“Miss, you took 10 children into there today, and left with 10 inspired young women!”
I’ll take that as an appraisal; the words of a year 9 student on the way back to school after today’s ‘Inspiring Girls’ event.
Nicky Peacock opened the day with an inspiring and hilarious account of how the ability to ‘fake it until you make it’ and ‘always say yes and work out how to do it afterwards’ were nuggets of information that are clearly the secret to her success as photographic artist, musician, art promoter and recently, artistic regeneration director. I’ve missed several of her mini careers out but speaking to some of the delegates at lunchtime they were genuinely inspired to look at the positives in a given situation and get involved.
We had such a mix of speakers that my brief description really won’t do it justice…so make sure your students are there next year (and at similar events ALL year).
We had Donna from the Army who genuinely opened up some students’ eyes to the range of roles that the Armed Forces offer, particularly the support that they will give to ensure recruits achieve qualifications. That struck a chord with several students when I spoke to them at the end of the day.
Rachael and Hannah from PunchRobson stepped in as late replacements for a colleague but you couldn’t tell. Several students had never considered Law as a career that they could aspire to and the session definitely broke down some barriers.
Lorraine Coghill (Ogden Trust and Durham University) is practically staff at the centre this week supporting our STEM day on Monday and our Scrapheap Challenge this Friday. Science and fashion design….surely not? But how do the materials get made? How can we use science to really push the boundaries of what materials can do and be? It was with some reluctance that I had to move some of the students at the end of one of her sessions to their next workshop, they were so engrossed.
Siobhan Fenton from Teesside University talked about animation. Sounds a bit niche? Not at all. She began each session by asking each and every girl in the room what they felt their strengths were and then related their answers to the huge number of roles in film, media and even games production. Pulling together her session with an animation made by a girl who five years ago would have been a delegate from one of the schools attending today, but now works for an animation company in Germany was the icing on the cake. This wasn’t just talk, it was real and the girls came out of her sessions enthused about what they could achieve.
Accenture are probably the biggest company in computer software in the region…but who has heard of them? Well 50 girls have at least now! Karen Marshall brought two of her female apprentices to talk about their career route since leaving school, what they do at work, how it fits with their studies and how their vocational route has offered them future possibilities. The fact that Lucy and Emily are only a few years older than most of the delegates really helped to get the message across that this is something that is open to them if they aim for it. Computer programming clearly isn’t a bloke with Biros in his top pocket staring at a screen all day.
And finally, though of course not least, Ann Stonehouse and her colleague Jess Costello. Their session very much took a look at how the girls can focus their ideas, their hopes and dreams, and then plan to make them a reality. Using a range of props (and post it notes!) the delegates began that process through the questions they were faced with in the session. I know several of the girls appreciated the opportunity to sit down and focus on something that they felt they wanted to do rather than perhaps the pressures they faced in other situations when their futures are discussed.
And I can’t forget to mention Chloe Meehan who gave up her lunchtime and rushed across with her Olympic Torch to simply engage the girls in a real example of what happens when you have the attitude to get involved. I think she ended up in the most selfies.
The atmosphere in the centre all day was so positive and the feedback I have had from all of the schools involved has simply made us more determined at I2L to create more events that engage our students from primary to the time that they leave school. It is the strength of having a centre that can host and attract such events that gives our students in this area a real boost if schools want to get involved.
I was recently told by a senior leader in one of our schools that problems they were having with attendance were due to the quality of some of the lessons that their students went to. I now disagree. Students will put up with quite a variable range when it comes to quality of teaching. The difference is made when the students see the relevance of what they are being taught and see it as a stepping stone to a longer term aim. It doesn’t help that schools are continually held under the cosh of having to hit educational targets that bear absolutely no relation to what the world of work is asking for from schools. You can’t blame schools for that though. They are told they have to have this many A – C students in x number of subjects or they will be rated as failing. What do you expect them to do? Until the rhetoric in education shifts to what the purpose of education is, to prepare students for the rest of their lives, not just a test, then not much is going to change is it? So, for example, any failure of ‘powerhouses’ will be derailed by students’ lack of direction and motivation, not by a lack of a humanity GCSE.
Today showed how much enthusiasm and motivation can be generated when students are given the opportunity to see what the world might look like for the rest of their lives and what they have to do to achieve it.