A Head Teacher’s experience of their school’s first Primary Futures event

Wheldon Infant School and Nursery is the latest school to hold a Primary Futures event as part of our Inspiring Wakefield campaign. Tracey Lake, the school’s Head Teacher, sent over this wonderful letter detailing the day’s activities, and how it has impacted her school and inspired the children.

“After many months of planning with Wakefield colleagues I was really excited when the day finally came for Wheldon’s Primary Futures event but also a little apprehensive as to how it would go, would any volunteers actually turn up, would the children be excited, motivated and engaged about the many possibilities open to them in the future – don’t forget these children wouldn’t attain the age of 18 until 2029, 2030 and 2031!

I needn’t have worried, the first volunteer arrived bright and breezy at 8am followed by what seemed like an army of volunteers in a steady stream all carrying bags of props linked to their job which they were keen to share with the children. We also welcomed additional volunteers who had not been able to commit when asked but found they could attend so just turned up – shows it is worth sending out detailed invitations.

Coffee, tea and croissants were served in the staffroom to fortify this willing volunteer army for the very busy morning ahead and it was a real pleasure to observe how they all made each other welcome and took time to get to know each other.

When I asked our volunteers who wanted to ‘get up’ in assembly and take part in a guessing game with the children I was inundated with positive support and, not wanting to turn anyone down, I took a deep breath and agreed to them all – whilst praying the children would cope with what could be a very long assembly! (The children were enthralled for 40 minutes and so well behaved and engaged throughout – I was so proud of them!)

We began the assembly with the children, supported by Wakefield Music Service, singing ‘When I grow up’. Thankfully I had warned the volunteers they might need a hanky as the children excelled themselves and sang the best I have ever heard them.

Then the ‘guessing game’ began! We had a fire service officer, a chef, a plumber, a carpenter, a virtual reality games maker, a police community service officer, a food buyer, an area sales manager, a solicitor, a rugby player, a bus driver, a beauty salon owner and the local secondary headteacher to name but a few. The children clearly showed all they had learnt about the world of work and wide range of jobs open to them over the last few weeks as they guessed them all!

You are probably wondering what kept these very young children engaged and focussed for so long – well I’ll enlighten you with a few examples:

  • The solicitor showed a very thick law book he uses – the children wanted me to give him a bar of chocolate as he obviously reads three times a week or more (reading challenge incentive)! He also shared that he gets paid to argue every day – the children were intrigued by this concept!
  • The fire service officer inflated his safety jacket with a loud bang – the children loved it!
  • The white coated chef fooled them as they thought she was a doctor until she donned her chef’s hat!
  • The secondary headteacher surprised them as he talked about how many staff and children he leads compared to our school!
  • A police officer invited a child to ‘thump’ him when he had donned all of his safety clothing!
  • The food buyer’s clue was an enormous catering tin of baked beans – the children couldn’t believe the size!
  • As for the virtual reality game maker he had the children excited and giddy as this was so of their generation!

Then it was into the classrooms to meet the volunteers, look at and discuss their props, and ask any questions. As our children taking part are Year 1 and Year 2 (5-7 years) we chose to move them around the classrooms so the volunteers could have a couple of minutes peace and quiet between each rotation. I was so pleased we chose this option as it was really great to hear the children’s excited chatter about what they had learnt and to see their eagerness to meet more volunteers and learn even more.

Two main attractions for the children were the police van, which the children were delighted to find they could go in and start the siren, and the virtual reality experience set up in the library. All 90 children got a chance to visit the police van during the morning but I became worried that some would miss out the virtual reality experience. Little did I realise that he had decided to stay the afternoon as well so no child missed out – that’s how fantastic Primary Futures volunteers are!

Sadly we had to stop for lunch – and that is meant for both the children and the volunteers. Our school catering company has been so supportive of Wakefield schools and had arrived in school bright and early to prepare a wonderful nutritious and filling lunch for all of the 25 volunteers and school staff.

Gradually the volunteers took their leave of the school and shared how much they personally had enjoyed the morning; lots of them asked to come back again!

Meanwhile back in the classrooms you could feel the buzz the whole morning had created for children and staff as they wrote about their experience, made volunteer thank you cards and went to visit the virtual reality experience. As I wandered around Key Stage 1 classrooms many children shared their personal experience with me, in their own ways, about the impact the volunteers had had on them and I noticed they all had big smiles and a gleam in their eyes and, most importantly, they were dreaming about the endless possibilities open to them to achieve their aspirations locally, regionally, nationally and anywhere in the world!

The current visual legacy in the school of our Primary Futures activities is a stimulating ‘When I grow up’ display which proudly shows the hopes and dreams for the future careers of our children along with photographs taken on the day. As I look at the photographs I constantly see children talking and listening to the many volunteers, and each other, as they begin to make the link between what they do in school every day whilst learning to read, write, become numerate and learn about the exciting and complex world in which they live and the world they will inhabit as the future generations of scientists, teachers, politicians, vets, to name but a few. This visual display is also a reminder to their parents and other family members who visit our school each day that they can, along with their children, aspire to be anything they want – the key is having the right basic skills foundations through educational opportunities.

And thanks to Steve Iredale and the team at Education and Employers for introducing us all to the wonderful world of Primary Futures. Staff are already planning for next year – Primary Futures 2019!”

Find out more about our Inspiring Wakefield campaign here.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please sign up here. Or if you are a school looking to run a similar event, please sign up here.