Raising Aspirations - Top 10 Tips

Raising Aspirations - Top 10 Tips

I am very lucky to visit many, many schools and as we all know visiting other settings is always a wonderful opportunity to see how things are done in a range of settings and to basically pinch ideas. With many schools working on raising aspirations for their children, I thought I would share some of the ideas I have seen on my recent travels.

I’m sure you will be familiar with many, but hopefully, one or two might be food for thought. So, without further ado (and with the now long-defunct ‘Top of the Pops’ top 10 countdown music playing in my aged head), here are the ideas:

1. Job Fairs

Job Fairs, where older KS2 pupils meet adults working in various professions and ask questions about what the job entails and how to qualify. Some schools have carried on doing this online since the pandemic and have found it easier to get volunteers that way.

2. Visits from former pupils

Visits from former pupils in further or higher education, again to meet with the pupils and discuss their choices, qualifications, and aspirations.

3. Naming classes after top universities

Naming classes after top universities. One school names each class in Y5 and Y6 after universities such as Durham, Warwick, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. Children learn about the courses ‘their’ university offers and the qualifications needed to get there.

4. Virtual Q&A sessions with role models

Through word of mouth, most schools can get in touch with people who have excelled in a particular field (sometimes literally in the case of some sports people) and ask them if they would mind doing a 30-minute session with pupils, usually reassured by the fact the children will have questions prepared in advance, rather than expecting the person to give a presentation or talk.

5. Pictures and displays

I have seen versions of the same display in a couple of schools, namely a silhouette of a person that changes to reflect a different curriculum subject each half-term. For example, when the subject was PE, the ‘person’ was covered with pictures of people whose jobs are linked to PE, such as sports physiotherapists and nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches and sports journalists. There were also pictures and information about Loughborough University because it is particularly well known for sports courses.

6. Referencing educational pathways

Another school ensures that teachers often explicitly reference the educational paths and early careers of authors, scientists, musicians and artists as part of the relevant units of work so children understand how those people ‘got there’.

7. Linking school values

I have worked with schools that link their school values, such as ‘perseverance’ or ‘teamwork’, with workplaces in the locality. For example, schools in Plymouth do this with reference to working in the Royal Navy and jobs in marine engineering. Schools near my home in the midlands have done something similar, linking values with the roles in the car industry and motorsport.

8. Importance of maths in daily life

One school wanted the children to be aware of how important maths is in daily life and jobs because pupil voice suggested that most children did not make that connection. As a result, a display went up with pictures of people who work in the school – the Head, the site supervisor, the kitchen manager, the bursar etc. – with a caption under each explaining, ‘How I use maths in my job every day’. (And it wasn’t just the Head counting down the days until retirement…)

9. Interviewing people who work behind the scenes

When a school took their children on a trip to a local art gallery, the school arranged for the children to meet and interview the people who work behind the scenes as well as learn about the artwork on display. This ensured the children learned about jobs they did not know existed, such as curator and exhibition design, restoration team, sales and marketing, education team, etc. Then, children interested in the arts could consider other possible careers rather than solely being artists.

10. Developing links with sixth-form colleges and universities

Other schools have developed links with sixth-form colleges and universities, so students visit the school to work with the pupils. Examples include drama, music, art, and sports activities. In addition to being a valuable experience for the students, the narrow age difference can inspire the children, who can potentially see themselves doing similar things in a few years.

There are many, many more examples out there, and I look forward to seeing them on my travels. Hopefully, one of the two ideas above will be helpful. 

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