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The 2021 Aspirations Lockdown Calendar

We recently shared our Personal Development resource bank including hundreds of online resources—from articles to courses to games—suitable for students to help further their knowledge and skills beyond the academic curriculum. While these are all available within the Aspire platform for registered students (including personalised recommendations based on their age and chosen priorities), we hoped teachers might also find the bank useful to identify and share specific resources with their students. To accompany this—and to make the task of identifying and setting tasks that little bit easier—we have also launched a Personal Development Lockdown Resources calendar. The calendar consists of two weekly themes each week: one based on developing key skills & characteristics; and the other focused on world knowledge, careers, or post-school destinations. Each theme has been chosen to reflect the interests, needs and ambitions of over 13,000 students as indicated in their Aspirations personal development plans last term. You can read about what we learned from the first 10k of these students here, and more about Aspirations here. Each week we'll recommend a different resource and activity for each theme for KS3, KS4 and KS5. We've already released the first two weeks' activities, which cover calmness, personal finance, organisation and staying healthy. You can view the calendar, as well as the activities for every week, here. If you have any recommendations for future weeks, we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch on Twitter or by emailing us on

Our Personal Development Resource Bank

With adapting lesson plans for remote teaching eating into teachers' time, it can be hard to prioritise enrichment plans. That's why we've decided to make our teacher-curated bank of online Personal Development resources for students available to everyone for free. The list includes resources in all 6 of our key Development Areas: Career Option Characteristic Knowledge Post-school destination Skill Wellbeing Each of these can be filtered into sub-topics, such as individual career options or key skills which you want your students to work on. You can view the list and download a filterable Excel version for your own use here.

2021 Enrichment Calendar

It can be challenging to think of themes and topics for PSHE and enrichment activities—especially when adapting lesson plans for remote teaching has left you strapped for time. That's why we've scoured the internet in order to pull together our 2021 calendar, including events from major religious holidays to more niche 'celebrations' and observations throughout the year. The calendar includes events relevant to careers, wellbeing, culture, creativity and more. As dates approach, we'll round up and publish ideas and resources for assemblies, form time sessions and (when relevant) remote learning tasks. You can view the calendar here. We hope that it provides some inspiration for enrichment activities. Have we missed something? Please let us know on Twitter or by emailing us on

