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Christmas market brings opportunities for careers guidance

Portland Academy in Sunderland is attended by learners aged from 11 to 19, who have severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Now in its fourth year, the school’s annual German Christmas market is embedded as part of the careers programme, giving students opportunities to develop a range of skills and to work alongside local businesses.

Each class is invited to either devise an activity to run at the event or to have a stall selling products they have made. In previous years, students have made items including wooden table centrepieces and they have been involved in making posters to advertise the event, helping to set up stalls, and running the raffle.

Sixth formers also help to staff the Christmas café, demonstrating skills developed during work experience placements with Café Ascent, the Trust’s own bistro. 

Alongside the student-run stalls are stalls from a variety of local businesses, and the event closes with a performance by the Portland Academy Makaton choir.

Developing a range of skills

As a result of the event, students experience cross-curricular learning which links to targets laid out in their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) such as choice-making, working with money and communication skills.

They also encounter a range of local businesses, gaining an insight into different types of work and careers.

Profits from the class stalls are divided between the classes and can be reinvested in equipment for future enterprise projects – for example gardening tools and overalls – or used to fund a class treat.

Top tips for success:

  • Allow time in the curriculum for students to plan and create.
  • Allocate roles to staff (refreshments, raffle, setting up and clearing away, advertising).
  • Effective advertising.

Biggest challenges:

  • Time constraints.
  • Time of year – potential school closures due to weather and in 2019, cases of norovirus.

What next?

Next year, external stallholders will be invited to give talks at the school.

For more information contact Karen Hart, Portland Academy’s Careers Leader, on [email protected].