AQA Unlocking Potential returns for a 10th year

Published: Friday 10 Dec 2021

The 10th anniversary of AQA Unlocking Potential got off to a great start last week, with schools from across the country attending launch events in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

After nearly two years of being delivered in a virtual setting, 80 young people descended on our Guildford and Manchester offices for the start of this year's programme.

2021 marks the 10th year of AQA Unlocking Potential, our unique mentoring programme for young people aged 11–19, delivered in partnership with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

Since it began, nearly 600 young people have taken part, from schools all over the country. This transformational programme, delivered by world class athletes from the Trust, is designed to improve wellbeing, help build healthy relationships and unlock the confidence, self-esteem and resilience needed to achieve in education, work and life.

Both days began with a short briefing and welcome, then it was straight into the icebreaker games and activities. After lunch schools broke off into groups with their athlete mentors to learn more about what they would be doing over the course of the next eight months. The mentors shared their own stories of courage, determination and resilience, and how they tackled obstacles and overcame setbacks on their path to success in their respective sports. There were some very inspiring stories which prompted some excellent questions from the students. At the end of the day, all the students came back together to reflect on how the day went and what they hoped to achieve over the coming months.

Claire Bennett, Trust athlete mentor, former Great Britain fencer and Commonwealth Gold medallist said:

“AQA Unlocking Potential is a fantastic programme and it was amazing to return to face-to-face events after almost two years of virtual delivery.

“It’s great to see the young people interact with each other and build their confidence throughout the day.

“You can already see the transformation in them after just one day and all the athlete mentors are really looking forward to the next eight months!”

The students and teachers involved had great day, with many teachers commenting on the amazing response from their students and how good it was to be back participating in a programme like this in person.

Patrick Wall, geography teacher and well-being lead at Theale Green School in Reading said:

We’re really excited about this opportunity, and it’s something we’ve never done before. Unlocking the potential these students have in them but maybe aren’t showing currently and potentially changing lives is something you don’t get to do every day.

"Our pupils were really excited to meet Ben Fletcher, their athlete mentor. His experiences of dealing with the challenges life throws at you will help these students with whatever challenges they are going through and help build them up for the future.

"They all came away from the first session really engaged, excited and looking forward to moving on to the next steps of the programme."

James Goode, AQA Unlocking Potential programme manager said:

“AQA Unlocking Potential has been running for 10 years in partnership with the Trust and it continues to impress and produce fantastic results for the those that take part, their schools and their local communities.

“The way the athlete mentors engage and inspire the young people they work with is amazing and they always get the best out of them. From small beginnings we’ve now grown the programme to reach 80 students across 20 schools each year, which in turn helps not only their school but also has a positive impact in the local community through the social action projects they deliver.

“It’s great seeing the progress made by the young people as they grow through the programme, they are truly amazing and show just what can be achieved with the right support and encouragement.”

Each school will be visited three times now by their athlete mentor before meeting up in Manchester and Guildford again for mid-point events in March next year.

You can find out more about the programme on and follow this year's students progress on Twitter using #AQAUnlockingPotential.

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