July 2017

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As part of our South West scheme, school staff were offered the chance to follow SSAT’s Lead Practitioner scheme. As the project comes to a close, two school leads tells us why they chose to do the training and how it will improve their practice.



Jackie Druiff, Coombeshead High School:

“I decided to do the Lead Practitioner (LP) accreditation because it was a free opportunity to pursue some extra professional development and to review and reflect on my practice- it was an opportunity not to be missed.

I haven’t really had any similar opportunities in school.  Most development programmes are geared towards wider school development priorities, so this was a valuable new experience for me.

The whole process will definitely help me as a practitioner, much more so than I originally thought when I set out to do it. At first I thought it was a bit of a paper exercise, but in reality it’s actually really good because I was forced to reflect on what I do as a practitioner, how I do it and the effect of what I do on my colleagues and students. Particularly in the current climate where everyone is really stretched, it’s good to take a moment and reflect on your work.

It’s also nice to have someone external to the school looking at my practice.

I know the whole process will encourage me to reflect in the future. Has it changed my practice? Probably. I think to myself, ‘OK, if you had to evidence this, what would you use?’ or ‘what’s the evidence/need for implementing this initiative, and how can I measure the impact?’


Jacqui Maxfield, Crispin Academy:

“I decided to do the LP accreditation because it looked really useful. I’ve learnt a lot, but it was far more challenging than I originally thought. I haven’t done anything like this since university.

It’s been brilliant to think about the impact I’m making and also really useful for the wider school. I’ve looked at the work I’ve been doing this year with alumni and my wider work on raising aspirations.

I’m currently trying to become a senior leader in school and the process has really helped me to pursue that. I talked about the accreditation when I interviewed for SLT and I think it was a key reason for me being successful. It shows that I go above and beyond and think about the impact I’m making in school.

I’m still thinking about impact, even though I’ve finished the whole process. I think I’ll continue to think about the impact I’m making in my role day-to-day.”

St Dominic's sixth form has worked with Future First for three years now. The school uses alumni to show students that there are so many ways of being successful, whether that's through academic success or not. "Alumni show our students and their parents that it's not always about being a doctor, it's more about giving students 'a chance to be who they are'.

“St. Dominic’s is a Catholic Sixth Form College in Harrow. We have around 1200 students aged between 16 and 18 and around 100 members of staff. The college is very diverse.

We decided to start working with our alumni about five years ago. The Principal at the time believed that it would be good to use this initiative to support student development and enrichment. We paired up with Future First because their ethos really resonated with us, particularly around the power of role models and the impact former students can have widening young people’s horizons. Through Future First, we are now able to keep in touch with our alumni and create some sense of community by sharing college news with them and requesting their help and support throughout the academic year.

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 along to the event and we are usually joined by about 13 alumni, all from different backgrounds.

Our students find it so helpful especially because they are hearing from those who were once in their seats. We have always been keen on sharing the fact that it’s not just about going to university. So every year, 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. They do listen, particularly because they are hearing from people they can relate to – who have lived in the same area and gone to the college before them. Hearing from alumni about their future choices means more to them than hearing from teachers, so that’s another big reason for using our alumni network.

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”.

Felpham Community College, Bognor Regis, involved alumni in a 24 hour radio broadcast to raise awareness around mental health services in schools. Seven alumni got behind the campaign, including mental health specialists from the NHS and local council, a journalist, and those who had been affected by mental health problems whilst at school.

The media department at Felpham Community College, Bognor Regis, ran a 24 hour radio broadcast to raise awareness around mental health issues in schools. Seven former students returned over the 24 hours to take part in the broadcast, some of whom had struggled with mental health whilst they were at school, whilst others specialised in mental health at the local council and in the NHS.

BBC Radio Sussex covered the broadcast and it was mentioned in the local newspaper: the journalist that wrote the piece was another former student! Although the broadcast’s aim was to raise awareness, the school managed to raise £1,600 for MIND UK and Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).

2016/17 has been an incredible year for Future First. We have worked with over 100,000 students, building their confidence, motivation and skills. This year, we’ve seen even more innovation and unique ways of involving alumni in school life. Here are some of the highlights.

This year, Future First has worked with over 100,000 students. From chefs in maths lessons to research scientists mentoring Year 9s, we’ve seen some truly creative ways of involving alumni in school life.

At Felpham Community College, Bognor Regis, a former student who owns his own bubble business enlisted the help of sixth formers to create his show reel. The media students will take on this real world learning project in the autumn.

