independence you gain from earning a salary. My advice to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship would be find what you like doing, and go for it!

Will Birch, Level 2 Bricklaying

Since starting the apprenticeship, I’ve become far more confident. In a classroom, you only interact with your classmates, but through working you develop your people skills as you interact with customers on a daily basis. At school, you are closely monitored and parented, however I am now more independent and feel grown up

Sam Collard, Level 2 Light Vehicle and Maintenance Repair

The most important thing I’ve learnt since leaving school is that there are other routes to success than just academia. I failed my GCSEs, as I never suited the school environment. Now though, I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship as I’ve discovered I learn more through hands-on practice.

Ben Freeman, Level 2 Carpentry

I would just like to thank you and your team for all the amazing work they do, you have provided me with the most invaluable experience which has helped to pave the way of my future. The work you do for young people is incredible!

Luke Kowalski, Teaching Assistant and former apprentice at Sir Robert Gefferys School