Students celebrated completing the life-changing AQA Unlocking Potential mentoring programme this week with a visit to London Zoo with their teachers and their athlete mentors.

The young people met with representatives from AQA and the Trust amongst lions, tigers, penguins and a whole host of other animals and wildlife, to receive their certificates as well as a £30 Amazon gift voucher each.

The intention as in previous years had been to host a full celebration event, and this year we had chosen to hold it at the zoo. Unfortunately, due to the delay in lifting of Covid restrictions we had to rethink our plans for bringing all the schools together in one place. However, when we explained the situation the people at London Zoo, who connect thousands of schoolchildren to wildlife every year through their zoos, they were only too happy to help.

Those schools that were able to travel were offered a day out at the zoo, where they could meet with their athlete mentors and receive their certificate and voucher, and then spend the rest of the day exploring the zoo and learning about the valuable work ZSL do. The schools that couldn’t make it to the zoo had their certificates and vouchers sent to them directly and arranged their own mini-celebrations with their athletes.

 

Claire Filippo, a teacher at Campsmount Academy in Doncaster, said:

AQA Unlocking Potential is amazing. Working with an athlete mentor on a one to one basis has helped these young people build and develop confidence in their own abilities which has been invaluable, especially during COVID, and has really helped the students to flourish at this difficult time.

"Their social action project focused on the impact of the pandemic on fellow students. Understanding that many people are facing adversity and challenges, they developed a transition support package to ensure new students at our school felt safe and secure, which was really helpful to those young people joining.

"Its been great to be able to celebrate their achievement with a visit to London Zoo. These students had never really left their home town before so showing them the wonders of the zoo and London is a fantastic experience that will stay with them for life.

Speaking about the programme, James Kirton, athlete mentor and former team GB Olympic swimmer, said:

Despite the restrictions caused by COVIID, the AQA Unlocking Potential programme has been a great success for another year and a day out like this is a great experience and reward for those young people.

“We’ve seen some amazing social action projects this year covering topics as diverse as disability awareness, sexual abuse and supporting local foodbanks, all thought up and delivered by the students.

“On individual levels, students have really come out of their shells and gained confidence and leadership skills, and are now ready to move on to the next stage of their lives with a sense of purpose.

We are hoping to be able to run a similar programme next adademic year. If we do, applications for the AQA Unlocking Potential programme will open in Autumn this year. Keep an eye on our website and social media channels for more details nearer the time.