Blackpool Primary Futures initiative aims to turn the tide on low aspirations in coastal towns

Primary Futures Blackpool Press Release ……….Embargoed to 10.00am on Thursday, 16 June

Blackpool is to kick start a major national initiative aimed at raising aspirations among primary pupils in struggling coastal areas. 

 Primary Futures Blackpool launches today (16 June) at St Nicholas Church of England Primary School. The purpose is to help primary-age children see the link and purpose between their learning and opportunities in later life. Children who can see the meaning and relevance of what they are studying are much likely to achieve.

 Many children from disadvantaged communities lack the role models they so desperately need. They often have deeply ingrained gender stereotypes as well assumptions about what people from certain backgrounds can achieve which limit their horizons in life. The importance of tackling this in only just beginning to be recognized. For example the two minute film done by the Charity Education and Employers, Redraw the Balance has been viewed over 17 million times and attracted interest from governments across the world.

The economic, social and education challenges of Blackpool are well known. According to the 2015 Indices of Deprivation in England, more than a quarter of the population in Blackpool experience income deprivation last year. Blackpool is currently ranked in the bottom three local authorities in England for educational attainment.

In February Andy Mellor, Head Teacher of St Nicholas Church of England Primary Schools supported by other Head Teachers in the area and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) wrote to business leaders. The ask was a simple one – for employees to volunteer their time in primary schools. As a result 362 people have already signed up from apprentices to CEOs, archaeologists to zoologists via the free on-line matching service Primary Futures. With 28 schools in the area this means 12 volunteers per school.

Speakers at the launch include Air Vice Marshal Elaine West CBE, the most senior female officer in the Armed Forces; Dame Julia Cleverdon DVCO CBE Vice-President BITC / Teach First; Christine Hodgson, Chairman of Capgemini and the Careers & Enterprise Company; Gordon Marsden MP and John Barnett CBE, High Sheriff of Lancashire

Andy Mellor said “Coastal towns such as Blackpool face a unique mix of education challenges including deprivation, poor attainment, low aspirations, high unemployment and a sense of marginalisation. That is why I and a group of other heads have come together to turn the tide. What has made the approach different is that it is led by local head teachers working collaboratively across area, building on what works and then seeking support from employers and government”

The National Association of Head Teachers see this as blueprint for other coastal and deprived rural towns across England and are calling on the government to support and adopt this approach. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said Many of our coastal towns are high youth unemployment hotspots. Seaside towns have high levels of part-time working, commuters and retired people, all working against young people engaging easily and readily with their local economic community. We need to take action to ensure that young people growing up in our most disadvantaged coastal towns get the best possible start in life, are aware of the breadth of opportunities available and are encouraged and supported in their ambitions”.

Primary Futures has been designed by the NAHT and the charity Education and Employers and makes it quick, free and easy for schools to find local volunteers via an on-line portal. Over 30,000 volunteer have registered nationally and the scheme has attracted interest from over 35 countries.

“It is a real challenge to raise and broaden aspirations of children in deprived coastal areas like Blackpool. We want to turn the tide by tackling low ambition early on. We have run a number of pilot events in primary schools in costal towns including Scarborough and Folkestone. We now want to get large numbers of people to volunteer to support education in a whole coastal area. We hope that the approach being taken in Blackpool will be used as a blueprint for other parts of the country,” said Nick Chambers, Director of Education and Employers.

The Primary Futures Blackpool launch will start in the school hall with a number of volunteers taking part in ‘What’s My Line’ with children quizzing volunteers over the jobs they do. This format has been piloted in a number of schools across the country with volunteers including Lord Nash, Lord Ahmad, Nicky Morgan MP, Sam Gymiah MP and Ben Gummer MP.

After the ‘What’s my line’ activity some 35 volunteers, will visit classrooms and meet with small groups of children, chatting informally and answering questions about their jobs and what is involved; for example travelling and meeting people, and using subjects like Maths and English in their everyday work.

The aim is to introduce the children to a wide range of people from different backgrounds doing a variety of jobs to help create a meaningful link between their classroom learning and future aspirations.

The list of companies represented at the launch currently include:

Assessment Design and Development Ltd

Blackpool Council

Blackpool Transport



Department for Education

Federation of Small Businesses

Free the Children

Future Technology Services Ltd



Lancashire Chambers of Commerce

North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce


Merchant Navy

Napthens LLP

Northern Rail

Public Health England

Randstad Education

Royal Air Force


Teach First

By Steve Iredale

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