Why we exist
Britain has a deep social mobility problem. This not only limits the contribution that individuals can make to society and the economy but is also fundamentally unfair. Although there are some signs of social progress, there is evidence too that the problem is getting worse with only one in eight children from a low-income background likely to become a high earner as an adult.
At Future First, we believe that things do not have to be this way.
It is a basic injustice that young people’s experience and opportunities are so closely linked to the status of their parents. There is a wealth of evidence showing a serious deficit in the state sector in students’ confidence, knowledge about career pathways and access to role models compared to their private school peers. Too many people from the poorest backgrounds believe that ‘people like me’ don’t succeed in life. Our own research shows that nearly half of students on free school meals don’t know anyone in a job they would like to do.
We know that this affects young people’s perception of their own ability, their expectations of future success, and the extent to which they value their school work. We know those in turn can change students’ motivation and performance in school, as well as their success in life beyond it.
Future First is a national education charity that helps state schools and colleges to build alumni communities. At the core of our work is the drive to ensure that no young person’s future is limited by their background.
Our Mission- What we do
We know that access to relevant and relatable role models can transform a young person’s confidence, motivation and skills and that former students can be ideal role models. Having grown up in the same community and sat in the same classrooms, they can show students that ‘people like me’ do succeed.
Future First began when a group of state school students from Camden went back to their school to be just that. Motivated by their desire to improve the support offered to young people as they consider their futures, they came up with the idea of establishing a thriving alumni community in each school and college. Alumni could then return to share their experiences and offer support as role models, work experience providers, mentors and more.
Private schools and universities have benefited from a strong networks for decades. Our polling shows that alumni of state schools are just as likely to want to go back and share advice with students in their old seats, it’s just that state schools are not as good at asking.
Our mission is to change that.
Future First is working across the UK to ensure that every school and college is supported by a thriving alumni community.
How do schools use their alumni?
23 November 2017
Ormiston Forge Academy, Cradley Heath, tells its story
"From my point of view, as Careers Advisor, it’s been really useful to link up with former students to share information on career and education pathways."
Beverley Evans, Careers Advisor at Ormiston Forge Academy
At Ormiston Forge Academy, we make sure all of our students have a careers interview in Year 11 and that they get lots of support with thinking about their futures. We have a rising number of students who go on to Higher Education. At the moment, around 70 students apply to university and higher apprenticeships. This year, one student went on to do a degree level apprenticeship in Surveying, which is great as they’re quite competitive. We’re planning on inviting him to come back and talk to current students about his experience in the future.
I first started thinking about how I could work with our former students when we had a launch meeting in school to discuss how our alumni community could benefit students. The first event we arranged for Future First to run at the school was a Feeding Britain’s Future workshop, in which a range of employers from the grocery industry came in to work with Year 12s. The volunteers were great and the session really helped open students’ eyes to all sorts of careers they’d never even heard of.
After that, I thought it would be great to start inviting our ex-students back to the school for events like this and we’ve built up from there. From my point of view, as Careers Advisor, it’s been really useful to link up with former students to share information on career and education pathways.
Towards the end of the summer term we ran two events involving former students. Our Alumni Programme Officer helped us to use the alumni portal to find a range of volunteers to come in and speak to our high ability Year 7 and Year 8 students. A group of former students, including a social worker, a student nurse, an actor and an artist came along with a prop related to their job. Students had to guess what jobs they did and then at the end I asked the alumni to reveal their careers. We gave the younger students some prizes for their guesses! The former students shared their experiences with small groups of students who came with a list of questions to ask. It was brilliant! The students were really switched on, motivated and eager to get involved. It really helped with communication and team work skills for the pupils. Those sorts of soft skills are really important for any interview, whether it’s for university or a part time job.
We ran another event on the same day as part of our annual Higher Education week for Year 12s. The students were taken off timetable and encouraged to think about their future options. They got the chance to meet employers and learn more about university life, with sessions on things like student finance. We invited a variety of employers and alumni to come along and speak to students in a carousel setting, a bit like speed dating! We had lots of former students coming in and out throughout the day. It was great for students to hear about where the former students’ qualifications had taken them. Involving alumni in something we already have going on in school worked really well. It’s always nice for young people to meet former students from their school and find out about their progress and pathway. I think it’s so motivational, as their advice is instantly relatable. Seeing that someone from their school has gone on to do something makes them think, ‘I can do that as well’.
I think, for the Year 12s, meeting former students will have an impact on them applying to university or thinking more in detail about their future. I hope the process improves the number of students considering university, a foundation degree or a higher level apprenticeship.
I’ll definitely involve alumni in this event next year and we’re also going to invite them to our Careers Fair in February.
26 October 2017
St Dominic’s Sixth Form College, Harrow, tells its story
Angela Inglese, Assistant Principal:
“St. Dominic’s Sixth Form College is a Catholic Sixth Form College in Harrow. We have approximately 1200 students aged between 16 and 18 and around 100 members of staff. The college is very diverse. We are very popular in the local area so the rest of our intake is from a range of ethnic backgrounds. We are very proud to have been named The Sunday Times’ Sixth Form College of the Year for 2017.
