Success for Inspiring Dorset Project

An evaluation report published today shows how role models from the world of work are helping to improve children’s motivation as part of the post-pandemic catch-up and tackle gender stereotypes.

The report, Inspiring Dorset 2021, looks at the impact of a programme of aspiration-raising activities in Dorset between April 2021 to February 2022, focusing on areas of the county with low social mobility. Funded by Dorset LEP and run in partnership with Dorset Council the programme used Primary Futures to connect schools with inspiring role models from the world of work.

Success for Inspiring Dorset Project

Dorset is one of the leading areas of the country to value career-related learning at primary age, proactively investing in Primary Futures in a 2019 campaign and again for this post-pandemic project.

The Inspiring Dorset project offered a package of facilitated support to 25 schools with the aim of schools being able to engage independently long-term with Primary Futures.

Inspiring Dorset in numbers

  • The core project successfully involved 25 schools and exceeded key targets, delivering 96 activities and engaging over 6,700 children. An additional 11 primary schools accessed Primary Futures, resulting in a total of 36 Dorset primary schools active in the project.
  • 70 volunteers representing 61 employers engaged in this project to deliver 78 career insight talks. Volunteers represented local, national, and international organisations from SMEs to large employers, with 40% having local ties to Dorset, 55% being female and 28% from an ethnic minority background.
  • The project trained 147 teachers on the benefits of career-related learning and how to use Primary Futures to achieve their ambitions.

Key findings

Motivation in learning at school

100% of teacher respondents said that children ‘learned that maths/English were used in most jobs’ and ‘feel that learning at school is important for their future job’ because of the project.

Broadening horizons and raising aspirations

The project had the greatest cumulative impact on broadening children’s horizons with a strong positive shift on the number of children reporting ‘there are lots of different jobs for me when I grow up’ and ‘I feel inspired after hearing adults talk about their job’.

Most children said they ‘learned about a new job they hadn’t heard about before.’ Teachers similarly rated these statements as having the highest impact.

Tackling gender stereotypes

Activities had a strong impact on shifting gender preconceptions around certain jobs. Stereotypes persisted for a proportion of children around jobs they likely didn’t encounter through a volunteer, suggesting that meeting volunteers in gender-stereotypical jobs is more impactful than general messaging on ‘boys and girls can do all jobs.’

Impact of pre-recorded activities

Pre-recorded video volunteer talks with accompanying learning activities appear to have comparable impact on children’s outcomes as live encounters.

SEND inclusion

Primary Futures activities can be adapted to SEND learners in primary phase in special school settings. Some of these adaptations could support KS1 provision or SEND learners in the mainstream more generally.

Teacher feedback and legacy

Teacher respondents all rated the project as impactful on its intended outcomes and rated all of its support elements favourably.

Teachers indicated that project activities met their needs by linking volunteers to curriculum topics such as food sciences, or other priorities, such as meeting relatable local role models or motivating post-pandemic academic catch-up. The project trained 147 teachers on the benefits of career-related learning and how to use Primary Futures to achieve their ambitions.

“We welcome this impact report and its findings showing the importance of starting early and that these activities have helped to broaden horizons, says Robert Firth, Enterprise Coordinator, Dorset Council.

“I have been impressed by the quality and breadth of employers taking the time to speak to our children, including a wind turbine engineer on a boat all the way over in Taiwan. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Primary Futures to support career-related learning in primary schools across Dorset.”

The report also includes a number of recommendations to build on the momentum created by the project.

Find out more

Schools across the country can use Primary Futures for free to plan in-person activities with local volunteers or connect virtually with volunteers from all walks of life, including through pre-recorded activities and lesson plans.

Visit Primary Futures


Read full report