When I grow up, I want to be..

19th September 2008 at 01:00

Primary 7 pupil Matthew Fisch-bacher thought bus drivers simply drove buses. "I didn't realise all the stuff they have to do, the different contact codes they have to use to report a burst tyre or a broken window. And I didn't realise what funny stories they have about what some people do on their buses," he says.

His classmate at Wardie Primary in Edinburgh, Emma Tenant, was equally surprised that fire-fighters do more than fight fires. "I'd never thought about them rescuing people from car crashes or floods before. And it was amazing to watch a fire-fighter get into her protective clothes in all of 10 seconds," she says.

Matthew and Emma are still clearly enthused by their experience of the Wardie to Work Week, an all-school introduction to the world of work held last session.

During that week, the school invited parents to talk to pupils about their careers and why they had chosen them. Drawing on their mixed catchment area, this produced a variety of occupations which fascinated the pupils. The 30 volunteer parents included a sports commentator, an architect, a criminal advocate, a foster carer, a toy and software designer, a tapestry weaver, journalist, dental nurse, theatre nurse, plumber, ceramic tiler and make-up artist - as well as bus driver and fire-fighter.

"We wanted to get the pupils to think about the kinds of skills needed for different jobs," says Lorraine Cooper, Wardie's headteacher. "But we wanted it to be more than a `people who help us' project and we wanted to break down gender stereotypes."

During the week, the early years children had a visit from a fire crew, complete with engine, while a female fire-fighter spoke to P3 and P4 about what it was like to be a woman fire-fighter.

Some of the pupils got to try on the advocate's wig and have their day in court. Others had a go at weaving on a small hand-loom. And some practised their make-up skills, while their friends experimented with electronic toys.

At the end of the week, all pupils were encouraged to attend assembly dressed up as what they wanted to be (among the boys, footballers were discouraged). These included a film director who came carrying a cardboard camera her parents had helped her make.

"That symbolised the kind of parental involvement and commitment the project inspired," says Rebecca Klayman, the school's enterprise learning co-ordinator.

"The parental feedback was that this was something really different. They got involved in discussing their own jobs with their children and in dressing them up. It encouraged the whole family to be creative together. "It has helped create a climate now where parents feel relaxed about getting more involved with the school. They realise there's more they can do than just attend parents' nights or school nativity plays," she says.

The Wardie to Work Week also triggered two other school projects involving film and journalism.

"By the end of the session a lot of pupils had become interested in the film industry and the different jobs in it, so we decided to have our own film festival," says Mrs Cooper.

This involved every class in scripting, directing, acting and producing a short film with titles ranging from Road Safety and A Rough Guide to France and Scotland to Time Travel Trip which, relating to a Jacobite project, involved a lot of costuming. The films were all shown together at the Edinburgh Film Theatre.

The week also inspired some budding journalists who set up the Wardie Press Gang, which now contributes copy, photographs, graphics and cartoons to school newsletters.

"What we discovered was that there was a huge variety of occupations among our parents and this enabled us to get the pupils to think about what skills they have themselves, what they are good at and where that might lead," says Mrs Cooper.

"It's great to get all the children thinking about their strengths and skills from P1 on and to get their parents involved as much and as early as possible in their children's school careers."


Look Who's Talking Too: Fun and Enjoyment in Career Education, by Eric Burton, Learning and Teaching Scotland, September 24, 4.45pm.

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