Back to School: A visit to Aston Manor in Birmingham

'I understand what life is about now'

Children at Aston Manor Academy in Birmingham were among
many across the country receiving visits from alumni for Back to School Week
yesterday.

The group of former pupils, who included a comic book artist, a youth worker and a manager from Specsavers, offered advice and inspirational words that led both the shyest and most confident pupils declaring their high-flying aspirations.

Each speaker described in morning assembly how they rose to the top of their fields since they left Aston Manor, before heading to the library to speak to a selection of 12 and 13 year olds who their teachers had decided would benefit most from one-to-one time with the ex-pupils.

The guidance from the four speakers was clear, with 50 year old support worker Kenneth Guy urging children to “rob your teacher’s brains! Your only job is to get educated”. This was echoed by illustrator and designer Kevin Lee Bennett, aged 42, who told the children that although maths and English were not obviously connected to his work, they were vital to his achievements.

“As easy as at is for teachers to talk about careers, there is nothing quite like giving pupils the opportunity to speak to professionals that were also previous students,” said design and technology teacher Stacy Dooley.

Leon Henry, a 35-year-old technology and IT manager, admitted that he was a rebel at school who found it difficult to concentrate because he was easily influenced by others. He said he was impressed by the children’s focus. “They asked a lot of realistic questions about interview techniques and pay grades, things I would never have considered in year eight,” said Mr Henry.

Twelve-year-old Aniqah Asif said she was not certain yet if she wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor. But asked what she got from the talk, she said: “I understand what life is about now. If you want a job and you work hard, it pays off.”

James Walsh, a 41 year old opportunities manager at social business Bromford Support, said he was not surprised that the children in the workshops showed ambition. They gasped as he explained how his underprivileged background meant he had to peel potatoes at a chip shop for £1 an hour when he was 12. “Going to a state school like Aston Manor, I experienced things that my child who went to a grammar school would never know. I feel proud that I can sit around a table at a ministerial white paper review and put an angle on the discussion like no one else.”

All of the speakers boasted of the invaluable diversity their education offered them.  Tyrone Hyman, 38, said that while he felt that teachers were too busy to give in depth advice about the future, his time at what was then called Aston Manor School, means he feels comfortable with dealing with a variety of people day-to-day. Hyman, who works as a Production Designer at the BBC, said his job revealed to him that privilege and money does not stop a poor mentality.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect