Building a way ahead for our young people

If I can make it into the House of Lords after a career as a builder there’s no limit to what children in our schools today can achieve.

The message that every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter what their start in life, is central to charity Future First’s philosophy and at the heart of their new crowdfunding effort to help set up alumni networks in every state school in the country.

The support I needed to succeed didn’t come when I was at schools but much later when I entered politics. Politicians get support from their peer group all the time and that is especially true of the Local Government Association (LGA). I want to see all young people have the chance to build their lives on that kind of support.

So I’m delighted to be supporting Future First’s effort at such a crucial time, when the confidence and resilience of our young people is likely to have been knocked by the chaos of the coronavirus crisis. There’s never been a more important time to give our young people the reassurance they have every chance of pursuing their dreams.

As many of us who went to state school will know, it’s very easy to think the odds are stacked against you – that all the best careers out there are only open to young people lucky enough to go to independent schools.

In truth, the reason so many young people do well – whether in the independent sector or the state sector – is down to belief. They know other people – just like them – have left their school and gone on to achieve great things. That sense of belief gives them the confidence to go out and succeed for themselves and the resilience to persevere when the chips are down.

This sense of belief isn’t just an instinct. The more privileged your upbringing, the stronger your network. Thirty-five percent of disadvantaged young people don’t know anyone in a job they want to do. And my guess is that this will get worse before things get better.

It’s frankly a scandal that so many young people just don’t know that there is a world of opportunity out there. We know that our schools are struggling to work day-to-day at the moment. Many haven’t got the time or resource available to set up alumni networks from scratch. That’s where Future First can step in.

The charity is already working with hundreds of state schools and colleges across the country, establishing alumni networks and links with local employers for existing pupils, but there are many more schools where this opportunity still doesn’t exist.

South Holland DC and Future First are piloting the crowdfunder to see if the community can help build these networks. If successful, then it will be rolled out nationally so every child in every school will be able to benefit from the experience of former pupils who have left before them and gone on to pursue successful careers.

We know that meeting past students can make a significant difference. It gives the students of today another reason to learn and persevere when the going gets tough.

But creating these networks in every school won’t just be good news for pupils – it will be good news for councils too, because these pupils will be the local workers of the future. And with a successful workforce comes economic growth and prosperity.

So, I’m also delighted that Future First has been named as the official charity for this year’s MJ Awards. It’s a cause every council leader and every council chief executive in the country should get behind. We owe it to our young people and we owe it to our communities.

Please visit Future First’s crowdfunder appeal ( to make a donation, sign up as an alumni or just send a message of hope to students.

Lord Gary Porter of Spalding  is a former chairman of the Local Government Association and leader of South Holland DC

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Take part in our crowdfunding campaign or sign up to our national alumni network now.