AQA Unlocking Potential is an eight month ‘transformational’ mentoring programme for young people aged from 11-19 years of age, run jointly with education charity AQA.

Nominations for the 2020/21 programme are now open

For the 2020/2021 programme we will be continuing with the same criteria as last year:

  • We are now accepting nominations for students from 11-19 years of age 
  • We are asking teachers to nominate four students per school

The nomination window will close on 1st November. 

AQA Unlocking Potential aims to raise young people’s aspirations and expectations on future life goals, whether from school to Further Education, Further Education to Higher Education, or into training and employment. Young people are to be nominated by their teachers who believe that they would benefit from mentoring support to develop life skills and increase their confidence, self-belief and motivation. 

See more about the 2019/20 programme in the video below:

AQA Unlocking Potential programme:

  • Personal mentoring support from an Athlete Mentor who will visit the school/college site six times throughout the course of the programme.
  • Specifically designed materials and resources.
  • Attendance at National Team Events.
  • Participation in a Social Action project.
  • Funding support provided to support/contribute to student attendance at National Team Events.

In response to Covid 19, we are able to deliver some or all aspects of the programme remotely if required.  This includes the ability to switch between face to face and remote sessions during the programme in line with any national or local requirements. 

Following a virtual launch event, we hope athletes can visit schools to deliver sessions in person.  However, if this is not possible, we can deliver content remotely to ensure pupils continue to benefit.   Therefore, we ask that applying schools are able to facilitate online sessions via Zoom (or other agreed platform) if required.    

Before completing the nomination form, please review the criteria for nominating young people and the commitment that you as a school/college will be asked to provide as part of the programme.

The programme is designed to support students but it does require their complete commitment to get the full benefit, and that is what our athletes and AQA expect from all participants.

We’re aware that some year 11 and 13 students taking exams next summer may already have considerable pressures on their time and availability due to lost teaching time caused by the closure of schools in March.

Please consider this when selecting students to nominate for the programme, we don’t want the programme to become an additional pressure for them in what is already an important year in their education. We also don’t want to see a place wasted, where a student is unable to fully participate and engage with the programme due to time pressures of their education, which we fully understand must come first.


Please think carefully about whether these criteria match your nominees’ readiness for the AQA Unlocking Potential programme and current personal circumstances, to ensure we all make the desired impact for the young people participating.

As a teacher at your school/college, you must nominate at least four young people who are between the ages of 11 and 19 years at the time of nomination, and who are not fulfilling their potential.  They must be nominated based on being held back by one or more of the following:

  • challenging personal circumstances
  • low self-esteem and a lack of confidence
  • lack of local opportunities.

Those who have demonstrated their strength of character, despite being held back by one or more of the above, should demonstrate one or more of the following attributes:

  • commitment – have shown willingness to give their time and energy to something that they believe in or want to do
  • enthusiasm – have shown energetic interest in a particular subject or activity and an eagerness to be involved
  • determination – have shown the ability to continue trying to do something, although it is challenging
  • integrity – have shown that they can stick to a set of strong moral principles. 

Please view an example of a successful application here.

As good practice, we advise that teachers nominating young people liaise in the first instance to discuss the programme with the young person and ensure they are happy to be considered. 

School/College commitment:

If successful, we would require the following support from your school/college to ensure the AQA Unlocking Potential programme achieved the set outcomes and made the desired impact to the young people participating:

  • Support from a member of the school Senior Leadership Team who will act as a champion for the AQA Unlocking Potential programme in their school.

  • Identify a ‘Lead Teacher’ from within the school/college who would ultimately manage and co-ordinate delivery of the programme, including:

    Return all required registration forms to the Trust for each young person to ensure their participation within (date to be provided prior to launch)

    Be available to the athlete mentor, and wider Trust team where required, to plan delivery, confirm visit dates, ensure young people are in attendance on visit dates and update on young people’s progress

    Work with the athlete mentor (and wider Trust team) to ensure all monitoring and evaluation is completed and returned at key points during the programme

    Work with the athlete mentor to ensure delivery support and guidance for the social action project element in conjunction with the young people

    Co-ordinate young people’s attendance to three national team events at the launch, mid-point and celebration (as outlined in the Timescales section)

    Ensure all additional elements to the programme are completed as outlined in the Timescale section.

  • A bursary is provided to assist with the young person's travel, however schools may need to top this amount up if needed to attend the above events.

Programme Timescale:

Key timings for the AQA Unlocking Potential programme are as follows:

Area Date
Nominations 5th October - 1st November
Judging w/c 9th November
Athlete Mentor visits completed by 30th June 2021
Social action project delivered by 30th June 2021
National Team Events

Launch Event:      

Virtual Launch Event 14th Jan

National Team Events

Mid Point Event: 

23rd March 2021 - South/Virtual

25th  March 2021 - North/Virtual

We are planning to deliver these events in person, but will revert to virtual delivery if this is not possible.

National Team Events

Celebration Event:              

6th July 2021 (venue in London TBC)

Selection process:

Initial shortlisting will be carried out by representatives from AQA and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. They will select nominations that have best demonstrated how the young people meet the set criteria. The nominees will then be put forward to a panel of judges who will decide on the final group of young people who will take part. The judging panel will be made up of representatives from the world of education and industry, including representatives from AQA and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. Entries submitted after the closing date will not be considered.

To nominate your students, please complete the nomination form here

Further Information

For further information, please contact Leigh Hall via e-mail at: [email protected]