Spring makeover and student empowerment: All the latest news from Aspirations Academies Trust!

By Aspirations Academies Trust [email protected]

Published: June 14, 2024 | Updated: 14th June 2024

Welcome to the June news roundup from Aspirations Academies Trust, a group of 16 academies in the South of England – including seven in Dorset.

This month, local girls from Bournemouth and Poole took part in the Empower Project to develop employability and leadership skills; Magna Academy students were treated to workshops on campaigning and public speaking; and a team of volunteers got to work giving Atlantic Academy’s Maritime House site in Portland a spring makeover.



Year 9 girls from Livingstone Academy, and Bournemouth Magna Academy, Poole along with Year 8 girls from Poole High School, attended the final session of the Empower Project organised by Bournemouth University, at Lighthouse, Poole recently.

The programme aims to equip and empower young women to develop employability and leadership skills, financial awareness and business acumen as well as to offer an insight into a range of industries and career paths.

Since January, the girls selected to take part in the programme have visited Bournemouth University for a TV studio session and campus tour, participated in an NHS and Healthcare careers session, toured AFC Bournemouth and taken a money management session, and spent a day with local employer Lush.

The final event was hosted by Martha Earley, Creative Engagement Manager at Lighthouse, Poole, who organised a backstage tour, a workshop with opera singer, Grace Lovelass and a Q&A panel session with a range of female professionals working at the centre.

Viewing the venue’s performance spaces, the girls were also able to see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in action as they played a schools’ concert.

Frankii Stockton, Emotional Literacy Support Assistant at Livingstone Academy, accompanying the trip, was delighted by the girls’ reaction: “Many of our students have never set foot in a professional theatre or seen an orchestra play live. They haven’t thought before about the impact of the arts on our lives. Visiting a centre like Lighthouse, Poole has been totally inspiring and opened their eyes to new possibilities.”

Speaking at the end of the day Martha commented, “I really hope the girls have enjoyed the insight into what goes on backstage, or front of house and what these powerful women do within the building. It’s been a lovely opportunity to have young women in the space and to share our knowledge and experience.”


Natalie Woodward who organised the entire programme on behalf of Bournemouth University added, “You don’t need to have your whole career mapped out by age 14 but I hope they’ve got something from the companies we’ve visited and have a better idea of the range of careers that exist across so many businesses, charities and industries based in Bournemouth and Poole.”



Fourteen pupils aged from 12 – 15 from Magna Academy, Poole, recently visited Bournemouth University for a conference organised by Southern Universities Network.

Entitled ‘Empowering Student Voice’ the conference aimed to enhance the students’ change making skills with workshops in campaigning, public speaking and communication.

A keynote speech was given by BCP Council’s Becky McDade from the Children’s Rights and Engagement Team who is keen to encourage children and young people to participate in local decision making through the Youth Parliament.

Commenting afterwards, Becky said “I hope that our young people understand that they can make a difference and that locally, people care what they think. We want change to happen!”

Following a tour of Bournemouth University’s Student Union building and a chance to observe university life at close quarters, the Magna students took part in a workshop led by representatives of the Speakers Trust. Designed to build confidence and public speaking skills, the session was well received by the students, all of whom are members of the school’s Student Voice team.

Hayden Taylor of Unloc, which provides programmes in entrepreneurship and leadership for young people, delivered an engaging session on social campaigning which saw the youngsters competing against each other to come up with innovative ways of communicating a message.

“This session was the most fun,” enthused Year 7 pupil Daisy Collett. “I loved the teamwork and having to come up with ideas quickly!”

Kayleigh Heckford, Democracy and Campaigns Manager for BU was delighted with the event: “I hope they leave feeling inspired. We’ve been able to share some of the campaigns we’ve worked on and I hope that’s given them some ideas to take back to their student council.”

Year 10 pupil, Colby Wellstead enjoyed the day: “I’ve picked up some great practical tips to improve my speaking and there’s been lots of good advice I can take back to school. We can all be change makers.”



Staff, parents and pupils at Atlantic Academy got busy painting the walls of the school on the Maritime House site recently as part of a project designed to brighten the primary playground.

Staff used masking tape to create the geometric design the night before work got underway and the following day, staff, children and adult volunteers were divided into seven teams each responsible for one of the chosen paint colours.

The idea had come from the student leadership team within the school: “Our pupils had discussed the buildings and decided the walls were boring,” explains Year 3 teacher and PTFA Liaison Emma Powell. “They wanted bright, colourful walls that they could help create. We are so lucky that Miss Heppell, our Principal, has a background in graphic design so she put her designer’s hat on and came up with something really fun and striking!”

Alongside assistance from the PTFA who supplied tea and cakes to the workers, Crown Decorating Centres in Weymouth offered to provide the paint for free when they heard about the project.

“We are so grateful to everybody at Crown,” says Emma. “It was so unexpected! I’d gone in ready and willing to pay for the paint but they delivered it for free the next day. That kind of generosity and support is very much appreciated.”

The results have gone down extremely well with everyone at the school and there are plans now to paint further walls in the coming weeks: “We have enough paint to complete at least two more huge walls,” explains Emma. “And we’re raring to go. It was actually a great opportunity to get to chat with parents and students in an informal setting.”

Year 3 pupil Lily Wilkie was enthusiastic about her part in the project: ”It was so fun! I want to be an artist when I grow up and painting is my favourite thing, I love how colourful it makes our playground look now”

Rhys Phillips also in Year 3 added, ”Everytime I look at it I can think, ‘Wow! That was me!’ I wrote my name in paint under all that green so I am part of this school forever, even when I am a grown up.”

Parent and PTFA Volunteer Sam Bradbury, commented, “It felt really great to help improve the school play area to benefit the children in a positive way. It was great fun also to spend time with other parents helping and the teachers. There was real community spirit!”

Primary Principal, Melissa Heppell is delighted with the transformation: “The children decided the bare walls were boring and they were right. With a bit of imagination, some donated paint and the hard work of everyone who volunteered their time the playground has become a much livelier place to be!”

Two more transformation work days have been planned for Friday 14th June and Saturday 22nd June.

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