Jo Richardson Community School started in 2002 with just one year group. We now have a purpose built building and have expanded to 10 form entry. Our sixth form is large with 177 young people, so it has been a key focus for us when working with our alumni.
We are based in a deprived area with a high percentage of students on free school meals and a high percentage of students with parents who have never been to university. Our main priorities for working with former students are providing relatable role models and raising the aspirations of our students. The only graduates lots of them have ever encountered are the teachers at school and doctors. It is essential for them to meet more people who have had different career paths and journeys into higher education to see that there are options available to them in the future.
We decided to work with Future First because at the time, our sixth form was very new and saw the value in being able to stay in touch with our former students and formalise relationships that lots of the teachers in the school already had.
Our Alumni Officer at Future First supported us to start Future Fridays. We run an informal lunchtime meeting where former students talk about what they do and how they got there to inspire and inform our students. What I love about these sessions is that they are specialised and it has helped students with specific interests. The students ask questions and focus on their goals and have been exposed to various ways to get to the same place which has been really helpful for them.
We are very proud to have won the Future First sponsored Pearson’s Teaching Award for School of the Year – Making a Difference. We just had a Sixth Form Open Evening and some of the students who came from other schools said that one of the reasons they came is because they saw that students here had put us forward for the award, which is really positive. The Award has definitely raised our profile in the community and we’ve had lots of good wishes from lots of different organisations.
On the day of the judging we did a showcase which was a real boost. Different departments showcased their progress and teachers got a chance to see what other areas were doing. We had some ex-students come in, we had the DofE table, The Student Voice table. It so encouraging. The whole process has been very positive and to know that one of our sixth form students was the reason we were nominated is amazing.
Our hopes for the network in the future are big. In 20 years’ time we want to be able to invite back former students who are surgeons, managers and CEOs. Currently our former students are young, the eldest are 27 but they will continue to progress and grow their careers. We want our students to be able to see someone that has travelled around the world for their job. As our network grows, this will have an impact on our current students as they will start to see siblings, friends and people from their community who have gone on and achieved after school and that they can do it too.
Jo Richardson Community School is Pearson Teaching Awards School of the Year – Making a Difference. Find out more about the awards and how to enter your school.
Image kindly provided by Jo Richardson Community School.