From education to employment

Careers scheme piloted in Derby is rolled out across East Midlands after Government funding boost

The Our Future scheme is being rolled out across Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire after a funding boost.

A ground-breaking programme which aims to inspire children and challenge the way they think about work is being rolled out across the East Midlands after the pilot scheme was hailed a huge success.

For the past two years, the Our Future Derby initiative – which has been delivered by Learn By Design, a company which specialises in educational workshops, and national charity Education and Employers – has helped broaden the horizons of primary school pupils in the city.

Thirty-two schools in the Derby Opportunity Area – social mobility cold spots where the Department for Education is prioritising resources – have taken part in the programme, which will now be rolled out to the rest of the city and county, and neighbouring Nottinghamshire.

And, according to international education and policy expert Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, the scheme is much-needed, as the UK adjusts to life post-Brexit and after the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “While every part of the UK has been affected by Covid-19 and Great Britain’s exit from Europe, cities, towns and villages play a particularly important role in social and economy recovery.

“Research shows that children’s aspirations are often shaped, moulded and restricted by gender stereotyping, socio-economic background and the people they meet in their local area. Over the last two years, the Our Future Derby programme has worked in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the city, inspiring volunteers, teachers and senior leaders, too.

“We have supported at least 7,500 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.”

Workers from Rolls-Royce and Bombardier have volunteered their time to the Our Future Derby scheme, while smaller businesses in the East Midlands have also got involved.

There has been plenty of advice, too, from keyworkers who played a pivotal role during the coronavirus pandemic – including NHS staff from the Royal Derby Hospital. Their involvement has had a positive effect on the youngsters, with an independent report by Dr Hughes finding that there is an increase in the number of children wanting to become doctors when they are older.

The same study, though, also found that while 86 per cent of pupils agreed that ‘girls and boys can do the same job’, there was an unconscious gender bias with boys opting for careers in engineering and the Army. Girls, meanwhile, harbour ambitions to become singers and dancers.

The Our Future scheme is being rolled out across Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire after a funding boost
The Our Future scheme is being rolled out across Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire after a funding boost.

Other career choices included becoming a professional footballer (23% of boys), with the top choice of career for girls being a teacher.

Paul Appleton is Head Teacher at Cherry Tree Hill Primary School, in Chaddesden. His school have taken part in the Our Future Derby project and are reaping the benefits.

He said: “We have to open the children’s eyes to the world of work at primary school. 

“We try hard with our younger children to instil in them everything which employers are looking for; teamwork, presentation, working together.

“We will continue to fly the flag for this programme; the sessions we have been involved with have enabled our children to see how they can develop transferable skills to use in the workplace. It’s opened their eyes to the range of career choices in front of them and our approach to careers education has evolved and is now interwoven into our curriculum.

“Amid the economic challenges facing us all, the Our Future Derby programme offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate what schools and employers are doing together to make a real difference to children’s lives and inspire many more employers to follow their lead.”

Lauren Croll is leading the project for Learn by Design. She said:

“The latest projections suggest that the impact of the pandemic will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing progress made to narrow the gap since 2011.

“In May 2021, the Minister of State for Universities announced that Derby would receive an additional £1.25m for the current academic year, of which £200,000 is to be spent on careers and skills twinning work across the region.

“This additional year will enable the continuation of the important work which has already taken place, help to sustain long-term improvements and outcomes and support the recovery from the pandemic, levelling up standards across England.”

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