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Future First

Photo credit: Laurie Lewis

Thinking about pursuing a career in law can be quite daunting. Students often worry about how to decide what law sector to specialise in, how to get onto the right pathway, or worry they don’t have the confidence to study law at all. 

Relatable role models are crucial: network as much as you can

Take it one step at a time and break it down:

  • Research, research and… more research. If you’re interested in a career in law, this step should actually be the fun part. Do you know the difference between a lawyer and a solicitor? The routes available to get into law? Check out the information on Prospects website as well as our video with former student, Lorenzo, now studying law at university:

  • Do a skills check: do you enjoy attention to detail, working methodically and interpreting large amounts of information and analysis? Find out more.
  • Network: are you and your school / old school a Future First member? We can help connect you with relatable role models working in law.
  • Start thinking about your personal statement.

If you have been to a law firm open day or assessment centre, or even completed some work experience with a firm, you may have noticed the striking number of private school students compared to state school students. Admittedly, some firms are much better than others at promoting diversity, but this is a problem affecting the whole legal industry and we are delighted to be working with partners such as Taylor Wessing to change this.

Taylor Wessing and Future First: bringing law careers to life

Future First works with Taylor Wessing to deliver activities in order to bring careers in the legal sector to life for students across the country and helps build their confidence to strive for success. 

Check out Taylor Wessing’s video for Black History Month on ‘Journeys into Law’

Future First facilitates Year 12 students and Taylor Wessing mentors to work together in activities to develop the skills needed to succeed at a law firm like Taylor Wessing. 

  • Setting goals for the future
  • Developing interview skills
  • CV writing
  • Writing cover letters and applications
  • Reflecting on strategies for overcoming challenges 
  • Demonstrating resilience 

Students and mentors work together in groups, giving students opportunities to ask questions about what it’s like to work at the firm, and to identify the pathways, qualifications, experiences and skills that would help them to access these opportunities in the future.

After the most recent programme, students commented:

“The mock interviews made me think about what employers are looking for. It improved my skill of quickly adapting to specific questions. I was very nervous but the personalised feedback I received gave me confidence and advice I will take to all future interviews.”

“The Taylor Wessing volunteers spoke about their range of experiences which made me consider routes into law that I hadn’t considered beforehand.”

In addition to offering a mentoring programme, Taylor Wessing support young people through Law Insight Days and Employability Skills workshops. Over the last 5 years this has brought careers in the legal sector to life for more than 500 students across the country, building their confidence and knowledge to strive for success.

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Our ‘Bridging the Gap’ pilot project, funded by SHINE Trust, was created to support Year 6 pupils to feel better prepared, both academically and emotionally, to navigate their transition to secondary school.

Our impact report has now been published. Nine schools across the North of England were invited to take part and in total 50 Year 9 mentors took part in the project and 120 Year 6 pupils.

The aim of the project was to recruit secondary school mentors to become near-peer supporters and relatable role models, to a targeted group of Year 6 children who were:

  • not on track to meet age related expectation in English
  • not on track to meet age related expectation in Maths
  • low in emotional-readiness for secondary school.

Our findings show that by the end of the programme Year 6 pupils who participated as mentees had an increased understanding of what to expect when they transitioned to secondary school, were more confident about the transition and were more engaged and motivated to work harder at school. School feedback was also incredibly positive with one school leadership member saying:

“It was also a wonderful opportunity for our students to have some leadership opportunities and to showcase the skills they have built in mentoring younger students… In terms of mixing and social cohesion it has also really helped both sets of students – having them work with people they wouldn’t normally work with.”

In the near future, Future First are hoping to be able to offer transition support to other Year 6 students throughout the country through the use of secondary school mentors. This project has been instrumental in developing our understanding and approach.

Read our full report here.

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Role models and mentors: providing a comfortable transition from primary to secondary

Students at schools across the country have had their eyes opened to careers in trade and commerce thanks to a project run by education charity Future First.

The ‘Commerce in the Classroom’ initiative, funded by the Commercial Education Trust (CET), saw students in schools stretching from Kent to Sunderland meet up with former pupils and other volunteers working in trade and commerce to provide them with an insight into careers in the sector. 

Future First specialises in connecting students with former pupils from their schools and other relatable role models so they build up the knowledge, confidence, and inspiration to succeed when they leave school. 

It’s the second year Future First and the CET have come together to run the project and Year 10 and 12 students from seven schools in Hull, Sunderland, Essex, Norfolk, Kent and London had the chance to learn about the world of commerce and trade. 

The alumni and volunteers included someone working in global relations and trading for Manchester City Football Club, a trader at Royal Dutch Shell, and an Executive Assistant at the Department for International Trade.

Volunteer Peter Oliver, a Berlin-based journalist specialising in trade, said: “I didn’t know what was available when I was a kid, now I do, I’d like others to know that it’s a big world with lots of opportunities. 

“We don’t know what they may find most useful, but when they can ask questions that’s where some gold may be unearthed.”

A number of the schools were invited to participate in the initiative because they are based in social mobility cold spots where there is a higher-than-average number of students in receipt of Free School Meals. Many are also located close to ports, providing the area with a greater focus on international trade and commerce. 

Future First has grown a network of more than 200 volunteers who work in trade and commerce and around 560 students from the participating schools took part in the initiative. Through a mixture of virtual and face-to-face activities, students took part in workshops, career carousels, games focusing on skills needed for trading, and problem-solving exercises relevant to challenges connected with jobs in the sector. 

One student said: “The workshops made me more aware of the different elements to jobs in international trade and the diverse range of jobs and opportunities.”

Alex Barnes, Alumni Programme Manager at Future First, said: “Future First is committed to helping young people in state schools and colleges broaden their horizons by connecting them with former pupils who they can relate to.  

“The Commerce in the Classroom project comes at a critical time for both students and the economy. Many young people have had their confidence and ambitions for the future knocked by the pandemic and initiatives like this make a real difference. We’re grateful to the Commercial Education Trust for the funding to making it possible for us to help ensure a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.”

A CET spokesperson said: “CET is delighted to have been involved as a partner in Future First’s Commerce in the Classroom, and looks forward to the next stage of the project. The aims and objectives of the initiative tie in with those of CET, preparing young adults for life and the world of work. CET believes that initiatives like these will have a long-lasting effect on the lives of young people and on their attitude to work and life.”

View the Commerce in the Classroom impact report here.

By Alex Barnes, Alumni Programme Manager

The Commerce in the Classroom project has come at a critical time for both students and the economy. Many young people have had their confidence and ambitions for the future knocked by the pandemic, while businesses are facing a skills shortage as the world adjusts to a ‘new normal’.

Initiatives like Commerce in the Classroom are making a real difference. During 2019-20 we found that before the programme less than a third of the participating students understood what international trade was, but by the end nearly all did. In addition, two thirds of students started off saying they were not sure if they were capable of getting a job in the sector and this nearly halved by the end of the programme.

Thanks to continued funding by the Commercial Education Trust (CET), the initiative has this year seen around 300 Year 10 and 12 students from seven schools in Hull, Sunderland, Essex, Norfolk, Kent and London meet up with former pupils and other volunteers working in trade and commerce and gain an insight into careers in the sector. A number of the schools were invited to participate in the initiative because they are based in social mobility cold spots where there is a higher-than-average number of students in receipt of Free School Meals. Many are also located close to ports, providing the area with a greater focus on international trade and commerce.

Through a mixture of virtual and face-to-face activities, students took part in workshops, career carousels, games focusing on skills needed for trading and problem-solving exercises relevant to challenges connected with jobs in the sector.

Overall, Future First has grown a nationwide alumni network of around 266,000 and more than 200 of these volunteers work in trade and commerce.

The alumni and volunteers taking part in this year’s Commerce in the Classroom programme included someone working in global relations and trading for Manchester City Football Club, a trader at Royal Dutch Shell, and an Executive Assistant at the Department for International Trade.

Peter Oliver, a Berlin-based journalist specialising in trade and a former pupil at one of the participating schools – St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland – said: “I didn’t know what was available when I was a kid, now I do, I’d like others to know that it’s a big world with lots of opportunities. We don’t know what they may find most useful, but when they can ask questions that’s where some gold may be unearthed.”

The seven schools and colleges participated in this year’s Commerce in the Classroom project were:

Marshlands High School, West Walton, Norfolk
St Aidan’s Catholic Academy, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
St Anthony’s Girls Catholic Academy, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
All Saints Catholic School and Technology College, Dagenham, Essex
Malet Lambert School, Hull, Yorkshire
Langley Park School for Girls, Beckenham, Kent
Lampton Academy, Hounslow, London

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By Alaya Seoudy, Alumni Engagement Assistant

It’s 26 March 2021, an email comes through on my phone and it reads “As part of the government Kickstarter scheme, Future First are delighted to be recruiting for two vacancies”. It was the best email I received in a long while and I started to complete the application form straight away. 

I’m now four months into my role as an Alumni Engagement Assistant at Future First. The reason why I received that email in the first place is that my previous college was signed-up as a Future First member school and, in turn, I had signed up to my alumni network upon leaving that college. 

Who knew that an alumni network I signed-up to years ago would enable me to get the job I’m in today? It just goes to show the importance of sowing seeds today, that you will be able to reap in the future. 

My experience has taught me that some of the most important seeds you’ll sow today come in the form of networking. After all, everyone knows the quote ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know‘.  

Networking seems daunting at first but it’s not. Let’s break it down with some simple tips to help get you started: 

1. Know yourself and Identify your ‘personal brand’

It’s important to spend some time reflecting on what it is you enjoy, what you’re interested in, what your goals and values are, as well as the skills and attributes you have and the experience you possess. This will make reaching out to people a lot easier and help them to better understand you and what you’re after.

Check out prospects.ac.uk – there’s some great resources and quizzes to help you figure things out and the Prince’s Trust can help you navigate your personal brand

2. See it as making friends, not connections

You would probably feel awkward if a stranger approached you to merely use you as a stepping stone. A good working relationship is built upon establishing common ground, trust and maintaining that rapport. Put it this way, would you be more inclined to help your friend or a stranger? 

Watch this video about how to network in the right way, and check out some advice from the professionals that we recorded for National Careers Week 2021

3. Make a LinkedIn profile 

Not only do an increasing amount of employers ask for a LinkedIn profile on applications, it’s also the easiest way to connect with people from everywhere! Start by connecting with people you know, perhaps your peers, those who attended the same school, college or university as you. Then consider connecting with a speaker you enjoyed listening to or follow organisations you’re interested in. Doing these simple things will instantly open your eyes to a whole new world of opportunities.

Here’s some tips for students who want to get started on LinkedIn, and there’s some really useful videos here on simply getting started with LinkedIn, have a look at this one first:

4. Be proactive and seek networking opportunities 

Lockdown meant a lot of in-person events were cancelled, while we wait for the world to fully open up again, attend webinars and connect with speakers and other attendees. People are more open to virtual networking now more than ever – this is your chance to expose yourself to a variety of important contacts. 

Check out free events on Eventbrite – just use the search bar to find the subjects you’re interested in and filter by online courses / free courses.

5. Join a mentoring scheme

There are so many mentoring schemes available, your mentor will support you with both personal and professional development but could also be the vital contact helping to unlock your next opportunity. Remember mentors have set time aside to help you!

Check out Avado’s FastFutures programme – it’s a free 12 week course including 1-1 mentoring for those aged 18-24 and the deadline is 31st August 2021.

6. Join your schools/ the national alumni network

You spent a large portion of your life within school, once you leave those gates the support doesn’t have to end there. Joining your school’s alumni network is your safety net, where people help support and guide one another. You will be able to connect with former students who have progressed into further education, training and work. You will gain insight into a variety of roles and industries and have access to great volunteering opportunities to bolster that CV. Look at my own experience – you have no idea what opportunities people can help you unlock unless you try. So why dismiss an entire community waiting to connect with you? 

Join your school’s alumni network today!


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By Naomi Barker, Regional Programme Manager

Every pupil should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace – Gatsby benchmark #5 highlights this as one of the eight core measures for good careers provision in schools. At Future First we believe that bringing back former students as alumni volunteers to share their career experience is an integral part of any good school or college careers curriculum. It’s a positive step that the benefits of bringing employer volunteers into the classroom are now much more widely recognised and it’s part of our core programme and offering to highlight the variety of ways alumni can act as volunteers.

In working towards achieving the Gatsby benchmarks, it is easy for schools to assume that all alumni volunteers must be well established in their careers, or even ‘top of their game’, to offer useful support. The benefits of bringing younger alumni volunteers, who may have only just started in their careers, back to the classroom can then be easily overlooked.

Last year, Future First worked with more than 70,000 students and has some 270,000 alumni volunteers signed up to help schools and colleges across the country. Future First’s own statistics suggest there is a keen appetite for volunteering amongst younger alumni. In 2021, 45% of active alumni volunteers were aged 18-25, and research suggests that the effect of near-peer role models can be crucial in building life skills such as confidence and resilience.

Recent school leaver Katie was motivated to give back to her school because “As part of the alumni we’ve gone through similar things, we may even have similar home lives. There’s a resemblance one way or another… It’s all well and good all of these wonderful people coming in and telling the students about the possibilities that are out there but when the students can see someone who has been in their shoes go on and be successful, have a fantastic job and love what they do it’s so much stronger.” 

Katie touches on a salient point here – her experience, and that of younger alumni, holds much more weight for current students because it’s delivered by someone not too distant from them in age or life experience.

