A major initiative presented during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year is coming to Northern Ireland.

A special launch event for ‘Primary Futures’ is being held at Ballysally Primary School, Coleraine on Thursday 21st March 2019 (09.00 – 12.00) where children will get to meet an amazing range of people from the world of business, sport and the arts.

In preparation, the children have been drawing pictures of what they want to be when they grow up and these will be unveiled at the event. A similar exercise has already been undertaken in 20 countries ranging from Australia to Zambia and the results from Ballysally will be compared with these.

A range of volunteers from across Northern Ireland are travelling especially to the school to see what the children have drawn and to talk about their own career journey. Those taking part include: Jenny Bristow (TV chef /Food Ambassador), a male Nurse, a female Fire Fighter; an Ice-Cream Maker, a female civil engineer (Apprentice of the Year 2018), a Surfer, and female engineers from Northern Ireland Electricity Networks, as well as the Coleraine Football Manager (Rodney McAree) who will be bringing along the Irish Cup.

They will be talking to children, parents and teachers and answering questions about their job and career route. The aim is to broaden children’s horizons, raise their aspirations and challenge the social and gender stereotypes children often have about the people who do certain jobs. The event aims to kick off a national conversation about what more can be done across Northern Ireland to inspire children.

Joining them will be three guests from England – Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) which represents 98% of school leaders, Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, international academic and careers expert who grew up in the 1970s in Coleraine and Nick Chambers, CEO of the charity Education and Employers.

Primary Futures enables children to meet people from the world of work, from all levels -apprentices to CEO and sectors – app designers to zoologists, helping them to see the relevance of the subjects they are studying at school and in so doing increases their motivation to study leading to improvements in attainment. It also helps challenge gender and social stereotyping, broadens horizons and raisers aspirations.

The event will start with a ‘What’s my Line?’ assembly where volunteers describe aspects of their jobs and then get the children to guess what job they think they do.  Following on from this, volunteers will speak in small groups to the pupils, explaining in more detail what their job involves and how they use the knowledge and skills they learnt in the classroom in their roles today. The school will use the volunteers to demonstrate how they use literacy and numeracy in their day-to-day life, getting children to think more broadly about what they could do in the future and make the link between what they learn at school and future jobs.

In a first for ‘Primary Futures’ a calendar featuring drawings done by the children will be sent into every house on the housing estate with a clear message to parents that children have hopes, dreams and careers aspirations from an early age.

Geoff Dunn MBE, Principal commented, “As a school we continually are seeking to be innovative, creative and inspiring to the children and families in our care.  The future is very much unknown. Research states that 60% of jobs for new our Primary 1 children have not even been thought of! I believe wholeheartedly that children need the necessary skills to be equipped and to be ready for the jobs of the future. However, I also believe that children need to be exposed to the world of work, as new technology gathers pace. To this end, the Primary Futures initiative and concept has greatly enabled us to connect education and the world of work.  We know that the seeds of hope have been planted today.’

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT who is attending the event said: “The importance of appropriate exposure to the world of work at primary level cannot be understated. Children form stereotypical views of the world from an early age. Biased assumptions lead to a narrowing of career aspirations and an inability to relate learning to a world beyond school”

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE says: “The launch of Primary Futures marks a significant milestone in inspiring children and parents to see the relevance of schooling to the world of work from an early age. Research findings show children’s aspirations are often shaped, moulded and restricted by gender stereotyping, socio-economic background and the role models in their surroundings. In Ballysally (and elsewhere), there is an urgent need for children and families to have hope, access to opportunities and a greater awareness of the talents and skills they possess.”

Nick Chambers, CEO Education and Employers charity explained the rationale, “We were delighted that Ballysally Primary School was so enthusiastic about hosting our first ever Primary Futures event in Northern Ireland.  Research tells how important it is to connect young people to the world of work but seeing it action captures the excitement demonstrated by these pupils as their eyes are opened to the opportunities that could await them.’ 

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