International supermodel and entrepreneur, David Gandy, visited his former schools today (Thursday 1st November), Sunnymede Junior School and The Billericay School, both in Essex, to share his journey from school to stardom and encourage all children and young people to aspire and dream without limits.
David returned to the Billericay schools not only as a former pupil, but also as an ambassador for award-winning education charity Achievement for All, which works in partnership with schools and education settings to raise outcomes for all children and young people, irrespective of background, challenge or need.
As part of his support for the charity, David has part-funded his schools to adopt the charity’s Achieving Schools programme. The impact of this on children, young people, teachers and parents over the past year has been profound.
Speaking about the visit and the opportunity to meet with pupils, David said: “I am looking forward to returning to my old schools for the first time in over 20 years. It will be exciting to see the impact of Achievement for All coaches, teachers and all those who work so hard to build brighter futures for the children and young people in their care.
“I certainly didn’t breeze through school, but the support and time of certain teachers and individuals are what I still remember to this day. No one should have their dreams and aspirations confined because of their background or circumstances. Yet too often in this country, children who are vulnerable to underachievement face futures with limited opportunities. Sunnymede Junior School, The Billericay School and Achievement for All are working to reverse this trend and I want to personally let pupils know: you can realise your ambitions no matter who you are or where you come from.”
Currently, the education system is struggling to meet the needs of one in five children and young people – the vulnerable, disadvantaged and underachieving. Achievement for All is challenging this position and working to close the gap by empowering children and young people, as well as their teachers, parents and carers, through personal coaching, professional support, and a leading network of educational experts.
Following a year of working with Achievement for All, both The Billericay School and Sunnymede Junior School have received recognition in their Ofsted inspections and made great progress. In particular, family engagement has been praised for improving pupil attendance at Sunnymede, while The Billericay School’s use of pupil premium funding and regular parent, carer and teacher discussions have also boosted their pupils’ achievement.
Speaking about David’s visit and the impact of working with Achievement for All, Ahson Mohammed, headteacher at The Billericay School, said:“We were very pleased to see David come back to his old school and meet the students who are taking part in the Achievement for All programme.
“The impact of his visit, and the programme as a whole, cannot be understated. The students really value the opportunity to have an in-school mentor and to feel empowered to discuss aspirational paths they want to follow as well as their ambitions for the future. David is a fantastic role model for the students, he really is a positive influence on them and the students I have spoken to have said how much they gained from being part of the programme.”
Ronnie Branch, headteacher at Sunnymede Junior School, which is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, said: “We are delighted to be part of the Achievement for All network, which has been made possible for us as a result of David's generosity in sponsoring us.
“We have gained so much from our first year of the programme and are now embarking on our second. The structured conversations, in particular, have been of great benefit to the pupils and parents who have taken part, giving them the time and space to talk about and reflect on their long and short-term aspirations. The opportunity for our pupils and mentors to meet David is a real boost for the school, allowing us all to thank him for his commitment to our children and to see the impact of his support on young people's lives.”
As well as touring his former classrooms and corridors while meeting with pupil, teachers and mentors David also took part in Q&A sessions with the inspirational children and young people who are directly supported by Achievement for All and are feeling, first-hand, the effects of the Achieving Schools programme.
Reflecting on the impact of David’s support, Professor Sonia Blandford, CEO at Achievement for All, said: "David is a fantastic and much-needed role model. His modelling, business and charitable accomplishments highlight what life-changing doors can be opened through dreaming big and believing in your ability to achieve.
“At a time when the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers seems to be growing and young people in care or with special educational needs are increasingly excluded from education, our desire to ensure access, achievement and aspiration for all, has never been more relevant.
“David’s support of his former schools, and the direct impact that this has had on children’s outcomes, demonstrates what good can be achieved from not turning your back on your past but trying to make a positive difference. I urge everyone to consider how you too can support the young people in your local communities to lead happy and fulfilling lives, and ultimately build a fairer society for all.”
Photographs taken by Cheryl Crane (crane_clix)