“Looking at our Year 13s, I can see that the Alumni Day has had an enormous impact on them. It gave them role models, targets to aspire to and an insight into professions that they might not otherwise have considered.”
– Andrew Mitchell, Aim Higher Manager
Kingsbury High School is an inner London state school with academy status, in the borough of Brent. We have over 2000 students, with just over 400 in the sixth form.
We decided to start working with our alumni to enhance the induction programme for new Year 12s. We wanted the new sixth formers to meet former students who could inspire them, give them the drive to succeed and set their mind on emulating their successes. The school has a really interesting history having been in the public eye for all sorts of reasons. For example, it was the set for one of the original series of Grange Hill! We also have lots of notable alumni, particularly in the arts. George Michael, jazz musician Courtney Pine and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts all went to Kingsbury. I started working at the school in 1998 and joined Facebook as a way of keeping in touch with my former students. What I discovered was that ex-students were doing extraordinary things like working in the government and in the city as lawyers and bankers. Our proximity to the city was very helpful for that, we are lucky to be well placed and we have some really talented students. On that basis I suggested that an Alumni Day become part of the Year 12 induction.
To organise the Alumni Day the first thing we had to do was reconnect with former students. Our partnership with Future First was crucial in making this happen.
Each year we invite lots of people but we’re always surprised by how many appear! Usually we can guarantee at least 20-30 from different periods in the school’s history, people going back to 1960s/70s, but also some A-Level students who have just left. This means students can benefit from the experience of recent leavers who can talk in more depth about A Levels, BTECs, university life and apprenticeships as well as those who have more experience of specific professions or even running their own businesses.
We bring in half the year group and do a morning session where the alumni introduce themselves and talk about their education and career routes. We then break out so the students have an opportunity to talk to people in sectors that particularly interest them. We break this up with music and poetry performances by former students. I then bring the group back and draw on one or two alumni to go into more detail about their experiences in a Q&A format. We then repeat this with the other half of the year.
This year students heard from Christina Kumar, a qualified solicitor who is taking a year out to travel to the Philippines and fight against cyber-sex trafficking and Suraj Gosai and Jordan Douglas who have started their own, hugely successful online e-sports business. We also had two apprentices, which was great because it represented alternative routes to university. It was particularly useful for students to hear from people who had made careers out of cyber security, as it showed them how the job market can change. When those people were at school their jobs simply didn’t exist.
Looking at our Year 13s, I can see that the Alumni Day has had an enormous impact on them. It gave them role models, targets to aspire to and an insight into professions that they might not otherwise have considered. Students formed relationships which meant that they became part of a larger network, in some cases this even led to work experience placements. One thing we’re very proud of is that we are a state school but we have an incredibly strong networks so our current students know that they’re following in great footsteps.
Our alumni network helps us to dispel any apathy or poverty of aspiration. We can tell that the students see themselves having exciting futures.
The tangible benefits of our alumni network are really exciting. A group of students will be visiting the Foreign Office as a result of contact with one of our former students. Some girls last year gained experience in a former student’s commercial property business in Mayfair. This year we were granted an offer of work experience in a set of barristers’ chambers. So many students have had their eyes opened to career paths as a direct result of meeting alumni. One of our students just got into the Pathways to Law widening participation programme at LSE, which was something they heard about on Alumni Day.
For any student who is serious about going into law, we now have a huge network of students who studied Law or Politics. Our head girl last year is now at Queen Mary London and was able to meet with former students who went to Oxford and Cambridge to study Law, and one who now works in the government legal service. It allows students to develop their networks and it’s become a Kingsbury tradition to look out for each other. I should add that former students also visit annually to help students with their UCAS applications and this year, a former student who is Oxford graduate, contributed to our mock interviews for our current Oxbridge cohort.