But it’s not just in sharing key employability skills like communication, resilience and work ethic where younger alumni can be beneficial. Our recent ‘Bridging the Gap’ pilot project saw Year 6 and Year 9 pupils work together as mentors and mentees with the aim of helping the Year 6s feel ready, knowledgeable and comfortable about their transition up to secondary school. One Year 6 pupil said: “I have really enjoyed getting to know my mentor, she told me what it would be like when I arrived at Secondary school and now it seems less scary than before. I am excited to start.” So we know first-hand that role models can come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

This is the reason our partnership with psychologist and author, Fiona Murden, is such a strong and beneficial one – she helps to throw light on the power of role models, saying: 

“In the same way we tend to think of role models as being infallible we also tend to think of mentors as needing to have been model pupils or to be doing exceptionally well with their careers in order to play that role. But we are more likely to form trusting connections, essential for the natural mechanisms of the brain to work, with people who are similar to us based on characteristics like age, race, gender and ethnic origin. And this is especially true for teenagers. Counter to what we may naturally think of when considering mentors – that may not be someone who was academically brilliant. What’s critical is that teens can see ‘someone like me’ to connect with. And if we train mentors effectively, research shows that the mistakes they made provide an immensely powerful lesson to the mentee.”*

A recent survey of our alumni volunteers found that beyond school staff, 70% did not encounter an inspirational role model when they were at school or college. That’s a statistic Future First wants to change, and this tied with the appetite to volunteer means young people see the benefits of getting involved in supporting their old schools and colleges for themselves as well as for current students. There’s a whole network out there of untapped potential, schools just need to learn how to tap into it and they’d be surprised at the amount of goodwill available.

Nicola Harvey, Careers Lead at Vyners School had this to say: “I’ve found Future First really useful as a resource to support the careers programme at the school. Even when I’m quite specific, there’s usually an alumni volunteer who can speak to the students about the career that has been requested. The mixture of one-to-one interviews that we’ve run, careers talks to the whole year group, more targeted careers talks and workshops in subjects and lessons, have been a really valuable experience that have added massively to our careers programme – I don’t know how we could have done it without the links to Future First” 

Contact us to find out about Future First and how we can support you to involve alumni in the school curriculum and meet the Gatsby Benchmarks.

*Read the full article, The importance of finding ‘someone like me’, by Fiona Murden 

We’re delighted to be working with Career Ready, the UK-wide social mobility charity, to host young people for internships.

The pandemic has cut the opportunities available for young people, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds, and we’re proud to be working with Career Ready to help fix this and invest in young talent.

Over the coming weeks our new intern, Nardos Sheshay, will work across the charity on a range of different projects, developing the skills, confidence, and experience she needs to kickstart her future. As an employer, this is also a great way for us to connect with young, diverse talent.

With Career Ready, we’ll make a transformational difference to young lives, boosting their social mobility, attainment, and wellbeing:

  • 95% of Career Ready alumni secured HE or FE qualifications, compared to 77% of their non-programme peers
  • 90% of Career Ready alumni said they developed key workplace skills
  • 87% of Career Ready alumni said the experience had a positive impact on their life

Here’s what Nardos had to say:

“Raised in Manchester, I’m someone who enjoys understanding different ideas and environments and expressing my creativity through a variety of mediums. Therefore, since taking the opportunity with Future First I am excited to have been able to participate in a variety of activities, such as being given the responsibility to set up meetings, which allowed me to gain practical IT skills and be adaptive and independent instead of being reliant on other people. This helped push my out of my comfort zone in a positive way!

I have also participated in assessing some prototypes for our new platform and presenting my honest feedback. This allowed me to express my creativity and challenge my immediate thought process. I believe that divergent thinking is a critical skill and this activity has helped with that. Also, another amazing opportunity that I have taken part in is making a conclusive presentation concerning Future First and presenting it to members of staff. This has given me the chance to build many skills such as self-reliance, interpersonal skills, and confidence.

In the future, I have a desire to study human behaviour by way of higher education, whether that will lead to a clinical route or the counselling route I am still to see. However, I believe that through this great experience as an intern, I have gained the gems that every student will need to excel in their chosen career! So, I highly recommend any student to take on an internship regardless of who they may be, opportunities will never cease to come your way but it’s up to you if you want to take them, you have nothing to lose – go for it, you’ll gain more than you would have expected!”

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By Alex Barnes, Alumni Programme Manager

At Future First, our vision is for a world where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.

The recent launch of a government taskforce to improve socio-economic diversity in banking and financial services across the UK was created in response to research commissioned by the City of London Corporation and authored by the Bridge Group. This report revealed that nine in 10 senior roles are held by people from high socio-economic backgrounds and that employees from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress in the industry, despite no evidence of poorer performance.

This prompted us to throw our support behind the campaign for change in the sector, highlighting how former students and strong alumni networks can make a real difference, but that the drive for change needs to come from within financial institutions themselves. As part of our response, we mobilised our National Alumni Network to help play a part in ensuring that talented young people from less privileged backgrounds could gain advice from the professionals, learn tips and find out about other useful resources and pathways available. Alongside members of our National Alumni Network who were experts in the sector, we hosted a virtual Careers in Banking and Finance Panel to guide and inspire young people from state schools who want to pursue a career in the industry.

Watch the panel discussion below

We were delighted to be able to include Chloe Wong, Senior Investment Associate at Pollen Street Capital – a Future First employer partner. As well as sharing her career insight, Chloe has also taken part in Future First workshops with Edith Neville Primary school in Camden to help support Year 6 students build communication and teamwork skills and to help them feel more confident about their future. Also featured is Nick Smith, Director at the Alternative Investment Management Association, and Chair of the Labour in the City organisation; Nick is keen to support us in opening up opportunities for students from all backgrounds to the world of finance and banking.

We hope that initiatives such as this – and we’ll continue to create more – will help young people across the UK feel better prepared to pursue their ambitions in the sector. Hearing from our National Alumni Network members as they talk about their own career journeys and the things they wish they had known when they were at school, can’t fail to inspire young people and boost their confidence to take their first steps towards a future that could be theirs.

If you would like to help us create sector-specific content, please do get in touch info@futurefirst.org.uk


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By Melina Joannides, Digital Assistant and Kickstarter 

Class of 2021: I wonder how many times you’ve heard the following questions:

“What sixth form, college or university are you going to?”
“What are you going to do now?”
“What are your plans for your future?”

Some of you may know exactly where you are heading next, which is great! 

However, some of you may still be figuring it all out which is perfectly normal. It can all be incredibly overwhelming, I’ve been there. The most important thing to remember, is to do what feels right for you

What do I mean by this?

It can be easy to be swayed by those around you. Perhaps of all your close friends are heading to the same college, sixth form or university. It can be tempting to simply follow in their path – but is that the right path for you?

When I was at secondary school, the message seemed to be that continuing education at sixth form or university was preferable and this led many students, including myself, believing that sixth form or university was a necessity to succeed in life. Yet, I discovered that this is not the case. There are numerous avenues. 

What options are there? 

  • Internships
  • Apprenticeships
  • Gap Year
  • Employment
  • College 
  • Sixth Form
  • Start your own business 
  • University 

And more….

For example, Future First alumni volunteer, Abbie decided to complete an apprenticeship: 

 “You may be surprised to know that I will qualify as a Chartered Accountant before a graduate from university. In addition, I would also have an extra three years’ worth of work experience”. 

There is often a misconception about students who do not attend University, Sixth form or College. Abbie is one of the many examples who combat this misconception!

University, College or Sixth form isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you’re interested in pursuing something else in the list above. If so, utilise the internet and do lots of research to learn about your endless options and where they can take you. 

Who can tell me more, where can I look?

Just a few suggestions:

  • Prince’s Trust – Gain experience, skills, training and the confidence to help you into work with the Prince’s Trust, or take that idea you’ve been dreaming of and, with Prince’s Trust Enterprise training, mentoring and funding, become your own boss.
  • Not Going To Uni – Showcases the alternatives to the standard university route to school and college leavers.
  • Career Ready – Building networks with employers, educators, and volunteers across the UK to give young people the career support, experiences, and insights they need to kickstart their futures.
  • Avado / FastFutures – In just 12 weeks you’ll learn the practical skills that employers really need, build your network, and increase your confidence through 1-2-1 mentoring.

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By Alex Kiami, Regional Programme Manager

For a child, the transition from a sometimes small, intimate primary school to a larger secondary school can be overwhelming. Stepping into new territory without familiar faces can be daunting and children who lack guidance during this time can struggle.

Attainment has been shown to dip during this crucial transition period with several studies highlighting literacy and numeracy as most affected.*

This is where our Future First mentors step in.

Our Bridging the Gap pilot transition project, funded by the SHINE Trust, aims to encourage greater collaboration between primary and secondary schools to develop a more inclusive and cohesive approach to the transition from key stage 2 to 3 for the most vulnerable children. By drawing on the wealth of knowledge and experience held by Key Stage 3 and 4 students (mentors), Year 6 children (mentees) who have not met age-related expectations and / or are particularly low in confidence will be better prepared, both emotionally and academically, to navigate their transition to secondary school.

As part of this work, we recently delivered a Primary transition workshop at Whiteways Primary School in Sheffield which saw Year 6 pupils come together with Year 9 students from the local secondary school – Fir Vale School. In this workshop we facilitated the Year 9 students to effectively mentor their younger counterparts in what to expect when they reached secondary school, talk about the differences and similarities between primary and secondary and share their experience of their own transition. Crucially, the Year 9 mentors were all former students from the primary school meaning that they could act as relatable role models to the younger children.

After the workshop, one Year 6 mentee commented:

“I have really enjoyed getting to know my mentor, she told me what it would be like when I arrived at Secondary school and now it seems less scary than before. I am excited to start.”

Our Bridging the Gap workshops are delivered over three workshops:

The first session centres on preparing the Year 6 pupils for being mentored. We look at the qualities that a good mentee should have and we get children to write down their concerns and their excitement surrounding secondary school so that when they meet their Year 9 mentors they can really focus their conversations and make the encounter meaningful. During this initial session, children also receive letters from their mentor and have the opportunity to write a letter back to them to help nurture a bond before they even meet.

The second workshop sees the mentees meet their mentors for the first time and really start to develop their knowledge and understanding of what to expect from secondary school. Children learn about learning strategies and start to develop their communication skills – for some Year 6 pupils, this could be the first time they really meet an older peer who isn’t their sibling.

Our final workshop takes place at the secondary school the mentors attend and the school the Year 6 pupils will be attending next year – this is the chance to see their new school for the first time. Within this workshop we run a networking carousel which provides the Year 6 pupils with an opportunity to meet different secondary mentors through engaging activities. By the end of the workshop students will have developed their communication skills even further, increased their knowledge of secondary school and feel an increased optimism to get started. On completion of the programme, the Year 6 and Year 9 students are awarded certificates for their participation.

The outcomes we aim to achieve with the Bridging the Gap programme include demystifying secondary school, strengthened communication skills, introduction to learning strategies and increased motivation and confidence to take the next steps in their educational journey.

Speaking to Jenny Cassy, Fir Vale School’s Director of Learning for Futures, we asked her why she initially got involved in the project and what she hoped to achieve.

“Transition is obviously a key point for any school and making sure your pupils make the move feeling as comfortable and confident as possible, but it was also a wonderful opportunity for our students to have some leadership opportunities and to showcase the skills they have built in mentoring younger students.

We’ve had some really good feedback. The mentors that were chosen felt great prestige and they definitely got a lot out of it – a lot of them said that they wanted to continue the links they had made with their mentees when they arrive in Year 7. In terms of mixing and social cohesion it has also really helped both sets of students – having them work with people they wouldn’t normally work with.

From my point of view as teacher, working with Future First has been really simple – they came in with really well planned resources, sorted logistics, did all the liaison with the local primary school and brought expertise with them – and this is something that would have taken me a lot of time to organise by myself.”

The success of the Bridging the Gap project between Whiteways and Fir Vale was perhaps summed up by a Whiteways Year 6 pupil who said:

“I enjoyed learning about secondary school from my mentor, because he came to this school first, and I know that if he can do it, so can I”

If you would like to find out more about our work, get in touch today.

*Evangelou, M., Taggart, B., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2008) What makes a successful transition from primary to secondary school? Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education 3-14 Project (EPPSE 3-14) London England: Department for Children, Schools & Families.

Future First is proud to be joining forces with leading disability charity Mencap to help more young people with learning disabilities feel connected and supported once they have left school. 

Mencap is setting up a platform for learners with disabilities to connect with each other, receive invitations to events and be notified about work and volunteering opportunities. Future First is on hand to help advise on how to manage and engage networks of volunteers, sharing expert advice and best practice from its decade worth of experience managing alumni communities. 

Equally, Future First is delighted to be collaborating with Mencap as Future First begins to roll out its new programme for special schools. Mencap will help to ensure that content stays relevant, accessible and up to date. 

Katy de la Motte-Harrison, Partnerships Manager at Future First says:

“We are thrilled to be working in conjunction with Mencap on our new programme for young people with disabilities. This is a great opportunity for us to learn from an expert provider, ensuring the interventions we deliver for young people with disabilities and our engagement with disabled alumni is as impactful as it can be. Mencap is a brilliant charity and we are delighted to assist in the engagement of their community of learners, sharing volunteering and learning opportunities between us.”

Sarah Rowley, Programme Office Manager at Mencap adds:

“We connected with Future First to seek some guidance about setting up a community for our learners where they can get continued support into the world of work and stay connected with Mencap. It was clear from our conversations that Mencap and Future First could offer guidance and support to each other in developing opportunities for people with a learning disability. Working together, we can share expertise in different areas and have shared values. We are excited to work together and feel we will really benefit from Future First’s knowledge and experience in developing networks and communities among young people.”

