Our vision is a world where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.
Why we exist
Britain has a deep social mobility problem. We are working to change this.
Only one in eight children from a low-income background is likely to become a high earner as an adult. Across the UK young people’s experience and opportunities are closely linked to the status of their parents and the area they grow up in.
Our research shows that nearly half of pupils from the poorest backgrounds (on free school meals) don’t know anyone in a job they would like to do. We know this affects young people’s perception of their own ability, their expectations of future success, and the extent to which they value their school work.
Meeting former students helps to change this, boosting young people’s confidence and motivation, and helping to transform their life chances.
Our mission is to see every state school and college in the UK supported by a thriving and engaged alumni community.
Access to relatable role models broadens students’ horizons, helping them to imagine a world beyond their own. Having grown up in the same community and sat in the same classrooms former students are ideal volunteers to be such role models.
For generations, private schools and universities have effectively harnessed the talent, time and support that former students can offer. Since 2009, Future First has been making it easier for state schools and colleges to do the same.
How do schools use their alumni?
13 September 2019
Opportunities and Life After School Options at Great Torrington
Sandra Peters, Personalised Learning Manager at Great Torrington School, explains how alumni can help current students figure out life after school.
Great Torrington School is a predominantly rural school for students aged 11-16. Many pupils bus in from local villages, with a number coming from the small town of Torrington and the larger nearby town of Bideford too. We have lower than average FSM percentages and higher than national average SEN with statement or EHC plan students.
We were lucky enough to receive the Future First support free of charge as part of our partnership with Next Steps SW and started working with Future First in 2018.
Since starting our membership, we have invited alumni in for a number of events including PSHE sessions, careers sessions and for Duke of Edinburgh presentations.
Back in January we had six alumni in to speak to Year 11 during their PSHE lessons about their career journey, the qualifications they gained and their life experiences. Year 11 can be so focused on exam preparation and revision that students can lose sight of the bigger picture, amazing opportunities and life after school options and experiences, so it was great to hear from our alumni about what they’ve gone on to do.
The alumni visitors talked about their experience at GTS and where they went on to study, qualifications they gained and the careers these lead onto. The volunteers were wonderful, all doing different things they could talk about with our students. We had business people, FE/HR students and an Olympic coach!
The Year 11 students were able to ask questions and it was great to see them interacting with the visitors. Their life stories of travel, education, career change and achieving their goals was inspiring and the students gave positive feedback at the end of the session.
Sign your school up to Future First’s alumni network here.
11 September 2019
The Benefits of Alumni at Soham Village College
Nick Oakhill, Careers Manager at Soham Village College, explains the benefits of alumni in school.
Using alumni has definitely helped with some of the issues that our school faces. Due to our rural location, a lot of our students cannot see the opportunities that are out there. This is not just limited to post 16 options but also thinking about future employment. In comparison to students in cities, such as Cambridge, Soham students have limited access and awareness about career pathways and the labour market. We are conscious as a school that there are issues of social mobility in the area and we want to make students realise that there is a bigger world out there. Alumni are one part of our career programme that raise awareness and aspirations. Our former students can give confidence to our young people to look past Soham and to the wider world.
Our school is currently funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company to use Future First services. When I sat down with SLT to look through the options and opportunities the idea of an alumni network is something that immediately appealed to us. We liked the idea that the programme would not just be short term but something, that once we had in place, could benefit the school in years to come. We had never had an official alumni network so this seemed like a great opportunity.
From my own experience, as part of an alumni community for my old school, I could see the benefits of keeping in touch with former students. It could be used as a quick way of engaging with local employers and potential speakers. Also, keeping leavers part of the Soham community. The idea of an alumni network absolutely stuck out for us.
This year it was my idea to invite alumni back during National Careers Week as speakers in assemblies. When presented with the idea of an alumni programme I thought this could be a good focus. I approached our SLT and the idea was positively received. I was hoping to have alumni speak who represented a good selection of industries and roles but I also did not want to be too selective. I ideally wanted to break stereotypes and have female speakers from male dominated industries.
