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Sotech Hopewood Academy

Breaking Barriers: Local Company Joins Forces with Hopewood Academy to Boost Job Skills

Hopewood Academy, a special needs school catering to children diagnosed with Autism and learning difficulties, is taking a unique approach to enhance job skills for its students. The school, located in Easington, County Durham is promoting collaborations with local companies to encourage them to look beyond special needs.


In line with this vision, Hopewood Academy invited Sotech, a leading designer and manufacturer of engineered metal rainscreen cladding and architectural fabrications, to participate in a special assembly for all key stage 4 children, aged 15 and 16.

The assembly at Hopewood Academy aimed to provide students with valuable insights into the world of work and the opportunities available beyond their academic journey. Members of the Sotech team spoke to the students, sharing their experiences and offering guidance on career paths. This unique initiative not only exposes the children to various job possibilities but also instils confidence in the children as they prepare for their futures.

Louise Snodon, the Bowbridge Teach and Careers Lead at Hopewood Academy, expressed her enthusiasm about the collaboration, stating, “We are thrilled to have had Sotech join us for this special assembly. It is essential for our students to realise that their special needs do not limit their potential. By showcasing successful professionals from local companies, we aim to inspire our students and broaden their horizons. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams and contribute meaningfully in the workplace.”

Following the assembly, Sotech conducted mock interviews for the students to give the children the experience of being interviewed by unfamiliar adults in a safe environment. By simulating real job interviews, the school intends to boost the students’ confidence and provide them with valuable interview skills that will benefit them in the future.


Andy Hall, Quality Environment Health and Safety Manager at Sotech, said of the experience: “Watching young Matthew come out of his shell during the course of the interview was very enjoyable. Had this been a real interview for an appropriate role in the business – Matthew may well have gotten the job!”

Ian Bradley, Factory Foreman at Sotech, added: “Considering this was their first experience of being interviewed, the children were amazing. It was very interesting to hear the children talking about their interests and strengths. I hope they can build on this and grow in confidence for the path ahead.”

David Swithenbank, Drawing Office Manager at Sotech, reflected: “I found it personally very fulfilling – it was a great experience, bringing the kids out their shells to speak openly about their dreams when they leave school.”


Richard Egginton, Operations Director at Sotech, said: “The collaboration between Hopewood Academy and Sotech exemplifies the power of partnerships between schools and local businesses. By building these connections, schools and companies can bridge the gap between education and employment, ensuring that students with special needs are equipped with the skills and confidence needed to thrive in the workforce. Initiatives like these play a vital role in creating inclusive and supportive communities that recognise and value the potential of every individual, regardless of their abilities.”

Following the success of the day, Hopewood Academy and Sotech hope to inspire other local companies to engage with special needs schools and contribute to the holistic development of students, fostering an inclusive society where everyone can succeed.

Glynis Osborne, Development Director at Thinking Success UK, concluded: “It was a pleasure to work with the students today. It was lovely to see the difference from when they first sat down to when they left. I hope the confidence they gained in the short term helps them in their future endeavours.”


Hopewood Academy is a generic special school based in Easington, County Durham. The school caters for students from ages 2-19 with a range of special educational needs, and is part of a larger family of four special schools in the North East, Ascent Academies Trust. Just over 50% of the school’s students have a diagnosis of Autism, over 20% have severe learning difficulties, 18% have moderate learning difficulties and 8% have Profound and Multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).

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