9712 students, 143 questions: Aspirations Insights 2020

You can find a link to download a PDF printable version of this document at the end of the page This report contains data and insights collected from 9,712 students across England over the course of the Autumn Term 2020. The data was collected through the Aspirations programme, a way for schools to enhance and measure the impact of their personal development programmes through the use of student data. We have tried to pick out the most interesting and useful trends to include—although as we have well over 1 million data points from 143 questions, we have had to leave a huge amount out! We hope that this data will prove highly relevant and useful to anyone involved in child development—whether in a school setting or otherwise. We have steered clear of making any inferences or recommendations based on our findings, instead focusing on the data itself. Meanwhile, you can find a bit more information about the questions we asked in the Appendix. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! Who are the students? Our data comes from 27 secondary schools around the country, from the Northern borders right down to the South coast. Many of these schools are in areas of high deprivation, some with as many as 60% of students eligible for Pupil Premium. However, just over a quarter of students are from schools with Pupil Premium rates lower than the national average of 17.3%. Careers and next steps after school The chart below shows the most commonly chosen industries in response to the question “which of these do you think you might like to work in?”. While it’s great to see so much variety, it should be noted that only 35% of students said they had properly researched the industries they are most interested in—and more concerningly, this was as true for Year 11+ as for Year 7. In terms of next steps after school, we asked students what options they were considering and which they believed they wanted to do most. 74% of those asked are considering university, with the most common reason given being “I want to increase my career prospects”. For those who weren’t interested in university, the most common reason selected (by 26%) was ‘just not interested’—closely followed by ‘too expensive’. ‘I’d rather do something else’ was fourth on the list, selected by just 19% of those students not considering university. Of those students who listed ‘just not interested’ as one of their reasons, 89% do not have a family member who has been to university. Finally, we asked students whether they had had a ‘proper’ conversation with an adult about their future. Only 51% said yes—although one quarter of those students did not think those conversations had been useful. The figure was higher for Year 11s, although at 63% perhaps not as high as we might like to see. Wellbeing Mental Wellbeing: My Feelings My Feelings uses the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) as a way to monitor wellbeing. While it was designed for use at cohort level, it provides a useful data point (alongside others) for schools to identify individuals who might need additional support. Our data shows that 20% of young people report as having low mental wellbeing. This proportion goes up with age groups, and is also noticeably higher for young people with SEN or eligible for Pupil Premium. However, those groups also have (slightly) higher-than-average proportions with high mental wellbeing. Interestingly, while there is no clear correlation between levels of Pupil Premium and the proportion with low scores, the proportion of students with high scores was noticeably greater in areas with over 30% PP—at 16%, versus 11% for those in schools with less than 30% PP. Comparing these numbers with data collected prior to lockdown there has been a slight downward shift in the average wellbeing score, although the proportion of young people with ‘low’ scores has slightly decreased from 22% to 20%. Looking at different cohorts, including year groups, distribution shifts are minimal and too small to conclusively say there has been a meaningful change. This mirrors data collected and analysed by other organisations, including in the Department for Education’s State of the Nation 2020 report which concluded that “children and young people have had quite stable personal wellbeing during the coronavirus”. Other safeguarding and wellbeing questions The SWEMWBS questions are accompanied by a second quiz covering various topics related to safety and wellbeing, from getting enough sleep and healthy eating to feeling safe at home and in school. Responses to some of these questions, from 8,667 students, were as follows: Some of the things we found interesting when digging around in a bit more detail: As they get older, fewer students consistently get enough sleep to not feel tired. However, there was some good news on this metric: it was the only one to improve significantly following lockdown! Now, 57% say they get enough sleep all or most of the time—up from 51% pre-Covid. Students are getting less exercise as they go up through school, with the biggest ‘drops’ between Year 8–9 and Year 10–11. All measures relating to self-esteem dropped with age and are markedly lower for PP students than for others. 17% of students never or almost never feel comfortable with the way they look; the same proportion never or almost never believe it when someone says something nice about them. Of the 2% of students who reported ‘never’ or ‘almost never’ getting enough to eat, only 40% were eligible for Pupil Premium. PP students are more likely to say they ‘never’ or ‘almost never’ feel safe at school—at 9.1%, versus 5.4% for non-PP students. This was also one of the statistics that varied the most by school, from 3% to 15%. Meanwhile, Year 7 students are the most likely to say they feel safe all or most of the time (80%, versus an average of 75%). We checked our pre-Covid stats to see whether this was perhaps the result of bubbling—as many students who say they don’t feel safe say it is due to older/bigger kids, or bullies—but no, last year more Year 7’s felt safe all or most of the time too. Skills and character development We also collect a lot of data regarding students’ skills and characteristics—asking how they rate themselves now against objective scales, as well as whether they want to improve. Finally, we ask students to shortlist just five of the (many) different areas they have said they want to get better at or learn more about as a priority for this term. Many of the most commonly chosen topics named by students as a top-5 priority to focus on this term were skills—including Work Experience, Creativity, Self-development and Sports & Fitness. The former is particularly popular, coming out as the most prioritised area by students—closely followed by University and College (Full Time). Meanwhile, while no characteristics made it onto the list of the top 20 most prioritised areas for immediate development, students clearly indicated that they wanted to work on a number of these aspects. There was also a strong correlation between those characteristics in which students self-rated the most poorly, and those which students stated they wanted to improve at. PSHE topics The final quiz relates to topics typically covered through a school’s PSHE curriculum—from learning about the environment to current affairs. Looking across all our schools, a desire to learn more about finances consistently came out on top—while also scoring second-lowest for current understanding. Meanwhile, staying healthy and staying safe both came high on the ‘want to know more’ list but also scored well for current understanding. Appendix: Background & Context All data was captured using Aspire, an online development coaching platform for students. Aspire starts by asking students to complete ‘quizzes’, covering the following topics: Me, My Future, My Feelings, My Wellbeing, My Skills, My Characteristics, and My World. Questions are asked in a variety of ways, for a variety of purposes: some are to help the schools get to know their students (e.g. asking about responsibilities at home in order to identify any young carers); some are to help students self-assess for specific skills or characteristics against descriptors, in a way that raises aspirations and boosts confidence; some are to learn what students want to develop in order to better tailor support. Many quizzes draw on existing, well-researched question sets and frameworks; for example My Feelings consists of the SWEMWBS questions and My World covers many topics recommended by the PSHE Association. Interested in Personal Development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up! #202021 #Data #Insights #Trends #PersonalDevelopment