Through contacting the alumni network I managed to secure four speakers for the week. It was fantastic to have Fern speak on the Thursday, as an engineer working within the construction industry. It was really interesting to hear Fern speak about her setbacks and failures, particularly at university, but also how she showed resilience and overcome her issues to achieve her current successes. All the speakers were fantastic but it was especially interesting to hear from Caroline who left Soham in the 1970’s and has had a varied career in the NHS.
Before the week began I was quite anxious because although I had spoken to all the former students beforehand about expectations and outcomes; you never really know if it is going to work until they start speaking. The week of talks was a complete success! All of the speakers spoke about how they had been sitting in the exact same position as our students which really hit the mark.
I think one of the main advantages of inviting alumni to return as speakers is that they are not just a stranger returning from a particular profession but that they are a former student discussing life after Soham. They are relatable to our students which has a greater impact as the students can see themselves in the alumni. The idea that our students can sit in an assembly and realistically think “that could be me one day” is fantastic. The fact that our students can see someone overcoming a barrier that they might be experiencing, such as mental health, and that they have gone on to achieve success is great. In all the activities I organise, if I can have even one young person coming away with a boost and idea or raising their aspirations then that is a winning situation.
Our network has grown to 135 former students and I am so appreciative to them signing up. As a school we understand that people may not be available to return all the time but we are flexible for our alumni. I also send out newsletters so that our network can keep updated on school life. I would say, if you want to get involved in your old school, the opportunity is there.
Sign your school up to Future First’s alumni network here.
04 September 2019
The Streetly Academy and Future First
Vicky O’Connor, careers lead at The Streetly Academy, talks about their partnership with Future First.
I was brought in to The Streetly Academy to lead on the careers programme within the school; the head and SLT are very passionate about raising the aspirations of the pupils and wanted to improve their current careers programme by having someone who was dedicated to this full time. Before I came in to the school the provision was quite ad-hoc and minimal, whereas now the careers programme is implemented across all year groups and events and activities are scheduled frequently across the year.
I began by creating a questionnaire to find out what the goals and aspirations were of our pupils, we then used the answers to map out what kind of careers provision we would need. We cater to the aspirations of the students through their own responses and needs and we track this across the school. We’ve seen that goals and aspirations are a lot higher in year 7 and then dip in year 9 and 10. Based on the way that this programme is catered to the goals of the students, we then address these ‘dips’ in aspiration/goal setting through more specific intervention and activities.
I want to make sure that as well as thinking about their grades and how important they are, that the pupils get a chance to see how these are important within the wider context of jobs and careers.
One of the main reasons that I chose to work with Future First is that alumni can provide direct relevance to the students. With an alumni speaker the pupils are given a link to what they’re saying as they know this person had been sat in their seat, in their position. Alumni provide more ways for pupils to believe in themselves.
Using the alumni portal has been a much easier way of engaging and sustaining our alumni network; in previous roles I’d worked with alumni before, mostly using spreadsheets and my own database of alumni information. Future First have made it easier to contact alumni, we don’t have to manually input any data, it’s easier and safer to use when we engage our alumni community.
We have a lot of events planned in the coming year where we know our alumni will be brilliant role models for our students; for our year 7s we’ll be running a ‘The Apprentice’ style event where we want our alumni to act as judges. We’ll be having Future First in to lead an event called ‘What is The World of Work Like’ for our year 8s which will go through key skills and information about choosing and entering into a career, as well as Year 9 option days where we’ll be having our alumni in to speak about each subject and its relevance to their jobs, so that we can link the curriculum to potential career paths. As well as these events we’ve got CV workshops, mock interviews, and careers speaker sessions where alumni will get a chance to talk about their careers for students unsure of what their paths might be.
Working with Future First so far we’ve really appreciated how easy it’s going to be to keep track of our students as they go on to get jobs or go into further study after finishing their exams. We’ll be able to keep track of what our students go on to do. We want to build a community from this, so that we can keep in touch and keep that connection with students who are at The Streetly Academy now and in the future.
To sign up to our alumni network as a school or college, click here.