Interested in becoming an employer partner? Get in touch.

With so much focus on ‘catch-up’ education for children following an unprecedented year of disruption due to the pandemic, it’s important to remember the contribution role models can play in boosting a young person’s life chances.

Future First is focused on providing every young person with access to relatable role models so their future is not limited by their start in life. 

A recent survey of our alumni volunteers found that beyond school staff, 70% did not encounter an inspirational role model when they were at school or college. That’s a statistic Future First want to change. 

By connecting current students with former students who have sat in the same classrooms as them, we provide young people with the belief, confidence and inspiration to thrive in the future. 

The schools we work with tell us that as well as acting as relatable role models, offering motivation to pupils and providing mentoring support, alumni also play a valuable contribution in terms of careers advice for students.

For those young people now preparing to leave school or college for further education, university or work the prospect of the future is likely to be daunting enough without the turmoil that has taken place in the past year. While a focus on educational recovery is vital, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the other things that can help young people along the route to success. 

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The power of role models
The benefits of volunteering: what’s in it for me?
Our purpose

Graham Calvert is an alumnus of Nower Hill School and a Future First alumni volunteer who has run sessions with students to talk about LGBT issues, mental health and confidence building. For Pride Month, we asked Graham about what it was like being at school during a time of greater discrimination, and what he wished he could tell his school-boy self.

I left Nower Hill School in what for many will seem like centuries ago.  Back then, in 1981, the first cases of what was to become known as AIDS were recorded in America followed in 1982, when I was just 17, by one of the first deaths in this country of Terrence Higgins.  

Back then it was actually illegal for me to have a relationship or for anyone to have a relationship with me: it was a potentially imprisonable offence.  So, when, in the words of a famous song, I look back upon my life it is tinged with a sense of shame – a shame imposed on me by the school and its view of what was ‘normal’, the emergence of this new disease and the law which criminalised my feelings.  And so the one thing I would tell my younger self – and the one thing I wish I had known then – is that there is no shame in being gay.  

Things may have changed but there are still many forces acting to make us as LGBTQ+ people feel ashamed of the feelings we have, the love we wish to express openly, and the joy we have in just being ourselves.  

In the years since then, I have learned that the greatest power comes in being a group of people.  We have decriminalised gay relationships, we have fought and begun to win the battle against AIDS, we got rid of Section 28 and we can even get married if we chose to.  

The thing I have learned is that these gains are fragile and can easily be lost if we do not remember that many still see us as ‘outcasts’, but together I know that great things can be achieved.  The rule is to learn to enjoy being you in whatever way you can be you.

View our related resources:

FREE LGBT+ History Month – Assembly and Workshop Activity Pack 

FREE Template email for alumni support

By Alaya Seoudy, Alumni Engagement Assistant

Life before lockdown was full of hustle and bustle, time felt as though it was slipping away, we became so swept up in our own lives that we often had less time for others. For a lot of us, when lockdown came into effect it was as though everything slowed down, the rush hour commute became the walk in the park, all of a sudden we were forced to stay at home, spend time with family, reach out to the vulnerable; communities came together in full force to support one another. We realised the importance of making time for others, for giving back.

Lockdown and the pandemic may have made it seem harder to gain voluntary experience, but at Future First we have so many opportunities for you to volunteer in an educational setting, for example, by conducting mock interviews, helping in a careers Q&A, appearing on a role model poster for your old school, mentoring current students, featuring in a case study, attending a workshop – and more – all from the comfort of your own home!

But what’s in it for you, if you volunteer with us?

Voluntary experience

Voluntary experience is so important to your CV – especially if you are starting to make those first tentative steps into your career or if you want to flesh-out your personal statement for uni. Job applications and employers will often ask if you have any voluntary experience and it really does help if you can say ‘yes’ and speak passionately about what that was. 

Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills and showcase them to employers. For example, you’ll be able to show that you have time-management skills, public speaking, communication and interpersonal skills, that you hold values (which might even align with theirs) and that you’re proactive in seeking out opportunities. 

Some recent volunteer feedback included: 

“I think it is a brilliant way to engage and support young people in their career and education choices.”
“It is a fun experience and it’s nice to help out the younger generation.”
“I feel very positive about the aspiration of the programme and it feels more useful now more than ever, given the impact of COVID-19 and the complications many young people now face regarding their future options.“
You can read more volunteer stories here.

Change lives: become a relatable role model
Anyone can be a role model – a success story isn’t always about achieving straight As and getting the top job. Our alumni volunteers come from all walks of life and have often taken an interesting route to get to where they are today.

Volunteering at Future First will develop your ability to empathise and understand the challenges young people currently face while becoming a relatable role model for students at your old school, or one local to you.

Vikki Massarano is a Partner at Arc Pensions Law and a Future First volunteer, she told us about the importance of role models in providing crucial work experience to young people and how it can directly contribute to an inclusive and diverse workforce.“Many young people aren’t lucky enough to have strong role models and they need to have the opportunities that Future First provides to widen their horizons and give them the confidence to strive for success.”

Pass on crucial knowledge

By volunteering, you can help students at schools and colleges across the country by sharing your personal experiences and vital knowledge, so that they can gain valuable insights to help inform their life choices after school. We’ve had volunteers talk to year 12 groups about transitioning to further education and onto other pathways, talk about how to settle in during those critical first few weeks at uni, about their experiences with apprenticeships, about being part of the LGBTQ+ community and much much more. Encounters with relatable role models – just like you – is especially important for students who lack connections and role models in their everyday lives. 

Nir, a year 12 student said: “In the future, I hope to study at university and I’ve gained a lot of tips, [the workshop] has helped me improve my decision making especially because my mentor has gone through the same experiences and I can learn from them”.

Build your network

Volunteering with Future First is not a one-sided relationship. We all know the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. By joining us, you will be able to build your professional network by connecting with other alumni. You will also gain an insight into a variety of roles and industries. For example, by volunteering at one of our webinars you will be able to meet other people doing a different role within your industry or even hear from senior experts in your field and learn about their pathways. 

Building your network could potentially unlock so many new doors!


Future First has been working closely with Widening Participation in Medics Network, an organisation that exists to break down barriers to the profession by forming a supportive community, offer tips, resources and advice for prospective and current medical students from underrepresented groups. 

We are delighted to provide a free, downloadable, virtual work experience pack which provides an insight into the health and social care industry and helps students practice key employability skills to help them access future opportunities.

What’s included?

Our Work Experience in Health and Social Care pack is a week-long work experience programme which includes a workbook and a guidebook. The packs include the following: pre-recorded video messages and guided presentation slides; a student workbook which will be used simultaneously with interactive activities; top tips on pursuing careers in Medicine, Nursing, Social Work and Healthcare services from our alumni volunteers.

Through the use of this easily accessible and helpful resource, students can develop and strengthen their insight into a range of opportunities related to health and social care.

What are the benefits of taking part?

Why would you not take part in a free, downloadable, experience-gaining opportunity?

  • You will receive a certificate accrediting your achievement when you send us your completed student workbook
  • An excellent experience to add onto your CV and application forms 
  • You will receive live feedback from one of our alumni volunteers or employer partners on your final challenge task 
  • A great opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills
  • Self-evaluation, viewing your progress, skills and targets

Why the Health and Social Care Industry? 

The health and social care industry is one of the largest employment sectors in the UK, working towards giving people a better quality of life, the difference and impact you can make can be life-changing. Not sure if you’re interested in health and social care? There are over 350 health and social care careers – here are just some of the many career paths within the industry:

Health Visitor
Hospital Porter
Intensive Care Unit Technician
School Nurse
Speech and Language Therapist

Social Work and Counselling
Clinical Psychologist
Care Assistant
Social Worker
Care Worker
Nursery Nurse
Youth Worker
Occupational Therapist
Community and Support
Outreach Worker

Work experience in the Third Sector
Work experience profiles
Remote Learning: Hobbies and interests – finding your fit

By Joy Upchurch, Programme Director

It’s easy to sometimes assume that alumni networks are a ‘nice-to-have’ for schools – especially with the sector under pressure in so many ways.

However, with ten years’ experience helping nurture thriving networks across the country, we know that the support Future First offers schools helps them meet a range of priorities, in particular the Gatsby benchmarks and the Baker Clause.

When it comes to ‘linking curriculum learning to careers’, there are few better ways to achieve this objective than bringing a former student back to the classroom to talk about the relevance of their studies to the working world. Often this won’t be an obvious link, for example, we recently facilitated a former student of Stowmarket High School who owned a carpet shop to return and work with Year 8 Maths students to calculate carpet price by area and complete order forms. 

Facilitating ‘encounters with employers and employees’ is at the heart of what Future First does. With a national network of 266,000 alumni volunteers, we were able to achieve encounters for nearly 70,000 students last year alone. Most importantly, these encounters are meaningful for students because alumni have relatable experiences, having sat at the very same desks and gone on to achieve success. This relatability can be crucial to inspire, motivate and nurture a student’s confidence to strive for a brighter future.

In the words of Nigel, a Year 10 student who benefitted from our work with Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, East London: “It makes a difference hearing from a former student because they are more relatable to our circumstances and they’ve been in our environment when they were my age, so I’m more inclined to listen to them than someone else.” 

What do schools have to say about working with Future First? Watch below, or click here to view.

‘Experience of workplaces’ is another area where Future First can support schools and colleges. Your alumni can offer bespoke work shadowing and placement opportunities based on your students interests, and alongside this we offer a wide range of work placement opportunities with our employer partners. For example, every year around 90 students have the opportunity to benefit from Insight Days with leading City law firm and Future First employer partner, Taylor Wessing. A number of them then go on to take part in a mentoring programme at the company over several weeks and find this experience incredibly rewarding.

Beyond this, we are developing a range of free virtual work experience packs to provide opportunities for even more students across the country. These packs have proved really popular and offer a 5-day programme of activities and videos – so far we have covered careers in the voluntary and health & social care sectors. Finally, our work with Uni Connect partnerships across England is invaluable in supporting ‘encounters with further and higher education’. Last year we delivered programmes in partnership with Uni Connect covering Cumbria, South Yorkshire, the South West, the West Midlands and East Anglia, supporting 65 schools to help around 6,000 students to understand what it would be like to study at university and the steps needed to get there. We’ve found that hearing first-hand about the experiences of alumni helps break down the myths and stereotypes that often unnerve students about further and higher education.

Beyond the Gatsby benchmarks, Future First is able to provide crucial support in line with the Career Development Institute’s new framework and individual school improvement plans (SIPs). We know that closing the achievement gap features regularly on SIPs for many schools and colleges and bridging the divide between more privileged and disadvantaged pupils has always been key to Future First’s mission.

Many of our programmes over the years have focused on some of the most at-risk young people. For example, our three-year programme with Rothchild & Co. specifically targeted young people at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). The evidence is that the coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap between the more privileged and disadvantaged students, making our work more important than ever.

Building the resilience of students in the face of the fallout from the pandemic also features in many SIPs, a key priority when research has shown young people’s confidence for the future has been severely affected by the turmoil of the past year. For schools determined to close the achievement gap and build resilience among their pupils as part of their improvement plans, the confidence and resilience a thriving alumni network can provide could prove crucial. With creating aspiration and ambition, aiding in ‘transition’ phases, broadening the range of opportunities to promote personal development and work experience also featuring regularly on SIPs, there are compelling reasons for more schools and colleges to join Future First to develop their alumni network.

Of course, we know it is important for schools and colleges to evidence the impact of their progress and measurements are built into our programmes to provide this. Our Future First Pro membership programme has an evaluation framework embedded within it. Baseline and endline surveys with participating students at the beginning and end of the year will be used to show what has been achieved, and as one student from Neale Wade Academy put it: “When I think about my future now it’s different, I’ve got a lot more choice about what I’m going to do when I’m older, much more than I first thought. The alumni showed me that.”

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Future First Pro
Our purpose
Our stories: school, student and alumni case studies

By Fiona Murden, Psychologist and author

Simon has been struggling with what ‘goes on in his head’ for some time. He really wants to sort it out but isn’t quite sure how. And although more and more people are saying ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ and talking about mental health it still doesn’t really feel like something that he can open up to anyone about. Maybe he’s alright after all. Maybe he’s just imagining it. What would people think if they knew what he was thinking? Would they treat him differently? Would they think he was weak? Or a failure? Or not the person they’ve always thought he was? 

Simon recalls the visit they had last week at school. Some guy came in to talk about ‘stuff’ relating to mental health. He was so messed up that he tried to take his own life. He survived and now that’s what he does – goes around telling school kids about it. Trying to make it seem ‘normal’. Simon thinks to himself ‘I’m not that bad, yeah I’m OK, I just feel a bit angry and upset sometimes but that’s alright, I mean it’s OK to not be OK right?’ 

By the time Simon reached the age of 26 his mental health had deteriorated considerably. He’d begun taking drugs and drinking heavily and had even attempted to take his own life. 

This is happening more and more. 

What’s the problem? While we’re doing more and more to help with mental health, to raise awareness and to address the issues it still isn’t enough. For example:

We don’t thread through teaching about mental health and the mind from start to finish. While there has been a dramatic uptick in the number of interventions in schools – Simon’s visit by ‘someone who had been there’ is just one example – they are not joined up. They need to be weaved into the curriculum from early years to when children leave the school system to build on knowledge and understanding and help to make sense of what’s being taught. It’s like teaching addition in year 2 of school, then no more maths until year 8 when algebra is introduced. It just wouldn’t make sense and wouldn’t work. 

