September 2020

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District council and charity Future First team up so former pupils can return and inspire today’s students to success.

University Academy, Holbeach and Thomas Cowley High School in Donington have become the first schools in the region to sign up to an exciting new initiative aimed at inspiring and helping local pupils to succeed.

South Holland District Council has teamed up with national education charity Future First to launch a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising funds for alumni networks in schools across the region, and the two schools are the first to sign on the dotted line. The charity specialises in recruiting past pupils to act as mentors and inspirational speakers, to help with career choices and provide links to employers and universities, to bring learning to life, fundraise for schools or help with homework.

The council has invited all South Holland secondary schools to join the initiative.

University Academy’s Principal, Sheila Paige, said: “I’m delighted we will now be working with Future First and South Holland District Council to develop a thriving alumni network. The confidence, learning and support former pupils can bring to current students will be invaluable and will make the transition from school to higher education or work so much easier.”

Thomas Cowley High’s Headteacher, Ian Dawson, said: “It’s so important to us that our pupils believe in themselves so they have the confidence to strive for success when they leave Thomas Cowley. Working with Future First will help us to do even more to prepare them for life after school and make that transition as easy as possible.”

Lord Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council, said: “If I can make it into the House of Lords after a career as a builder there’s no limit to what every child, in every school, can achieve.

“This has been a very difficult year for pupils across South Holland and the wider region, especially those who’ve taken exams, so it’s vital they have the opportunity to hear from people who’ve left their school and made a success of their lives.

“It’s something private schools do extremely well and it’s vital children in our state schools have the same opportunity.

Future First, which is committed to making sure a young person’s start in life does not limit their future, already works with hundreds of state schools and colleges across the country to link young people with alumni and employers.

The charity’s Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, said: “We can’t wait to start working with the teams at University Academy and Thomas Cowley to harness the power of alumni so we can help current pupils on the road to success.

“It’s also fantastic to be working with Lord Porter and South Holland District Council on this exciting crowfunding initiative which will allow us to build alumni networks in more Lincolnshire schools.

“Alumni show young people a world of opportunity and a future that could be theirs. We want to give Lincolnshire’s current crop of students hope for the future and the confidence and motivation they need to succeed.

“We’d love everyone out there, whatever their connection with South Holland and Lincolnshire, to sign up to support their former school or donate to our crowdfunding campaign. We know that meeting past students can make a significant difference.

“It would be wonderful for as many young people as possible, whatever their circumstances, to have the reassurance that comes from hearing what it took for  someone who sat in the very same classroom to make a success of their lives.”                                                     

For further information or to arrange interviews with Sheila Paige, Ian Dawson, Lord Porter or Lorraine Langham please contact Paul Marinko at or on 07779 029 569.

Note to editors:

Future First crowdfunder link –

Future First’s vision is a world where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future. Our mission is to see every state school and college in the UK supported by a thriving and engaged alumni community, which improves students’ motivation, confidence and life chances.


Guest blog post by Laura Wareing, PhD Design Researcher at Lancaster University

Earlier this year, Future First collaborated with PhD Design Researcher Laura Wareing, on a programme called Transformation North West.  In this guest blog post, Laura provides an overview of the project and reveals how it was adapted following the Covid-19 crisis.

The project ‘Design Future First’ allowed us to explore how design can engage young people when discussing their future prospects, the support they might need and ideas for how students can get involved in the way alumni support is delivered in their schools.

The work also fed into PhD research looking at the role that co-design can play in supporting young people living in deprived parts of North West England as they consider their futures.  We selected three schools to engage with, where pupils were accessing both the alumni programme but also areas where young people face more barriers to reach their full potential.  The schools were based in Blackpool and Stoke-on-Trent.

My research focused on the use of a co-design to draw groups of people together, reflect on the challenges they face and work together to imagine alternative and improved approaches.  Young people benefitting from the alumni programme are experts in their own lived experience and therefore can play a valuable role in shaping how the programme might be delivered.  The process can empower young people, boost confidence and creativity.

To achieve this, we invited Year 10 groups from each school to take part in creative and interactive workshops at their school. The activities were as follows:

Activity 1 – Future Journey

Part 1: Students describe themselves, what they are good at and where they live.

Part 2: They then imagine what they would like to do in the future, describing the sorts of skills they might have and where they might live.

Part 3: They visualise the journey between now and the future, highlighting steps they might take, where these steps might take place, where something might get in the way and where they might like support.

Activity 2 – Improve a Meeting with a Former Student

Students describe the experience they had when meeting a former student and then come up with ideas to make the experience better.

Activity 3 – Be Part of Future First

Students look at how Future First operates and discuss and generate ideas for how to improve it and actively involve more young people.

To conclude the workshop, each participant was asked to record privately what they had gained from the workshop, how they would like to be personally involved going forward and rate how well listened and involved they felt during the workshop.

