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Our Brave New Virtual World

15 Nov 2020   |   Lydia Harrison   |   Joseph Norton Academy

As a careers lead in an SEMH specialist setting, I had given much thought to how I could support our pupils to have ‘meaningful employer encounters’ and experiences of different workplaces (as required by the Gatsby Benchmarks). Whilst I knew that such experiences would be invaluable, I also knew that for our pupils they would be daunting, challenging, and very possibly, negative.

So how could I bring those invaluable experiences and encounters to our pupils in a way that they could access? How could I take them to new places with new people, sights and sounds whilst ensuring that they felt comfortable and safe? How could we revisit those experiences as many times as we needed to?

In class, it is common practice to use different media to bring subjects to life. Many teachers use 360 immersive films to explore inaccessible places – under the sea environments, the space station, inside an animal enclosure at a zoo… why not local employers?

As I explored the idea further, I could see that it would not only be pupils at JNA that might benefit from these films. A virtual experience could be a useful resource for many specialist and mainstream settings. They would allow pupils to look behind the walls of offices, factories, kitchens, creative industries and many more. The LEP opened funding applications
for careers activities that would improve the aspirations of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. We entered a bid and were thrilled to be successful. We secured funding to make 12 short, 360 immersive films.

We found a great production company, REEL Film based in Harrogate, and together started to speak to local employers about the possibility of realising our idea. The different employers were lined up, production company ready to go, funding in place, and then, National Lockdown 1.

Although the pandemic has made completing the project trickier, it has also increased the urgency of such an approach to careers. Now all pupils are struggling to access different work environments. This has only strengthened our resolve to see the project through to completion and launch early in 2021.

Prior to Lockdown 1, we had already completed the filming for three of the films: Covea Insurance, Reliance Precision Engineering and Camira Fabrics. If you would like to see what we have got so far then please follow the links on the right. You can view the videos on a phone, tablet or laptop and use the mouse or screen to look around the different areas. Turn the volume up to hear what working in the different environments might be like.


We are currently working with the employers and the Careers Hub Network to provide a range of resources to support the completed films. Look out for a big launch that will be supported and advertised to all schools in the Leeds City Region, Spring 2021. Thank you to the employers that have, and continue to, support our project. If anyone would like any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch. 


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