It’s often not based on evidence. There’s a nuanced difference between interventions that have been researched and those that have not. For example, colouring in framed as mindfulness is actually relaxation. Learning mindfulness properly involves understanding how to engage and disengage with emotions and cognitive thought processes. 

We don’t provide children with the opportunity to ‘try it and see’. Once both of the above factors are in place, children need to be able to try out the (evidence based) strategies and approaches and see which ones work for them. Then use them and practice them to make them easily accessible when they need them most. Over time this will allow children and young people to build a manual to their own mind – equipping them with skills for life.  

We don’t recognise that these skills are essential to career success. There’s a huge emphasis on cognitive skills attainment yet research shows that as technology and Artificial Intelligence increase, so will the need for social and emotional skills. These are the same skills that build emotional resilience and protect mental health. 

Teachers are not supported, and stress is contagious. If teachers are stressed there is evidence to show that it increases levels of stress in pupils. Teachers need support and training to enhance their own wellbeing. Not only because they deserve it but because it’s also critical to providing the environment in which children can bolster and understand their own wellbeing. 

While this is a lot to tackle there are ways to do it and what’s more there are more accessible options available that we’re not fully leveraging – the power of role-models and mentors. 

Research carried out on a mentoring scheme in the US, similar in type to Future First has shown that young people who had mentors were 46% less likely to start using drugs and 27% less likely to drink alcohol. They were also less likely to skip school. The mentoring relationships resulted in improved confidence, levels of trust and relationships with parents and peers. They were more hopeful about the future, had improved communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision making and self-management skills. All of these factors not only improve life outcomes but also underpin better levels of mental health. 

And from our work at Future First we have seen first-hand that young people who are mentored feel better about themselves and as a result are better able to engage with schoolwork and have a greater resilience to face the challenges in their current and future life. Mentoring also helps them to connect what they learn in the classroom with what’s happening in their lives, homes and communities. Relatable mentors and role models really should be part of the wider prevention framework.

Simon is now in his late 20s and doing OK. He still has problems with his mental health but has learnt how to manage it. The question is – if the processes above were fixed – if he’d been taught these skills earlier on, would he be in a better place now? 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24. This not only highlights our need to intervene early but as we see rates increasing also suggests that we’re not doing enough to combat this. 

Schools provide the ideal setting to foster good mental health habits early on in life. This won’t prevent mental ill health, nor will it eradicate difficulties, but it will, if done right, improve a child’s life trajectory and equip them with the skills to more effectively navigate their internal and external worlds. Let’s start doing this properly – looking at inoculation and not just cure. 

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Alumni volunteers share their thoughts for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: staff daily blog
The power of role models


As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked our alumni volunteers what ‘good’ mental health meant to them, how they managed their wellbeing and what tips they had for current students. We’ll be adding to this page with their thoughts throughout the week and you can also read how Future First staff are balancing their own wellbeing here.

Monica is a former student from Ashmole Academy, Southgate and is a writer and poet studying English Literature at university. 

As someone who has struggled with mental health, writing is my source of joy and expression. 

We are constantly surrounded by and immersed in pressure. Whether that is dealing with societal pressures or cultural or familial pressures from people around us that have a vision for what they want us to achieve and what they want our lives to look like. It can be difficult to navigate our own identities and find our voice and sense of ‘self’ because these external pressures do not always grant us enough space to do so. 

When I allow myself time to write, my mind is able to take a break from overthinking and over-analysing every aspect of my life. This is because I become so immersed in either the new reality I am constructing in a fictional scene or pouring emotions and thoughts into my poetry that I didn’t even realise I needed to release. I love how freeing it feels to write candidly and passionately and how it is not something arduous that I am obligated to complete, its sole purpose is for myself because I genuinely love it and it brings me happiness.

One piece of advice I would offer my younger self is to do more things in service of myself such as seek counselling because doing so later in life really helped me to discover more about myself and recognise things that I need to heal. And I would also encourage myself to journal, read more non-fiction and write frequently to nurture my writing skills so that when I am older, they are more developed. I would also encourage myself to not fixate so much on things beyond my control but to be a little more care free and enjoy the present because I’ll feel nostalgic over it in years to come.

I would absolutely suggest that young people take part in writing. Learning to carve a voice for yourself through this medium is really empowering. Writing can help you to connect with yourself and explore your different layers. It is a form of expression and as emotions are complicated and often difficult to understand, let alone articulate to others, writing aids in processing and releasing them and this can feel really healing and cathartic. Language and words are extremely powerful and yours may resonate deeply for someone reading. They may feel represented and acknowledged through your work so it can be rewarding knowing that your words have connected with someone else’s heart and mind so intimately. Writing is so versatile; there is no one way or right way to write and that’s why it is so beautiful. You can experiment with different forms and styles and discover where your voice thrives the most. Ultimately it is important to do things for ourselves that bring us joy to illuminate the mundanity of life. Writing offers the possibility of that, so I would definitely recommend young people explore it.

Xenia is a former student of Southgate School, Enfield, and is now a successful personal trainer. We asked Xenia to share her experience of balancing mental wellbeing with daily life and what her advice would be for her younger self.

What impact does training have on your mental health?

Training is a way of taking some time out for myself. Weight training makes me feel strong, it challenges me and allows me to mentally focus on one thing- rather than listen to all the chatter in my head. Whenever I feel anxious, apathetic or I start to ruminate, exercising helps me remain in the here and now. I guess you could liken it to meditation in the sense that I focus on my breathing, my movement and my intention. Plus, the rush of endorphins I get after a session always lifts my mood! 

Can you share any of your own experiences with balancing your mental health and wellbeing with daily life and work?

I suffer from OCD and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), things often overwhelm me or play on my mind. I’ve found that taking some time to practice a few things before I get out of bed really helps me calm down before the day has even begun. I always meditate in the morning, even if it’s just for five minutes. I try to journal, sometimes I write a whole paragraph, sometimes I write down three things I’m grateful for. I’ll take time to answer any messages I have on my phone. Sometimes, I read a little or listen to an audiobook just to kick start my day. Routine is key for me so I try to stick to it most days, without putting too much pressure on myself. 

If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Stop worrying about things that are out of your control. You can’t control other people’s feelings towards you – as long as you know you are a kind and respectful person and you demonstrate that in your daily life – it really doesn’t matter what other people think of you. 

Why do you think fitness and exercising could be helpful to young people?

For a young person in today’s society, everything can be so overwhelming – it’s all larger than life and it’s all out there for everyone to see. Training will give a young person another outlet in which they can challenge themselves and feel strong. Strong, not only physically but also emotionally – it gives you confidence to try something new whilst also allowing you to be vulnerable in situations that may make you feel a little anxious. This strength can be translated into daily life.


Daksha is a  former student from Whitmore High School, Harrow, she shares her top five tips for current students and young people:

  1. Don’t ever feel guilty or ashamed about how you feel. If you face up to how you feel, you can then address it.
  2. It’s important to like yourself and not focus on whether others like you. Looking for affirmation from others will always lead to disappointment. 
  3. Have someone who you can call to offload on if needed. They may not be able to help you, but they can listen. Even if you say, “I’m having a bad day and don’t have a lot to say, so tell me about your day instead” or “I know you can’t help but I just needed to say how I’m feeling out loud”.  Being honest helps people help you better.
  4. It’s OK to fail. It’s what you do afterwards that’s more important. Failure should not be about how bad you feel or what you did, but what you learn from it and what you will do differently next time.
  5. Turn negative to positives. It’s sometimes hard to do this but it can be something simple, for example: change “I don’t feel like getting out of bed today” to “I don’t feel like getting of bed today, but I will shower and freshen up, put on fresh pyjamas and get back into bed”.


Useful links

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health issue.
Young Minds provides information, advice and training for young people, parents, carers and professionals.
Student Minds is a mental health charity that works with students, service users, professionals and academics to develop new and innovative ways to improve the mental health of students.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a helpline for young males aged 16 to 35 years, suffering from depression and low self-esteem.
Nightline is a student listening service which is open at night and run by students for students.

Future First has featured on a new social mobility podcast aimed at young people from less-advantaged backgrounds to inspire them to achieve career success.

Alumni Programme Manager, Akeem-Chavez Williams, spoke to Gary Izunwa founder of the Climbing the Rungs podcast about their start in life, their background and education and what led them to work for Future First.

Climbing the Rungs features a story each month by professionals from less-advantaged backgrounds who have gone on to progress well in their careers. The podcast guests share their unique stories to inspire listeners, raise awareness of socio-economic issues and provide practical advice to help democratise information that can sometimes be difficult to access.

In the episode, Akeem-Chavez talks about the ‘network gap’ saying: “[Future First] gives state school pupils a network that will help them in their early careers and can also help those establishing their careers to give back – because we know that a network is something that is missing for a lot of young people.”

Since launching at the end of February 2021, Climbing The Rungs has partnered with a number of universities, charities and influencers such as the University of Bristol, The Sutton Trust and Afzal Hussein, founder of Simpley, the peer-to-peer consulting and mentoring app, to raise awareness and start a conversation about social mobility.

So far, episodes have included topics on unpaid internships and the effect on social mobility, why professionals from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress through pay grades in Financial Services than their privileged colleagues, and ‘unlearning’ parts of your upbringing in order to progress in your career. Needless to say, these topics resonate with Future First’s work and mission on many levels.

Gary continues: “At the moment we are planning our second season which will take a bit of a different approach from the first one so watch this space! We are also exploring the possibility of running events and a mentorship programme alongside the podcast, so there’s lots to be excited about. My hope is that by sharing the stories of successful professionals from less privileged backgrounds and raising awareness of socio-economic issues, that others can begin to own their low socio-economic background and employers can begin to account for socio-economic diversity.”

“Future First fits into what we’re doing perfectly as they work with one of our target audiences: young people in state schools. Between Future First inspiring students by connecting them with relatable alumni role-models and Climbing The Rungs encouraging young people to get involved in the conversation by highlighting the significance of socio economic issues, I am hopeful for the progression on the social mobility agenda.”

By Melina Joannides, Digital Assistant

I understand, I’ve been there. 

Finishing school or college, closing that chapter in your life can bring so many emotions, one of them being uncertainty. Maybe you don’t have a clear view of the pathway that awaits, or maybe you do. Either way this can be a daunting time. 

Joining your school’s former student (or ‘alumni’) network is your safe space. Through this network, you can receive further guidance, support and maintain contact with your old school or college, teachers and friends.

What’s in it for me?

Through your school or college’s alumni network, you will have an opportunity to build your experience based around your interests. You will be able to develop your CV and your employability skills through volunteering opportunities. You will be given an insight into working life and develop a clear understanding of which pathway is and is not for you. You will also hear about unique opportunities. I signed up to my alumni network and as a result, found out about the job I now have at Future First! 

Importantly, you will be able to build your professional network through connecting with other former students who have progressed into further education, training and work. You will gain insight into a variety of roles and industries, and may secure work experience. Building professional relationships could lead to some incredible opportunities – networks are everything!

As you grow familiar with building your network and meeting new people, your confidence, knowledge and expertise will continue to grow. 

Supporting the next generation

By returning to school or college as an experienced former student who can talk to current students and help build their understanding of the pathways available, you will be supporting the next generation and help them understand what awaits beyond the school gates. 

Give yourself the support system you deserve and sign up today.

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FREE – Work experience in the third sector
FREE – Work experience profiles
Volunteering with Future First

Future First’s Chief Executive has emphasised the importance of alumni support to deliver the Government’s ambition that ‘no child is left behind’ following the pandemic.

Welcoming new preliminary research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) into the requirements for an effective education recovery, Lorraine Langham, said: “The EPI has highlighted the disturbing loss to young people’s education and recognised widening inequalities. Quite rightly, it emphasises the need for significant funding not just for core subjects, but to boost extra-curricular programmes, mental health and wellbeing.

“We know that young people’s hopes, ambitions and resilience have been badly knocked during the coronavirus crisis and this has particularly impacted more disadvantaged groups – widening the attainment gap. If a young person is unable to engage with their education, feels hopeless, demotivated or lacks confidence for the future, how can we expect them to succeed?

“Past pupils can play a powerful role in the recovery – they are an effective, inexpensive, underutilised and sustainable resource for every school. Not only can they support the provision and delivery of extra curricular activities, meeting successful ‘people like me’ increases confidence, resilience, motivation to study and engagement with school work.

“Indeed, scientific evidence is now backing up the importance of relatable role models in helping young people to make the most of their education.

“The Government should avoid its education recovery programme focusing too narrowly and must recognise the non-academic barriers preventing many young people from reaching their full potential.

“Encouraging the growth of alumni networks in state schools would be a great place to start. Not only can they assist in delivering recovery, they build social capital and give young people connections for life. Surely it’s time for the “old boys’ network” to include everyone?

If you would like to find out more about Future First’s work and would like to get involved, contact us: info@futurefirst.org.uk

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Alumni networks: crucial to Covid recovery
Our Purpose

The government’s Kickstart Scheme was launched to create a number of new 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The job placements are aimed at supporting the participants to develop the skills and experience they need to find permanent work after completing the scheme. Future First is proud to have recruited and given access to the workplace for two young people: Melina and Alaya. Hear what they have to say about their new roles and how they got here.

Alaya Seoudy, Alumni Engagement Assistant

I am grateful to Future First for this opportunity and I can’t wait to delve in!

I graduated in summer 2020 from King’s College London with a BA in History. Well, I say I graduated – I received my diploma like everyone else – in the mail! I think the graduation ceremony is definitely a rite of passage. But will it happen? Who knows!

