Stoke High School Ormiston Academy has been an academy since 2013 and we are a school that has challenges. The proportion of students that are eligible for pupil premium or who have special education needs is above the national average, and a high percentage have English as a second or foreign language.
We also battle with a misconception that those who live in the IP2 postcode, in which the school falls, are unlikely to achieve. We decided to start working with our alumni to challenge this stigma and provide relatable role models for our young people to meet. The more I have met ex-students, the more I can see evidence that the assumption that they won’t be successful is simply not true.
As part of our membership with Future First, we received two workshops called ‘So you want to be a…’. We ran these with two different groups, but the students in both were under achieving with low aspirations and not showing any focus in school. They had no idea about their futures and were quite apathetic towards post-school options.
The sessions were well-organised, well-presented and the range of alumni volunteers was excellent as we had a former student who had gone straight into a job after leaving school; a former student who had gone to university; and another who had done an apprenticeship. Our students found it really relatable because the alumni had been in their shoes. They gave them a really good insight into the different routes and world of work in general as all the bases were covered.
The alumni also showcased how paths can change direction and this is something that the students really took away, in addition to showing more focus and confidence in themselves. The sessions also highlighted the relevance of school subjects for their futures which was powerful as often students cannot see the point in school. They all came away with food for thought, not one said that it had been a waste of time.
In addition to these workshops, I have also invited alumni back for our mock interview days and as mentors. Mentoring has been particularly impactful for a group of young boys susceptible to gang crime in the area. We have an ex-student that has worked for Suffolk Police, is formerly the President of the National Black Police Association and is currently the Vice-President. She has been coming into school for around a year to act as a mentor – she has done a brilliant job with some tricky students. Initially, this mentoring started off with one male pupil but he engaged with it so well that he actually asked if his friends could also be mentored. The difference in their behaviour has been dramatic, they are more focused and have since asked if they can mentor younger students themselves.
The sessions with Future First have had a real impact on our young people and interactions with our alumni continues to demonstrate the real potential they have for their futures.