Most of the Foundation’s work seeks to help young people, whatever their background, to live fulfilling and productive lives in whatever ways have meaning and value for them.
We use the phrase ‘social opportunity’, rather than the more familiar ‘social mobility,’ because we wish to emphasise how vital it is for young people to find their own enthusiasms and make their own choices.
Many young people grow up with a limited range of experiences, so that their choices for the future are made from a narrow set of options. Working with a group of schools in disadvantaged areas of the North West, we are supporting those schools to collaborate with, and learn from, each other. Each year the schools set themselves a joint agenda and plan activities designed to provide different ways of expanding the social opportunities available to their students.
This group is now known as the North West Comino Consortium (NWCC). Its members are: Abraham Moss Community School, Crumpsall, Manchester; The Derby High School, Bury; Falinge Park High School, Rochdale; St Ambrose Barlow RC High School, Salford.
We are supporting these schools – and their clusters of primary schools – to build a network of external partnerships in their regional community and beyond. Consortium activities provide opportunities for both pupils and teachers at these schools to share experiences which are outside their schools’ daily routines and which are designed to enrich the learning of both groups, often by bringing pupils into contact with ‘adults other than teachers’.
The activities are often located outside the immediate environment of the schools, in different parts of Greater Manchester, for instance in Media City, and in various settings previously unknown to the pupils, such as a university, a design studio, a care home, a museum, an advertising agency. Pupils and teachers have met and worked with scientists, engineers, politicians, script writers, post-graduates, digital designers. Sample outcomes of these activities might be: a presentation delivered by pupils to a professional group in response to a live brief; a public performance to the wider community; the fabrication of an artefact using the latest digital technology; the production of a filmed record, posted on the schools’ YouTube channels.
A central intention of the Consortium is that, by working together in teams, sharing experiences and challenges, pupils will develop:
- broader and more informed insights into the life of the region;
- a more fully-grounded sense of the opportunities available to them;
- greater confidence in their capacity to take advantage of those opportunities;
- more motivation to take on the role as active citizens.
Another expectation is that, for teachers, working together with colleagues from different institutions, encountering work settings previously unknown to them and being part of wider networks will enable them to:
- give teachers a more accurate assessment of the careers opportunities open to their pupil;
- open up their own professional practice to reflection and debate;
- contribute to their professional development;
- encourage some of them to engage in action research on their own practice;
- for some subject specialists, enable them to acquire more up-to-date practical and technical expertise.
NWCC works in partnership with:
Centre for Real World Learning
eedNET Action Centre
Expansive Education Network
Manchester Metropolitan University – School of Art
Manchester Publicity Association
RSA Pupil Design Awards
SEERIH at the University of Manchester