Personal Development during Covid: 6 things learned from our students and teachers

This edition of the Aspirations blog explores what’s changed (and what hasn’t) for our students, and some of the things our schools are doing differently to support them. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! 1. Students’ priorities are…. almost exactly the same as before Although it may feel incredibly different day-to-day, there is a tremendous amount which hasn’t changed since last academic year. When we looked at the data collected so far this term—from over 8000 students—we found that the vast majority of trends relating to career interests, self-reported wellbeing, and desired improvements to skills and characteristics were relatively unchanged. Good news for anyone who used school closures to plan ahead for this year! 2. Every school’s experience this term is different Some schools have found it almost impossible to access computers due to timetabling issues. Others have had multiple Covid cases, resulting in half the school being sent home with no notice. Almost all of you seem to be constantly re-planning and adapting as the status quo shifts. In short: your experience, and your capacity, is not going to be the same as that of others. If you are focused on keeping things together in chaos, some of these ideas might be out of reach for now—and that’s OK! Small actions and improvements, when you can make them, will build up. 3. Form time has taken on increased importance As other opportunities for extra-curricular activities have diminished, many of our partner schools have used form time or registration periods to deliver focused, data-driven enrichment sessions for students. For example… Teaching Life Skills One school, after receiving data which showed that this was a top priority for their students, launched “Finance Fridays”—using their form time sessions to learn about the topic. This was followed by “First Aid Fridays”, addressing their students’ desire to learn more about health. Group Mentoring Another school has been using this time to run small group mentoring sessions for students who reported lower confidence or self-esteem. Having Meaningful Conversations Finally, a few schools are using tutor time to have 1-1s with students, focusing on those who say they have never had a 'proper' conversation about their future with an adult, while the rest of the class catches up on independent work or reading. 4. Wellbeing remains a high priority Wellbeing has been a major focus for a lot of schools this year—including running targeted 1-1s or group mentoring sessions for students with low wellbeing scores. The government’s recent State of the Nation report (SoTN) indicated that, on average, wellbeing among children and young people has held fairly steady during the COVID-19 pandemic. This fits with our data, which showed no change in the distribution of wellbeing responses across >5000 students. While it is good news that things haven’t got worse, it remains true that a concerningly high number of young people live with poor wellbeing and mental health. One contrast between our data and the government’s SoTN report was that, while SoTN found little change in students’ attitudes towards the future, we saw a small but meaningful increase in the proportion of students responding “not much” or “not at all” to the question “Overall, how excited are you about your future after leaving school?”—up 18% from last year, now at 8.5%. Wellbeing for SEND students The SoTN report also reported that anxiety levels may be higher among SEND students, as well as those from disadvantaged family backgrounds or minority ethnic groups. The finding for SEND students is consistent with our observations, with far higher proportions of SEND students reporting “low” wellbeing versus the average. In order to provide more targeted support to their SEND students, we’ve seen an increased level of coordination between Aspirations Leads and SENCO—using Aspirations data to ensure inclusive offers with the aim of improving wellbeing through enrichment. 5. Virtual assemblies and clubs are being used in place of in-person ones While in-person extra-curricular clubs have declined substantially this year, some Aspirations schools have continued to run clubs and activities for small groups of students—particularly where they are able to offer outdoor options like sports clubs, gardening, or Duke of Edinburgh. Meanwhile, there has been a huge increase in virtual offerings, including: After-school clubs for activities like art and student leadership Drop down days. For example, one school partnered with their local council to run a “Virtual Learning for Life” day in which students attended their preferred webinars on career options and interview skills, health and wellbeing, challenging gender stereotypes, different cultures, and more Assemblies and talks. One school invited past students now attending university to run a live Q&A session, as well as their local police service to give a virtual assembly on knife crime 6. Using Online Resources A lot of schools have taken advantage of the very many extra-curricular online resources, either for group activities or to encourage independent development. If your school is running the full Aspirations programme (“Achieve”), your students already have access to our curated library of high-quality extra-curricular resources, which will provide tailored recommendations to your students based on their interests. If you aren’t part of the Aspirations family yet, or are running the shorter “Assess” programme which doesn’t include access to the online curriculum, you can find our recommendations for targeted (and free) student resources in blog posts from the summer, including Wellbeing, Careers and Knowledge. Interested in personal development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up! #202021 #Data #Insights #Trends #PersonalDevelopment

