Meet Head of Health Sciences and Sport Science at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park: Seana Sleaford
“What makes UTC special is the value that’s placed on vocational learning.”
Seana Sleaford leads the Health Science subject area at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and is passionate about the value of high quality vocational learning working with employers. With a background in psychology, Seana trained as a social sciences teacher, specialising in the 14-19 age group. This led to extensive experience teaching Health and Wellbeing at a variety of schools.
Seana comments, “As a teacher at the UTC, I feel empowered to make the curriculum engaging and exciting including employers. Vocational learning is valued here. In some traditional schools, students who excel at vocational learning aren’t always valued in the same way as academic students, so when they come to a place that does value vocational learning, the impact is significant. Where young people are allowed to identify their strengths in practical learning and practical skills, that can be very powerful.”
Students at the UTC study a highly regarded OCR vocational qualification in Health alongside sciences at GCSE and A Level. Both University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University send staff and students to run masterclasses at the UTC, along with staff from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Seana feels this intensive work with health professionals is giving the UTC students a significant advantage when applying for further study: “Universities are asking questions at interview that our students can answer with confidence because they’ve had the experience. This week one of our students had an unconditional offer for a children’s nursing course, which is one of the most competitive courses to get onto! Unconditional offers are very rare for professional degrees. That student got a lot of positive feedback about the experiences she’s had being part of the UTC. It’s the interactions with healthcare staff, meeting professionals, learning the vocabulary, seeing the clinical environments, which makes such a big difference.”
Seana explains what kinds of opportunities UTC students enjoy: “For example, our Year 10 students work with University of Sheffield on a project called ‘Patients as Educators’, where a group of patients come in to the UTC and our students can interview them, with guidance and support from the university’s academics. Our students have to write about a disorder as part of their coursework so they’re able to talk about a real experience interacting with these patients.
“University of Sheffield also does clinical skills with our Year 12 and 13 students. They go to the Medical School and look at invasive procedures. The Medical School staff are also going to come to the UTC to look at bedside manner and ward rounding with the students.
“Sheffield Hallam University does a project with us on care planning. We’ve done it previously with the nursing team for Year 10 and we’re doing it this year with Year 13. It’s a two-pronged approach, whereby the nurses come in and talk with the students about what a care plan is and how it should be done, they look at case studies and they give them some guidance on how to do it. The students then have a period of time to complete the care plan before the nurses come back in and assess their care plans.
“For first aid procedures, we work with University of Sheffield Medical School in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.”
Seana sums up, “All these are examples of the kinds of ways we’re regularly working with both universities and the teaching hospitals to give our students invaluable experiences that set them apart from the crowd when they’re applying for courses at university. We’re really beginning to see the fruits of this investment in vocational learning. It’s what the UTC was set up to do.”