This means Hutchinson attends all parents evenings, attendance cases and will often visit pupils in isolation / detention.
“I’ll ask, ‘Why are you here? What do you want to do?’ And then the conversation will change,” she explains. “Quite often they have no idea so they don’t get why they’re in school. Then it’s, ‘Right, you need a mentor’.”
Hutchinson has eight mentors she links the pupils up with, from a former military officer for some of the disengaged boys to a female solicitor for some of the girls.
By knitting careers into pastoral and academic work, the school meets the third and fourth Gatsby Benchmarks: addressing the needs of each pupil, and linking careers to curriculum learning. Nationally, only 16 per cent and 32 per cent of schools respectively do so.
But it is on the second benchmark, learning from career and labour market information, that Hutchinson really shines. We’re on lunchtime duty in the playground, and children approach her constantly with updates.
“Miss, I’m not doing public services, I’m going for tourism and travel.” Hutchinson explains to the pupil that she can still consider a career in the police, after confusion about whether she could apply. Another pupil is applying for forensic science. “Remember, the labour market is tough for that one, so you’re going to have to fight for it – but there have been more jobs out recently, so that’s good,” she says.
One child wants to be a mechanic, one a scientist, another an artist. Hutchinson appears to have a vast mental database of every pupil and the jobs market at the same time. The support doesn’t stop there, because the school tracks its former pupils until year 13. Government guidance on destinations data released in October actually recommends that schools track “past students” until the end of their education, if they wish to meet Gatsby Benchmarks.
Recently a former pupil approached the school gates after being kicked off her college course, Hammond tells me. “We got her in for a hot meal and we’re talking through her options.” A phone call with another struggling former pupil awaits Hutchinson after I’ve left.
My only concern is what would happen if she keeled over. She laughs at this, and explains that a jobs page is now live on the school website for pupils to check out. But she is also clear the CEC and Tees Valley combined authorities have made her role easier, including through the combined authorities’ “shout-out” system.
“You can fill in one of their ‘shout out’ forms for an event and one of their bank of employers will come and support. It means I’m not having to run around to lots of different people and it expands my networks.”
The support began when the school joined a “careers hub” pilot of 35 schools and colleges across the North East this year.
After the CEC reported improvements in Gatsby Benchmarks among schools within the hub, the government announced 20 more hubs will split £2.5 million next year across 1,300 schools. A recent review by Philip Augar recommended that all schools have access to a hub.
St Peter’s received £3,700 in CEC hub funding this year and through the Tees Valley combined authorities Mayor’s pledge will receive a further £10,000 next year. Hutchinson is ecstatic. “It’s so much money. I can’t decide what to do with it. I’m shopping around.”
So far funding has gone on events and transport to bring pupils in contact with employers and workplaces (benchmarks 5 and 6) as well as trips to universities and colleges (benchmark 7). Personal guidance is the final benchmark.
Yet it occurs to me that even with so much support, and a deeply committed head, Hutchinson is run off her feet. I ask what she needs to perform her job better.
“Human resource. There’s so much we could be doing. I wish I could have one more person just to do advice and guidance with the kids.”
In that context, £10,000 doesn’t seem much. The bravest decision here seems to have been to pump pupil premium money into paying for Hutchinson to focus on careers full-time. For more schools to follow suit, they will need to find a salary’s worth of cash. Small thousands here or there can’t produce careers advice so good it makes the front page of an Ofsted report.
Hammond reflects. “School is not just about supporting them when they’re here. It’s about what happens when they leave.”