As Head of Portfolio for IG Schools, speaking with teachers, support staff and leaders across the education sector on a regular basis, I'm acutely aware that COVID-19 is hitting children from disadvantaged backgrounds harder than most, and so now more than ever these children need guidance and support to ensure they receive a quality education and sufficient opportunities for success.
With this in mind, I decided to reach out to I Can Be, a charity finding innovative ways to inspire young girls and adapting their approach for the new digital era, to explore how I might be able to help.
While a tour of the workplace is difficult during this time as my team and I are working from home and running events online rather than in our usual spots around London and Manchester, I was able to record a short video about my job explaining to young viewers what it involves on a day to day basis, and how we've adapted to this new digitally-focused world of work. Collecting such video clips is just one way this charity are continuing their work, and if you'd like to help you can read more here.
To find out more about the impact of I Can Be's programmes and how they inspire confidence and broaden aspirations among children, read on for my interview with the team.
Lauren (IG Schools): So we know that I Can Be is a small children’s charity, working to break down barriers to opportunity for disadvantaged children, but could you explain a bit more about exactly what you do?
I Can Be: I Can Be’s workplace visits programme gives disadvantaged 7–8-year-old girls the chance to meet inspiring professional women. We introduce the girls to a wide range of professionals and jobs, with the aim of broadening their horizons and raising their aspirations.
Our programme enables girls to explore jobs they otherwise may never be exposed to, building their curiosity and confidence along the way.
At the end of each programme, the girls take part in an I Can Be workshop and put on an assembly at their school, to embed their learning and share what they have learnt.
Alongside our main programme for girls, we also run a project for boys (ICB Boys). We also ran an international programme in Tunisia, in 2019, working with girls in Tunis.
Lauren: That sounds great! So how do I Can Be visits work?
I Can Be: The girls meet 10 different professional women throughout the I Can Be workplace visits programme.
While COVID-19 prevents pupils from travelling to workplaces, we are running our programme virtually. Instead of meeting professionals in person, the children take part in live ‘virtual visits’, via Microsoft Teams.
Every I Can Be visit takes place during the school day, and the programme runs between January and July.
Each visit lasts 45 minutes – the volunteer answers the girls’ prepared questions and then goes on to tell them about their job and career path. The volunteer then works with the girls on a simple activity related to their job.
Lauren: Its great that you've been able to adapt so well to this new digital world! Can you explain a bit about the children that I Can Be supports?
I Can Be: Targeting inner-city primary schools, I Can Be chooses the areas of Greater London we work in carefully. For example, we identify where there are high levels of disadvantage and less likelihood that children will be exposed to a variety of jobs, or opportunities to visit neighbourhoods outside their own.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the opportunities available to the children we work with are even fewer than before. Broadening their shrinking horizons through I Can Be is therefore now more urgent than ever.
Lauren: I'm really pleased to be involved with I Can Be as a volunteer and look forward to future opportunities to collaborate when we hopefully return to some kind of normal! But more broadly who are I Can Be’s volunteers, and who might you be looking at to get involved?
I Can Be: I Can Be’s volunteers are professionals who work in a wide range of jobs and sectors. Hosting an I Can Be visit gives them the chance to engage with, inspire and inform disadvantaged children, and champion their area of work.
We recruit volunteers from all industries and backgrounds to take part in our workplace visits programme. We particularly look for volunteers who feel passionately about raising the aspirations of disadvantaged children. We also look for enthusiastic people who can engage and communicate with children, including talking about their job in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
Lauren: Great! And can you explain a bit about the impact that I Can Be has?
I Can Be: Our visits give children the opportunity to research, visit and interview a wide range of women, during their working day. The visits therefore help girls discover the breadth of opportunity around them and learn about jobs they otherwise may never be exposed to.
For our most recent programme we were working with our largest I Can Be cohort to date:
- 20 primary schools in 10 London boroughs
- 207 girls (with 53% eligible for the Pupil Premium).
The girls visited women in workplaces across London, including women working in key sectors of the UK economy, such as healthcare, information technology, banking, transport, heritage and the public sector. They met firefighters, research scientists, advertising executives, civil servants, architects, theatre directors and many more.
The girls hear first‑hand about the skills a job requires, and the education and training paths taken. The programme therefore shows girls the link between what they do at school and their own futures, adding additional purpose to their learning and boosting their motivation and enthusiasm at school. By opening girls’ eyes to what women across society are doing, we also promote the value of self-belief and hard work, improving the girls’ confidence, and crucially, their later life chances.
Lauren: So how is I Can Be funded? And if people want to learn more, how can they get in touch?
I Can Be: We are a registered charity and we are funded entirely by charitable donations. Our programmes are free for schools, which is essential for reaching the children who need and benefit most from our work. If anyone wants to find out more about our work, there's plenty of ways! Watch what we do on YouTube or visit us online, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, send an email to email@example.com or even call us for a chat on 07942 674 630!
Interested in learning about more ways to improve the educational life chances of young people? IG Schools has a number of upcoming training days and conferences exploring different aspects of this.
Click below to find out more.
For further ideas on utilising Pupil Premium funding and exploring ways of providing holistic support to pupils, take a look at the IG Schools Pupil Wellbeing and Support Handbook - available for free download now.