As primary schools begin opening their doors to more pupils once again and teachers and school leaders work hard to establish a new normal, it is an opportunity to reflect on the creative ways alumni role models have supported pupils to navigate life in lockdown and continue to offer an extra pair of hands to their old primary school.
Any teacher will tell you that schools are not only a place of learning. They are a place of friendships, a place of new experiences, a place of achievements and setbacks, a place of security. Alumni role models and volunteers from the local community have been on hand to provide invaluable insights and advice to pupils to ensure they continue to feel supported and equipped to thrive despite the challenges around them.
Letters have been a popular way for alumni to communicate with current pupils, reminiscing on their own brilliant and bewildering memories from school. Pupils have enjoyed hearing about what their school was like for others and the ways in which things have changed or remained the same. It’s provided them with an opportunity to reflect on the memories they also make at school and the stability it brings.
“Now for something strange, we had a school alligator! If you were good, you could be the Alligator Monitor! One of the duties was to see Mr Carr, the Headmaster, and get some money. The money was for you to walk to the butchers in Queen’s Road and buy some meat for the alligator. Sometimes the alligator used to escape from its tank over the weekend and Monday morning could be spent hunting the alligator in the school library.” Alumni, Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School.
These letters have also become a brilliant resource of advice and encouragement to pupils on the importance of primary school. Something that has helped children to remain motivated and feel supported during this time of uncertainty.
“You will be surprised and amazed by the things you can achieve if you put your mind to it and keep going. Even when you face problems, like we are all facing with coronavirus, it is important to focus on what is ahead of you. Remember, school teaches you valuable skills that are developed on and needed later in life, so make the most of your time here and enjoy it!” Alumni, Tedburn St Mary Primary School
Beyond letters, alumni and role models from the local community have been helping with remote learning activities. Volunteers have been sharing insights into their jobs and pathways as well as helping to create related activities for pupils to complete at home. A particularly popular task at Engayne Primary School in Haringey was a finger prints and investigation write up from a Forensic Scientist. This input from volunteers has continued to provide pupils with real-world experiences as well as highlighted the diverse range of jobs available in the future and the skills needed. But it’s not just volunteers that can support pupils with these discoveries, parents and carers have been sharing their pathways and experiences with children too. Hearing about the journeys of adults at home has a powerful impact on broadening pupils’ horizons.
Most recently, as schools welcome back their Year 6 pupils’ for their final few weeks of primary school, alumni have been providing invaluable advice on the transition to secondary school. Everyone can remember the mix of apprehension and excitement that comes with moving schools despite the length of time that has passed. The advice alumni have offered, now with hindsight in their favour, has been fantastic especially as many of the worries facing current Year 6 children are the same as the ones they felt.
“Don’t forget that everyone feels nervous when they start, so those feelings are normal! By the second day, once I’d met all the lovely people in my form and in my year, I had people to walk to school with and friends to spend lunch with. You feel like you are going to get lost every single day forever but you get to grips with the school so quickly.” Alumni, Engayne Primary School
Looking ahead, following much discussion with primary school staff, a different type of education will be a priority to ensure pupils are able to bounce back from this time of challenge and uncertainty. There will need to be an even greater focus on wellbeing and PSHE as well as the skills needed for the future. Schools will now, more than ever, be greater than a place of just learning and alumni volunteers are an invaluable resource to help ensure all children are equipped to thrive.
Contact Future First to discuss how we can work together to help show young people that a future can be theirs.