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Dozens of students from the University of Birmingham’s Medical School worked in Sandwell primary schools to better understand the impact of diversity and deprivation on children’s health and education and to boost the health and aspirations of children from the borough.

Working with the direction and support of teachers and school staff at 23 schools this month, the 62 students were totally immersed in school life, including eating lunch with the children and understanding what they are eating and why, and delivering sessions on healthy eating and basic first aid, as well as talking about career options within the NHS.

They also listened to children read and read to them; went on playground duty with staff to understand the importance of play and activity; took part in school assemblies; and wrote articles for school newsletters.

They observed the relationships between children and adults, and those between the children themselves. They saw how children of all ages and levels of wellness behave and respond in schools.

By being fully engaged in this project, the students developed the skills to relate to young children so they will be the best health professionals they can be, and the experience will enable the children to maintain and develop high aspirations for their futures.

Having finished their placements, the students will each complete a reflective summary and discuss the placement with a teacher or head teacher at the primary school where they took part in a placement.

When asked about the placements, one student said: “I have loved the experience of being in a school and getting to see children how they should be, rather than seeing them when they are unwell in a hospital.”

Another said: “It has been very rewarding working with the children as I have learned so much from them. I would recommend this to others.”

Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Best Start in Life, said: “We want children in Sandwell to have high aspirations from an early age and I know they welcomed this opportunity to engage with – and benefit from – the students working in their schools.

“I am sure the students experienced the primary schools’ energy, creativity and enthusiasm and, as ambassadors for their future profession, they will relay these back to their peers and tutors. So we hope to have 400 placements in Sandwell next year.”

Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Sandwell is a community where our families and teaching staff have the highest aspirations, where we pride ourselves on equality of opportunity, where we want to lead healthy lives and have young people who are skilled and talented.

“These placements support our ambitions for the borough and enabled the students to engage fully in community-based learning. Their experience in Sandwell primary schools will enhance their expertise and passion, enabling them to excel in their chosen field, and benefit our children and their families.”

Dr Nick Makwana, of the University of Birmingham’s Medical School, said: “Feedback from medical students has always been that they wanted more exposure to paediatrics as a speciality during their undergraduate training. Rather than focusing on children who are unwell for this additional placement, we felt it was important for the students to know how well children interact and develop.

“To understand this in the context of their family and external environment ensures that when students are on their placements in hospital it is easier to recognise the behaviours of an unwell child.

“What better way to do this than with a placement in local primary schools where the students can then also give back to the local community some of their knowledge and insight into medicine.”

Notes to editors

For further information please contact:

  1. Emma McKinney, Media Relations Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham, or +44 7789 921 165.
  2. Sandwell Council Communications Unit or out of hours/emergency: 07920 027 723
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, and its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from nearly 150 countries.