by Amy Finch, Head of Innovation and Development at Future First


What are your memories of school? Whether you loved every second or couldn’t wait to escape, there is no denying the strong connections we all have with the place that saw us through our teenage years.

The organisation I work for, Future First, taps into the emotional connection we all have to our alma maters, helping state schools and colleges across the UK to build an alumni network to help current pupils.  State school alumni are no less likely to “give back” to their old schools that private school alumni – it’s just that traditionally they haven’t been asked.

I started my career as a teacher in South London, and I saw many students bursting with enthusiasm and talent but lacking the connections and inside-knowledge to understand how that might lead on to a great career or university place. If you don’t know anyone in a job you’d like to do, it’s very hard to envision what your future might look like – let alone take the right steps to make it happen…

Future First Illustration

So, why get in touch and give back?

1.    They need you: The UK has one of the poorest records on social mobility in all OCED. Almost half of students from low income families say that they don’t know anyone in a job they’d like to do.  In the university sector, despite huge efforts by access departments, students on free school meals are still half as likely to attend a Russell Group university. As an alumnus, you are an amazing resource for your old school to tap into in order to start changing this picture.

2.    They relate to you:  If you come back to an assembly or workshop, you don’t have to be a Sheryl Sandburg or Alan Sugar. Students appreciate hearing from people that they can relate to, about your achievements but also about your challenges and what you wish you’d known at their age.  When I introduce alumni to the young people we work with, they’re always surprised – “Really, they went here?” That shared history builds a connection that you simply don’t get with other volunteering projects.

3.    It’s quick & simple: Connecting with your old school allows you to volunteer without the need for a regular commitment. Schools often host assemblies that allow their volunteers to share their experiences and still be in the office by 9.30am. Others can support more regularly to build motivation of pupils over a sustained period. If you’ve moved away, there’s the opportunity for e-mentoring, and we’ve had alumni Skype into workshops from as far away as India and South Africa!

4.    It’s good for business: Careers advice is just one on a very long list of things that teachers need to squeeze in to their jam-packed days, and they can’t be experts in every job.  Alumni volunteers can help bridge that gap between school and the world of work.  

5.    You’ll have fun: One of our recent volunteers in Thornton Heath summed it up by saying “I wish I’d had workshops like this when I was 15 – such a valuable experience.” Many former students take the chance to catch up with old teachers or find out what’s been going on at the school since they left.   As well as being a rewarding opportunity, giving back to your old school is also an enjoyable one!

We’ve signed up 100,000 volunteers so far but we want to make sure every school can draw on the resource of a talented former student network. To sign up to your old school, please take five minutes to register with us at

You can also find out more information about the work we do by following us on Twitter at @futurefirstorg or by emailing


Published: 11 June 2015