January 2021

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Education charity Future First is offering to help state schools across Cornwall after official research called for more schools to develop alumni programmes to tackle the problem of NEETs in the county.

The research, commissioned by Cornwall Council & the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), highlighted the need for young people at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training), to have access to inspiring and appropriate role models.

The report also described how schools’ alumni networks in the region are “often dormant or not fully realised, and the focus is usually on where a past student is working, rather than the skills or experience they can bring”. 

Lorraine Langham, Chief Executive of Future First, a charity specialising in helping UK state schools build alumni networks, said: “Building a strong and sustainable alumni network which is properly focused on preparing young people for life after school can be more difficult than it may appear.

“That’s where Future First can help. We have a decade of experience and have supported over 1,200 schools to build thriving networks. These benefit the whole school and especially help disadvantaged students in seeing a future that can be theirs, and provide the tools and information they need to get there. Last year we connected more than 70,000 students with past pupils, helping to build their motivation to study, resilience and confidence to succeed.”

The charity has signed up more than 267,000 former students nationwide to stay connected with their old school and already works with around a third of state secondary schools and colleges in Cornwall, including Saltash Community School. 

Emma Gue, Careers Lead at Saltash Community School, said: 

“We have been part of Future First for over 6 years and have a really varied, committed alumni who have contributed in so many ways to enrich and support the learning of our students from Years 7-13.

“We have held a range of different events and opportunities involving our alumni over the years and our students have benefited enormously from their insights and the inspiration that they give them to their own careers plans and futures.”

At Future First, we know first-hand that volunteering in schools and colleges provides lasting benefit to young people. The evidence in a new report by the Education and Employers charity that it also benefits the employees and organisations that give up their time is particularly heartening and chimes with what our volunteers tell us.

The report reveals that volunteering in schools and colleges enhances the skills, motivation, and productivity of employees who take part. Recognising that volunteering in education also radically improves young people’s life chances, it concludes the practice is a ‘win-win’. We couldn’t agree more.

Last year, Future First worked with over 70,000 students and has some 270,000 alumni volunteers signed up to help. Their work really does make a difference to the lives and life chances of young people – and they tell us how enjoyable and rewarding it is too.

Future First’s work with employer partners and alumni volunteers to provide young people with relatable role models is helping address educational inequality across the country and it is gratifying to know it also benefits the volunteers and employers who work with us.


Future First is looking for a Programme Innovations Director to work in the North and Midlands, extending its reach and impact to more schools and pupils, especially those who are disadvantaged.

The recruitment strengthens its existing leadership team and comes hot on the heels of a new partnership with Northern Power Women announced last month.

GatenbySanderson is supporting the recruitment as part of their commitment to helping the charity to grow.

Future First CEO, Lorraine Langham said: “The impact of the global pandemic is wreaking havoc across education, with a third national lockdown and the cancellation of GCSE and A-levels bringing yet more uncertainty into the lives of young people. Our work has never been more necessary yet, at the same time, it has never been more difficult to engage with schools, compete for funds, or win support from hard-pressed businesses. We are looking for a Director to lead our work with schools, partners and businesses in the North and Midlands.

“Future First has around 400 school and college members and 266,000 alumni volunteers, who supported over 70,000 young people in state schools across the UK last year. We know that what we do every day really makes a difference to young people’s lives. By giving today’s pupils connections to past students, their alumni, we show young people a world of opportunities – work, training, further or higher education, or volunteering, and we give them the tools, knowledge and information they need to make good choices and find their pathway”.

Supporting this view, Nancy Scott, a Partner with Executive recruiter GatenbySanderson added, “Building tomorrow’s more diverse and representative workforce, including future leaders, has to start from the ground up. Young people need to be inspired and see people who look like them – and from similar backgrounds – who believe they really can do what they want, with the right support and encouragement, and by seizing opportunities that may not be obvious.  Future First’s work gives the kick start young people need”.

Future First is committed to social justice and the value of role models. We are therefore keen to build a workforce that reflects the young people and schools we support. We are always interested in hearing from candidates from diverse backgrounds. At this time, we would particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidates, and those who attended state school and were in receipt of free school meals and/or were the first in their family to go to university. 

To find out more click here.


Last night’s national lockdown announcement, including school closures and the news that this year’s A-level and GCSE exams have been cancelled, has thrown schools, colleges, students and families across the country into yet more uncertainty.

While students await further announcements on what method of assessment will replace exams, they will inevitably be feeling increasingly anxious. We know from the previous lockdown and research, that increasing numbers of students are reporting concerns about their wellbeing. It is vital young people continue to get the support they need to have confidence that their hard work will not be in vain and a bright future is still there to be grasped.

Future First stands ready to help schools and pupils in whatever ways we can. Our work to connect students across the country with alumni as powerful, relatable role models continues. We know that these connections boost confidence, resilience and motivation to study – all so needed right now.

Throughout last year’s lockdowns, we innovated to find ways of connecting pupils and alumni digitally, so students were able to gain insight and knowledge of potential career paths that were open to them and hear how ‘people like them’ had overcome difficulties and gone on to succeed.

We are redoubling our efforts to support schools and pupils. Whether it be virtual workshops, on-line work experience, digital insight days, or video profiles from our alumni volunteers and employer partners, we will ensure students are able to picture, plan and prepare for a positive future beyond the current gloom.

Alongside the students, the schools we work with also benefit greatly from the support of their alumni. Some have been using their past pupils to help prepare for mass testing (now delayed, of course), whilst others have used them to raise funds for much needed technology, or to support students working remotely.

Alumni networks have made a huge difference for the 7% of pupils attending private schools over the years. If we are ever to narrow the gap between the privileged and the other 93% of children attending state schools, alumni networks need to exist for all young people, giving them the information, tools and connections they need to succeed.

Alumni show students a world of opportunity and a future that could be theirs. They offer hope, confidence, and motivation – precious commodities for school students at the moment. For young people especially, belief that a brighter future lies ahead is fundamental to their success.

Whatever alternatives are devised to assess A-level and GCSE students this summer, we all know there is an abundance of young talent within our classrooms. Helping young people to harness their talents and believe in a bright and successful future is now more important than ever.