Elliott Bland, History Teacher and Careers Lead at Stratford School Academy tells us why his school chose to run the Future Frontiers programme, and about the positive changes they have observed in their Year 10 students since.
Our Year 10 pupils
Our students are ambitious for their futures, but one of the challenges they face is that many are only aware of very traditional career pathways, such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or an accountant. This is absolutely fine as an aspiration, but we want to broaden our pupils’ awareness of all the different post-16 pathways and career options. This includes sensitising them to the ever-changing nature of the job market, such as growth in tech and social media industries. We want them to be much more aware of the breadth of options, before they decide what the best pathway is for them after GCSEs.
The Year 10 pupils that came on the Future Frontiers programme were selected because their current grades were one or two below their expected end of Year 11 target, and because their family economic background and lack of access to wider networks indicated they would really benefit from the coaching experience.
Why Stratford Academy chose to partner with Future Frontiers
"It can be so powerful to bring in a voice other than their teacher: someone who has different ideas, a different approach, different perspective."
The feature of the Future Frontiers programme that really appealed to us was taking the students out of their comfort zone, into an unfamiliar, professional environment at a central London business. Broadening students’ horizons and getting them to experience new things is important.
The other key element is the intensive coaching students receive from a professional volunteer. It can be so powerful to bring in a voice other than their teacher: someone who has different ideas, a different approach, a different perspective.
Brought together, this valuable experience of taking students to an inspiring place of work, and talking to a professional role model, helps us fulfil our requirements under the Gatsby benchmarks.
My impressions of the coaching sessions
We had two cohorts of students who were coached at two very different businesses: Newline, an insurance firm, and Byte London, a marketing agency.
"All pupils were actively engaged, even those students we know lack confidence engaged well in their conversations."
I was really impressed with the students’ interactions with their coaches. All pupils were actively engaged, even those students we know lack confidence engaged well in their conversations, which is a credit both to the coaches and the students themselves. I always heard lots of questions being asked and answered, and there was evidently a really good rapport between all students and coaches.
Highlights of the programme
The programme had two highlights for me. The first was simply getting the students out of school on a trip for the first time since the pandemic, and seeing their faces light up when they arrived at these two very different inspiring work environments.
The second highlight was the final session: seeing how far the students had come in terms of the knowledge they had gained, their awareness of the different post-16 pathways, and having clarity about their goals after they finish their Year 11 studies.
The changes we have observed
"We’ve observed a greater focus on what they want to achieve, and a clearer sense of direction and purpose."
We did a follow-up session at school after the coaching programme had finished. All the pupils are now much more aware of Further Education Colleges, Sixth Form, apprenticeships, the new T-Levels and all the other options open to them going forward. Often this exploration of pathways is left to Year 11 when they need to start applying for courses, rather than thinking about it a lot earlier.
The programme has also given the students that deeper appreciation of what all the studies and exams are ultimately for. We’ve observed a greater focus on what they want to achieve, and a clearer sense of direction and purpose.
I would whole-heartedly recommend the programme to any school. It is a valuable opportunity to empower Year 10 students by showing them what the world of work can be like; to make them aware of all the different possibilities open to them; to really think about their direction and what they’re aiming for; and ultimately, how school helps them to get there!
Could young people at your school benefit from careers coaching with a business professional? Get in touch with our School Partnerships team for more information.