State schools need alumni networks every bit as much as private schools

In January, Jake Hayman – Director of Future First – won the” Top of the Policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s event on skills chaired by Michael White of the Guardian, with the idea of creating an alumni network for every state school in the country.

Future First’s vision is that every state school should be supported by a thriving, engaged alumni community that helps each school to do more for its students.

State school alumni are no less likely to want to “give back” than private school alumni. It’s just that state schools haven’t traditionally been so good at asking. Future First is changing that.

Future First’s own research shows that 39% of 16 to 19 year olds who went to a state school do not know anyone in a job they’d like to do. Yet, there’s an untapped pool of over 10 million UK adults who would be willing to return to their old schools to talk about work or higher education. Future First was founded in 2009 to help reconnect former students with their old school’s community as role models for current students.  Successful alumni return to school to raise awareness of the huge range of possibilities for success in the world of work and the key skills needed to achieve it.

We know it works. 75% of students at our in-school alumni events say that hearing from alumni in jobs made them want to work harder in their lessons.

By April 2012, we had taken a leap toward realising that vision with the launch of a new nationwide service. It’s an intelligent database service that helps state schools to build alumni networks from the ground up by keeping in touch with school leavers, as well as retrospectively signing up older alumni. We are hugely grateful to the cabinet office, the Social Investment Business and ZING for their support in making this happen.

In the first three weeks after its launch, the value of the service to state schools across the country was demonstrated with 500 schools rushing to sign up to the service. Our aim is for every state school to have an alumni network within 10 years.

Our new service helps schools track their alumni’s progress after they leave school and to ensure that they remain part of the school community. We then support schools to mobilise this army of volunteers in a whole host of ways.

We will continue to promote the use of alumni as relatable role models as we have since Future First’s foundation; however, we are also helping schools to exploit the other ways to get the most out of these alumni volunteers. Former students can act as mentors or e-mentors; offer work experience opportunities to current students; volunteer to support in-school activities, such as reading or sports; or potentially become a school governor.

There is also the really exciting opportunity to work with schools to help them fundraise for extra-curricular activities. Our research with YouGov identified an additional £75m+ of potential donations available to UK state schools from their former students.

We’re excited to be leading a culture change that will see giving back to the school and community that gave you the chances to get ahead in the first place become the norm, and will see more state school students equipped to get ahead from the moment they step through those school gates for the last time.

Jake Hayman is director of Future First and CEO of Future First’s sister organisation, Future First Communities

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2 Responses to “State schools need alumni networks every bit as much as private schools”

  1. stephen says:

    My state school was a horror. I was actively discouraged from applying to Oxbridge, I felt at the time due to some sort of reverse snobbery. Well I ended up as a researcher at Cambridge via a lot of places in between.

    I don’t think they need money as much as decent teachers with the kid’s welfare at heart. How you get that god only knows.

  2. MickleMas says:

    The importance of alumni networks in State schools! What a load of nonsense! I don’t know what planet you people are on but it isn’t planet ‘Make-a-real-difference’. However pleasant and comforting it might be for (some) schools to encourage inputs from ex-pupils, it falls pathetically short of improving educational outcomes. Your suggestion is both trite and irrelevant. Matching pupils’ educational attainments with their abilities is the consequence of maximising each of these parameters: good teachers trained by expert professionals, professional and competent heads of schools, knowledgeable and supportive politicians, supportive and interested parents, willing and eager pupils. State schools have a poor history in reaching proficient standards in most of the above – thanks to the indifference and incompetence of successive Secretaries of State for Education. Presentday State education would be far superior to the private sector if the same resources and expertise had been invested. Compare the 1996 Olympics (1 UK gold) with 2012 (29 gold) and that tells you that miracles will happen with the right funding, expert coaching and dedicated athletes. It isn’t rocket science.

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