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown interrupted our workshops and therefore the original plan had to adapted to work online in a one-hour timeslot. More information about the online workshop with pupils in Stoke-on-Trent can be found here.

Despite the setbacks and challenges, the design of the workshop helped us to really get to know the pupils, their hope for the future, the barriers they worried about facing and the targeted support they might need.  The tools used in the workshops made the invisible visible and made plans and ideas easier to articulate and share.  What was particularly striking was that the workshop was highly inclusive; everyone was able to make a valuable contribution. All of the pupils who attended said that they had learnt more about future jobs, that they wanted to be more involved in the programme delivery in school and that they felt highly involved and listened to in the workshop. Some said they felt motivated to work harder at school and one pupil said the workshop had made him do the most thinking he had ever done in school!

Among the ideas from young people about how to improve the experience of meeting alumni were:

  • Meeting in smaller groups so that everyone could feel more comfortable
  • Having more conversation and feedback around helping young people connect what they enjoy to future job possibilities
  • A need for more detail on the specific journey the alumni took to get where they are now
  • More support around mental health and wellbeing.

The project was a strong first step for Future First into the area of co-design.  We really only managed to scratch the surface of what is possible in a co-design process to support young people to generate fresh, new ideas that can benefit them at a transitional point in their lives.

A full report on the project can be found here.

If anyone has any questions, I can be contacted at or on Twitter @_LauraWareing.  Find out more about Transformation North West here.

I’d like to thank Future First for collaborating with me on this project.

Laura Wareing

Young people deserve to have their voices heard and never more so than now as they bear the brunt of a bleak labour market and an uncertain future. We are supporting Youth Futures Foundation to shine a spotlight on the challenges faced by young people looking for a job in these difficult times.

If you are aged between 16 to 24 years old and happy to speak about your experience of looking for a job, we’d love your support. Volunteers will be asked to take part in an interview with a journalist from a local television or radio station or a newspaper. All volunteers will be fully supported and prepared to ensure you feel comfortable and have a positive experience talking to the media. You do not have to be experts on youth employment, only to be content to share your experience of making the transition into work.

If you are happy to share some of the difficulties you are facing, or perhaps have gone on to overcome, then please get in touch with Jayne at This is an opportunity for your voice to be heard by a range of decision makers and key representatives.

Children and families “face being locked into disadvantage for generations” according to a new report published by the Social Mobility Commission.

The report, the first of its kind in the UK, paints a bleak picture for young people growing up in specific areas across England often associated with low wages and deprivation. Children from these areas are less likely to achieve social mobility and a better life for themselves compared to their more affluent peers.

In response to the report, Future First’s CEO, Lorraine Langham said: “I echo the thoughts of Steven Cooper from the commission – this data depicts the deeply entrenched workings of a society that has not fully embraced social mobility and holds onto its class differences. The report highlights, more than ever, the need for the kind of work that Future First undertakes. The structures we help to put in place around UK schools connect young people with the wider world of work, training and opportunity. Having contact with people who have gone on to progress in their life and careers helps to build the confidence, resilience and aspirations that stay with school children long after they have left the education system. We believe that these are essential ingredients for success’’.

Only one in eight children from a low-income background is likely to become a high earner as an adult, reinforcing the commission’s findings that this could mean children are locked into a cycle of disadvantage for generations. Aiming to break this deadlock, we work to bring former pupils into their schools, as relatable role models, advisers and mentors for students.

Lorraine continues: “Access to relatable role models broadens students’ horizons – helping them imagine a world beyond their own front door. Private schools have always had these networks and leverage them very effectively – we want to ensure all students, no matter their background, can harness the same opportunities. Instilling aspiration in young people is absolutely crucial in the battle against social deadlock. Quite simply, Britain has a deep social mobility problem and Future First is working to change this.”

If you would like to find out more about Future First’s work, or how to access an alumni community, please contact us on or telephone 020 72398933.

Nancy Scott, a local government partner at leading public sector recruiters GatenbySanderson has put her support behind our crowdfunding campaign with an article in specialist magazine The MJ.

In the article, Ms Scott spells out the huge benefit for local government from getting involved with Future First’s work to inspire and motivate students to succeed.

She writes: “Never has there been a more opportune moment for this wonderful charity’s work to be celebrated and promoted.

“Its work to develop alumni programmes and introduce employers into schools is so important at a time when many students will be struggling to believe they can succeed in a world of such uncertainty.”

She goes on to argue that councils should get involved with Future First’s work so they can help harness the talent of young people to rebuild local economies and also spread the word to students about the innovative work done by modern local government.

Future Me Online Mentoring connected students at 14 secondary schools across the UK with alumni mentors to provide advice about their future pathways through online messaging. 

Our findings show that by the end of the programme students who participated had an increased understanding of the pathways available to them, as well as the skills required to achieve them and the practical steps they need to take. Many students created action plans and used spreadsheets to make detailed plans for their next steps. As a result, their confidence also increased with students now feeling more positive about their futures.