A Year 10 from Highworth Grammar School in Kent did a work experience placement with a former student at the BBC. With further help, she has since secured an internship at ITV.

At Helston Community College in Cornwall, a local farmer supported the teaching of a Year 8 geography class on agriculture, technology and the challenges of business in farming.

Dave Hones, a computer programmer, did a Google Hangout with ICT students at St Ives School, Cornwall, explaining how his work appeared on the International Space Station.

In Somerset, a paraplegic alumnus mentored a student with disabilities at his old school, Chilton Trinity. He shared how he had overcome barriers in his life, building the confidence in the student so that he could too.

And it’s been a terrific year for Future First’s activities too.

We ran our first Careers and Enterprise Company project in the South West and held an alumni engagement conference in Cornwall. For the first time, practitioners and senior leaders came together to do training on engaging an alumni community, volunteer management, using alumni in the classroom and more.

We were successful in securing a place on the Careers and Enterprise Company’s rate cards for schools in the government’s six Opportunity Areas.

We ran two successful Back to School Week campaigns. In Back to School Week South West and Birmingham, we brought back more than 300 alumni to help over 2,000 students. The campaigns were a success. It was great to see Julie Walters showing her support in Birmingam. Have a look at the coverage of Hele’s School in Plymouth on BBC Spotlight.

We’ve seen a whole host of inspirational posters. Sadly, we can’t show them all. So here are just some of our favourites…

"By putting aside their self-doubts and aiming high, state school students can help shape that change. And through involvement in alumni networks, successful state school students can go right back to where they came from, demonstrating to others like them what’s possible".

Jonathon Andrews, former student of Darrick Wood School, Bromley

My school years were not unusual. I attended a state primary, then a comprehensive, and never received any tutoring throughout my education. My school experience is somewhat less usual, however, among trainee lawyers at city firms.

I really enjoyed my years at my comprehensive school. It gave me an opportunity to mix with people of all abilities, and to respect difference, and has left me with the overarching ethos of treating all with equal courtesy, whatever their position. It wanted all students to achieve the best they could, and teaching was rigorous – which, as an enthusiastic learner, meant I was able to excel.

Yet during my teenage years, one refrain I heard far too often from fellow students when discussing careers was “I can’t get there – I didn’t go to private school, I didn’t go to Oxbridge”. It was a viewpoint I never subscribed to- Instead, I took the view that while it probably was easier for people from certain backgrounds to succeed, that was no reason not to put all my effort into doing as well as I could.

I was very lucky to be taken on by a disability consultancy, which resulted in me being invited to meetings with graduate recruiters of large companies across the city. One of these firms was Reed Smith, a leading city law firm with specialisms in media and shipping, both areas that interested me.

Reed Smith had just finished a comprehensive overhaul of their recruitment programme the year I applied. This was to ensure all parts of the process were objective and merit-based, leaving less opportunity for bias of any kind.

I’m now trustee of a charity which runs schools in the state sector and I visit schools across the country. I’ve been asked back to address my old state school…to make it clear to students that they shouldn’t write off their chances simply because of what school they go to. Instead, they should take every opportunity offered, assess their abilities by their talents and capabilities, not background and, as long as they’re willing to put the work in, aim high.

Going to my local comprehensive hasn’t stopped me becoming a lawyer; in fact, growing up with people from all walks of life and social backgrounds has helped me learn how to get on with a wide range of people, and to understand and empathise with those not like myself. Nobody is denying that structural barriers exist, least of all myself. But with firms putting in effort to tackle them because they recognise they’re unhelpful, change is on the way.

By putting aside their self-doubts and aiming high, state school students can help shape that change. And through involvement in alumni networks, successful state school students can go right back to where they came from, demonstrating to others like them what’s possible.

A friend of mine once made the quip that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’, and it summed up exactly what I’d been trying to put into words about the importance of alumni networks. Students might have great drive, ability and passion but think a certain career is unrealistic for them, even if it isn’t, if they feel they wouldn’t be able to achieve what’s needed, or wouldn’t be accepted by that profession if they did.

Alumni networks have been tried and tested across the best private schools, and proved to work brilliantly in providing networking and linking students up with opportunities that suit their ambitions. There’s no reason why their benefits shouldn’t be extended to the state sector. And they provide benefits to the former students who go back and give back too – we’re reminded where we came from, allowing us to stay grounded, and listen to different views, opinions and perspectives from those we might deal with at work, allowing us to work better.