AQA Unlocking Potential students amaze our Dragons

Published: Friday 31 Mar 2023

AQA Unlocking Potential students amazed the AQA Dragons with their excellent social action project ideas at the programme midpoint events.

Travelling from across the country, 120 young people attended sites at Guildford, Milton Keynes and Manchester over three days, to pitch their social action project ideas to a Dragon’s Den style panel made up of members of AQA’s executive team and staff, Trustees from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and special guests.

There was high energy and enthusiasm right from the start, with everyone getting involved with the icebreaker games – including some very competitive teachers – before the atmosphere settled down as the groups prepared to deliver their pitches.

This year we were also joined by alumni from the previous year’s programme, who shared their own experiences and some useful tips for presenting, and also how to make the most of the experience and the opportunity the programme provides.

It was then time to meet the Dragons, who despite the name, were actually very un-dragon like and very supportive of the young people presenting.

Speaking in front of a crowd can be a daunting task for anyone, but for these young people, pitching to a panel of adults and an audience of other students and teachers could be a bit of a scary proposition.

However, every single young person stepped up and delivered, much to the delight of the Dragons. The change in these young people from when the programme began in December was clear to see and they displayed their newfound confidence in their pitches, some of which really blew the Dragons away.

All of the projects are chosen by the students themselves and are on issues that are close to their hearts, and they answered all questions put to them and were very insightful on the projects they had chosen.

Topics ranged from mental health issues and raising money for food banks, to anti-bullying and anti-knife crime projects.

Iona Kyle, who teaches at Central Academy, said:

“I’ve seen an amazing change in my group. If you’d told me at the start that my four students would stand up in front of a group of strangers and deliver a presentation, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Glyn Jones, a teacher from St. Christopher’s School in Wrexham, added:

“The AQA Unlocking Potential programme is developing children who have low confidence and self-esteem. It’s helped our students become role models in our school and given them a voice.”

All schools are being encouraged to contact their local MPs to come along and see their  projects in action, and to show the powerful impact young people are having on their local communities.

One of the students, Ashton, who attends Clayton Hall Academy and has been working with BMX champion Kelvin Batey, said:

“The favourite part of the programme for me has been learning how people communicate, speaking to new people and developing confidence.

“I struggled when I lost my Grandad and this programme and working with Kelvin has really helped me to grow in confidence.”

The whole week was a tremendous success and the students and their athlete mentors will now be returning to their schools to put the final touches to their social action projects before the celebration event in central London in July.

You can follow their project and progress over the coming months on Twitter using the hashtag #AQAUnlockingPotential and via the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Unlocking Potential students in Guildford

– Guildford Unlocking Potential event

Unlocking Potential students in Manchester

– Manchester Unlocking Potential event

Unlocking Potential students in Milton Keynes

– Milton Keynes Unlocking Potential event

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