“It’s not what you know, it’s who you are” – an incredible life story, and inspiring advice from recent virtual activities

Over the past weeks, Primary Futures schools have put on some fantastic virtual activities for their children, hearing from volunteers working in the arts, business, and even learning about the incredible work of Dame Mary Richardson in a special talk about her life. Read on to find inspiration and top tips for your own virtual session, and learn about exciting opportunities for your school, including our new pre-recorded resource for KS2.

On 23rd April, children at Culcheth Community Primary School in Warrington had the chance to hear from Dame Mary Richardson, who joined three classes via Zoom to share her story. As an in-depth, hour-long talk with one volunteer, this was a unique approach to an encounter with the world of work which allowed children to gain a complete, detailed picture of Dame Mary’s life, the paths she took and where these led her. Children asked questions throughout the chat to maintain interactivity and engagement. Dame Mary surprised the children when she revealed that she grew up in Culcheth after being evacuated to the town from Liverpool during the Second World War. She showed photos of Culcheth during the war, giving a fascinating glimpse of local history. 

When asked, “Were you the smartest in your class?”, Dame Mary told the children that she wasn’t and that she couldn’t read at the age of 7 because she had missed so much school due to the war. She encouraged the children to understand that “Success isn’t what you know, it’s who you are”. At university, Dame Mary broadened her horizons by becoming a cadet, and following her degree she joined the army as an officer where she worked in lots of different jobs, gained skills and travelled the world. She eventually became a Head Teacher of a school in London, where she was committed to improving the lives of young people, and received her Damehood from the Queen as a result of her work. In 1999 she was asked by HSBC to set up and become the Chief Executive of their Education Trust, where she travelled across 81 countries listening to locals and learning how their children’s education could be improved. Dame Mary ended her talk with a story of her climbing the rigging of a tall ship and encouraging children to take opportunities and to learn, asking them, “Have you got the courage? It sounds terrifying at first, but nothing is terrifying when you’ve done it once”. 

Culcheth Primary’s Head Teacher Amanda Dodd said, “Dame Mary was inspirational! I think that all schools should have the chance to hear her talk and her strong messages. The children that I was in class with had their breath taken away – I could actually see some of them realise that they could do whatever they dream of if they take the chances and opportunities offered! I think that the local air cadets will be inundated with children desperate to join as soon as they are old enough.” 

Here is a short clip from Dame Mary’s talk to give you an idea of just how inspirational she was: 

 Another fantastic recent session took place with Darwen St James CEP Academy in Lancashire, where children heard virtually from a Performance Reporting Executive for Audi, a Business Analyst, and an Actor and Singer, who started off the activity with a song, which was great fun for the children! 

In the ‘What’s My Line?’ activity with reception to year 6 classes, children received clues from the volunteers in order to guess their job roles. 

Top tips from the volunteers included: 

  • Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do, take every opportunity that comes your way and keep learning. 
  • It’s important to do what you love and a job will come after. 
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get the best grades at school, soft skills are just as important such as communication, resilience and determination. 

The children asked some brilliant questions to find out more about the volunteers’ jobs, such as: 

  • Do you like your job? 
  • How many cars are sold a day? 
  • What is your favourite talent that you have? 
  • Is your job complicated? 
  • How many businesses have you helped? 


In other activities… 

  • Children met a scientist and a policewoman via Zoom to kick of aspirations week at Harold Court Primary in Essex 
  • Volunteers working in tax, fashion and radiography tuned in to talk about their roles with years 5 and 6 and St Silas CE Primary School in Blackburn. Children asked some really insightful questions including, “How does it feel to be an entrepreneur?”, How does it feel telling people they have a bad break in their arm?” and “Do you need to learn different languages?” 
  • Village Primary Academy in Derby ran a themed ‘What’s My Line’ assembly allowing children to learn all about digital jobs 
  • Cavendish Close Junior School in Derby ran an Enterprise Day where children heard from CEOs and Managing Directors 
  • Children at Newchurch St Mary’s Primary learnt about the world of maritime and infrastructure with real-world examples from their volunteers 

Find out how to plan a live activity to engage and motivate your pupils.


Opportunities for your school 

Pre-recorded resources 

Just last week we launched our new pre-recorded resource for KS2, Uplifting Futures: Tackling Gender Stereotypes. With a 35-minute video and a host of accompanying learning resources, children find out about four exciting roles and learn that that any gender can do any job. Simply slot this resource into your class schedule at a time that suits you.  

If you’d like to begin challenging gender stereotypes with your younger year groups, we also recently shared our KS1 video where children hear from a female construction worker and a male florist 

Log in or sign up to access both resource packs from your portal homepage. 

Upcoming CPDs 

Looking to find out how to use Primary Futures to connect with inspiring volunteers and bring motivation into your classrooms virtually? Join us for an info webinar on Tuesday 11th May, 3.30pm. You’ll also have the chance to ask questions to our team. 

London Careers Festival 

London Careers Festival is running from 26th June to 2nd July this year, and Greater London primary schools can sign up to take part in quizzes, workshops, online skills building, classroom activities and more. Primary Futures will be running free, live showcase events allowing children to meet a real range of volunteers from the world of work  find out more about London Careers Festival events.

Inspiring Dorset 

Primary Futures is partnering with DLEP (Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership) and Dorset County Council to build on our previous raising aspirations campaign in Dorset launched in 2019 and to re-engage schools post-pandemic. We have secured funding to provide a package of intensive support from the Primary Futures team for pupils in 25 Dorset primary schools in areas of low social mobility to take part in a programme of up to 3 x career-related learning activities from now until December 2021, bespoke to your school and built around your existing priorities, school improvement agendas, pupil needs or curriculum topics. Activities will be facilitated by the Primary Futures team with minimal workload or admin for your staff. If you’re a Dorset schoolemail your expression of interest to check your eligibility at  enquiries@inspiringthefuture.org. Any and all Dorset schools (including the 25 project schools) are invited to a kick-off showcase event on Tuesday 25th May 9.30 – 10.30am. Register for our Dorset showcase event.