The re­turn of the alumni

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

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.”


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