The UK has a social mobility problem which has worsened in recent years. Today your chances of being successful in life are not only linked to family background but also to where you live. Those from better-off backgrounds are almost 80 per cent more likely to end up in a professional job than their working class peers,1 and the top professions are dominated by the 7 per cent of the population that have been privately educated.2
Bringing former students back into schools as speakers and careers support can provide students with access to employer encounters and relatable role models, broadening students’ horizons, raising their aspirations and helping them to fulfil their potential.
Since Future First’s inception ten years ago, significant progress has been made, with an increasing number of schools recognising the value alumni can bring to their current students and school community. In the last decade we have worked with 1200 schools, signing up over a quarter of a million alumni. Recent Future First/Teacher Tapp polling reveals however that there is still a long way to go. As part of the poll, over half of all state school teachers (53%) told us they do not engage former students at all, compared to just 16% of teachers working in independent schools. In addition, nearly three quarters (72%) of teachers working in schools serving the most deprived areas (FSM Quintile 5) do not involve alumni in school life.. Despite progress over recent years, independent and schools in the most affluent areas are still racing ahead, bringing back former students as careers advisors, mentors and providing current students with access to a range of careers and world of work opportunities.
This year we also commissioned YouGov to survey young people aged between 6 and 15, asking them a series of questions about their perceptions of their future and job prospects. Our findings showed that young people are worried about their futures with 65% of 15 years olds worried about what job they will get in the future. In addition, young people become increasingly worried about their future success as they progress through the school system with less than half of 15-year-olds (47%) agreeing that ‘people like them’ will be successful in life, compared to 74% at age 6 and 71% at age 11. Moreover, a third of young people polled said they did not know someone in a job they would like to do. 71% of the young people surveyed agreed that it would be helpful if they could meet students that went to their school and talk to them about what they did after education and their jobs, highlighting the need to involve volunteers like alumni in school life.
The results of our research reveals the extent of concerns young people across the UK have for their working future and the lack of relatable role models available for them.
Using former students as relatable role models, trusted mentors and meaningful social capital is a simple but effective way to broaden young people’s knowledge of the opportunities available to them, as well as boosting their confidence to pursue these opportunities. 81% of young people attending our alumni events last year told us that meeting former students showed them that ‘people like me’ can be successful with 73% reporting they felt more confident about being successful in the future as a result.
Future First wants every student to realise their potential regardless of their background, and for every state school to use their alumni to help provide the support that their students need to reach this potential. However, schools frequently tell us that time constraints can often limit their ability to engage alumni as much as they would like to. As school budgets are squeezed and teachers face increasing work pressures, this can hinder a school’s ability to develop and sustain an active and thriving alumni network.
This is where Future First steps in. We support state schools and colleges to build, engage and activate a thriving community of alumni and supporters, offering advice and practical support along the way. In doing so, we provide access to relatable role models to the students most in need of support.
Read the full report here, titled, ‘Young people, their futures and access to relatable role models.’
1 The Social Mobility Commission (2019) State of the Nation: Social Mobility in Great Britain 2018-2019. Available from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/798687/SMC_State_of_Nation_2018-19_Summary.pdf
2 The Sutton Trust (2019) Elitist Britain 2019. Available from https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Elitist-Britain-2019.pdf