The 2019-20 data roundup: What your students want

2020 has been a challenging year for students, teachers and parents alike, but the upcoming term offers a new opportunity for schools to bring stability and enrichment to young people’s lives once again. We’ve analysed some of the data we collected from over 5000 students around the country last year, picking out five areas where students want (or need) support the most. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! 1. Work Experience Work experience was the area prioritised most often by Aspirations students, from a total of 64 topics including skills, PHSE topics, and career options. Interestingly, this wasn’t just older students—this was the #1 area for KS3 as well! Social distancing and huge uncertainty about what will and won’t be possible will make coordinating work placements even more difficult than usual. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of virtual (and free) work experience options out there, including Barclays Life Skills, BSMS and Speakers for Schools. For a longer list of potential providers, we recommend checking out Croydon Digital’s “Mega List”. 2. Managing your finances With 62% of students saying they wanted to learn more about it, managing your finances was the highest-prioritised of all the ‘knowledge‘ topics. The chart below shows the trend for this question across year groups. Of the students surveyed, only 47% thought they had a good understanding of the topic. With this in mind, the Young Foundation’s free digital textbook on personal finance might offer a good opener to start a conversation with your young people about this topic. Alternatively, UK-based charity Mybnk offers free lessons plans, activities and resources on everything from money dilemmas to demystifying financial jargon. With age, students’ interest in the topic increased. Interestingly, though, this corresponded with a decrease in perceived understanding—with the % of students answering “Yes” or “Absolutely” to “Do you understand this topic?” dropping from 49% in Year 7 to only 38% in Year 11. 3. Feeling safe Prior to Covid-19, not feeling safe at school was the most commonly reported wellbeing issue among Aspirations students. Reasons given varied hugely, from bullying to feeling intimidated by older years. From September, we might expect health worries to be added into the mix. Meanwhile, 33% of students said that they didn’t have an adult at school who they could talk to if something was worrying them. This highlights something we all know already—that it is hugely important all students are encouraged to share their concerns with a member of staff, and know that there is someone who will listen and help if they need it. At the same time, Aspirations data should be used to identify and follow up with all individuals with potentially concerning responses, in line with your school’s normal safeguarding policies and processes. 4. Academics This topic making the list won’t surprise anyone, and we don’t doubt you’ll already be focusing on this, but we thought you might be relieved to know that improving their academic performance ranks highly on students’ priority lists as well as yours. 87% of students who responded said they wanted to improve on their current academic performance; this was fairly consistent across year groups and schools. You’re the teaching experts, so we’ll leave determining how to conduct lessons in the new term to you! 5. Self-development Given that Aspirations is all about self-development, we were delighted to see this as a hugely popular skill amongst students—with 85% of those surveyed saying they wanted to get better at it. Aspirations helps students practice and refine their self-development skills by encouraging them to set short-term objectives based on their longer-term goals each term. At the end of the term, ahead of refreshing their priorities and objectives, they are invited to reflect on progress: how did they get on? Were they too optimistic—or not ambitious enough? What do they want to do differently next time? As teachers, one of the most valuable ways you can support at this stage is helping your students set short-term goals that balance ambition with realism. This isn’t easy—how many of you set yourselves completely realistic lockdown goals?! Secondly, be reassuring when they don’t manage to complete their list first time around. They might feel better knowing that they’d be in good company—last year, only 28% of goals set by Aspirations students were achieved “completely”! If you’d like to know more about how we work, from our methodology in collecting and analysing data to how we help our partner schools to instil a mindset of self-development in their students, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at Interested in personal development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up! #201920 #Data #Insights


