Classroom revolution launched for primary pupils in Blackpool

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What do you want to do when you grow up?

Primary pupils in Blackpool will today be given the opportunity to boost their ambitions – with input from leading figures from industry. The highest ranking female officer in Britain’s armed forces and the chairman of a leading consultancy firm are among the high-profile names linked to the launch of the Primary Futures scheme, which will be unveiled in Blackpool today.

The resort has been chosen to kick start the major national initiative aimed at raising aspirations in struggling coastal areas.

Just 42.4 per cent of pupils at Blackpool schools achieved five GCSEs grade A*-C last year, well below the national average.

Primary School SATS results have also shown how pupils from deprived backgrounds struggle, a trend Primary Futures aims to change.

Air Vice Marshal Elaine West CBE and Christine Hodgson, Chair of Capgemini will be joined today by Dame Julia Cleverdon CBE, the Vice-President of BITC and Teach First, Gordon Marsden MP and John Barnett CBE, High Sheriff of Lancashire for a launch event at St Nicholas Primary School in Marton.

Headteacher Andy Mellor has played an instrumental role in bringing Primary Futures to Blackpool.

And he believes the scheme can help open doors for pupils when it comes to the world of work. Mr Mellor said: “One of the concerns you have as a head in Blackpool is that you want to provide children in Blackpool with the same, or better, opportunities as young people in other areas.

“They might not be starting at the same level of experience.

“This is about bringing in people who are the best in their areas of expertise to open pupil’s eyes to potential careers.

“It’s a bold step but it’s one that will hopefully allow us to redress the balance.”

In February Andy Mellor, Head Teacher of St Nicholas Church of England Primary Schools supported by other head teachers in the area and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) wrote to business leaders calling on them to volunteer their time in primary schools.

As a result 362 people, from apprentices to CEOs, archaeologists to zoologists have already signed up via the free on-line matching service Primary Futures with their expertise set to benefit pupils in 28 Blackpool schools.

Mr Mellor believes the scheme will also have a knock on effect in terms of education.

He said: “We have all sorts of people, from local traders to chief executives involved.

“We want to link the maths and English work the pupils are doing to the real world.

“Through this scheme we can show them the practical application of what they are learning in the classroom.

“It will hopefully stand children in good stead when they come to making their choices later in life.”

One of the particular aims of the scheme which excites Mr Mellor is the change to dismiss gender stereotypes surrounding certain roles.

And with high profile female role-models attending the launch he’s hoping a clear message will be sent.

He said:“They say that by the age of five to seven children already make assumptions about certain jobs that boys and girls can do.

“They already rule out some jobs. This is about demystifying some of those roles and breaking those stereotypes that they have got in their heads.

“We don’t want any children to be missing out on opportunities.”

Careers education has, up to now been the preserve of secondary schools.

But all that will change with the rollout of Primary Futures, giving Blackpool’s primary pupils a unique head start.

Mr Mellor said: “Children have very strange understanding of the world of work.

“We have found, talking to them about our own jobs that they have no real idea about the career journey people take.

“They think it happens far more quickly, there isn’t any understanding of the time and effort and resilience it takes to success.

“That is a lesson our volunteers can help them learn.”

David Boot, from the NAHT, said the scheme was about ‘fuelling aspiration’.

He said: “This will show pupils the practical applications of the work they do and far more. It shows pupils the links between what they are learning in school and jobs.

“It is a chance to learn first hand from people who have succeeded, in areas the children might not previously have had experience of.

“In deprived areas, including many seaside town, children potentially do not see the full range of career options open to them.

“This is about opening the door for pupils, providing role models. It’s about fuelling aspirations.”

Mr Mellor is delighted to see schools coming together to take advantage of the time being offered

He said: “Coastal towns such as Blackpool face a unique mix of education challenges including deprivation, poor attainment, low aspirations, high unemployment and a sense of marginalisation. That is why I and a group of other heads have come together to turn the tide.”

The scheme has the full backing of Blackpool Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn.He said: “A five year old child has the potential to achieve anything that they want to in the world, whether that is becoming a successful business entrepreneur, a world renowned chef or a leading doctor.

“The difference between whether they realise those dreams is down to the role models that they have around them. From families and friends, to teachers and nurses, growing up alongside strong role models with good values helps give our children the purpose and drive to make sure they do as well as possible at school, and then later on in life.

“Introducing top role models into the classroom from the both public and private sectors will only help for our schools to become springboards into successful lives for our local children.”

The National Association of Head Teachers is hoping Blackpool can be a blueprint for other coastal and deprived rural towns across England and is calling on the government to support and adopt this approach.

General Secretary, Russell Hobby, said: “Many of our coastal towns are high youth unemployment hotspots. Seaside towns have high levels of part-time working, commuters and retired people, all working against young people engaging easily and readily with their local economic community.

“We need to take action to ensure that young people growing up in our most disadvantaged coastal towns get the best possible start in life, are aware of the breadth of opportunities available and are encouraged and supported in their ambitions”.

Nick Chambers, Director of Education and Employers, said: “It is a real challenge to raise and broaden aspirations of children in deprived coastal areas like Blackpool. We want to turn the tide by tackling low ambition early on.

“We have run a number of pilot events but we now want to get large numbers of people to volunteer to support education in a whole coastal area.

“We hope the approach being taken in Blackpool will be used as a blueprint for other parts of the country.”

Primary Futures has been designed by the NAHT and the charity Education and Employers and makes it quick, free and easy for schools to find local volunteers via an on-line portal. Over 30,000 volunteer have registered nationally and the scheme has attracted interest from over 35 countries.

It also has the support of Prime Minister David Cameron

Commenting on Primary Futures, Cameron said: “Children who understand the link between the world of work and what they learn in school are much more likely to achieve.

“Primary Futures is a great nationwide initiative developed by the National Association of Head Teachers and charity the Education and Employers. It’s a great campaign and one that deserves the widest support”