Cambridge Technicals in Information Technology is a popular vocational choice at The Bartholomew School in Oxfordshire.
Sarah-Ellen Wooller has been teaching Cambridge Technicals in IT for several years. Designed with the workplace in mind, this popular vocational choice lets students get hands on with a real-life IT project, building vital skills for work and university. Here Sarah and her students share their experience of the course, revealing the exciting web design project they are working on, and the impact it will have within their local community.
When Sarah joined Bartholomew School she was keen to continue teaching Cambridge Technicals in IT, having taught and enjoyed the course in a previous school. Sarah felt that Cambridge Technicals offered a broad and balanced curriculum and was impressed by the real-world opportunities it created for students.
"I found the new Level 3 Cambridge Technicals very exciting, because it enabled students to work with outside employers."
Sarah was also impressed by the flexibility of Cambridge Technicals, and its wide appeal. Each course is structured to meet a range of student aspirations, supporting them in their lifelong learning journey.
“It meets the needs of lots of different students because they can choose their own pathway. This enables me to make the teaching more interesting. We have a real mix taking the course. Some are interested in apprenticeship, others want to go to university. They chose IT because they felt that it would set them up for the world of work.”
One of Sarah’s Year 13 students, Oliver, explains why he chose the course:
“I really enjoyed IT at GCSE and wanted to continue to study the subject. IT is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill for companies and I believed this would increase the chances of getting a job later in life.”
The opportunity to deliver a real-world IT project is a popular aspect of the course, and one which Sarah particularly enjoys. Her Year 13 students are working on an exciting local venture, redeveloping the website for LibFest – a well-known community group who raise money for other charities. The community group host a local family festival event in Witney, Oxfordshire that many of the staff, students, friends and families attend.
“The OCR moderator told us about an exciting project where students created a website for a music festival. I really liked the sound of it and thought – ‘I’m going to try this!’ I knew of a local family festival in Witney called LibFest – and when I checked their website, I noticed that it needed a refresh.”
Sarah could see that the community group would benefit from a new website. But she also felt that the project would appeal to her students.
“I realised this would mean something to my students. An opportunity to help the community and real people. The organisers were happy to work with us and the students are now liaising with them directly. I love the fact that I was able to devise the project myself!”
Student Zach recalls his reaction when Sarah told her class about the project:
“I was both amazed and nervous. I was nervous as LibFest is a big thing in Oxfordshire, so I knew I would have to really try my hardest. And I was amazed as we were given a real-life scenario to work on for a good cause.”
Working directly with local businesses, the web design project is helping Sarah’s students to build professional, personal and social skills preparing them for apprenticeships, work and university. The school has a strong connection with local business Oxford IT Solutions, who are providing technical advice and guidance, as well as hosting the new website free of charge. The company has acted as the school’s meaningful employer link for a number of years, supporting and mentoring students.
“Rob Williams, the Director of Oxford IT Solutions has been an amazing support to both my students and I. He has already given up so much of his time coming in to do talks, technical skills workshops, providing written feedback on designs and attending the official meetings with LibFest and the students. His knowledge and advice over the years have been invaluable and this project wouldn’t be possible without his generosity. I know LibFest are extremely grateful for his offer to host and maintain the chosen website in the future.”
Because the students are creating the new website from scratch, they are also developing a sound theoretical knowledge and understanding of IT while learning first-hand how to apply it.
“My students are developing so many skills as part of this project. They began by evaluating existing websites, learning about website construction, how to use image editing software to create detailed mock-ups, how to communicate with a real client and present their ideas in a series of formal meetings. Next, they will learn how to create a prototype, test it and develop it using HTML and CSS, and how to use constructive client and user feedback to improve their product, making it into a fully working, interactive website.”
Having learned these essential web design skills, the students met with and interviewed the event organisers to develop a specification. They will liaise with the team regularly during the project, building vital transferable skills.
“There is lots of client contact which really develops students’ interpersonal and communication skills. They are learning how to present themselves to clients and how to come across in a meeting – important skills for the world of work. They are also working as a group and sharing knowledge. It’s really nice to see.”
Sarah is enthusiastic about how the course is preparing her students for the future.
“They are learning about the product development cycle. How to manage their time. How to review their work and be independent. The whole process of design and application – from taking a client brief to creating, testing and implementing a new website. So many skills! They are going to leave school with confidence and be ready for jobs and university.”
Student Oliver agrees: “I’m looking forward to developing the final website design as this will provide me with useful skills and experience in relation to producing a product for a client – as well as the associated pressures.”
Watching her students thrive is just one reason why Sarah enjoys teaching Cambridge Technicals. She also appreciates the support offered by OCR, with bespoke advice just a click or phone call away.
“You get so much support from OCR and the moderators have been fantastic. I feel confident as a teacher because they have invested time in me.”
OCR’s advisory services are backed up by a range of high-quality teaching and learning resources, something which Sarah has found invaluable.
“The support materials and resources are fantastic. There are some very good model assignments which I used as a template for our project. I also found the new delivery guides useful – and I would have been lost without the sample assessments. OCR’s feedback, especially after exams, is really detailed. This helps me to improve my delivery the following year.”
Sarah has also benefited from OCR’s extensive CPD programme, taking part in an introductory course at the start of the academic year.
“I felt very enthusiastic after the training. I came back into school feeling that there was lots of potential with this course. I liked the fact the students could choose their own pathway, and that there was so much choice in the units. There are lots of combinations, so you can tweak the content, which is brilliant.”
The Year 13 web design project is well underway. Having acquired new IT skills and knowledge, Sarah’s students will each develop a version of the new LibFest website – with the client choosing the final design in May. There is an element of competition here, but Sarah feels that this is beneficial.
“They are working as a group to help each other out, even though they are all trying to produce a website that is chosen by the client. They are in competition, but it is really nice to see them collaborate and work well together.”
This sense of achievement is borne out by student results, with most already working at the level of Distinction or Merit. Sarah feels that the real reward will come in seeing the impact of the project.
“The main purpose of LibFest is to raise money for local charities. The organisers don’t have the time or technical skills to re-design their website, so we feel that we are giving something back to the community.”
The senior leadership team at Bartholomew School have been very impressed by the impact the students are making:
“They are really excited. They think it is a fantastic course and an excellent project. Our Headteacher and Head of Sixth Form have congratulated the students personally.”