Rachel Mullins, Careers & Post-16 Transitions Manager at Wickersley School and Sports College, tells us why former students are so important in helping to inspire current students.
Wickersley is the biggest school in Rotherham with over 2000 students, including a Sixth Form, so students range from age 11-18. It’s a very successful school, in the top high achieving schools in South Yorkshire. The school is still a comprehensive with a mixed selection of students with varying abilities.
We wanted to work with alumni because we’ve always had a culture where students really do value Wickersley so there have always been former students coming back to help in school and support our current students.
Personally, I took a group on a trip to Sheffield University and one of the student ambassadors happened to be an ex-Wickersley student. Just seeing the impact she made on the students compared to the other student ambassadors was so great to see and I saw first-hand the difference alumni could make. So with a thriving alumni community we believed we could really inspire our current students.
During our first few months of working with Future First we focused on using the online portal and understanding the key steps needed to build our alumni network, for example, signing up recent leavers at results day or using social media to reach out to former students.
My favourite portal feature so far is the mailbox; I really like being able to follow conversations and see who’s emailing into one central place. So even if it’s not me who’s sent the email I can recognise names and it’s nice to see who’s keeping in touch. The toolkit is also great with great resources that save the school a job such as the business cards and posters.
Our alumni events are great too, we had some HeppSY+ workshops back in May which were fantastic. I couldn’t believe we had that calibre of students coming back, it was great. The content was great and really interactive – even if the students weren’t directly wanting to go into a job that one of the alumni were doing, they still had the chance to ask so many questions on their journey to get there, why they made certain decisions etc. It was really interactive, not too long and easy to access for the students.
The workshop had a really positive impact on the students, they clearly enjoyed it and identified with it. I collected some feedback from the students and here are what two of them said:
“Talking to the former students and asking questions was really interesting and it helped me make informed decisions about my future” – Imogen
“Meeting ex-students was really good - It has helped teach me what kind of skills you need for different jobs” - Jess