After a testing time of post-graduate depression, I received an email from Future First about a job opening via the Kickstart scheme – my old school is a Future First member school and I am signed up to my alumni network to hear about opportunities. I am someone who has relied on social mobility charities during my time at university and most of my voluntary experience has centred on social justice within education, outreach, mentoring and teaching. So these factors combined and naturally led me to be interested in Future First’s mission and work. It was a no-brainer – and I applied straight away!

During my time at Future First, I hope to gain a wealth of skills, knowledge and connections. I want to find out what tasks I really enjoy doing, what I excel in and what I could improve on. And be able to add valuable input along the way. 

In the future, I am interested in securing a role within education policy (as I think there is a lot to be reformed) or business management, particularly within the Third Sector or even technology. This role is a great stepping stone for my future.

As the Alumni Engagement Assistant, Alaya will work within our Delivery team to help build thriving and engaged alumni communities for the schools we support. She will help kick-start our approach to network-building by reaching out to former students to invite them to join the network and support their old school, giving us greater reach and impact. 

Melina Joannides, Digital Assistant

I’m Melina, born and raised in North London. Having always been creative, I love to sketch and attempt to make the next best looks by tearing up and drawing on clothes. 

I studied at Ashmole Academy – a Future First member school – throughout my GCSEs and A-Levels. I enjoyed Art at GCSE, however, I was unable to attain the required grades necessary to study Art at A-Level. I then went on to study International Media and Communications at the University of Nottingham.

University provided me with the time and space to reflect, which led me to being creative again. I had often struggled with communicating and voicing my thoughts and feelings, so I began creating abstract work of the female body intertwined with symbols of nature as my subconscious form of expression and communication. Over time, I gained the courage to showcase my work through Instagram, which led me to creating my business, MJ Expression, selling merchandise such as clothing, tote bags, art prints, stickers and more. 

For one reason or another, people in your life try to put you on the path they believe is best for you. However, I believe that the world is your oyster and if you put your mind, effort and time into your dream, you can achieve it. 

I chose to apply to Future First because its sole intention is to guide young people to recognise their potential and the various opportunities that are out there. Future First aims to fill young people with confidence, self-believe, and provide them with a voice and direction for life. The organisation understands not every young person has the luxury of having a role model in their immediate circle – it wants to provide young people with the ability to recognise someone’s success and think, I can do this too, I too can succeed. This resonated with me. It would be so beautiful to truly have a positive impact on a young person’s life and be able to say, I was a part of that.

As the Digital Assistant, Melina will work closely with our Public Relations Officer and Business Services Director to curate a range of content that successfully showcases the work we do. Every day we engage with alumni volunteers, employers and young people across the country, and the Digital Assistant will help bring their voices and experiences to life through social media and other digital channels.


Introducing you to Emmanuel Balogun, an inspiring young CEO of two successful start-ups: Find Your Feet Careers & Enterprises CIC and easySEO.

Emmanuel is 29 years old and grew up in Stockwell, South London and recalls having a happy childhood but that apart from his mother, there were no clear role models to look towards. Emmanuel says: “I knew I wanted to be successful, but I didn’t exactly know how I could become successful. Everyone that I looked up to that was a ‘role model’ didn’t really look like me or didn’t really come from the same background as me”.

Emmanuel explains that his immediate environment included a lot of youth crime, gang violence and drug use and that he didn’t want that life for himself, so instead took a job offered by “someone who believed in me”, and then found his way to the Prince’s Trust.

With the help of the Prince’s Trust, Emmanuel set up a now successful digital marketing agency – Find Your Feet – and also partnered with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (founder of easyJet) to create easySEO. Since embarking on this journey, Emmanuel has delivered programmes to Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, The Princes Trust, easyJet and many more.

Through Find Your Feet, Emmanuel supports charities and organisations by commissioning workshops and delivering programmes tailored to providing digital skills and online marketing to young people so that they can learn how to run successful Digital Marketing campaigns. This allows them to gain the fundamental work skills and the tools necessary to step into a career in digital marketing or start a new business.

Future First is pleased to be partnering with Emmanuel and Find Your Feet Careers & Enterprises CIC for the benefit of young people. Emmanuel adds: “Future First is a charity that help the type of young people that I once was. Working to change the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is something I’ve found great passion in as a role model to young people – it’s great to work with an organisation that is doing similar work within the community”.

Watch this space for further announcements about our work with Emmanuel and Find Your Feet.


Responding to the publication of a new report by Education & Employers into the importance of career-related activity in primary schools, Future First’s Chief Executive Lorraine Langham said:

“This new report reinforces the need to provide primary school pupils with careers support at an early age and that is something Future First has been doing for a number of years.

“As this report points out, role models enhance confidence among pupils, foster a positive attitude towards school, and contribute towards improved attainment. That is why Future First’s focus on providing alumni encounters is so important to the career prospects of young people across the country. Seeing relatable role models in a wide array of jobs broadens young people’s horizons at any age.

“Our partnership with the KPMG Foundation has built a network of alumni role models across 20 primary schools, and our collaboration with law firm Ashurst has provided a valuable insight into working life for primary pupils in East London.”

Future First piloted work with primary schools in Knowsley, Merseyside, which showed how working with alumni can have a tangible impact on pupil confidence – 83% said they were more confident about being successful in the future after attending workshops. This work is also important to challenging stereotypes in the workplace, with some schools reporting a more than 30% decrease amongst pupils believing jobs are limited by gender.

The result of this work has informed an emerging new primary school strategy for Future First which will have a renewed focus on supporting transition and addressing the challenges of ingrained stereotyping that can narrow the aspirations of primary-aged pupils.

Lorraine continued: “The evidence supporting the power of positive role models for young people is stronger than ever. In her new book, award-winning psychologist and Future First partner, Fiona Murden, shows the importance of role models for very young children and puts the science behind what we see in the classroom.

“Ultimately, what this recent report shows is that it is never too early for young people’s future prospects to be enhanced with the help of role models they can relate to.”

Councillor Adam Jogee, 29, is the Mayor of Haringey for 2020-21 and is the youngest mayor Haringey has ever had.  Adam grew up in Hornsey, right in the middle of the borough and attended Weston Park Primary School and Highgate Wood Secondary School.

Cllr Jogee is very proud of his Zimbabwean and Jamaican roots as well as the fact he is the first Mayor of Haringey from the Muslim community.

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject at school was history because if you don’t know where you’re from, you don’t know where you’re going.

Tell us about your school career and how you ended up becoming Mayor of Haringey
I went to Weston Park Primary School which borders Hornsey. My mum and dad ran the shelter scheme next door and I was one of the first few pupils to start at Weston Park in the early nineties. Because it was a new school there were no classes older than us, it was a very interesting environment to be in because we were kind of filling up the school as we went along. 

I ran for the school council in year 3, 4 and 5 and lost and then I won in the last year, year 6. My political interests were clearly there at an early age and this message of perseverance is one that I’d certainly take from my early childhood memory. 

I went to secondary school in Crouch End and then, after that, I went to college and then to SOAS University (the School of Oriental and African Studies). A mixture of all those educational opportunities, my big mouth and interest in politics took me to Haringey council in the local elections in 2014. I was 22 when I was elected – so the youngest elected councillor. I was re-elected in 2018 and then I had the immense privilege of being elected as the mayor of Haringey in 2020. 

What does a typical day in your job look like? 

There’s no typical day in the mayor’s life. Because I became mayor during the second lockdown, I didn’t get the opportunity to do the things that many other mayors do – being out and about with tonnes of engagements and so on. I’ve tried to do as much as I can by meeting people on Zoom and in as socially distanced ways as possible. There’s no real typical day but my main responsibilities would be providing a sort of moral leadership for the council, acknowledging and celebrating all the good things that happen here and providing support to residents when bad things happen or upsetting things happen. I get lots of emails so there’s lots of talking to people, but moreover, I think the most important and typical thing is being a part of Haringey and making sure people know what a great place it is to live and work in. 

What is your favourite thing about your job? 

My favourite thing about being mayor, (despite me saying that I haven’t been able to meet all people I’d want to) is probably being able to meet people, and learning about all the good things people are doing, hearing their concerns and being able to celebrate Haringey and its people. 

What advice would you give to a young person who’s interested in having a job like yours or becoming the Mayor?

It’s probably less advice and more a sort of, call to arms: politics is a noble profession and an important one, it’s vital that all people from all communities are able to stand up and be heard and be counted. If you think the world could be a better place and you think you have the will to make it so, then stand or run and make sure your voice is heard.

Join a political party, whichever one it is, because that is the vehicle to which you’re able to contribute to making your community a better place. More importantly, you’re in the room when all the existing politicians need to be re-selected for elections and you’ll soon see they show an interest in you and your issues. So be in the room and make sure you’re heard. 

You do make sacrifices in terms of family and friends and how much time you can spend with them but the ability to make or help make people’s lives better is an immense one and I would recommend anyone who has that passion to make the world a better place to run for office. Maybe one day you’ll be able to wear a chain like this.

To be a mayor, what sort of skills do you need and did you learn any of them at school?

You have to have some personal attributes like being able to give speeches, for example, that can be very nerve-wracking. You have to have the ability to hold your tongue when you need to – which I’m still learning – some may say! You also need to be able to empathise and understand where other people are coming from – what they’re experiencing, where their concerns may be, which isn’t always easy. We all have our own issues and challenges and when we take on other people’s, that can sometimes feel very full on.  You’re in a role to help make people’s lives easier and better, that is the job, in essence. 

In terms of the other skills you might have learnt in school – being respectful to people, how to work with people, understanding that there’s nothing wrong with asking a question if you don’t know the answer and that sort of team spirit vibe that you get from primary school in particular. 

It’s not necessarily true to say ‘I don’t like public speaking, I can’t be a politician’, you can get support and training with that, or ‘I get a bit embarrassed talking to people I don’t know’, well you learn that the more people you speak to, the easier it becomes. 

Each person brings their own life experience into how they do the job too so there’s no kind of set, definitive list of skills. 

If you care enough, everything else falls into place. 

What advice would you like to give to young people today?

The most important thing I’d say is speak up, speak out and speak often but never allow anyone to tell you that your voice, your view, your opinion doesn’t count. As I said earlier, if you think that you can make the world a better place, show people that you can, ask for help, build the alliances and relationships that you need to bring people with you.  Most importantly, never be shouted down and never allow anyone to tell you that your voice doesn’t matter because it does. Please make sure that you know your power and use your power as and when you have the opportunity to do so.

Adam met with child School Councillors from Bounds Green Primary School’s in March and inspired them to continue working for the good of their school and community, below is a thank you letter from a Year 2 student:

New publication: Labour in the City ‘There is an alternative: progressive views on rebuilding post-pandemic Britain’

COVID-19 is a wake-up call that must be heeded on ensuring every child gets a fair chance to succeed, writes Future First CEO, Lorraine Langham

The Covid 19 pandemic has impacted upon everyone but one of the most depressing realities has been the discriminatory nature of the virus, on health and in education.

For the 7% of pupils who attend independent schools, repeated lockdowns have had a relatively modest impact on their education. Their schools have ample resource to move to online education and their families typically have greater digital and online capacity, or physical space within the home. For the 93% of pupils in state education, the experience has been far less consistent. Poorer families struggle to access the technology, pay data charges, and provide the space needed to support learning at home.

National Foundation for Educational Research data shows that the education of disadvantaged and BAME children went backwards compared with better-off peers during the first lockdown. Sadly, the scales are already heavily stacked in favour of those from privileged backgrounds within the City. Nine out of 10 senior roles in financial services are held by those from high socio-economic backgrounds, according to research by the Bridge Group, and people from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress, despite no evidence of poorer performance. Half of persistently disadvantaged young people do not even know anyone in a job they want to do. The pandemic has left too many young people feeling they won’t ever succeed.

The moral argument for change is strong – and so is the business case. But what can be done?

A young person’s start in life should not limit their future. The alumni opportunities offered by independent schools, often called ‘the old boys’ network’, make a huge difference to their students. We need to help state schools to establish the same thriving alumni networks, giving all pupils the information, tools and connections that can help them succeed.

Relatable role models are crucial to motivating and inspiring young people – you can’t be what you can’t see. In her book, “Mirror Thinking: How Role Models Make Us Human”, the psychologist Fiona Murden discusses how the mirror neuron in the human brain shapes our lives. It defines us through the role models we observe and interact with. She found this was particularly true of adolescents. There is also a strong link between social and emotional development and ability to learn. Put another way, the ‘Covid generation’ needs role models to give them hope and self-belief, support them to engage in education, and a network to help them seize a brighter future.

We can take heart that part of the solution is here. Alumni networks are a rich resource. They are inexpensive, sustainable, effective and under-used providing relatable role models for young people. My organisation, Future First, provides a scalable model for closing the gap and releasing the grip of public schools on the City – working with 400 schools and over 70,000 pupils. Alumni networks work – that’s why all young people should be given the chance to connect with them.

Supporting alumni networks is good for business too. The act of volunteering to be a role model improves well being, leading to better self-health ratings. So organisations get a more motivated workforce, with improved leadership skills and a greater understanding of how to motivate and engage others.

For every student to benefit from the positive influence of alumni, role models and interactions with leading employers, proactive policy action by government is needed. This month, the Welsh Assembly Government published a toolkit for all state schools in Wales. It is the first example of a UK government putting alumni at the heart of education.

City institutions can act today by helping to build alumni networks in state schools and provide opportunities for pupils to experience a wider world of work through insight days, work experience and personal connections. Imagine the transformative impact if every City business sponsored an alumni network in 10 state schools? Small investment, big impact, and sustainable long-term.

