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Jake Saunders (centre holding trowel) with L-R; John Clephan, Sheffield Housing Company Project Director; Scott Burnside, Head teacher at Chaucer School; Alyson Tolley, Assistant Head teacher at Chaucer School and Billy Kershaw, Director of K&K Brickwork Contractors.
Jake Saunders (centre holding trowel) with L-R; John Clephan, Sheffield Housing Company Project Director; Scott Burnside, Head teacher at Chaucer School; Alyson Tolley, Assistant Head teacher at Chaucer School and Billy Kershaw, Director of K&K Brickwork Contractors.

Breaking down barriers with building skills

25th July 2018

A school pupil from Sheffield, who was on the verge of being expelled, is now working towards building an exciting new career in construction.

Jake Saunders, 16, from Parson Cross, developed basic building skills in Chaucer School’s innovative construction centre, which is funded by Sheffield Housing Company (SHC).

This paved the way for visits and work experience on the company’s sites and Jake’s enthusiasm and commitment impressed so much that he has secured an apprenticeship with K&K Brickwork Contractors.

He said: “I wasn’t well behaved and was on the verge of being kicked out of school but the construction skills centre really helped me to focus. It offered me the opportunity to learn new things that fit with what I want to do when I leave school and has helped me to improve my attendance, my behaviour in lessons and my school work.

“Getting this apprenticeship is just amazing and I want to thank everyone involved in giving me this opportunity.”

Sheffield Housing Company is Sheffield City Council’s joint venture development company, established with private sector construction partner Keepmoat and Great Places Housing Group.  Its goal is to improve the level, quality and choice of housing across the city, while creating jobs, encouraging investment and supporting the communities in which it works.

Funding the school’s construction initiative was designed to give students who are struggling with academic work the chance to re-engage with the education system, stabilising their behaviour and helping them to develop an understanding of what it is to be successful.

It was during Jake’s visits to site – arranged through Keepmoat – that he met K&K Brickwork’s Billy Kershaw, who saw his potential and helped him to build up a tool kit.  He said:  “I was impressed by the way Jake conducted himself and the questions he was asking.

“Grafting in the winter isn’t the easiest – even for the most hardened site worker – but Jake took to it brilliantly and the lads in our team were full of praise, even asking if he could come and work for us once he finishes at school and I am delighted to say that he will.”

Commenting on the success of the initiative, Councillor Jack Scott Cabinet Member for Development and Transport at Sheffield City Council said:  “The main role of the housing company is to build more, great quality homes for the people of Sheffield and along the way, we want to invest in communities and people to help change lives for the better.  I’m so pleased that our support for Chaucer School is helping Jake and other students to have even brighter better futures.”

Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills said: “Giving young people the right skills for work is so important, especially in the construction industry, which is changing very quickly. Projects like this make a huge difference to young people and I’m delighted we’ve been able to make this happen.”

Scott Burnside, Headteacher at Chaucer School added: “Jake is just one of a number of students whose aspirations, behaviour and school performance have been improved remarkably by the skills centre. He has been rewarded for his efforts, with an opportunity to build on the techniques he has mastered here in school.”

Supporting educational and training projects is a key element of SHC’s programme to help create apprenticeship and job opportunities.  It is currently working on the second phase of a 25 year plan to build 2,300 new affordable homes for sale, shared ownership and rent, across the city.

To date 560 homes have been completed, 55 apprentices employed, over 450 jobs created and more than £10 million spent with local suppliers.

Additional funding from SHC has enabled Chaucer School to increase opportunities for students with a hair and beauty salon, horticulture centre and bicycle repair workshop.

The academy which is part of a group of schools lead and supported by Tapton School Academy Trust (TSAT), a multi-academy Trust.

Chaucer School, through its partnership with TSAT has again in January 2018 received a positive endorsement from Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI/OfSTED) indicating improvement and development. So far Chaucer has received four of these judgements over the last 20 months and is pleased with it progress in this area of school improvement.