We decided to start working with our alumni about five years ago. We signed up to Future First because their ethos really resonated with us, particularly around the power of role models and the impact former students can have broadening young people’s horizons. Through Future First, we are now able to keep in touch with our alumni and create a sense of community by sharing college news with them and requesting for their help and support throughout the academic year. We want to continue using our alumni to inspire students, especially those who are interested in careers that we don’t currently offer much support on.
A large number of our career talks by alumni over the years have been to show our students that there are so many ways of being successful. Often in society, the focus is on academic success and we’ve been really fortunate to have a bank of wonderful alumni who can show our students and their parents that it’s not always about being a doctor, it’s more about giving them a chance to be who they are.
Since we joined Future First, every year, in the spring term, we invite our alumni back for an alumni panel and careers event. A few months before the event is due to take place, our Careers Team get together and decide which careers and courses we want to focus on, generally picking something from each department in the college. We invite all our Year 12 students and their parents to the event and we are usually joined by about 13 alumni, all from different backgrounds.
This event is run like a panel, with the Future First facilitators asking our alumni open-ended questions about the importance of working hard to get into university, work or apprenticeship schemes, or what the expectations are when they get there, and what university and work life is all about. We finish off with a break out session, enabling students to speak to each former student in more detail about their journey after leaving college. Our alumni also share any advice they have to give. It’s great fun!
The most noticeable impact our alumni have is helping students understand the importance of their UCAS application. The whole point of this event is for students to understand what is on offer, what kinds of things they are interested in and whether they could then do that as a career and if so, how to get there.
Our students find it so helpful especially because they are hearing from those who were once in their seats. At St. Dominic’s, we have always been keen on sharing the fact that it’s not just about going to university. So every year for this event, we welcome former students who have applied for apprenticeships so that students who are keen on other pathways can also benefit from this event.
It’s great that former students like to come back and visit us! At this year’s alumni event, I was privileged to meet a student who I taught 10 years ago. She’s now a politics lecturer and has just written her first book about how people express political ideas using graffiti.
I’ve had several conversations with students since the event and they have often pointed out things that alumni said. Hearing from alumni about their future choices means more to them than hearing from teachers.
One student had her heart set on medicine but having spoken to alumni who are pharmacists she now feels that pharmacy sounds much more achievable and is definitely a career she can use her skills to flourish.
The pressure to get good grades is very attractive for some students. But anxiety as a result of pressure is so common. To be able to find out something like this not only takes some of the pressure off but gives students a focus, boosting their motivation and their self-belief.”
06 October 2017
Eastbury Community School, Barking, tells its story
"We like our students to have access to alumni regularly so they can get advice and guidance on how to be successful and learn more about career and education pathways."
Stuart Gander, Head of Careers Education:
“Eastbury Community School is an all through school for three to 19-year-olds and there are roughly 1,850 students (primary school all the way up to sixth form). We are in one of the five most deprived areas of the country, and a large proportion of our students come from ethnic minority groups. We are a specialist maths and computing school and the number of pupil premium students is above the national average. We were recently voted the kindest school in the UK.
We have been working with Future Fist for four years now, with the aim to inspire young people by inviting alumni back for all careers related events at the school. Events include mock interviews, pathway evenings, careers fairs and careers speed networking. We like our students to have access to alumni regularly so they can get advice and guidance on how to be successful and learn more about career and education pathways. We find that students like speaking to alumni and open up a lot more to them as they’ve been exactly where they are. Excitingly, we are now starting to use alumni in the curriculum, bringing them into the classroom, and hope to have more coming back to support teachers in their subject areas!
In December, we hosted our first careers speed networking event. 25 representatives from different job sectors, including six alumni, spoke to small groups of Year 9 and 10 students about their jobs and how they got into them. The aim of the day was to inspire our future workforce about real jobs, develop their communication skills, challenge stereotypes and find out what is required to stand out in an increasingly competitive employment market. This event was a huge success and we look forward to running it again next year.
One Year 9 student said: “It gave us a good idea about options to pick, and an insight into the good and bad points of each job.”
Another said: “The day was really interesting and motivating, it has inspired me to think about my future career.”
Since the event, I’ve noticed a difference in the students, particularly the Year 10s. Three months later we held our mock interview days. For these, the students had to apply for one out of 12 jobs, covering different sectors, including a teacher, marketing executive, biomedical scientist, business analyst and a construction engineer. Leading up to the day, they had to research the company they were applying to, practise interview questions in a role play scenario and write a CV. They found the experience extremely useful because the interview was based on a real world setting. Students were able to experience first-hand what questions they may be asked and what they could do to improve next time.
One of our Year 10 students was interested in pursuing a sports career but didn’t know much about it. She was interviewed by a former student, who is currently at Brighton university completing a degree in teaching to coach. As well as interviewing the student she also gave her the opportunity to ask questions. The student found this very informative and it helped to confirm the route she wants to pursue.”