Job Shadow Placements in France

In December 2019, we delivered our first job shadow placements for Health & Social Care staff from vocational colleges in the UK and Portugal. Staff members were placed in colleges in Salon de Provence and Marseille, in Southern France.

During this time, staff had the opportunity to work alongside French teachers at their college and visit industry work placements. The schedule included observations of lessons and practical assessments, as well as joint knowledge sharing opportunities for all staff. Nathalie Liva, a Health & Social Care lecturer at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, shares her experience.


Why did you apply for the placement?

“I applied for the job shadow opportunity because I’m interested in looking beyond borders, beyond the country we live in and the things we do in day-to-day life. Any opportunity for that is not to be thrown away.”

What was your placement like? Did you notice any similarities or differences in the sector between France and the UK?

“The teachers were amazing and went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. It was heart-warming to see the similarities within the school system. We face the same challenges within the classroom; how do we engage our young learners and prepare them to support others when they’re still so focussed in their own development? How do we navigate funding cuts within our organisations?

I was inspired by the practical approach to course delivery in France. In the UK, our courses are more academic and theoretical. It would work well for our learners, particularly lower level learners, to have more opportunity for hands on practice. Many young people who enrol on our course have been disappointed with school and are yearning for a more practical course. I feel they would be so much more engaged if they had more opportunity for manual handling and practical work. It was really lovely to see the French students so engaged with their work.”


How will this experience inform your own practice?

“Having taught Health & Social Care for 12 years, I know how important it is to maintain high standards and this opportunity has given me a real impetus to make sure things don’t slip.

A practical example that I’ve taken back to my daily work relates to uniform. In the schools we visited in France, students wore a uniform to practical sessions. I have suggested to my team leader in the UK that we apply a stricter dress code for our practical work, so that we’re setting the same expectations for a high standard of professionalism for our students – no ripped jeans or cropped tops, for example!

During the week I was also able to share learning with my UK peers and learn more from the Portuguese teachers. I reflected on our teaching in the UK, and some of the approaches to course delivery that I am most proud of; the hospital placements that we have integrated into our course, for example, and our high rates of student progression to higher education.”


What advice would you give staff members considering doing a job shadow placement?

“In this time of uncertainty with Brexit around the corner, the week in France confirmed to me that we have so much more in common than difference between us. When we look outside of our small world, we see that others struggle with the same things and have the same joys.

Since returning, I have spoken at length with colleagues at the college about my experience. I hope they will be inspired to take up the opportunity in future.”


With thanks to our French hosts who welcomed us warmly and devised an engaging schedule for the participating staff.