A rounded Personal Development programme equips students with not just skills, but also knowledge about the world around them and their place in it. The ‘My World’ quiz in Aspire covers a range of PHSE-type topics, asking students which they understand, which they want to learn more about, and if there are any specific things they’d like to know. Some of these topics have proved particularly important to young people—with 56% of students choosing at least one ‘knowledge’ focus area as a top priority for the term. In this newsletter, we’ll highlight some of the ‘My World’ topics your students said they wanted to learn most about, along with some of our favourite related resources. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! Managing Your Finances It’s no surprise that Managing your Finances tops our ranking of most-requested knowledge topics, with 63% of students saying they want to learn more about it. Good Financial Advice Barclays Life Skills offers free articles, videos and interactive quizzes to help young people learn to save, stay out of debt, and avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Your Money Matters This free digital textbook gives students all the information they need to educate themselves about Saving, Budgeting, Borrowing, Investing, and the World of Work. Staying Healthy: Lifestyle, Diet, and Assessing Risks Staying Healthy is the second most prioritised knowledge focus area, with 56% of students wanting to learn more about how to better look after themselves. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Because this area is quite broad, we’re offering a suite of resources to help students eat healthily, improve their fitness and get a better night’s sleep. Resources for Health & Relationships Initiated by Croydon Primary Care Trust and since developed in partnership with local authorities and young people, Getting It On is a website dedicated to providing guidance to young people on sexual and mental health issues, drugs & alcohol and relationship problems. Wellbeing Although Mental and Emotional Wellbeing ranked highly among Aspirations Students’ chosen focus areas, we’ve decided not to focus on that here – because we already covered it in a dedicated Wellbeing blog post! The Environment, and Global Issues The Environment is also, unsurprisingly, a hot topic among Aspirations students, with 51% of students saying they want to learn more about it. Environmental Awareness Fortunately for students (and teachers) interested in learning more about our world, 9 award-winning David Attenborough documentaries are currently available for free on BBC iPlayer. Global Issues, Explained “Almost nobody knows the basic global facts!” claims Gapminder, an independent Swedish foundation dedicated to increasing awareness of global statistics and trends. Their website offers educational resources on topics such as inequality, climate change, and rational optimism. All of the above resources are available as online resources to Aspirations students, through the Aspire platform. Interested in personal development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up!

