Professionals offer careers insights

Written by: Emma Lee Potter | Published:
Back to school: (from top) Judge Wendy Joseph and students from Cathays High School; Ed Miliband at Haverstock School; Tracey Dennison with year 12 students at Greenshaw High (Images: Jack Woodhouse/Future First)

From politicians and plumbers to barristers and pharmacists, more than 130 state school alumni jumped at the chance to return to the classroom earlier this month.

The visits were part of Back to School Week, a nationwide campaign to inspire state school pupils and help them prepare for the world of work.

Those who signed up to return to their old schools and colleges included lawyers, architects, photographers, caterers and campaigners. Between them they led assemblies, gave careers talks and ran motivation and employability workshops.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who went back to his old school, Haverstock School in north London, told year 7 pupils about his career path, while schools minister Nick Gibb took part in a politics lesson at Roundhay School in Leeds.

Returning to Weatherhead High School in Liverpool, Olympic boxer Natasha Jonas told students how she had joined virtually every sports team during her time there, while judge Wendy Joseph invited students from Cathays High School in Cardiff to the Old Bailey in London, where they watched a trial and took part in a Q&A session with her.

Tracey Dennison, meanwhile, a director for a recruitment company, met with year 12 students during an employability session at Greenshaw High School in Sutton.

Back to School Week was organised by education charity Future First, which supports state schools in setting up alumni networks – with the aim of enlisting former students to act as role-models for the next generation. It is currently working with 400 state schools and colleges.

Research published by the charity to coincide with Back to School Week found that state school students are more pessimistic about their future job prospects than pupils at independent schools. It also showed that just 17 per cent of state school students regularly meet adults who are doing jobs they perceive as interesting, compared with 51 per cent of private school students.

Former Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert, who is executive chair of Future First, said there is a huge need to support state students in making the transition from school to work: “Every state school student should have the opportunity to succeed in life after school, regardless of their background,” she said.

“Many schools are already harnessing the skills and experience of alumni as role-models who inspire and motivate current students. If students see people like them have succeeded they are more likely to believe they can too. They work harder and have higher expectations of success. We want more schools to see the benefits of using their alumni as a powerful resource.”



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