The return of the alumni
supposed to make the most of these potential philanthropists?
At one school cited by Future First, £40,000 has so far been raised to tackle social mobility. Robert Clack School, in Dagenham, London, began working with the charity in 2012 and now has 600 alumni members whose donations have allowed students from disadvantaged backgrounds to travel to university open days and undertake compulsory aptitude tests.
Alex Shapland-Howes, managing director of Future First, says that, while it’s taking time, more and more state schools are buying into the concept.
“We are now coming up to our fifth birthday and, when we started, less than one per cent of schools were engaging their alumni in this way. That figure is now nearer 20 per cent.
“But aside from the financial benefits, as soon as students hear that the people stood at the front of an assembly are former pupils, you see their eyes light up. That connection of having grown up in the same area, having been to the same school, sat in the same seat, maybe even having had the same teachers, is hugely powerful, particularly if you are from a less advantaged background.”
According to Shapland-Howes, 75 per cent of students leave alumni sessions saying they are going to work harder in their next lesson, simply because they better understand the link between what they are doing now and their futures.
The core programme offered by Future First helps schools build an alumni community. The charity puts the infrastructure in place and then supports staff in building that network from scratch. The second part of the programme focuses on delivering alumni-based careers workshops.
Alex Greenhalgh, assistant head at Wheatley Park School in Oxford, says that taking part in the scheme really made a difference to sixth formers.
“During our first event in June, we had six alumni visit the school from different industries including finance, banking and marketing.
“We do have careers advisers working with the school.”
Funmi Odusanya, a graduate of the Harris Academy, Bermondsey, now a mechanical engineer at AMEC, hoped that her visit would inspire girls to continue with the sciences.
“When I was at school, I was fortunate to have people outside of education who supported me; it’s good for young students to have someone to look up to – there aren’t many visible professional role models in society, and having those figures in your life can really help.
“For me, this was just one way of giving back to my school and I hope I was able to inspire some of the students while I was there.”
While the research published today points to the financial benefits of engaging with a community of alumni, state schools could also benefit from the time offered by these leavers.
As Shapland-Howes points out: “When we ask people whether they would have benefited from alumni engagement at school, the answer is overwhelmingly ‘yes’. If in 10 years’ time the charity doesn’t exist, but every school is working with alumni, we would count this as an enormous success.”