Networks and education in ‘lockdown’

Written by Beth Goddard, Director of Programmes

Teachers and school leaders are working hard in these challenging times to ensure young people can continue their learning at home, whilst keeping school doors open for those in need. Covering non-examination subjects such as character education and key skills, offering extracurricular experiences and maintaining a sense of community have been made even more difficult by current circumstances. It would be understandable if these aspects of school life were considered lower priority at this time.

Nevertheless, Future First’s partner schools and colleges have stepped up the challenge. We know school staff have made extraordinary efforts to ensure their wider community remain engaged. Schools and colleges have shown pride in their former students, especially those who are involved in the crisis response. St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy in Stoke have run a ‘Pride of SMWCA’ campaign on social media championing keyworker alumni. St Richard’s Catholic College and Blackpool Aspire Academy are creating themed displays showing alumni in vital healthcare roles to inspire students on their return to school.

Alumni have also reached out to their old schools for support, highlighting the need for networks and a sense of community for all during the pandemic. Ciara, an alumnus of Eggars’ School who now manages a GP surgery, got in touch after hearing that the Design and Technology department were making PPE to support healthcare workers, and arranged for her old school to send over supplies to help keep her colleagues safe.

At Future First, we’ve seen an increase in volunteering and a strengthening of links between former students and their old schools, especially to help students with now even more challenging transitions. Our online mentoring project, which recently launched to support students in Year 11 and 12, saw an overwhelming response with over 160 volunteers signing up to get involved. One of our partner schools, Sarah Bonnell, are inviting alumni to share advice for year 11 students making the transition to Sixth Form or college. At Townley Grammar School, former students are providing hints and tips on making the most of their first term at university, to be collated in booklet for year 13s. Saltash Community School have asked alumni to contribute video clips they can share with students on the theme of dealing with uncertainty.

We are proud of the commitment of school staff to engaging with alumni networks and involving them in aspects of education which could be too easily forgotten during this difficult time. We know that young people face uncertain futures. As willing and relatable role models, alumni help ensure students’ confidence and motivation remains a priority. This support will help students when schools are reopen and long into the future.

Contact Future First to discuss how alumni can support your school with access to relatable role models and engagements with the world of work.