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Cover story


RAISING STUDENT ASPIRATIONS


Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, Essex, worked with Future First to develop a network of nearly 300 alumni, many of whom offer regular support by running workshops, speaking about their careers, and mentoring pupils. ‘We wanted to bring alumni


back to help raise the aspirations of current students and increase our cultural capital of knowledge, awareness and skills,’ says the school’s head of future pathways, Dami Afuape. ‘We have 2,000 students, aged 11-18, many from backgrounds where no one has been to university. We also have higher than average numbers of students who are EAL, pupil premium and receiving free school meals. So a key goal for us was making higher education and career options seem achievable. ‘FutureFirst helped us connect


to past pupils through LinkedIn – and the response has taken on a momentum of its own! In particular, younger alumni have been keen to provide insights into different career paths and boost our students’ confidence.’ One former pupil, who left


Sydney Russell six years ago in Year 12 to take an apprenticeship route to university, is now working on climate change policy for the Cabinet Office. She has joined geography lessons to talk about her involvement in the 2021 UN climate change conference. Another young alumna has


given assembly talks about her work at international law firm Taylor Wessing, and intends to start an awareness-raising programme with young boys who are struggling at school. A group of alumni currently studying at the University of Cambridge ran a virtual law debate with pupils, while another alumni connection has led to offers of work experience at KPMG. ‘Our students have been


really inspired by having live interactions with professionals,’ says Dami, ‘and we’re looking forward to developing these activities further. We’ve only recently started exploring the opportunities for fundraising, but already one alumnus has donated a large sum to help fund our new gym and another has provided pro bono legal advice for parents.’


‘Nurturing relationships is


an important part of building a


donation culture’


FundEd SPRING 2021 17


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