From education to employment

Former international rugby player visits Derbyshire primary school to help break down gender stereotypes as part of Our Future project

A former international rugby player dropped in on primary school children in South Derbyshire to help inspire youngsters to follow their dreams – whatever their gender.

Claire Antcliffe, a former England player who is now one of six match official developers for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in the country, was at Hartshorne CofE Primary School to help deliver a powerful message on breaking down barriers.

Her visit was part of a ‘Yes I can’ session from the Our Future project, a ground-breaking Government-backed scheme which aims to connect youngsters in “Opportunity Areas” with the world of work to open their eyes to future careers and challenge gender stereotypes.

Research has found that children as young as six often rule out career options because of their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background.

Claire who participated in international caps for England in the 1990s, as well as managing England Women’s U19s and the England Women’s Academy from 2000-2004, told pupils all about her life in sport, the “pure joy” she felt while playing rugby, and her current job training referees – a role traditionally considered to be male.

She told pupils: “I am passionate about the women’s and girls’ game,” adding: “If you’re passionate about something, you can start to pave your way. You can master your own destiny by starting to give a little bit back to what you’re already doing.”

For the past two years, the Our Future project – delivered by a consortium of experts including Learn By Design, a market-leading education outreach company, dmh associates, who are specialist in careers policy, research and practise, and national charity Education and Employers – has helped broaden the horizons of primary school pupils.

Children at Hartshorne Primary were given a series of exercises designed to challenge any preconceived notions on gender and jobs. For example, they were asked to picture people who might do certain jobs such as a nurse, or a construction worker.

Riha Choudhury, from Learn by Design, then told pupils about some fascinating figures from history who broke gender stereotypes themselves, including Ada Lovelace, considered the first computer programmer, and Professor Paul Lewis, the UK’s first male professor of midwifery.

Claire Antcliffe, a working mum herself, said she had loved talking to youngsters about her job.

She said: “I want to show that anybody has the ability to work where they want to work.

“I thought the students were really engaged and asked insightful questions. It’s a really well put together session.”

Charlotte Bushell, who was at the event for Our Future, said:

“The idea of these sessions is to educate children about future career opportunities that they would never have even considered. We do that by having career volunteers come into schools who break the mould on gender stereotypes, as well as having children identify barriers that people throughout history have faced, and show them the opportunities they have in the future.”

Laura Mills, teacher at Hartshorne CofE Primary School, said:

“It was just lovely to get a real person in to school who was not on a screen, who the children can genuinely relate to and ask questions. Having a real person for them to speak to helps them see things in a different way.”

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, founder of DMH Associates who led the research into a recent study on gender stereotyping, said: “Children’s aspirations are often shaped, moulded and restricted by gender stereotyping, socio-economic background and the people they meet in their local area. 

“During the project, we have supported over 10,000 children and teachers through a range of inspirational career-related learning activities. From this, we know what works and what more needs to be done to improve children’s life chances.”

While women still make up 76 per cent of healthcare workers; about 80 per cent of nurses, and close to 90 per cent of home and personal care aides, the pandemic and a change in the way we work has meant many male partners have been forced to step up at home, doing more housework and childcare than they did pre-pandemic.

More than 60 schools and multi-academy trusts in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are participating and benefiting from the Our Future project.

Employees from Network Rail, British Airways, the NHS, BAE Systems and the Royal Air Force have volunteered their time to the Our Future project, together with regional employers like Empower Education and Embrace U Consultancy.

The team at Our Future is looking for more volunteers from various sectors to sign up to the project. They are particularly keen to get male volunteers who are working in traditionally female roles such as nursing, care and teaching to join the volunteer programme – Inspiring the Future.

Katy Hampshire, who is leading the project for Education & Employers, said:

“Our volunteers do such a great job in helping to break down gender stereotypes but we still have a way to go.

“Our Future are playing their part in challenging the way in which youngsters think and the more volunteers who can help with this, the sooner we can make a difference.  Volunteers really help young people make the link between education and work.”

To sign up as a volunteer with Inspiring the Future, click on the link on the link below:

Related Articles