Encouraging Netherwood Students To Aim Higher

On the 2nd of April 2019 students from Years 10 and 11 at Netherwood Academy took part in an Inspirational Event ‘Encouraging Netherwood Students To Aim Higher’.  This event was designed and managed by Gaia Innovation as part of their ‘Inspiration for Innovation’ programme.

Following in-depth discussions with Jo Wilson, HeppSY Lead at Netherwood Academy, the event was designed to inspire 100 Netherwood students to consider university as a higher education pathway and gain a greater understanding of the importance of higher education and the impact a degree can make on future employment.

The event saw professionals from across Barnsley and South Yorkshire attend Netherwood Academy to encourage students via a range of activities.  We welcomed volunteers from Rolls Royce, Pitstop Productions, Bobs Business, KPMG, Harworth Properties, the AMRC, NHS Barnsley Hospital, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Henry Boot, Webmart and AlmostBlack.co.uk.

Overall objective: ‘Encourage Netherwood students to aim higher and see accessing university as an expectation not simply as aspiration’

The event was split into three sessions each one focusing on a specific area:

Session 1: Inspiring students to be the best they can be and looking at education / career pathways

In this session there was a focus on hearing from three major employers in Barnsley: NHS Barnsley Hospital, Bobs Business and Pitstop Productions.  Leaders from these businesses spoke about their own personal journeys and the barriers they overcame to be successful. There followed a Career Speed Networking Event which saw twenty-five professionals from the worlds of business and academia give first hand advice to the students as to the importance of ‘depth of study’, the different higher educational pathways to employment, the importance of transferable skills and offering personal advice.

Session 2: Access to and life at university

This session began with a speech from Jack Nunn, an ex Netherwood Academy student and now an under-graduate at Worcester College, Oxford University.  Jack spoke about how university had positively changed him as a person and encouraged the students to follow in his footsteps. The students then spoke to twenty-two of the volunteers about their experiences at university, allowing the volunteers to dispel any fears or myths the students may have about leaving home to go to university, learning to look after themselves and meeting new friends.

Session 3: Easing parents concerns

In the final session of the day parents joined their children to hear from a range of volunteers including James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP.  The aim of this evening session was to highlight to parents the importance of realising that their children have huge potential and that the future economic success of Barnsley will require graduates to move businesses in the region forward.


The feedback from the event was outstanding with 86% of the students stating they were now more interested in going to university than before the event.  86% of parents also stated that they were now more interested in encouraging their child to go to university as a result of the event.

What you achieved today was amazing. To get so many volunteers to come together and take time out of their busy work schedules with the sole purpose of inspiring the children of Wombwell to make the best of themselves and aim high was an incredible feat. The Gaia Innovation team were all very professional and ensured we volunteers were hugely motivated and well briefed.  We need to do more of this in Barnsley. ” – John Sanderson – CEO Pitstop Productions and private sector board member of Barnsley Economic Partnership.

“I think that the event will have triggered a positive change in aspiration and ambition amongst pupils and parents attending, and will have given the teaching staff inspiration to plan more such events going forward.“ – James Muir, Chair Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of Astrea Board of Trustees

“The event was a big success! It was brilliant to see key industry figures being involved and talking so closely with the students, and it was clear to see that it was especially tailored to the school and the area. Both the students and their parents were engaged with the message for the evening, and it really felt like a many had been inspired to go to university when they otherwise wouldn’t even think to. A fantastic experience for all!” – Cara Saungsonboom, Assistant Research Engineer, Nuclear AMRC

“Working with Gaia was a very enjoyable experience! Nicola and the teams’ passion and enthusiasm shone through and made the event very successful and effective. The planning and organisation was meticulous. Their ability to secure the best volunteers for the event was extremely valuable.  The event was well attended and very much enjoyed by all students and parents. Many of the students were enthused and inspired, particularly by Jack and the other volunteers, who’s stories and journeys they could relate to. Parent feedback particularly highlighted the value of the parent panel and student finance session . We would definitely consider hosting a similar event in the future. Thank you!”  – Jo Wilson, HeppSY Lead Netherwood Academy