Primary Futures – A Headteacher’s View

Primary Futures - A Headteacher's ViewJohn Snell is Headteacher at Welton Primary School in Somerset and a long-time user of Primary Futures. In this article, John discusses how it has helped open pupils’ eyes to the wider world beyond the classroom and excite them about the subjects they are learning.

I have worked in schools for over 25 years, 13 of which as a headteacher in the southwest of England. I know how stressful and relentless the world of leadership is and I recognise that all too often there isn’t time to stop and think, let alone bring in a new initiative. I am always keen to find high impact, low effort teaching resources and was delighted to discover such a resource to support us on our career-related learning journey. For zero cost and little effort, Primary Futures gives primary schools access to a vast database of volunteer visitors and superb online learning materials and YouTube content.  Launched in 2014, Primary Futures was the result of a joint pilot project between the NAHT and the charity Education and Employers, which looked at the impact that role models from the world of work could have on children’s motivation and attainment. It is a headteacher-led service for headteachers, trusted by headteachers. So how has it worked for my school?, and what else do I do?

Primary Futures - A Headteacher's View

In my experience, I have found that children do not lack aspiration; many children do have dreams and hopes for their futures. The reality, however, is that in many cases, their personal goals are limited, based on what they have experienced, and the people that they have met in their lives to date. As we know, children ‘cannot be what they cannot see’ which is why I view career-related learning as so important in opening minds and bringing new opportunities to their young lives.

Visitors to the school have been hugely engaging and the children have thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and talking about the work that they do – and taking part in exciting activities! The impact of these events is always extremely positive – we survey our children both before and after – with the results showing that in many cases, children have experienced a job that they didn’t know existed. Who knew that being an explorer was a career! A particular example of a student who has benefited from interacting with Primary Futures volunteers is Tam, a quiet Year 4 pupil who came out of her shell and found a love for STEM subjects following an activity with a Nuclear Submariner, a Wind Farm Engineer and an Air Traffic Control Programmer. Tam was interviewed by Primary Futures after the activity and discussed how “meeting the volunteers has given me courage to know that I can make lots of things”. Read the full interview with Tam on Primary Futures.

Primary Futures - A Headteacher's View

Recently, we have begun to engage our parent community in conversations around careers. This has been as a result of our Primary Futures themed days and activities which have stimulated conversations at home. We have started to see parents offer to come into school to talk about their jobs, which is a fantastic step in embracing the work force in our school community and recognising the valuable role they play in supporting our career learning. Conversations have also been promoted at home through our Character and Citizenship Award, which I developed for use across the primary schools in my local academy trust. In essence, the award supports families to engage and interact with their children by providing a number of activities that they can complete to achieve an award – Bronze, Silver, Gold. Within its design I have included specific career-related activities to help promote these conversations outside of school. Within the different categories (e.g. Developing Me, Local Me etc) there are specific prompts to discover more about the world of work e.g. find out about a local job, learn about a global charity, interview a sports person. The impact of this has been fantastic as children take pride in talking about what they have achieved. Each year we provide the children with new activities to further prepare them for their lives ahead.

Primary Futures - A Headteacher's View

I firmly believe that primary children in my community are getting an enriching career-related experience. There is always more that can be done, and I am currently working on providing pupils with a greater understanding of salaries and finance while also inviting ex-pupils into school to talk about their learning journeys. When Ofsted visited my school, they agreed – ‘Pupils benefit from a carefully planned programme of visitors to inspire and encourage them to think about possible future careers…. Pupils enjoy the regular career days held in the school. Visiting professionals talk to pupils about their jobs. All pupils spoken to during the inspection were able to articulate their aspirations for their own futures.’

Earlier this year, I was delighted to be asked to give evidence as a witness to the UK Parliament’s Education Select Committee. It was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the powerful work that takes place in my school, thanks to Primary Futures, and to emphasise the importance of providing opportunities for children to develop and widen their aspirations from a young age. I was able to clearly demonstrate to the committee the powerful impact of my work – and how important it is to start career conversations early. Feedback during the session was overwhelmingly positive.

From the high profile to the subtle, we are opening our children’s eyes to the wonderful range of opportunities available to them which hopefully they will carry with them as they progress through the educational system. To see value in what they are learning is to see value in their lives and I for one am committed to ensuring that children can be the best that they can be. I am excited to see the results of our work over the coming years and urge you to register with Primary Futures to connect your pupils to an abundance of role models from engineers to authors, television producers and entrepreneurs. 

John Snell

Headteacher at Welton Primary School, Somerset


Thank you to John for sharing how he uses Primary Futures in his school and the impact volunteers have had on his pupils’ aspirations.


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