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Volunteers challenging the thoughts of youngsters at Derby primary school in gender myth-busting assembly

Volunteers challenging the thoughts of youngsters at Derby primary school in gender myth-busting assembly

A male nurse who worked through the pandemic and a woman who wants to help more females succeed in tech have been challenging the thoughts of primary school pupils in Derby.

Anthony Longbone, who has spent 16 years working in mental health, and Sam Hart – Chief Information Officer at Pride Park-based Agiito - spoke to youngsters at Lakeside Primary School in Alvaston about their career choices as part of the Our Future initiative, which is available to all primary schools in Derby and Derbyshire.

Research has found that children as young as six often rule out career options because of their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background.

Anthony, who is also an ambassador for Nursing Now England and a volunteer with Inspiring the Future, said:

“We have to give the pupils a few clues about our profession, so that they can guess what we do.

“I showed them my uniform and a blood pressure monitor, and they pretty much guessed that I was in the medical profession straight away.

“I love to see the reaction on their faces and to challenge perceptions of what a nurse should look like.”

Anthony, who has previously worked in a call centre and retail, began his career in healthcare aged 36, working on a ward at Penn Hospital in Wolverhampton.

After moving to Derby in 2017, he applied to Derbyshire Healthcare and has spent the last three years studying nursing. He will qualify as a registered nurse in September and says that the experience of working for the NHS during a pandemic has made him more resilient.

“Resilience is something which, whatever career path you choose, you need,” he said, “you also need to work hard and do your best at school. Hopefully I managed to get that message across.”

Sam, meanwhile, wants to see more females in technology; an industry that is still dominated by men.

She said:

“I’m more than happy to do my bit in gender-busting and I am eager to engage with young women to redraw the balance when it comes to women in tech.

“My field is still predominantly male-dominated and there are still mainly men working in senior leadership roles within in my industry - but things are changing.

“Girls need to see women in senior technology roles and have mentoring opportunities to gain the confidence to take STEM subjects and push themselves forwards for technical opportunities.

“I would like to be part of the solution by opening up the conversation on attracting more females into the industry, and that is why I took part in the assembly as part of the Our Future initiative.”

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, founder of DMH Associates who led the research into the study, said:

“Children’s aspirations are often shaped, moulded and restricted by gender stereotyping, socio-economic background and the people they meet in their local area. Over the last two years, the Our Future programme has worked in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the city, inspiring volunteers, teachers and senior leaders, too.

“We have supported at least 7,500 children and teachers through a range of inspirational career-related learning activities. From this, we know what works and what more needs to be done to improve children’s life chances.”

However, while women still make up 76 per cent of healthcare workers – about 80 per cent of nurses, and close to 90 per cent of home and personal care aides – the pandemic and a change in the way we work, meant that many male partners were forced to step up at home.

Further research has shown that men who have been forced to work from home, have done more housework and childcare than before the pandemic.

For the past two years, the Our Future initiative has been delivered by a consortium of experts including Learn By Design, a market leading education outreach company, dmh associates who are specialists in careers policy, research and practise and national charity Education and Employers. 

Education and Employers harness their flagship service ‘Inspiring the Future’ to recruit volunteers from the world of work and then schools can connect with these volunteers using the Primary Futures portal to facilitate these valuable encounters that demonstrate the link between learning and work.

Thirty-three schools in the Derby Opportunity Area – social mobility cold spots where the Department for Education is prioritising resources – participated in the ground-breaking programme, which has now been rolled out to the rest of the city and county, and neighbouring Nottinghamshire after receiving additional funding.

Workers from Rolls-Royce and Toyota have volunteered their time to the Our Future scheme, while smaller businesses in the East Midlands have also got involved. 

They are, though, looking for more volunteers from various sectors to get involved.

Lauren Croll, who is leading the project for Learn by Design, said:

“Anthony and Sam have done such a great job in helping to break down gender stereotypes but we still have a way to go.

“Our Future are playing their part in challenging the way children and young people think and the more volunteers who can help with this, the sooner we can make a difference.”

To find out how to get involved in the project, email or sign up to Inspiring the Future here:

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