The Covid crisis has created the opportunity to push ‘reset’ on our lives and on the economy. The CBI’s Director General, Tony Danker, says we need our response to be “more like 1945 than 2008”. To genuinely share prosperity and opportunity we must break the stranglehold of the privileged. It’s not enough to simply advertise roles wider – people need to see themselves in them and have a pathway to get there. Policy makers need to incentivise these connections and make alumni networks a fact of life for all state schools.

If we don’t make change happen, it won’t.

By Fiona Murden

We often think of role models as being heroes or heroines, sports stars or world leaders, change-makers or those who are dramatically impacting the world – people who are out of reach and infallible.

But in reality, we are surrounded by role models both good and bad. We are also role models influencing others day in and day out ourselves. We all know the impact a teacher can have on a young person, and the same is true of all meaningful encounters a young person can have with adults, especially when the adults are relatable, and they can see ‘people like me’ in them.

Role-modelling happens via mechanisms in our brain known as the mirror system. We literally mirror and absorb the behaviour, attitudes, values and moods of those around us often without realising, continually learning and adapting to the world we live in. From small behaviours like a smile or a yawn to lasting behaviours like attitudes and values. Take for example, a study published in 2007 by New England Journal of Medicine observing more than 12,000 participants for 30 years which found that people are more likely to gain weight if those they interact with gain weight. The chances of gaining weight increased by an astounding 171% if a close friend had done so, in other words ‘someone like me’.

We almost absorb the behaviour of those around us – particularly those we’re close to and connect with – by osmosis. And this isn’t just true of gaining weight; it covers almost everything we do. In fact, this mirroring is critical to developing the social and emotional skills that lie at the heart of being human. We don’t just ‘get’ these skills they need to develop through iterative interaction, repeated thousands of times in order to enable the systems in our brain to develop and grow. This occurs throughout life but is heightened in adolescents when the social brain is undergoing extraordinary levels of development.

So, what happens when that’s missing, when children don’t have the close relationships with people who believe in them, an adult who they can connect with? A study carried out by the Early Intervention Foundation found that the impact of neglecting to develop the social and emotional skills which can only be learnt through this type of relationship cost the government around £17 billion annually – a result of ‘picking up the pieces of damaging social issues affecting young people’. Whereas the authors explain that helping children to develop these social and emotional skills leads to hugely positive outcomes including better mental health, improved physical health, and a higher likelihood of getting a good job.

These skills are not only essential to life outcomes, but they are also becoming more and more critical to the future of the workforce too. A report published by leading global consultancy McKinsey found that with an increase in automation and Artificial Intelligence there will not only be a higher need for technical skills but also a far greater need for well-developed social and emotional capabilities. The report states that ‘the demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26 percent in the United States and by 22 percent in Europe by 2030.’  Meanwhile they predict that the need for basic cognitive skills will decline.

So, these skills are critical. But if they are learnt through interacting with and modelling the behaviour of others, especially those who are trusted – who young people can connect with and are exposed to – how do we improve children’s access to them? As teachers there is the opportunity to be more conscious of the need to really connect and be present and have meaningful interactions. The same is true for parents and relatives, by simply spending more time face-to-face and building trust and connecting with kids it will begin to build these skills. But with an ever-increasing pace and an already packed curriculum and more time spent looking at screens this isn’t always easy. And for the teachers who have huge classes it’s nearly impossible to give that attention to every child. So, what can we do – especially for those children who don’t have any positive role-models in their family life?

This is where mentoring provides a critical lifeline. Mentors enable social and emotional skills learning without us even being consciously aware of ‘how’ that is happening. Simply being with a teen and showing interest in them allows the natural mechanisms in the brain to grow and develop.

Each mentoring relationship has the possibility of unlocking the innate potential of each teen that they connect with. The opportunity for teens to connect with a real person who is there purely for them – the one-to-one attention will develop their social and emotional skills, it’s just the way it works. But better still these mentors provide a line of sight to what’s possible and how it’s possible. These relationships are most effective when a mentee can connect with someone like me due to something known as the ‘homophily principle’.

In the same way we tend to think of role models as being infallible we also tend to think of mentors as needing to have been model pupils or to be doing exceptionally well with their careers in order to play that role. But we are more likely to form trusting connections, essential for the natural mechanisms of the brain to work, with people who are similar to us based on characteristics like age, race, gender and ethnic origin. And this is especially true for teenagers. Counter to what we may naturally think of when considering mentors – that may not be someone who was academically brilliant. What’s critical is that teens can see ‘someone like me’ to connect with. And if we train mentors effectively, research shows that the mistakes they made provide an immensely powerful lesson to the mentee.

We are all role models to youngsters and we have the opportunity to have a profoundly positive impact on their lives. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mentor or role model. Nor do the mentors we match with youngsters through Future First. By providing the mentors with the right training: an improved level of self-awareness, an understanding of their own journey and an understanding of how to relate effectively we can match them with ‘someone like me’. Working in this way, the power of mentoring offers the opportunity to provide hundreds more teens with not only better career options but also the chance to live a healthier and more fulfilled life.


Extract from Mirror Thinking – Why Role Models Make Us Human

The story of Terrell and Terence – mentoring in practice:

A brilliant example of how this plays out can be found in a U.S. mentoring scheme which has been running for over 100 years. The Big Brother Big Sister scheme matches young people from low-income backgrounds with young adult volunteers who are typically between 20 and 34 years of age.

Mentors are encouraged to form a supportive friendship with the youths, as opposed to modifying the child or adolescent’s behaviour or character.  There are numerous moving stories of the outcomes.

For example, 11-year-old Terrell was, according to his aunt, in a ‘really dark place’ and ‘missing something’ from his life. He was signed up to the scheme and matched with Terence, who had himself been mentored when he was younger. Terrell lived with his aunt because both of his parents were in prison. His little brother had died aged three and he was separated from his older brother and younger sister. Unsurprisingly, he had deep issues with trust and anger, responding quickly and aggressively to situations he found difficult. Terrell’s aunt and uncle wanted to help, but also had reservations about the scheme. Given what Terrell had been through, the last thing they wanted, in his aunt’s words, was ‘to introduce him to someone new who could potentially not hang around’. Terrell was also reticent, talking about how he felt at the time: ‘With my background, with what I’ve been through in my life, I didn’t trust people a lot.’

But Terence was committed and developed the connection needed to help Terrell. He never pushed him to talk about things he didn’t want to, but remained consistent, showing him that he wasn’t going anywhere. A year into their relationship Terence recalls how Terrell first began to open up. They drove past a cemetery and Terrell said ‘my brother’s over there, he’s buried over there’.

His aunt recalls: ‘Terence stepped right in and before I knew it, I could see the light start to glow in Terrell again.’ Terrell says that being able to open up to Terence and having him as a role model has changed his life. Terrell doesn’t skip class when his friends do. He knows what he wants out of life and is focused on getting there. ‘My future plans are to go to college, join the National Guard, be a dentist,’ Terrell says. He also wants to be ‘a Big Brother like Terence and pass it on’.  Having someone to model provided Terrell with a guide to how he could be and how things could turn out learning from someone very similar to himself. This was someone who could provide the opportunity for direct social and emotional learning, typically less available in a busy household or environment where carers are struggling to make ends meet.

View related content:

The power of role models
Future First launches partnership with award-winning psychologist, Fiona Murden


Future First has called for policy makers to make alumni networks “a fact of life for all state schools” as the country emerges from the Covid crisis.

Writing for a policy pamphlet looking at how Britain rebuilds following the pandemic, the charity’s Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham says “one of the most depressing realities” of the crisis “has been the discriminatory nature of the virus, on health and in education”.

She argues that Covid-19 had been “a wake-up call that must be heeded” so “every child gets a fair chance to succeed”.

In the article entitled “How to break the public school grip on the City”, published today by Labour in the City, Lorraine says: “For the 7% of pupils who attend independent schools, repeated lockdowns have had a relatively modest impact on their education.”

“For the 93% of pupils in state education, the experience has been far less consistent. Poorer families struggled to access the technology, pay data charges, and provide the space needed to support learning at home.”

Pointing to evidence that the education of more disadvantaged children has suffered most during lockdowns, the article argues alumni networks for all state schools are crucial to redressing the existing imbalance in favour of those from privileged backgrounds pursuing financial services careers.

With Future First working with 400 schools and over 70,000 pupils, the charity already provides a workable model for closing the social gap in City careers.

Lorraine adds: “The alumni opportunities offered by independent schools… make a huge difference to their students. We need to help state schools to establish the same thriving alumni networks, giving all pupils the information, tools and connections that can help them succeed.

“For every student to benefit from the positive influence of alumni, role models and interactions with leading employers, proactive policy action by government is needed.”

View related content:

Lorraine Langham: ‘COVID-19 is a wake-up call that must be heeded’

Tens of thousands of state school pupils benefit from partnerships between independent schools and state schools every single year.

These partnerships help to build relationships between schools so they can share valuable resources and knowledge, enable staff to collaborate and share expertise and importantly, enable pupils from different backgrounds to learn together and build mutual respect for each other.

Future First is interested in exploring how these partnerships could be expanded to benefit all. 

Future First helps state schools broaden their students’ horizons by connecting them with relatable role models and our purpose is to see every state school and college supported by a thriving and engaged alumni community, so students gain the confidence, motivation, and inspiration they need to live successful lives. 

Independent schools have successfully utilised their alumni networks for generations and state schools are still trying to catch up – while 67% of independent school teachers used alumni to offer students access to careers and world of work opportunities, only 26% of state secondaries did so in 2019.* At Future First, we seek to provide a strong framework for state schools who may not have the same capacity as independent schools.

In such a challenging economic and social landscape, our help could be invaluable to young people and so we are reaching out to independent schools with existing partnerships for advice through this anonymous and short survey.

*Teacher Tapp. 21 05 2019

Your former pupils are an untapped resource of goodwill and expertise, so why not ask them to ‘give back’ and support your school, says Jane Hughes editor of FundEd magazine.

Having worked in state schools for nearly a decade, it’s always surprised me that more isn’t done to reach out to alumni. School is an all-consuming and formative experience – a time that many people look back on with nostalgia and gratitude. Yet schools can operate in quite a self-contained way. And when pupils move on, years of shared experience quickly dissipates, with opportunities to build bridges often missed.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Both primary and secondary schools have an enormous amount to gain by drawing on the successes of former students. Alumni can support you in nurturing the aspirations and abilities of current pupils. They can inspire by talking about their personal experiences of life and work. They can act as vital connections to the wider world and create opportunities for work experience – taking the pressure off school careers provision.

They can donate to specific projects, or provide connections to companies who can donate or match-fund. And who knows? Maybe there’s a former student out there who can help with alumni engagement. After all, many ‘old girls’ and ‘old boys’ associations have run their own reunions for years.

According to the charity Future First, which helps state schools build alumni networks, 30% of former pupils surveyed would make a donation to their school if asked. Yet most had not been asked, suggesting state schools could be missing out on thousands of pounds every year.

Future First works with around 400 schools, and has registered more than 266,000 former pupils who want to support their schools as mentors, fundraisers, donors or governors.

Why? Often because making a difference makes them feel good.

I speak from experience, having returned to my old school as a journalist to work on cross-curricular magazine and diversity projects (bringing in contacts from the BBC, as well as local authors, scientists and entrepreneurs). As a freelancer I was paid (through Creative Partnerships), but I enjoyed the experience so much that I became an English teacher!

Our guide to developing an alumni community

Many schools do not have the wherewithal to fund a dedicated development officer. But even a few hours a week can make a difference. So FundEd and Future First have collaborated to produce this guide to getting started.


Decide how you will store alumni contact details securely once consent is given, ensuring you meet data protection regulations. This might be a password-protected spreadsheet or an online resource, such as Future First’s alumni portal. Consider what additional information would be useful: current location and job, year of leaving school, further qualifications and university, interests, specific skills or experience.

Spread The Word

Let your alumni know you’re building a network and that you value their input and support. (The more alumni you can get involved, the more attractive the network will become.)

  • Set up records for your current students and recent leavers.
  • Create an alumni sign-up page on your website.
  • Ask school staff to reach out to former pupils they’re in contact with.
  • Contact parents (some of whom may be alumni).
  • Ask local businesses to publicise your call to alumni on their staff intranet or other network.
  • Ask alumni themselves to spread the word.
  • Use local media to reach out to alumni in the community.
  • Use social media to tap into potential networks. Shape messages to appeal to a range of motivations (such as an opportunity to reconnect with old classmates or to give back). Ask alumni what they’d like and how they’d like to be contacted. Facebook allows you to link between school pages, community groups and individuals. Twitter is useful for frequent posts asking alumni to get in touch, which can be easily retweeted. You can also post regular updates about your alumni community. LinkedIn enables you to search for alumni by school and send personalised invites


Regular communication is the key to building engagement between your school and alumni network. This applies to both primary and secondary schools. Termly updates, such as an alumni e-bulletin, work well. Nurturing relationships is an important part of building a donation culture.

Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool, so make use of old photos and accounts that trigger memories and evoke emotion.

Make alumni feel they’re a valued part of the school community by publicising their support and the difference it has made. Never miss an opportunity to say thank you – the more personalised the better. The Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE) notes that alumni value personal interaction from headteachers, even if this is as simple as a polite request or ‘thank you’.

Use social media to post visual content with an emotional impact, as well as introducing notable alumni and showing how alumni donations have made a difference.

Make communication interactive and personal, highlighting the benefits of joining the alumni community (such as professional networking, brand promotion or sending a thank you message to a teacher). Ask alumni to share their stories and updates on your alumni page – and to talk about how they’re working with you.

