State school students more pessimistic about job prospects than private students

Back to School Week launched nationwide to inspire state students to career success.

Comprehensive school students are far more pessimistic about their future job prospects than their privately educated peers, according to figures released by a leading education charity.

The state school students are ten times more likely to think people from their school don’t succeed in the world of work compared with students at private schools.

And they’re five times less likely to think people who went to their school are very successful compared with their private school counterparts.

YouGov polling commissioned by the education charity Future First shows that private schools are better at asking for support from alumni, although former state students are just as likely to want to help current students at their old schools.

The figures show a stark contrast in the expectation of career success by 11 to 16-year-olds and are released by Future First as it launches the national campaign Back to School Week, February 1st to 5th. 

During the campaign week, state school alumni – lawyers to doctors, plumbers to caterers, architects to zookeepers   – will inspire current students to greater career confidence and academic success at workshops and assemblies in their old state schools.

Future First Executive Chair and former Ofsted Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert said the figures showed there was a huge need to support state educated students make the difficult transition from school to work and to drive more ambitious thinking about their expectations of work in the modern world.

“Every state school student should have the opportunity to succeed in life after school, regardless of their background,” she said. “Many schools are already harnessing the skills and experience of alumni as role models who inspire and motivate current students. If students see people like them 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.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said, “I am delighted to support Future First’s Back to School Week this year, and I’m looking forward to returning to my old school, Roundhay, to see how it continues to support its pupils, both past and present. We owe it to young people to ensure that on top of an excellent education, they acquire the resilience and moral character needed to succeed in the world of work. Future First is playing an important part in instilling these traits, by creating a network of alumni who can be called upon to support future generation of students, giving them the edge in a competitive global jobs market.”

Lucy Powell, Shadow Education Secretary, who has returned to her former school Parrs Wood High School in Manchester, said, “Future First’s Back to School Week is a great campaign to encourage alumni to stay in touch with their schools and ensure that kids in state schools have a better chance of broadening their horizons by seeing what previous pupils at the school have gone on to achieve. Parrs Wood is doing a great job in educating the next generation and I’d encourage former pupils to support them in raising aspiration and improving social mobility.”

As well as Mr Gibb, alumni returning to their former schools during Back to School Week are former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Jasvinder Sanghera, the human rights campaigner and author.

Alumni play an invaluable role working alongside teachers, employers and careers professionals in preparing students for work in the modern world. Future First is the only organisation supporting state schools to set up thriving alumni networks so they can use the experience of alumni as role models, work experience providers, mentors and e-mentors, and as governors, fundraisers and donors.

Future First works in 400 state schools and colleges from Plymouth to Glasgow enabling schools to harness the talents and experience of alumni to inspire current students.

More than 150,000 former state students are registered with Future First to stay connected with their old school and support current students with advice about life and work after school. Research shows ten million people are willing to go back to their old school if only they were invited to do so.


Future First/YouGov polling of 11 to 16-year-olds shows:[1]



  • 12 per cent of comprehensive school students think that people who went to their school will be unsuccessful in the world of work compared with only one per cent of private school students.
  • Only 9 per cent of comprehensive students thought people who went to their old school were very successful compared with 50 per cent of private school students.
  • Just 17 per cent of state school students regularly meet adults in jobs they perceive as interesting compared with 51 per cent of privately educated students.


Future First/YouGov polling of adults shows: [2]



  • 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)
  • More than one in four (27 per cent) of those who received free school meals at secondary school think they would be in a different career path if they had met former students with interesting jobs.
  • Former state school students are just as likely as former private school students to be willing to support current students even if they hadn’t been asked,(17 and 18 per cent respectively) but 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).
  • Nearly one in five adults say they’d have chosen a different career path if they had heard from former students in interesting jobs while at school.


For more information on Future First’s Back to School Week, Feb 1st to 5th 2016, and to sign up to support your old school visit


For further information please contact:

Alex  Shapland-Howes, Managing Director, Future First,  0207 239 8933

Anna Darling, Senior Communications Officer 0207 239 8933

Sue Crabtree, Press Officer,  0207 239 8933


For out of office hours queries contact : 

Alex Shapland-Howes. Managing Director, Future First. 07432 714226





[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,449 11 to 16 -year-olds , 1,309 of which went to secondary school and of which 1,092 went to a state school and 81 to a private school.  Fieldwork was undertaken between  15th and 25th January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children aged 11 to 16.

[2] 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+.