St Clement Danes brings alumni back to the classroom – virtually

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.