Since the project has ended a number of volunteers and students have been in touch to offer thanks and personal testimony. This programme highlights the potential of online mentoring as a tool which allows volunteers to engage flexibly, and students to access support remotely. There is significant potential to expand on this to provide support to greater numbers of students, perhaps through a blended learning approach now the majority have returned to school. We are looking into ways to make this a reality.

To read the full report, click the image below.

Inspirational poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay has backed Future First’s crowdfunding campaign to set up an alumni programme in every state school and college in the country.

The campaign is all about getting relatable role models to inspire state school pupils and show them a world of opportunities. Lemn Sissay couldn’t fit that bill more.

He was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, has been the chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015 and is now on the Booker Prize judging panel.

His words sum up exactly what Future First’s alumni programmes are all about: “Reach for the top of the tree and you may get to the first branch but reach for the stars and you’ll get to the top of the tree. My primary aim is to inspire and be inspired.”

Congratulations to all the ‘Making a Difference’ Silver Award winners in the Pearson National Teaching Awards for this year.

For several years, Future First has been honoured to sponsor the two categories for the award and this year nine schools have come out winners in highly competitive fields. You can read more about the winners here.

Lorraine Langham, Chief Executive of Future First, said: “Making a difference is what our work at Future First is all about. That’s why we sponsored the Making a Difference awards. All the winners have shown just what can be done and our heartfelt congratulations go to all concerned.

“A young person’s start in life should not limit their future and through our alumni programmes with schools, students can be motivated and inspired to make the difference themselves and transform their own lives.”

Later this year, one of the winners in each category will be chosen as the winners of the coveted gold awards.



NFER research released this month reveals that learning loss among BAME and disadvantaged young people during school closures was significantly higher than among their wealthier peers. Lorraine Langham, Future First’s CEO, responds:

“The NFER research shines a vital light on the widening gap at the heart of our education system.

While the government grapples with the thorny issue of delaying next year’s school exams it is worth remembering that extra time alone will not see us narrowing the gap between pupils from privileged backgrounds and those facing more disadvantaged circumstances.

If ministers decide to push back the date of next year’s GCSEs and A-levels it is essential that all pupils, especially the most disadvantaged, are inspired and motivated to make a success of their lives. That is why Future First has recently launched a crowdfunding appeal aimed at setting up an alumni programme in every state school and college in the country.

Private schools consistently harness the power of alumni networks to give their pupils even more belief and opportunity to succeed, while the vast majority of state school pupils miss out – despite the many inspiring role models that could be available.

Time – they say – is a healer, but in this case it will not be nearly enough to adequately to address the gaping inequalities that already exist within our education system and have been exacerbated by the current crisis.”

For more information about our crowdfunder or our work with schools and young people, email or phone 020 72398933.

Our crowdfunding appeal has already registered tub-thumping support, with star TV comedy act Dick & Dom throwing their weight behind the campaign.

Dick got behind our Twitter hashtag #IWentToStateSchool, posting: “I went to Tapton School and then Norton College to study media… I now push my mate Dom round in a bathtub!”

The backing of the comedy duo, who have found fame with their BBC children’s TV shows, is fantastic news for Future First’s crowdfunding campaign. The crowdfunder is aiming to create an alumni programme in every state school across the country so today’s pupils can be motivated and inspired to go on and succeed.

Future First’s Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, said: “I’m so delighted that Dick & Dom are supporting our campaign.

“Alumni show children a world of opportunity and a future that could be theirs. Dick & Dom are living proof that the most wonderful careers are available to young people no matter what their circumstances.

“This crowdfunding campaign is so important, the more people we can get to sign up and support it, the more current students can learn from those who have left their school and found success. We know that meeting past students can make a significant difference.”

Future First was delighted and honoured to have been chosen as charity of the year for this year’s MJ Awards. The awards, hosted by The MJ, on Friday 2 October 2020, celebrated the best in local government services.

In this year of increased uncertainty for pupils, we launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at setting up more alumni programmes in state schools, to increase pupils’ confidence, motivation and resilience. Normally, there would have been a raffle at a glittering MJ dinner awards event, but this year, attendees were asked to support Future First’s campaign virtually. Over £2,000 was pledged on the day of the event, almost enough to fund a whole school network, extending our reach and impact to hundreds of pupils.

We would like to thank everyone who donated on the day – and before the event – exceeding our highest hopes for the crowdfunder, which was our first ever. There’s still time to donate with one week left – and we have almost funded 7 networks benefitting thousands of young people, including those who are most disadvantaged.

Future First works to support state schools and colleges develop alumni programmes so current pupils can benefit from the life experiences of former students, as relatable role models. Only one in eight children from a low-income background is currently likely to become a high earner and our research shows that nearly half of pupils from the poorest backgrounds don’t know anyone in a job they would like to do. Meeting former students helps to change this, boosting young people’s confidence and motivation, and helping to transform their life chances.