Actress Julie Walters backs campaign to build alumni networks in every state school

Former state students in Birmingham are to helping to transform current students’ confidence motivation and skills by going back to their old schools in a campaign to build an alumni network in every school and college in the city.

Back to School Week, 13 to 17 March, run by the national education charity Future First, will take place in state schools across the city which is identified by the government as a ‘cold spot’ for careers support.

Future First research shows alumni are crucial in inspiring current state students to greater career confidence and success in the world of work by acting as positive role models, providing connections to the world of work, volunteering as mentors or governors or even helping to raise funds.

Events during the campaign week include:

Monday 13 March.     10 alumni return to Kings Norton Girls School, Selly Oak Road, B30 1HW from 11.20 a.m. to 1. 20 p.m..  A workshop for 30 Year 9 students considering career pathways and deconstructing career stereotypes. Alumni careers include forensics, marketing, business management, health, the fire service and computer animation.

Wednesday 15 March.  Alumni return to Ark St Albans Academy, Conybere Street, B12 0YH 11.30a.m. to 1.30 p.m..  A workshop for 20 Year 8 students building motivation and analysing their skills and strengths. Alumni careers include history, law, medicine, art and design, and charity work.

Thursday 16 March.  9 a.m. to 10 a.m.. Alumni return to Holyhead School, Milestone Lane, Handsworth, B21 OHN, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.. A workshop with 25 Year 12 students on building motivation. Alumni fields include law and history.

The campaign week aims to encourage more schools to see alumni as a valuable resource in broadening the jobs horizons of the current generation and preparing them to navigate the difficult transition from school to work. Private schools and universities have long seen the value of keeping alumni engaged.

Future First’s Back to School Week campaign has been backed by actress Julie Walters who went to school in Birmingham and starred in the 1983 film Educating Rita which looked at social mobility.

Julie said “Taking alumni back to support current state school students, whatever field they want to enter, is a fantastic idea. The world of work is a difficult place and the more support teenagers have in navigating the move from school to work and broadening their jobs horizons, the better. I wish there had been something like Future First when I was at school. I’d urge everyone to sign up to support their former state school.”

Christine Gilbert, Executive Chair of Future First said:  “Every state school student should have the opportunity to succeed in life after school, regardless of their background. If students see ‘people like me’ have succeeded, they are more likely to believe they can too. They work harder and have higher expectations of success. We want more schools to see the benefits of using their alumni as a powerful resource.”

The government’s Careers and Enterprise Company highlights the specific needs of an area so that careers support can be tailored and targeted. Their evidence indicates that almost a fifth of Birmingham’s students are eligible for free school meals. It also shows that students from the city are underachieving at 16.

Future First is currently working with over 400 state schools and colleges up and down the country to set up ‘old school tie’ networks and harness the wealth of talent and experience of former students in a range of careers, from law and banking to plumbing and catering. More than 180,000 former students nationwide are registered to support current students at their old school.

Future First/YouGov polling of adults shows:

  • Among all adults who attended secondary school in Great Britain former  private school students were almost four times more likely to have heard from former students about their jobs while at school than state students (42 per cent v 12 per cent)
  • Former state school students are just as likely as former private school students to be willing to support current students but they haven’t been asked. Former privately educated students are four times more likely to have been asked to do so in the last 12 months (9 per cent v 2 per cent).                                                                   

Research for the Social Mobility Commission (2016) shows that only one in eight children from a low income background is likely to become a high earner as an adult.


For further information contact Sue Crabtree on, Anna Darling Senior Communications Officer on, Marie Power, Director of External Affairs on or call one of the Future First team on 0207 239 8933.

All figures, unless otherwise stated. Are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2.075 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th to 11th January 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 18+.