Christine Ace has played a pioneering role in fostering closer links between schools and businesses in the South London area. In doing so, she has helped put thousands of young people on track to a brighter future, and made a major contribution to the ongoing success of LSBU's own National Bakery School.
Christine was educated at Vauxhall Manor School in London and at Sussex University. She began her career as a special needs teacher, working with pupils with behavioural difficulties in mainstream schools. From here, she moved on to become a head of year, taking on responsibility for careers, work experience and the Technical Vocational Educational Initiative.
In 1997, she was seconded to Southwark LEA to run a Key Skills project for the then Department for Education and Skills. As part of her work, Christine formed a partnership with LSBU's National Bakery School, designed to give 14-16 year-olds the chance to gain work-related skills at the same time as improving their literacy and numeracy. "Not everyone can be academic," says Christine, "but everyone can make a positive contribution, given the right support. That was the aim of the partnership – to give everyone choosing to leave school at 16 a real chance to go on and find work or training."
That partnership, which is still going strong today, has helped many young people into either work or higher education. It has also had a huge impact on the Bakery School itself. The pilot scheme developed by Christine proved so successful that it was opened up to all schools in Southwark, providing a valuable revenue stream for the School. Today, the Bakery School is a thriving, nationally recognised centre of expertise, offering a wide range of NVQ, BTEC and foundation degree courses.
Although no longer directly involved with the Bakery School, Christine is still working for Southwark and supporting the borough's young people. As senior programme manager for the Education Business Alliance, her remit is to persuade and recruit local and national businesses to provide work experience and mentoring for local pupils and get them involved in shaping the school curriculum. The EBA acts as a broker between schools, businesses and community groups, initiating ideas and getting projects off the ground. It is currently reaching 3,400 young people each year.
The aim is to increase young peoples' aspirations and achievements and provide opportunities for lifelong learning and improvement. Not only do they gain an invaluable insight into the learning, skills and attitudes employers are looking for, they also learn important skills such as communication, teamwork, numeracy, IT skills and problem-solving. At the same time, the Alliance is bringing benefits to business. Companies can enhance their standing in the local community; develop their employees' communication, leadership and teamwork skills. It's also an opportunity to play an active part in the future of Southwark – and make a real contribution towards helping local young people to reach their potential.
Meanwhile, Christine is working hard to realise her own potential, having just completed a post-graduate certificate in public service management – the first year of an MBA. "It's a good idea to keep challenging your thinking," she says. "It keeps your mind fresh."
Christine Ace was awarded an Honorary Fellowship for services to education for her vision in recognising the potential for schools and businesses to work together, her support for local young people and her contribution to the success of LSBU.