Building pupils’ confidence through motivational workshops


SLN commissioned Marcus Orlovsky and Bryanston Square to deliver its Unlock Programme at selected Sussex schools. The programme aims to inspire students who are low in aspiration and direction (and who consequently have relatively poor attendance and engagement) by giving them the knowledge and skills to take more control of their own futures.


Unlock is an intensive programme normally consisting of four days for Year 10 and two and a half days for Year 12 (run over a seven-week period) for groups of 12 students with two staff.

Day 1 – The first day started with a 90-minute motivational talk to the full year group, with the aim of exciting Unlock participants about working with the project and motivating the rest of the year group to learn more from the Unlock participants. The selected participants then worked for the rest of the day, including preparing for the immersion day, which includes team-building, interview skills and interview practice. Year 12 students followed an individual timetable for 30 minutes, with intense 12-minute one-to-one general interviews.

Day 2 – A week later, the group attended their immersion day in London, where they travelled to different locations to interview four or five hosts at the forefront of their industry. These included successful restaurateurs,  services experts, senior staff working in retail, law, journalism and estate agency, as well as professionals from well-known organisations such as Facebook, Waitrose and Metro Bank.

Day 3 – A week after the immersion day, students were supported in planning how to present what they had learned to their year group. This activity was designed to give Unlock students experience, skills and confidence in presenting to a large audience and delivering succinct messages in an engaging way.

Day 4 – Four to six weeks later, students were invited to reflect on their skills and to create elevator pitches to later present to influential, local businesspeople they had identified and invited into school. The businesspeople included: a vet, a church leader, a construction manager and a charity worker.  


Just over 100 students took part, although not all completed the whole programme due to illness, exams etc, while 72-students completed pre- and post-programme questionnaires. Impacts included:

‘I know where to go for further information about higher education’ – pre-Unlock, 27% agreed with this statement; after Unlock, 44% said they agreed.

‘I’m confident that I would fit in higher education’ – pre-Unlock, 33% strongly agreed or agreed, compared with 49% after they had taken part in the programme.

‘I think that higher education is a realistic option for me' – pre-Unlock, 39% strongly agreed or agreed with this statement, compared with 51% after Unlock.

Asked specifically about the immersion day, which gives students the opportunity to interview leading lights of industry to build up their soft skills and improve confidence, students had the following responses:

‘I know a lot about the opportunities open to me’ –  before immersion day, 20% of students strongly agreed or agreed with this statement, compared with 47% afterwards.

 ‘Talking to teachers about what they did before they taught is useful’ – before immersion day, 32% of students strongly agreed or agreed with this statement, compared with 54% afterwards.


  • There may be initial reservations around presenting back to their year groups, but invariably all students taking part in the programme thrived and wanted to do it again.
  • Surveys showed that students’ positive attitude to higher education and their ability to fit in and succeed grew throughout the course of the programme.



September 2017 to July 2018


Bryanston Square, Marcus Orlovsky, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA), Littlehampton Academy, Ifield Community College, Portslade Aldridge Academy and Hailsham Community College.

Funding source

NCOP (now Uni Connect)