‘My message to you is don’t close off your options’

After leaving 10 years ago, Stacey Gregory has a message to the children at her old school

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Stacey Gregory is explaining to a small group of rapt sixth-formers exactly what a day in the life of a garment technologist is like. Not that there seems to be a typical day in the job at the retail giant Matalan – at least not between travelling to India to meet suppliers, organising Britain’s Next Top Model and signing off new fashion lines.

“It seems really busy. I didn’t know you could fit that much in one day. It really makes you want to try it – it seems like such a challenge,” observes 16-year-old Olivia Curtis.

What makes Stacey’s working life so engaging to the students of Broadgreen International School in Liverpool is that it is just 10 years since she was sitting in the same place as Olivia and her friends.

But working with Future First she has decided to come back to her old school where the number of children eligible for the pupil premium is around twice the national average and see if she can help inspire the next generation.

It is a similar a story around the tables. Working with another small group, fellow Broadgreen alumni Vicky Hill, 38, is explaining all about being head of people and engagement at Pets at Home.

“My message is: don’t close off your options. Some people are really clear at this stage about what they want to do. It will probably change. I changed my mind 25 times and I didn’t even know this job existed when I was their age,” she says.

Jack Clarke, 16, is impressed. “It’s surprising to find out how many jobs there actually are and how many options you can go down,” he says.

Laura Kelly, 26, is completing a PhD in tissue engineering at Sheffield University. “You might have heard in the news about people with synthetic organs and body implants. It is an ideal job for people who never want to leave university,” she explains. “You spend two or three years finding out something that no one else has found out. And you end up as a doctor,” she adds.

The headteacher Sally Beevers is delighted at the impact the alumni are having. Around half the school’s sixth-formers currently go on to university after completing either a baccalaureate or vocational option whilst the rest will go into an apprenticeship or further training.

“Some of these students will come from households where neither parent went to university and where they might not be in work. We are teachers – they won’t always listen to us. But they will listen to someone from the real world,” she says.

Former history teacher Amy Finch of Future First, who is hosting the session, said the impact of these events is almost instantly tangible.

“A lot of students, if they are from disadvantaged backgrounds, say they don’t believe they can succeed.  But 75 per cent say they are more confident and want to work harder as a result of the session,” she says.

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