February 2021

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Future First has welcomed comments by the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, highlighting the need to put children at the heart of the country’s efforts to rebuild following the Covid crisis.

In a speech to mark the end of her tenure as Children’s Commissioner for England, Ms Longfield highlighted the negative impact of an unprecedented year on children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Future First Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, welcomed Ms Longfield’s call for children to be put “centre stage” of the government’s levelling up agenda.

“With fears emerging that young people are losing all hope for the future due to the turmoil created by this crisis, it is vital we give them the confidence and belief that they can succeed,” she said.

“That is why the work of charities such as Future First is now more important than ever. Our work to connect students across the country with alumni as powerful, relatable role models has continued through the past year. We know that these connections boost confidence, resilience and motivation to study when young people are needing it most.

“For every young person we help inspire and motivate to succeed, we help improve not just the fortunes of that young person but also the fortunes of our communities and society as a whole, as we emerge from a dismal year.

“The Children’s Commissioner has called on us all to play our part in ensuring that a child’s start in life does not determine their future. This is our mission. The stark facts she has presented today show that we must all redouble our efforts to focus on the disadvantaged child in order to build back better for everyone.”

Download the slides from the Children’s Commissioner’s speech here.

Future First has appointed Leon Ward as their first Programme Innovations Director. 

This role will lead on the growth of our national intervention: ConnectEd – our new programme which supports secondary schools and colleges to build, engage and sustain a thriving alumni network. Leon will be responsible for the further development of ConnectEd, with its strong focus on individual school goals, benchmarking and tracking impact, and adding value for the most disadvantaged pupils. He will also lead business delivery in the North and Midlands.

Lorraine Langham, Chief Executive of Future First said: “I am delighted to have appointed Leon Ward as our new Programme Innovations Director, following a highly competitive, multi-stage recruitment process supported by our Board of Trustees. 

“Leon Ward was a unanimous choice. He joins us from Speakers for Schools where he is Head of Wales – a comparable role, in a similar organisation. Prior to this, he was Programme Manager for a youth charity, First Give, leading on the West of England and Wales.  In both roles, he has delivered significant transformation and growth. He is also Deputy Chair of national youth charity Brook and has helped several others to expand their reach and impact. 

“Originally from Grimsby, Leon brings a strong track record and an extensive network to the role, together with energy, drive, ideas and ambition”.

Leon said: “2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Future First and I am really excited to get stuck in and help guide the ConnectEd programme as we charge into the second decade. Alumni offer fantastic opportunities to help young people realise their ambitions, passions and skills and guide them to carve out their future paths. 

“We must never underestimate the power of this work and I look forward to working with teachers, students and alumni communities to realise Future First’s ambitious vision: where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.’

Schools interested in our programmes please contact info@futurefirst.org.uk

The Welsh Government has become the first UK administration to put school alumni at the heart of boosting career prospects for students.

Ministers in Cardiff have teamed up with education charity Future First to create a new toolkit aimed at helping all Welsh state secondary schools and colleges to build thriving alumni networks.

Based on evidence of the positive impact of connecting a school’s past pupils with current students, the toolkit is the first example of a UK government developing an official initiative to harness the potential of alumni in boosting young people’s career prospects.

Wales has about 200 state secondary schools and colleges and Future First has worked with over a third of them during the past decade. The Welsh toolkit focuses on how schools can build an alumni network, engage with former pupils, and the activities they can use to bring lasting benefits to current students.

The initiative means all secondaries in Wales will now have the potential to harness the strength of alumni networks to inspire, motivate and build the confidence of students to go on and be successful in life. It comes at a crucial time, with evidence having emerged that the pandemic has severely impacted the aspirations, confidence and belief of young people for their future career prospects.

Initially, the toolkit will be intensively trialled in 10 schools as part of work being done by Careers Wales in the south Wales valleys. The participating schools are: Risca Comprehensive School, Abertillery Learning Community School, Blackwood Comprehensive School, Ysgol Garth Olwg, Cardinal Newman RC School, Tonyrefail Community School, Cyfarthfa High School, Pen y Dre High School, Maesteg Comprehensive School and Queen Elizabeth High. 

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport and chair of the Valleys Taskforce, Lee Waters said: “Children attending private schools often have a whole network of people outside of their school and immediate family who can help them to develop and progress their career ambitions.

“This programme is about giving comprehensive students across the South Wales Valleys that same level of support. Eventually we want to roll a version of this scheme out to all comprehensive schools.”

