The first Back to School Week is officially over. I’m exhausted.
It was just over a year ago that I first heard the idea mentioned. It was one of the many big ideas that I’d heard about in my first two weeks with Future First, and I couldn’t help but wonder how it could all be possible. “There’ll be events all over the country” and “we’ll be signing up hundreds of people each day”, our Founder Jake told me. I smiled and nodded, excited to be at an organisation where people felt like anything was possible, but slightly worried about how a team of 15 people could make any of this really happen.
Here I am, a year later, heading down the M6 from Liverpool having completed my last event. Over the campaign, I’ve been in Leighton Buzzard, Yeovil, Birmingham, Derby, London, Kent, Liverpool and Manchester. I’ve personally worked with over 1,000 young people and 32 alumni volunteers.
I got to hear Nathan, Fazakerley High School alumnus, telling students that “changing your mind is OK, as long as you work hard and take skills from each experience”. He had decided he wanted to use his law degree to become a lecturer, rather than a solicitor. Emma, from Alexandra Park School, retold her story, a teacher turned PR guru, advising Year 7 students to “take risks – just have a go!”.
The consistent messages from former students have been that you’ve got to focus and work hard but that it’s ok to make mistakes along the way. As a former teacher, I know how valuable the personal stories that bring those messages to life can be.
Students haven’t kept quiet this week either, with hundreds sharing ideas, questions and opinions during sessions. “But do the things you learn at school really help in the future?” asked one emboldened Year 10 boy this morning.
The highlight of the week? Probably receiving an email form Christine Anderson at da Vinci Community College saying that some Year 7s were so inspired by the session they asked to go back in to their primary schools and share stories of secondary school life.
At the beginning of the week we released research showing state school students were ten times less likely to believe that people like them are successful.
I hope more and more i readers will sign up to become be part of the movement and let us take them back to school so we can get denting those numbers: