Once, by his own admission, difficult in class, Jake Saunders has now become an idol, inspiring younger pupils at his former school.
Kaden Diver, from Shiregreen and Connor Pryor, from Parson Cross, have both developed basic building skills in Chaucer School’s innovative construction centre – funded by Sheffield Housing Company (SHC) – after witnessing Jake’s progress.
And after honing their building techniques and improving their behaviour, attendance and exam prospects across the whole curriculum, Kaden and Connor’s hard work and dedication has secured them apprenticeships of their own.
Jake first picked up his tools in the same construction skills classes and after making huge strides in his own personal and academic development, he is now a year into an apprenticeship.
Kaden said: “I used to be quite disrespectful and found school really tough. I just didn’t see any point in trying. Then I saw how well other students – like Jake – were doing after getting involved with the construction classes and I asked for the opportunity to give it a go.
“I knew that if I wanted to continue learning these new skills that I would have to change my behaviour and put more effort into my other lessons. I realised that it is important to be a reliable person as well as a good bricklayer if I wanted to progress with this as my chosen career.
“Now I’m doing much better at school than I ever could have imagined and I’m delighted to have secured an apprenticeship with K&K Brickwork Contractors – through City College, Sheffield. I’m hoping in a few years’ time, that I could become a site manager or maybe even set up my own business.”
Connor added: “When I first started at Chaucer I used to get into trouble quite a lot – mostly for talking or messing about in lessons. When I saw how well Jake had done, working in the construction skills centre and going on to secure an apprenticeship, it gave me the motivation to improve my attendance and my behaviour.
“The quality of my school work has improved and I’ve also used the classes to develop skills that have helped me to get my own apprenticeship with plastering company Jacksons Plastering – also through City College. I’d love to have my own plastering business someday.”
Steve Middleton, Facilities Manager at Chaucer School, said: “Our school’s construction initiative was designed to give students who were encountering obstacles in their studies 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.
“Jake’s has been just one of a number of success stories we have seen and it is fantastic that they are resonating with and inspiring other students – like Kaden and Connor – to make positive changes for their lives and futures.”
Jake, now 17, said: “I am really pleased that other pupils are making the most of the opportunity the skills centre offers. It’s flattering to be now considered a role model after turning my prospects around at Chaucer School, following a difficult start to my time there.”
Sheffield Housing Company is Sheffield City Council’s joint venture development company, established with private sector construction partner Keepmoat Homes 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.
After impressing in school, Kaden and Connor both undertook work placements organised by Keepmoat Homes and it was through these that they were able to showcase their talents to potential employers – K&K Brickwork Contractors and Jacksons Plastering – who offered them apprenticeships.
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 700 homes have been completed, 65 apprentices employed, over 500 jobs created and more than £80 million spent with construction sector businesses in the city region.
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.
Following an inspection in November last year, Chaucer School, through its partnership with TSAT, received in January, a letter from Amanda Spielman, Her majesty’s Chief inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills. She wrote to Headteacher Scott Burnside: ‘I hope you are all celebrating the improvements you have made. I am sure that you agree that the progress made by you and your team will benefit every pupil at the school.”