Lorraine Langham, Chief Executive of Future First, said: “The Welsh Government has broken new ground by officially recognising the crucial importance of alumni networks in boosting the career prospects of young people. 

“We’ve been delighted to develop this toolkit for schools in Wales. With scientific evidence now emerging of how our brains respond to relatable role models this initiative promises to provide lasting benefit to young people across the country.”

The toolkit has been funded by the Government’s Valleys Taskforce and has been designed to support the Careers and the World of Work framework for schools in Wales.

We are delighted that England cricketer Monty Panesar is now supporting Future First’s work in his hometown of Luton.

The England star said: “I went to Stopsley High in Luton and ended up playing cricket for England. Now I’m supporting Future First so students today in places like my hometown of Luton have relatable role models to help them succeed. If I can do it, so can anyone – whatever their start in life.”

Future First Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, was recently a guest on the cricketer’s Panjab Radio show, ‘The Full Monty’, discussing the importance of alumni in showing students what is possible and supporting them to achieve their goals.

The cricketer has linked up with Future First as part of our work to provide Luton schools with alumni networks to support current students. With the damaging impact of the pandemic widening the gap between advantaged pupils and those who are less well off, alumni networks provide vital additional help, advice and connections.

Over the past 10 years, Future First has seen the positive impact alumni provide to students, widening their career horizons and building their confidence and motivation to study harder. Scientific evidence has also emerged detailing the huge impact role models play in our lives. More than this, alumni provide pathways into work and help with CVs, applications, securing internships and apprenticeships, giving students a practical network that can help them get ahead.

We are working with Luton Borough Council to build alumni networks and connections with employers for the town’s schools. So far five schools – Chalk Hills Academy, Stockwood Park Academy, Putteridge High School, Challney High School for Girls and Ashcroft High School – are working with us, with two more schools in discussion. Around 20 Bedfordshire schools took part in a recent careers event, organised with the Luton Careers Hub, so we are hopeful that many more will also join us in bringing the benefit of alumni to as many Luton pupils as possible.

Alumni volunteers always tell us how much they personally get out of the experience of giving back to their former schools. We are calling out for former students of any Luton school to sign up to our network to help young people fight back after the pandemic. Alumni inspire with their stories, appear on inspirational posters and in resources, can help as governors and fundraisers and much more.

We’d also like to invite local and national employers who’d like to get involved to contact us. Employer partners tell us that the benefits they get from working with us are significant and their employees love volunteering with our schools and helping young people lead better lives.

Last week, Future First’s Partnership Director, Charlie Ledley was interviewed by Laura James from North Devon radio station, The Voice FM, on the topic of role models and building volunteer alumni networks in Primary schools in the region. Future First is currently working with Great Torrington Bluecoat Primary School in Devon and the local radio station invited Charlie to explain more about the work and put a call out to potential volunteers in the Great Torrington area to get in touch.

Charlie described how Future First is looking to build a thriving and engaged alumni community in Devon to help encourage and motivate the children to grow their aspirations and how the charity is adapting their offer during the pandemic. 

Charlie explained that much of this work is done remotely, which can suit volunteers: “Actually, it’s enabling a lot more people to support their former schools because they don’t have to take that time to go into school, so in the last few months we’ve supported lots of schools with remote resources around building resilience and confidence and created case studies for schools to use during virtual delivery.”

Charlie went on to explain that anyone can be a role model and inspire today’s pupils with their stories.

Listen to the full interview here. Alumni from Great Torrington Bluecoat Church of England Primary School or surrounding area can register to volunteer here.

Also last week, BBC Radio Cornwall picked up on Future First’s release on tackling the problem of NEETs in Cornwall – a response to research commissioned by Cornwall Council and the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which highlighted the need for young people at risk of becoming NEET, to have access to inspiring and appropriate role models. 

Julie Skentelbery interviewed Alumni Programme Manager, Naomi Barker, who works with a third of all schools and colleges in the region, about Future First’s experience with building alumni networks, promoting the use of role models and its mission to extend its work in Cornwall.

Naomi spoke about the perceptions many young people have about themselves, which can sometimes lead to negative cycles and increased risk of NEET:  “So often, one of the key challenges for young people is confidence, if you speak to a young person they’ll often say they have no skills [so] I think really highlighting the skills they have in relation to their interests can help. One example I always use is how playing video games online with your friends can actually help you develop teamwork skills – not discrediting the things they are interested in, but helping them to identify the skills they already have.”

Listen to the full interview here.