Invite alumni back to school plays and concerts and encourage informal get-togethers (there’s no need to wait for an anniversary reunion, although this can make a good focal point).

Reinvite potential joiners or event attendees if they’ve expressed an interest but haven’t taken the next step. Remember, they are the most likely people to join if asked again.

Be aware that your alumni community is made up of people who are good at making things happen – and they could bring far more to the school than you originally envisaged.

Raising Student Aspirations

Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, Essex, worked with Future First to develop a network of nearly 300 alumni, many of whom offer regular support by running workshops, speaking about their careers, and mentoring pupils.

‘We wanted to bring alumni back to help raise the aspirations of current students and increase our cultural capital of knowledge, awareness and skills,’ says the school’s head of future pathways, Dami Afuape. ‘We have 2,000 students, aged 11-18, many from backgrounds where no one has been to university. We also have higher than average numbers of students who are EAL, pupil premium and receiving free school meals. So a key goal for us was making higher education and career options seem achievable.

‘Future First helped us connect to past pupils through LinkedIn – and the response has taken on a momentum of its own! In particular, younger alumni have been keen to provide insights into different career paths and boost our students’ confidence.’

One former pupil, who left Sydney Russell six years ago in Year 12 to take an apprenticeship route to university, is now working on climate change policy for the Cabinet Office. She has joined geography lessons to talk about her involvement in the 2021 UN climate change conference.

Another young alumna has given assembly talks about her work at international law firm Taylor Wessing, and intends to start an awareness-raising programme with young boys who are struggling at school. A group of alumni currently studying at the University of Cambridge ran a virtual law debate with pupils, while another alumni connection has led to offers of work experience at KPMG.

‘Our students have been really inspired by having live interactions with professionals,’ says Dami, ‘and we’re looking forward to developing these activities further. We’ve only recently started exploring the opportunities for fundraising, but already one alumnus has donated a large sum to help fund our new gym and another has provided pro bono legal advice for parents.’

Future First Pro membership costs £2,250 +VAT a year for the development of an online database, regular member updates and an outsourced alumni officer.

Schools have their own account on the Future First alumni portal, with links to their website. Separate packages for primary schools start at £800 for an initial strategy meeting, staff training and a digital toolkit.

Ready to start your journey? Take a look at our membership options.

With thanks to FundEd Magazine for permission to publish. Read the full article here.


Future First is delighted to announce the launch of a new partnership with psychologist and award-winning author Fiona Murden.

Fiona has written one of the first books exploring the science behind the importance of role models, examining the workings of the brain’s ‘mirror neuron’ and the system within all of us that shapes who we are.

Through the work Future First does building alumni networks in state schools around the UK, we know the practical power of role models in motivating and encouraging young people to strive for success in the future.

We are now looking at how Fiona’s scientific expertise and Future First’s practical experience can be used to make an even greater impact on outcomes for young people, by connecting them with relatable role models in the form of their school’s alumni. In particular, we both see the critical importance of social and emotional development enabled through mentoring, including building self-belief, confidence, and resilience. These factors are central to a young person’s ability to engage in their school work and go on to have positive life outcomes such as better mental health, physical health, quality of life and career prospects.

Fiona said: “It’s wonderful to be working with Future First to raise awareness of the importance of the powerful role mentors play in enabling young people to understand and fulfil their potential.  I’m excited about making this a practical reality, exploring both what young people look for in mentees and how they can play that role for those younger than themselves. Helping young adults to more effectively fulfil their own potential in the process. 

“We mustn’t underestimate the importance of getting role modelling right, although it’s based on natural mechanisms, the modern world creates barriers. Meaning it’s critical that we use the expertise offered by Future First to ensure mentoring and role-modelling has the maximum impact.”

Future First’s CEO, Lorraine Langham, said: “This really is an exciting moment for the work Future First does for young people up and down the country. There is such synergy between Fiona’s work with global leaders, and our work with young people, all of it rooted in the power of role models.

“I am so pleased to be working with Fiona. For the first time we will be bringing together the science and the practical experience of role modelling to make a lasting difference for young people. The timing is perfect too, as we have recently developed detailed impact measures to evaluate and prove the strength of what we see in role model encounters.”

“In the post-Covid world, young people need role models more than ever before to give them the confidence that ‘people like me’ can succeed. Without hope and confidence for the future, we risk losing the talents of a generation.”

View related content:

The power of role models

Vikki Massarano is a Partner at Arc Pensions Law in Leeds and a Future First volunteer, here she talks to us about the importance of role models, providing work experience to young people and how it can directly contribute to an inclusive and diverse workforce.

I started working with Future First in 2018 after Arc Pensions Law opened a Leeds office in 2017 – although the partnership between the charity and our London office goes back further than that.

Each year we welcome 12 sixth form students from schools connected with Future First to the Leeds and London offices for work experience placements. Thankfully, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, we still managed to arrange webinars and virtual placements for students last year.

Not only is it a pleasure to provide these opportunities it is also vital, because the legal profession needs to attract young people, both female and male and from all backgrounds. Having a wide range of personality types, backgrounds and genders in the legal profession enables us to make better decisions overall and provide better advice to our clients because we have a wider viewpoint.

The work Future First does with firms such as Arc is essential because relatable role models make a real difference to young people as they consider their future. One of the things many of the students say is that they are surprised how easy it is to talk to us. They realise that a partner in a law firm is often just like them. It is easy to assume that people who work in Law are a certain type of person, but really we are just normal people. Many of us have ordinary backgrounds and many of us are women.

Many young people aren’t lucky enough to have strong role models and they need to have the opportunities that Future First provides to widen their horizons and give them the confidence to strive for success. It’s especially important for young women to have strong female role models so they can see women doing careers they may have traditionally associated with men. They need to see that if that is a career they want to pursue, their gender shouldn’t stop them from doing it.

Young women can often lack confidence and there is evidence that they are less likely than men to apply for jobs they don’t feel fully capable of doing. While there is work to do within the recruitment process to address this, it is also important that we provide opportunities for talented young women to experience careers such as Law so we help to address any doubts they may have about their capabilities or suitability.

Of course, it’s not just the students that benefit from the work placements, we do too. As well as making us feel we are giving something back we also learn from the students. We learn about how they perceive us and that makes us more conscious of how we present ourselves.

While the Law does have a good record for attracting young women into the profession, there can be a problem with retention as women become more senior. Hopefully, one of the positives to come out of the pandemic will be that people realise that it is easier to work from home and for both men and women to work flexibly and share family responsibilities. It would be great if fewer women were lost to the legal profession.  

As an Employer Partner, ARC Pensions Law supports Future First’s work by inviting Year 12 students from Future First’s network of schools who are eligible for free school meals or have parents who did not attend university to complete a week’s work experience placement at their London and Leeds office locations. Students have the opportunity to experience all aspects of a modern law firm, developing their professional and employability skills for a future career in law. Find out more about becoming a Future First employer partner.

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International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s achievements, challenging bias and taking action for equality and with 2021’s theme being #choosetochallenge, we spoke to Danielle Hewitt – a woman forging her own path in the male dominated world of music promotion.

Danielle is an alumna of Coleg y Cymoedd, a Freelance Music Events Manager, Social Entrepreneur and Co-founder of W.O.M.E.N, a network that provides support to women and non-binary people, who are beginning their careers in the music industry, by providing opportunities of mentorship, networking and skill development.

Danielle has been working in the music industry since 2006, initially beginning her career as a Music Promoter and on completion of her degree in Events Management, went on to work with a number of industry organisations such as Live Nation, SWN, Greenman Festival, Orchard Media and Entertainment and undertaking roles at Reading, Download and Slam Dunk festivals.

Danielle is now a lecturer of Entrepreneurship, Digital Marketing and Events Management at BIMM Bristol.

Danielle, tell us about your career path and why you chose music and events promotion?
I studied Events Management at Cardiff Met University, I chose this degree because I had set up my own music promotions company whilst I was still in college, working with unsigned bands in the local area. After graduation I worked as a freelance events manager and festival assistant, while volunteering with The Young Promoters Network (YPN). The YPN is part of Rhondda Cynon Taff Council and aims to upskill young people who wish to work in the music industry. I volunteered for several years with the YPN and became a volunteer coordinator with them. It is through this experience that I realised how much I enjoyed helping others reach their career goals. Ultimately this led me to gain my PGCE in post-compulsory education before becoming the Enterprise Officer at Cardiff and Vale College and now I am an A-Level Lecturer at the college and an Associate Lecturer at a university in Bristol where I teach Events Management to the next generation of music managers.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in your employment?
Entering a male dominated industry came with a number of challenges, the most prominent of which has been counteracting the perception of women who work in the music industry. These perceptions and attitudes play out in numerous ways, and so having to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my worth has been the most challenging.

How does your work positively impact women?
In addition to my freelance work and teaching work, I run a social network called W.O.M.E.N (Women of Music and Events Network). We are an online community for women and non-binary persons that provide support for one another as well as opportunities of mentorship and networking, to better prepare one another for the barriers we encounter working in the music industry.

What woman has positively inspired you and why?
I have been lucky to grow up around several strong female role models – my grandmother, mother and aunties each carved out their own paths in life and taught me that there are no limits to what I can achieve. It is their guidance and support that has always empowered me to pursue my goals and ambitions.

Describe three characteristics about yourself that you believe has led to your success.
The first thing I would say was being organised. This allows me to manage a number of projects I am working on all at once and achieve a number of goals. The next is being passionate about my industry and the projects that I am working on – my passion drives me forward when things get tough. Lastly, it would be resilience: we are always going to encounter barriers, setbacks and difficulties, but it is how we respond to them that’s important. Being resilient allows me to deal with these setbacks and adapt – it doesn’t stop the pursuit of my goals.

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FREE International Women’s Day resource pack 
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By Natalie Grindey, Regional Programme Manager

National Careers Week looks a little different this year compared to the whirlwind of last year.

As the Regional Programme Manager for the South, I work with a range of schools from London to the South Coast to East Anglia. I was so pleased to support my schools during NCW by helping them to utilise their alumni networks to take part in activities. I spent three days in Norwich and a day in Peterborough, delivering sessions all about the world of work. It was brilliant to be supported by so many fab Future First alumni volunteers and we had alumni from a range of careers returning to their old schools – including a firefighter, a TV producer and a civil servant. 

Although facilitating workshops is a large part of what we do at Future First, we also empower schools to run their own activities. Our role is to assist in the background, helping to develop event ideas and then recruit the right alumni for the activity, thus building a strong and sustainable alumni network that lasts. During last year’s NCW I helped schools organise the following:

  • Witchford Village College hosted a networking morning
  • Grey Court School held an event for their Year 9s who got the opportunity to meet and question former students
  • Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School invited former students to a networking breakfast as part of celebration of International Women’s Day
  • Bottisham Village College held career talks
  • Eggar’s School had mock interviews and assembly talks

All of this in one week – and this is just the schools I work with! So many events took place across our Future First partner schools due to the solid support of former students.

We’re all aware that this year is going to look quite different, I definitely won’t be gallivanting around the East of England like I usually do! However, we are really excited at the possibilities of technology and how this has enabled us to be in more places at once, often including more than one school in an activity. All of a sudden, those former students who are disappointed to not get involved because they live too far away, can be right in the classroom with students – or right in the home. In fact, since last March we have had contributions from volunteers in Kuwait, Texas and Berlin just to name a few.

This year we will be taking part in a number of virtual activities with schools, including: ‘Advice and a Slice’ (pizza + careers advice!), career path Q&As, guest speaker slots, and of course, working with our fantastic employer partners to deliver workshops on careers. We have also been creating reusable resources for our schools and colleges, including alumni interviews and case studies. Our schools are planning to roll these out during this National Careers Week and we’ll be supporting them, as usual, every step of the way.

Find out about our new alumni programme and sign your school up here, or consider giving back to your own school by signing up as an alumni volunteer.

View related content

Bringing alumni back to the classroom – virtually

How we’re embracing virtual impact with our employer partners

Innovation, alumni and the second lockdown

In celebration of National Careers Week and to highlight the many and varied career paths available, we asked our own CEO, Lorraine Langham, about her career journey and any tips she has on the route to the top.

“I left school aged 16 in a recession that saw one in 10 people out of work”, Lorraine begins, “no-one in my entire extended family had attended further or higher education so in spite of having 10 O’Levels, and a personal visit from the Headteacher to talk to my parents about the possibilities of staying on – I left.”

It may seem surprising that there isn’t a degree in Lorraine’s background when you discover that her career successes span both the private and public sectors, including local and central government. She held board level positions in four London boroughs and spent seven years working at Ofsted, including as the Chief Operating Officer and right-hand person to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector.  Along the way, she also built a successful Joint Venture Company providing communications and management consultancy. But tellingly, Lorraine says: “Careers advice at school was a 10-minute chat: ‘you like people – be a bank clerk’”.

With this inspiring advice, Lorraine headed out on her own course: “I applied for many, many jobs before I got one as a junior clerical assistant at the Local Government Training Board. That set me on a career in local government; 13 years later I was on the board at the London Borough of Camden. It made the national press. I was one of the youngest women chief officers in the country.”

It’s pertinent then, that later in her career, Lorraine came to work at Future First where providing state school students access to alumni and relatable role models as well as helping schools achieve Gatsby Benchmarks around career guidance and access to employers is part of its mission.

Now, as CEO – a route usually arrived at from a heavily operational or financial background rather than a communications background – Lorraine is keen to emphasise the importance of work experience and knowing your own worth. In a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, of which she is a past Fellow, Lorraine explains: “Coming up through communications roles gives someone a broad range of invaluable skills, strategic thinking, crisis management, problem solving, interpersonal skills, wonderful written and oral skills, political nous- reading the room, negotiation and brokering, partnership and collaboration. These are many of the skills needed in senior roles rather than the ‘old school’ finance or legal routes to the top.”

