Inspiring Futures for pandemic-struck teens

5pm, 18th March 2020: The Prime Minister’s latest address on the Coronavirus pandemic, with now frighteningly familiar updates on transmission and testing. Then, a bombshell for teenagers readying themselves for the biggest examinations of their young lives: “Exams will not take place as planned in May and June”. 11 words that left students stunned and parents uneasy. What would this mean for their future?

With no examinations, the long summer term was at risk of lacking purpose or motivation for Year 11 and 13 students. The team at Akeley Wood School, however, took this potentially devastating turn of events and created a new opportunity for students. Together with partner Cognita schools, they adopted a ‘rapid response’ mindset to build an enriching, highly challenging new programme for Years 11 and 13 to give students purpose and help them stand out when taking their next steps, whatever those may be. Crucially, the team determined the programme must be adaptable to complement an ‘ordinary’ exam year.

“Covid-19 has presented us with an opportunity to prepare the young people in our schools to be the most agile and resilient cohort of students for generations.”

Inspiring Futures was born. A multi-disciplinary programme focused on character development to support young adults as they look ahead to A Levels, university, the fast-changing world of work. To careers that may not yet exist.

Meticulously based on thought leadership from the OECD and PWC Future of Work studies, an 8-week online programme was carefully devised, with each strand building key skills and developing personal attributes that would be of most benefit to these students.

With universities and employers increasingly asserting they are looking beyond grades, Inspiring Futures was designed specifically to arm students with the ability to converse, persuade, present and articulate. It also stimulates self-driven research projects, active society membership, extra-curricular courses and volunteering:

  • In the Communication Skills strand, live DebateMate webinars inspired lively discussion, equipping students to prepare and deliver compelling points, with improved confidence cited over and again as a positive outcome
  • Projects based on the UN Sustainable Development goals primed students to collaborate on a ‘passion project’ with peers in partner schools to broaden their global perspective
  • Specialist teachers facilitated A Level taster sessions, including a virtual heart dissection for budding biologists
  • Innovative career platform Xello enabled students to explore options beyond school, with the team enlisting inspirational professionals to feature in bespoke videos, from primatologists and medics
  • Optional strands on Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Creativity offered weekly seminars and activities facilitated by industry partners LEAD and Inner Drive

In a virtual showcase, students joined senior Cognita leaders and were asked how the programme could be developed for a ‘typical’ school year. Its evolution for year two is now well underway.

If it was only possible to present a single student voice on the power of the programme, it would surely be this:

“I’m really happy that I spent my time in lockdown well… I’d definitely give up some of my summer to do this.”

Find out more about Inspiring Futures:

Programme Outline – PDF

Programme Strands – PDF

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MAR 15   /  
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