Primary pupils look to local volunteers for inspiration and guidance

Recent research carried out by Future First and Teacher Tapp has shown that just 19% of state primary school teachers engage their former pupils in activities such as careers talks, volunteering and fundraising, compared to 67% of primary teachers in independent schools. We’re working to redress the balance by supporting state-funded primary schools to reconnect with their alumni. Building links with former students as well as parents, former staff members and local supporters provides a host of volunteers who can act as career and education role models to pupils.

We now have a total of 635 volunteers from a wide range of careers signed up to support their former primary school, or a school in their local area. Alumni help to show the diversity of jobs pupils of today might go in to. One of our members, Bounds Green School in Haringey, were delighted to hear that an advisor to the Mayor of London had signed up as a volunteer, while alumni supporting St Lawrence Primary in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex include a civil engineer, a fashion brand manager, and an NHS coordinator.

Former primary school pupils have contributed to school life in a variety of ways, from speaking in assemblies, to becoming governors, to sharing stories about the history of their local area. At Belmont School in Harrow, alumni took part in a careers workshop with Year 5, introducing pupils to a range of jobs and helping them to develop professional skills. To thank alumni for their time, expertise and guidance, the school then invited them to ‘Belmont Day’, a reunion and celebration event.

Future First’s primary programme not only supports schools to reconnect with their former pupils, but also builds links between schools and their local communities, creating diverse networks of volunteers who can help to pupils to feel more confident about their next steps.

I recently ran a series of workshops at Ashurst LLP, a law firm in East London, where a total of 21 volunteers met a group of Year 6 pupils from Bonner Primary School in Bethnal Green. Pupils clearly enjoyed working with professionals from their local area and discovering the range of opportunities available at an international company, located just a 15-minute journey from their school. When asked whether they could see themselves working somewhere like Ashurst in the future, one pupil answered “yes, because I am inspired by this”, while another commented “yes, because it’s not too far from home” – demonstrating the impact of connecting pupils with businesses and role models in their local communities.

As part of these sessions, volunteers have motivated pupils to develop their professional skills and start reflecting on their future career choices. One activity involved pupils designing their own toys from recycled materials, creating business plans, and then presenting pitches to a panel of professionals from Ashurst. The Ashurst volunteers then gave invaluable, constructive feedback to pupils, which gave them insights into business such as “I learnt that we had to listen to each other’s ideas”, “I learnt how to work under pressure”, and “Businesses are harder to run than they look!”

Through working with volunteers from their local community, pupils not only gained an insight into the world of work and began to develop key employability skills, but also had the opportunity to build a sense of achievement and confidence for the next steps of their education. Jenny, a teacher at Bonner Primary, commented that the session “gave a wide range of pupils the chance to do well – aside from the usual ‘academic’ and ‘sporting’ aspects of school life.” One pupil summarised the day in saying “my favourite part was doing my pitch because it made me proud of how confident I was.”

Future First’s primary programme offers a wide range of different membership options which can be tailored to your school’s needs and priorities. For more information, contact Emily on emily.watton@futurefirst.org.uk