Joe, Final Year Education Studies undergraduate at University of Derby
Volunteering at The Stone Soup Academy has been a fascinating and rewarding experience. Every day, there is always something different to expect and to interact with. During my time here, I worked mainly with the engagement team. I was amazed as to how well all the staff knew the students, I could sense the friendly and positive relationships they shared even on my first day! Facilities such as the Games room and Learning hub provided excellent opportunities to get to know the students and build relationships myself.
I also had the opportunity to experience lessons across the wide range of subjects the Academy offers.
Again, I was astonished by the quantity and quality of resources present in every room, this combined with very high quality teaching made every lesson a pleasure to be part of. It was terrific to see the students using these resources in order to achieve their aims and goals, both academically and personally.
I am so happy that I applied to volunteer at The Stone Soup Academy, being able to be part of this community driven environment has changed and improved my knowledge of educational provisions. It is an experience that has certainly prepared and excited me for my own future in the education field.
Briony, 2nd year Education studies undergraduate at Nottingham Trent University.
I started volunteering at Stone Soup academy as part of a requirement for my university degree, as a 6 week placement. From my first day, the staff have been so welcoming and helpful, and truly made me feel like part of the team.
The students have been challenging, but I have been learning different ways to handle challenging behaviour, with help from the staff. The whole staff team put everything into the school, helping every student achieve more than they thought they could, and giving students a more tailored approach to education. I have built important relationships with the students, and now plan to continue volunteering for a few days a week for the rest of the school year.
“I place high precedence on providing bespoke support for each student, having high expectations of them and encouraging them to achieve all they are capable of.”
For a personal coach at Stone Soup Academy, no two days are the same. Each member of our engagement team is a personal coach and has their own group of students for whom they are responsible for. This includes monitoring their engagement and progress in lessons, attendance, punctuality and behaviour around the building.
The personal coach can then share in students’ successes, offering praise where necessary and also put in interventions as and when required. These interventions can range from a chat to a parent meeting, with a lot of target setting and reviews in between to monitor progress. Our personal coaches work closely with the teaching staff at the Academy in order to find out how their key students are engaging in lessons, what they are doing well, where they need support and how best to provide this. As personal coaches are usually the people who have the closest connections with their students, they will share information with all staff as to ways to best engage the student and facilitate them in their learning. Consequently, all the staff work together to create a bespoke learning environment tailored to the needs of the student to create the best learning environment possible.
Not only do the personal coaches build up strong relationships with their key students but also their parents and carers; personal coaches are regularly in contact with home and referrers to ensure all stakeholders are updated and can work together for the best interest of the child. For each of their students, the personal coach is their ‘go to’ person, whether that is to laugh, cry or vent. The students take comfort in the knowledge that their personal coach is there to support them in any way possible, offering positive but disciplined support, to ensure their journey at Stone Soup is a constructive and successful one.
“Having the opportunity to work in a such a positive and challenging environment brings out the best in me and the students.”
The day begins at 9:00, first I check the games room is set up as this is my area for duty. The games room needs Xbox controllers, pool balls and staff. We are then ready to greet the students with positivity, enthusiasm and care. It is so important to greet every student like they are special, shake their hands and make them feel welcome. Once we’ve said hello to the students that cross our path we will spend the first fifteen minutes of the morning either having meaningful conversations or building relationships playing games.
FIFA is popular, pool is always busy and this helps our students make a great start to the day.
Form time is next, greeting each student with the same positivity and shaking hands if they haven’t been seen already. Six points are added to their dojo, hopefully if they were on time, they already have ten points for that. Punctuality is important and this is emphasised by those with the extra points. If there is a video to watch then this is a great way to start the day. Staff focus and class dojo assembly are always popular and a great way of making feedback visible for our students. Staff focus is filmed every Friday and shown to students on a Monday or throughout the week if they haven’t had chance to watch it. Staff thank students for their efforts the week before and let them know how well they are doing in each subject. Class dojo assembly informs of how well they are doing in their dojo and how much money they have accumulated in their accounts ready to leave in year 11 if they have met all their attendance and behaviour targets.
Onto the teaching day, my day will consist of either sport theory lessons, practical lessons at NTU sports hall or using the gym onsite. My students are studying a BTEC First Award in Sport and enjoy the challenge of completing it all in one academic year. This isn’t an easy task and there will be ups and downs but each student overcomes their difficulties and strives to improve themselves by the end of the year.
Practical lessons at NTU could involve football, badminton, basketball, handball or dodgeball throughout the year. Students will be working on leadership skills coaching sessions, applying the rules of sports or considering the physical implications of each sport and what component of fitness they are using.
The gym is used to focus students and prepare them for the fitness elements of the course.
Lunch is for more relationship building, getting to know our students and helping them make the correct decisions. We all eat together, like a family, discussing our days and thinking for the future. The school menu is vast and gives our students and staff a great choice of food for the day.
Half of my lunch is for food and the other is spent in the games room. Here I join in with whatever the students are doing, playing games or having conversations with as many students as I can.
Afternoon forms leads us to votes for schools with a different topic being introduced each week. From this, students discuss various PSHE subjects are learn more about the world we live in.
Friday afternoons are special, enrichment is on and the students can pick from a variety of activities. These are skateboarding, football, vocal coaching, enterprise, art, media or photography. This is where relationships are further built and students begin to trust and feel comfortable with their teachers.
After school, depending on the day, we have teacher focussed time to prepare for our lessons, teaching and learning training or a whole school meeting to reflect, strategize and brief each other on school events.
The staff finish Fridays with a thank you meeting every week. Staff thank others for their help and support over the week. It is a great way to reflect and feel good about your week. A positive end to a positive week at Stone Soup Academy.