Career Aspirations

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the focus we place on thinking ahead, career paths are consistently prioritised by Aspirations students – with 88% including at least one as an area to focus on last term. In addition, even though a lot have an idea of what they’d like to do, most want further guidance – with 68% of the c.4500 students surveyed saying they’d like more help and information on their options after school. In this blog, we’ll share some resources you might want to encourage your students to use – helping them use some of this time away from school to explore career paths and get excited about entering the world of work. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! Part 1: For students who aren’t sure what they want to do A Quick, Fun Careers Quiz Panjango offers a quick, easy quiz which matches students’ interests and skills to a selection of potential careers. Good for a quick activity to give KS3/4 students an idea of their options. Panjango also have a series of online and board games, although these may be more appropriate for use with a teacher or parent. Non-Office Career Ideas For students who know what they don’t want to do, Target Careers’ list of non-office careers might offer some inspiration. A Comprehensive Career Guide Similar to Panjango, Start Profile uses students’ interests, skills and preferences to suggest potential careers, but at a more detailed level. It also stores their profile and provides a platform for them to build and record skills, explore career options and get a better understanding of how to achieve them, and set them on the path to professional development. Part 2: For students who know what they want How To Become… Just About Anything! This series of articles from Graduate Prospects Ltd outlining the steps needed to start a wide range of careers, from accountant to zookeeper, and everything in between! Videos and Stories From Professionals For students who prefer videos to written guidance, iCould contains a series of videos and stories in which successful professionals from a wide range of fields offer insights into their roles, and how they got into them. For Students Who Want A Career In Sport Sports, Health and Fitness is the most popular career path among Aspirations students, with 27% considering it as an option. This article from Target Careers outlines some of the possible careers in this field, and paths to get there. Are Your Students the Future of the NHS? NHS workers are getting a lot of well deserved praise at the moment, and 21% of students were already interested in a career in healthcare – but there are plenty of non-clinical options, too. Step Into the NHS provides stories about what working in the NHS is like, a platform to explore potential roles, and a quiz which matches students up to roles which might suit them. All of the above resources are available as online resources to Aspirations students, through the Aspire platform. Interested in personal development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up!

Supporting Wellbeing During School Closures

At the best of times, wellbeing concerns are front of mind for many young people. Last term, long before Coronavirus first made an appearance, Aspirations responses showed that: 72% of students wanted to be more resilient 47% wanted to get better at staying calm 14% had been feeling optimistic about the future ‘None of the time’ or ‘Rarely’ It is still early days, but a study conducted by Young Minds indicated that wellbeing among young people had declined since the lockdown began – with 83% saying the pandemic has made their mental health a bit or much worse. And it isn’t easy for adults, either – a recent Ipsos MORI poll found just under half of people felt anxious or depressed. So, our inaugural blog is focused on wellbeing – and specifically, some ideas for how you, your colleagues and your students can look after yourselves and each other at this time. This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here! For Staff/Parents For Supporting Younger Children This article from the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, intended for parents, talks about some of the things that can be done to reduce stress and restore a sense of normality for children and teenagers. For Supporting Older Children The pandemic is especially challenging for teenagers and young adults – and, by extension, their parents and teachers. This article from the Childmind Institute offers some useful tips for supporting older children during this period. For Looking After Yourselves For those of us who are responsible for the wellbeing and development of others during a stressful time, it can be very easy to neglect our own wellbeing. We’ve seen a lot of self-care articles directed at parents and carers, but this article from Australian charity Parentline stands out due to an excellent checklist for reflecting on your wellbeing, and a list of small but effective steps which can be taken to improve it. For Students For Anxiety This article from Young Minds clearly explains how to recognise and cope with anxiety in a child-friendly way. For Calmness The Calm Zone website from Childline offers a selection of tools and activities designed to help young people better understand what makes them feel calm. For Self-Care The Anna Freud Centre is a fantastic children’s mental health charity, and their webpage on Self Care offers advice and guidance on self-care practices from meditation to telephone support. All of the above resources are available as online resources to Aspirations students, through the Aspire platform. Interested in personal development? Sign up to the Aspirations Newsletter for regular(ish) updates including recommended resources, great practice from our schools, and trends on student needs and interests across the country Sign Up! #Wellbeing

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