Her tips for others wanting to reach senior positions involve doing your homework and contributing widely, “create a reputation from the inside as someone who can add value, who has something to bring to the table. Put yourself forward internally – take opportunities to get involved”.

“I looked for difficult projects or parts of the organisation that no one wanted, that needed a turnaround or a good manager and sought to take them on… I grew the work and built a corporate role and became seen as a general manager who could drive performance in any service, not just my specialism.” Lorraine also studied at night school and went on to become a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and a Chartered Director.

Crucially, Lorraine explains: “Be good at what you do, deliver what you said you’d do, demonstrate the wider impact, then you can argue ‘if I can do that here, I can do it somewhere else’.”

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

Here at Future First, we believe that a young person’s start in life should not limit their future. We will support young people as they navigate the challenges created as a result of the pandemic, and give you a platform to have your voice heard.

We’d like to invite you to share your experiences in a short video on the theme of choose, challenge or change. Maybe the changes in the world over the past 12 months have inspired you to choose a different pathway? Perhaps you’ve taken on a new challenge? Or you might have changed your perspective on something? Amplify your voice and share your story to help the class of 2021 and beyond.

A selection of videos will be professionally edited and may be shown as part of Northern Power Women’s #NPWLive event on 8 March 2021, which will be attended by hundreds of key influencers and employers across the North of England.

This is your opportunity to have your voice heard, raise your profile, develop your network and build your confidence.

For a chance to have your video streamed during the #NPWLive event and used to support our work in schools in the north of England, submit your videos to us by 1 March when videos will be shortlisted. Full instructions can be found here.

We look forward to receiving your video submissions!

If you have any questions, please email info@futurefirst.org.uk.

Future First alumni volunteer Abbie Hartley is a Professional Accounting Technician Apprentice working full-time with Whiting & Partners. She took time out of her busy day to tell us more about her career path, why she chose an apprenticeship and why she’s glad she chose this route over going to university.

Tell us a bit about your Apprenticeship and the route you are taking to get qualified?

My role as a Trainee Accountant consists of being responsible for undertaking high quality accounts preparation services for a range of business clients, including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies. I work full time at Whiting & Partners alongside being on an AAT Training Agreement and Apprenticeship – I study part-time at First Intuition Accountancy College in Cambridge. I am now studying for the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting as well as the Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship, hopefully after I finish this in March 2022, I will move onto ACCA or ACA alongside the Professional Accountant Apprenticeship.

Out of all the routes open to you, why did you decide to do an apprenticeship? What are your future goals?

The main reason I was interested in an Apprenticeship is because I learn and work best in a professional environment where I can gain knowledge from those with experience. 

Since starting work at 16 I have always had the motivation to work – and so studying for three or four years at university was something that I knew wouldn’t suit what I wanted to do. 

An Apprenticeship has a clear progression route and has allowed me to focus on my career with training and qualifications that link directly to the tasks I deal with at work. As an apprentice I learn from colleagues with more experience than I have, and I have a brilliant mentor who is always happy to run through anything work or study related. 

Financially, an Apprenticeship made more sense to me than university: my employer covers my college fees, whereas if I had gone to university this would have cost me £27,000 in tuition fees. Now I have no debt whilst being paid to study and work! 

My long-term aim is to qualify as a Chartered Accountant by the age of 23 and eventually become a Partner of the firm. I hope to progress at work and through job titles, from Trainee, Qualified, Assistant Manager, Manager, Associate, Partner. I recognise this requires dedication and I will work hard to make sure I can achieve as much as I can in my career. 

Since I have been at work, I have seen colleagues who were in the exact same position as me when I started at Whiting & Partners five years ago, now qualifying as Chartered Accountants. This makes me want to work hard as I know if I put the effort in, I can also achieve this. Having colleagues to look up to has been a real driver to put the most I can into the Apprenticeship.

What did you find challenging at school and how did you overcome this?

Something I found a challenge at school was writing. Accountancy is a client-based industry and written communication is key. The Apprenticeship allows me to focus on this skill where I am required to write essays regularly. I have also taken opportunities to improve from my time volunteering with Future First where I have written articles for students about the Apprenticeship pathway and other careers advice. But I very much have to work hard to achieve the results I wish to – at the start of year 11 I was between two grades in Maths. To push myself to achieve the higher of these two grades I went into school an hour early three times a week to revise Maths, this worked out to be an extra 100 hours of revision covered in the year! 

As an Apprentice, what does an average week look like for you? 

My average day is varied across the week; I could be working from the office, or on an audit at a client’s premises. I do a range of work for clients in the sector specialisms of Agriculture, Construction, Contractors, Manufacturing, Property Investment, Retail, Road Haulage, Technology, and UK subsidiaries of overseas companies. This means I am able to gain experience in many different services through hands on experience and at college. Currently, I specialise in Company Secretarial and Book-keeping. Company Secretarial involves tasks such as change of ownership of business, share distributions, appointment of directors, all of which I produce and file forms with Companies House to make sure business records are up to date. I enjoy tasks like this as I recognise it is so important that the client’s records are correct. Book-keeping involves keeping business records up to date, analysing expenses and income from invoices. 

With the Apprenticeship, 20% of my work is ‘off the job’ where I attend college at First Intuition Accountancy College in Cambridge. My college courses are usually once a week and each course lasts around eight weeks and then there is an exam. 

Work has been brilliant at supporting my college courses to make sure I am prepared for my exams. Importantly, I am able to link what I have learnt at college to work, and even what I have learnt at work to college.

View our related resources:

Thinking of doing an apprenticeship? Read Abbie’s top tips

Real stories: Katie and Lewis on apprenticeships and the impact of alumni role models

FREE National Apprenticeship Week activity pack for schools

FREE Template email for alumni support

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.

As part of our support for National Apprenticeship Week, Future First caught up with Bottisham Village College alumna and Future First alumni volunteer, Abbie Hartley, who is currently undertaking a Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship. Abbie works as a Trainee Accountant for Whiting & Partners and as part of her apprenticeship, attends First Intuition Accountancy College for ‘off the job training’ 20% of her time.  We asked Abbie for her top tips for those thinking about the apprenticeship pathway.

Abbie’s top tips

You do you – find something that interests you: All of my college friends went to university, but I decided this wasn’t the right option for me because I knew what industry and job I wanted to go into. Don’t be overly influenced by your peers – when choosing a career, it is important to look long term – where could you be in that industry in 50 years’ time?

Work hard and try your best at everything you do: No one is going to put in the work for you, you can only do this yourself. When doing anything, do it well, with 110% effort – whether this be studying at college or at work. The more you put in the more you will learn.

Research – consider your end goal: When looking into a career in Accountancy I researched the different areas and different qualifications available to decide which route I wanted to take. As an 18-year-old deciding on how to start my career I felt it was really important to make the right decision.  My research showed that you still had to take the Accountancy exams after you finish university to become a Chartered Accountant, as well as having to have 36 months’ work experience; by taking the Apprenticeship route, you may be surprised to know that I will qualify as a Chartered Accountant before a graduate from university. In addition, I would also have an extra three years’ worth of work experience. It is just a different route to get to the same end goal.

Undertake work experience: Don’t underestimate the value of work experience. I undertook work experience at two accounting firms, and as I enjoyed one of the placements so much, I was invited back for some more work experience and after that was offered my job. 

Motivate yourself: I received job offers and accepted one from Whiting & Partners before I even undertook my A Level exams – I felt this gave me extra motivation to do as well as I could in the examinations because I had something to aim for.

Prepare: When I was preparing for video interviews for my Apprenticeship, I created A4 pieces of paper with details of potential discussion topics, for example ‘work’, ‘education’, ‘outside of college’ and questions I had for the interviewer. This allowed me to identify my key achievements and anything that made me ‘stand out’ in a competitive job market. I was then able to bring these discussion topics into the interview when relevant.

Once you are there, keep organised: Whether at school, college or work, organisation is key in any career. For example, in Accountancy, January is a busy month for tax returns. To keep organised I make a list of all the tasks I need to do in order of priority, then tick them off the to do list once complete, adding new ones when needed. I send an email at the end of the week to all of the partners and managers so they can see where their tasks are in my list. This allows them to update me if their task has become more urgent or if some tasks need to be delegated elsewhere. Since March, due to the pandemic, I have been working from home. I make sure I keep my calendar up to date so my managers can see what clients’ work I am due to work on. As a result of keeping organised I have been able to work effectively and continue to work from home without being furloughed as a Trainee – showing that my managers have trust in me to work independently.

Who is an Apprenticeship for?

Apprenticeships are for anyone above the age of 16 and entry requirements are set by the company offering the apprenticeship. The level of apprenticeship you can apply for will differ depending on your qualifications. For example, if you have achieved five good GCSE grades and good post 16 results you may want to look at an Advanced or Higher Apprenticeship. If you like the idea of earning while learning and are motivated and committed, an apprenticeship might be a good next step to look into.

Here are some useful links for those thinking of the Apprenticeship route:

  • National Apprenticeship Service (http://nas.apprenticeships.org.uk/) – this is a great website where you can search for opportunities as well as watch videos about current apprentices.
  • Get In Go Far (www.getingofar.gov.uk)government funded website on apprenticeships
  • Not Going to Uni (http://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/)
  • Plotr (www.plotr.co.uk) – Plotr is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about career options. There’s lots of information about apprenticeships, interesting articles to inspire you, and lots more.
  • Student Ladder (www.studentladder.co.uk) – check out Student Ladder for a range of opportunities including ‘School Leaver Programmes’, which are also known as Higher Apprenticeships.

View our related resources:

Real stories: Katie and Lewis on apprenticeships and the impact of alumni role models

FREE National Apprenticeship Week activity pack for schools

FREE Template email for alumni support

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.

We are delighted to be able to share with you Future First’s Annual Review for 2019-20.

The past year’s challenges have not prevented us from continuing to achieve for young people. Innovating and reshaping our offer allowed us to work with nearly 70,000 young people in over 400 schools and colleges, and grow our alumni network to over 266,000 volunteers. Hearing from alumni, as powerful, relatable role models has a significant impact on young people’s confidence, motivation to study harder and resilience. Alumni show them a world beyond their experience, helping them to see what they can achieve and giving them the knowledge, tools and networks they need to get there.

It is a decade since Future First was formed and we have come a long way from originally working with just six schools. We have even greater ambitions for the future and this review shares those plans with you, as well as the highlights of the past year.

With educational inequalities growing, our work is now more important than ever, so we thank everyone we work with for helping us to make a lasting difference to the lives and life chances of so many young people.

Download the Annual Review.


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.”

By Joy Upchurch, Programme Director

As Programme Director at Future First, it’s been truly inspiring to see the drive, determination and accomplishments of so many of the schools and colleges we work with, despite the unprecedented challenges everyone has faced this year. Many of our member schools and colleges have accelerated their alumni plans, providing relatable role models to help young people navigate these uncertain times. It’s needed now more than ever.

St Clement Danes School in Hertfordshire is a perfect example. The school has been working with Future First since 2014 to build a thriving, engaged network of over 1,200 alumni volunteers. The staff remained completely focused on providing students with career inspiration, despite the limitations the pandemic posed. The answer lay in achieving some great results virtually. Staff wanted to use tutorials and personal development time for students to engage fully in careers-based thinking and planning, so we gathered 5-minute alumni videos which gave snapshot-insights into a variety of education and career pathways.

As the Programme Manager for the school, I contacted alumni and gathered the videos to share with the school. The response from former students was incredible and meant we collected 23 videos covering a wide range of careers and pathways, including a Creative Art Director, a Geologist, and a Data Analyst, alongside those studying courses such as Neuroscience and Medicine. 

It just goes to show, with a determination to continue delivering for students there is always a way – even when confronted by a global pandemic. In fact, the whole process has uncovered a fabulous way for us to connect students and alumni no matter where they are and it’s undoubtedly something we’ll continue to use.

In the example below Georgia talks about her experience as a professional actor, freelance Shakespeare teacher and student at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

The school used these videos to provide an insight into life after school for every student from Year 9 to Year 13. They’ve also been a fantastic resource for staff who’ve enjoyed seeing what their former students are doing. 

Chris Payne, Careers Coordinator, commented: 

“I loved watching the videos, they were fantastic – the quality was so good and the tips for current students were spot on. The Head of Maths and her faculty all said the students were spellbound; they enjoyed it because it was real.”

Aisling Ryan, Careers Leader, added:

“At a point where many schools are having to restrict curriculum due to the impact of the pandemic, we have been delighted by the opportunities presented by our partnership with Future First. Our Careers provision has been enormously enhanced by these short, informative and inspirational videos. Students can see pathways they might choose to follow and the voices coming from our Alumni are powerful because, in essence, students see an older version of themselves – enjoying the rewards which come from hard work and seizing opportunities. They have been a brilliant addition to our careers guidance portfolio and will be a go-to resource in our careers planning for future years.”

These videos were very simple to collect; some alumni used our guidance to record and send their own videos, but the majority scheduled zoom interviews so we could record their answers to questions around skills development, advice and pathway insight. Zoom converts this to a file that can be uploaded straight to a private YouTube link for the school to access so the whole process took only 15-20 minutes.

I would really recommend that schools collect these videos from their alumni volunteers – it produces an almost timeless record of student successes which can be used to inspire the next generation. As a result, many students have taken away practical advice on how to take steps towards a successful career after school.

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.