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Alumni networks instil resilience in challenging times: Future First research

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@TeacherTapp research for @FutureFirstOrg with alumni reveals what learning would best support students:  58% said resilience and confidence and 67% said motivation and attitude to learning


Education Secretary and stars of stage, screen and radio praise charity marking 10 years harnessing alumni experience.

Teachers in state schools value former student volunteers to help teach resilience and confidence according to research by the national education charity Future First.

In a survey carried out by Teacher Tapp on behalf of Future First, state school primary and secondary school teachers were asked what themes or topics they felt alumni could best support students with. 58% said resilience and confidence and 67% said motivation and attitude to learning.

The survey was carried out to mark Future First’s tenth anniversary of enabling state schools and colleges to harness the talents of alumni who can broaden current students’ work horizons and motivate current students to academic success and confidence. The charity has worked with more than a thousand UK state schools and colleges and has an army of 260,000 former students signed up to act as relatable role models and volunteer careers support.

The survey findings reflect the remote support alumni of all ages and careers pathways have offered schools during the pandemic, from reports from the NHS frontline and lockdown recipes to videos proving to students they can overcome setbacks and succeed, regardless of their background.

The survey also showed only 4% of teachers strongly agreed they felt equipped to advise young people on the diversity of careers available today. Younger teachers felt more confident about offering careers advice with 49% of teachers in their 20s agreeing or strongly agreeing they feel equipped to offers careers advice compared with only 32% in their 50s.

Justin Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Future First, said the findings endorsed the value of alumni in helping students learn resilience in challenging times, more relevant during the COVID 19 pandemic than ever, and that teachers were looking for support to fill the information gap on careers advice.

‘Life is not linear and too many young people don’t have access to careers information or advice on overcoming setbacks. In this uncertain time, volunteers and alumni role models can help students develop the resilience to bounce back from challenges, an essential life skill.

‘Our research also reveals that teachers feel under equipped to offer in depth career guidance and are looking for support. Alumni volunteers help fill the careers information gap to build confidence, boost motivation and improve the life chances of young people across the UK.’

The Secretary of State for Education, the Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP, welcomed the charity’s work setting up state school alumni communities which work towards the priority that a young person’s start in life does not limit their future.

He said, ‘Talent is evenly spread in this country, but opportunity is not. Every child, in every part of the country, should have a fair chance. My priority is to drive up standards and ensure that our children and young people can have the best start in life, making the most of their time and opportunities in education and going on to lead successful lives, wherever they are from. To be in this role and to be able to be part of delivering this agenda is something that really excites me.’

Future First has also been supported by stars of radio, stage and screen.

Iain Dale, presenter on LBC Radio said, ‘Social mobility in the UK is a real concern. It’s important that every students believes they can achieve a career of their choice and know what they need to do. But they can only know what a particular job involves if someone tells them, and someone inspires them to reach for the skies. Not everyone has access to the opportunities to learn about particular fields. Alumni from state schools who act as relatable role models can broaden young people’s jobs horizons, improve their confidence about entering higher education and the workplace and help them develop the self-belief that they can succeed, whatever their background.’

Actor Doug Colling, who was appearing in Dear Evan Hansen in London’s West End, said, ’There is a whole world of opportunities out there to discover. Finding your way through the options and forging a path that suits you is exciting but can be tricky. By taking former students back into the classroom Future First is doing a fantastic job of showing young people the huge range paths they can take to help broaden their horizons and give them the confidence to achieve their dream career.’

Actor Shaun Williamson, who starred in BBC TV’s EastEnders, said, ‘It’s a great idea to link former and current students. Hearing from alumni who have sat at the same school desk will give young people the confidence to believe in themselves and go for their dream job. No one should be held back because they don’t know the right steps to take or how to achieve the career of their choice and alumni will broaden their work horizons and help them on their way.’


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