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Inspiring the Future

On 29/01/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Inspiring the Future is a charity which aims to motivate young people and give them confidence and guidance in shaping the decisions they will make which will affect their future. It is backed by Miriam Gonzalez Durantes, a successful partner in the European law firm Dechert LLP and wife of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Just before Christmas, I was asked to volunteer for their campaign ‘Inspiring Women’. The campaign aims to take female role models into state schools to speak about their careers and experiences, and let young women know that they can aim high and succeed.

Thinking that I was unlikely to find the time, but more likely no one would ask me, I duly filled in the online form and thought nothing more about it! So coming back after New Year, I was somewhat surprised to find an invitation from the Head of the Sixth form at The Oasis Academy, Hadley, near Enfield, to speak to 200 sixth formers.

The Oasis Academy is a new school which has been open for six years and is close to Lee Valley Regional Park, just north of London. It has a very high number of students from different ethnic minorities and over 90 per cent have English as a second language. Some children are from families of asylum seekers and they have a higher than average number of children who are entitled to free school meals.

As interesting as the school, was their head of sixth form, Sarah Hamilton. Sarah has been at the school for over four years and joined from the Teach First scheme whereby graduates (she studied history and politics at Nottingham) go out into the working world and, with six weeks re-training, join a school as a teacher. She clearly found the school completely right for her and I am sure is inspiring her pupils to achieve.

I was given 45 minutes to speak about my career and take questions as part of an off-timetable day. My approach was to intersperse what I had done with some suggestions about my principles, from ’don’t say on twitter something you would not be prepared to say to someone face to face’, to the importance of networking and my interest in working with people.

I also asked them if they had seen the new Sport England advertisement, This Girl Can, which has been watched by some 14 million people on You Tube and seeks to inspire women to exercise. Sport and the development through sport for life has always been a key goal for me.

After 20 minutes of speaking, it was their turn to ask questions. The questions were insightful, challenging and engaging, and ranged from “what was it like to be on the board of a football club and involved in the rebuilding of Wembley”, and “how do you find being a women in a man’s world”, to “what challenges have you faced in life and how have you dealt with them?”

I was clear: don’t be afraid of failure – when one window closes, another one will open. Just keep going, have confidence - you will find the right role and the right people to work with.

I found them all inspiring – looking at what they can do in the future, including universities, but also apprenticeships. We talked about working in hospitality, the mum’s factor and their own values. At the end I quoted from their school charter:

We are community – we are relationships

We are learning – we are achievement

We are unique – we are inclusive

We are enjoyment – we are perseverance

We are hope – we are the future

We are Oasis.

So many of their themes I can see in my approach to life.

I am so glad I volunteered. After such a positive personal experience with Inspiring Women, I would urge anyone reading this to sign up to the programme.

Could you inspire young people? Sign up here: Inspiring the future


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