WeAreTheCity have partnered with Future First to connect state school students with alumni role models.

The partnership will connect WeAreTheCity’s Rising Star 2021 Award winners with Future First’s alumni network. Future First are working to ensure that every state school and college is supported by a network of willing alumni, and that every young person has access to the information, advice, insights and connections needed to give them confidence about the future.

Winners will record an inspirational message to share with students in schools via Future First’s YouTube channel and across their social media and website. WeAreTheCity’s Rising Star winners can also sign up to support their old school or sign up to Future First’s National Alumni Network to be kept informed of volunteering opportunities.

Speaking about the partnership, Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director, WeAreTheCity, said, “WeAreTheCity are delighted to be partnering with Future First as a part of this year’s Rising Star Awards.  The very essence of our awards is for our winners to not only benefit from the on-going learning we provide through our partners, but to pay that opportunity forward in some way.  I am very excited that our 2021 Rising Star 100 will have the opportunity to create short video messages that will be used to inspire future generations within schools.”

Lorraine Langham, CEO, Future First said, “We are delighted to once again be partnering with WeAreTheCity to connect their Rising Star winners and their inspirational messages with our students. At Future First, we work to connect state school students with alumni role models, showing them that they can achieve great things, regardless of their start in life. The fact that 43 per cent of children do not think ‘people like me’ will be successful in life and 35 per cent do not know someone in a job they would like to do in the future has to change. Our partnership with WeAreTheCity can help drive change for the young people we work with.”

Now in its seventh year, the Rising Star Awards are the first to focus on the UK’s female talent pipeline below management level. The 2021 awards will recognise and celebrate a further 100 female individual contributors from over 20 different industries that represent the leaders and role models of tomorrow. These winners will join our award’s alumni of 650 previous winners, across the UK and India.

The nominations process for all the Rising Star categories is now open until International Women’s Day on 08 March 2021. Nominations can be made via the Rising Star website.

The life chances of young people across the country have been given a huge boost thanks to a new partnership just launched between Northern Power Women (NPW) and Future First.

Northern Power Women – a ground-breaking network of business people – and education charity Future First have joined forces to give the next generation the support and encouragement they need to make a success of their lives, while also allowing businesses to connect with up-and-coming talent.

With NPW offering a powerful network of role models and Future First providing a decade’s experience of supporting alumni to give back to their former schools, the partnership promises to provide lasting benefits for both young people and businesses at a critical time for the UK.

Central to the partnership is the development of a digital link between the two organisations’ networks. Future First will build a digital hub to connect with NPW’s existing Power Platform.

Speaking exclusively to Educate magazine, Simone Roche MBE, founder and chief executive officer of NPW, said: “We are really excited to be forming this partnership with Future First. For years Northern Power Women has been creating a massive hall of role models so when Lorraine, CEO of Future First, connected with me because of our shared values and passion around role models I really felt there couldn’t be a better fit. Role models are in both our DNA and bringing these two amazing organisations together to do wider, further good is powerful!”

Discussing the benefits for both students and teachers, Simone said: “It will benefit students by growing the alumni community through the Northern Power Women community, directing them into schools to be those all-important visible and relatable role models.

“Equally for teachers, they will bring a different point of view being from different sectors, of different abilities and with different successes because everyone has a different story. By bringing these people into schools, we can help teachers guide our young people.”

There are already a number of businesses and organisations on board. Simone continued: “There will be so many different businesses from all different sectors. United Utilities – the provider in the NW of England who ensure we have water coming out the tap every day and our loos are flushed.

The Co-operative Bank, who have a national footprint and a real passion around community. Bank of New York Mellon, a massive and global organisation that does not just offer finance jobs. Liverpool Football Club, an organisation focussed on sport as well as the business of sport in a supportive role. The Royal Navy, as a recently decorated honorary Lieutenant Commander, I’m delighted to be working with the service and bringing those role models into schools. With the help of these organisations and many more we can and will make real impact offering wider opportunity to young people.”

Set up five years ago, NPW was born out of a need to accelerate gender equality in the North and currently has a 60,000-strong network. It now spreads across the UK and spans all sectors, genders and race demographics.

Future First was created 10 years ago with a vision to create a world where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future. The charity specialises in helping schools and colleges develop thriving alumni networks and build links with leading businesses, so students can meet, learn from and be inspired by relatable role models so they can see worlds beyond their own.

This unique resource will be available from September 2021, with an exciting platform to better connect young people with business leaders, entrepreneurs, trailblazers – all with a different story to tell.