UK Social Mobility and the School to Work Transition

18/10/2013 10:52 BST | Updated 17/12/2013 10:12 GMT

If you go to private school you are 10 times more likely to believe people like you will be really successful than if you go to state school.

This statistic undermines confidence in the amazing education system we have, one that's working hard to see all students fulfil their potential.

This stat is influenced by a lot of factors. The engagement of former students alone can't and won't transform career confidence for all young people. However, they do represent an incredible hidden treasure.

In private schools former students guest lecture, they give inspiring careers talks, they give money, time and invaluable work experience placements. With a limited number of exceptions this has not previously happened in state schools.

It's not that state school students don't want to give back - there are 3-5 million work experience providers, career role models or mentors who say they would support their old schools if asked, they are just never are. In fact, former state school students are today more than 8 times less likely to have heard from their old school in the last six months than private school students. That's why we've teamed up with the i newspaper and the National Union of Students to alter these stats.

Future First's plan is simple: to build, or inspire alumni communities to form around all schools and colleges. Help schools and colleges maintain contact with former students after they leave. Run campaigns to find former students who left in years gone by, so they can join these communities too. As these databases grow (currently we have about 50,000 people across 450 schools and colleges - so around 100+ former students each), schools can begin to mobilize this pool of volunteers, bringing them in as career and educational role models, work experience providers and mentors.

It's not a complicated process. Over 450 schools have signed up in the last 18 months. There is a 90%+ retention rate amongst paying schools, and we've had 50,000 former students and recent graduates sign up to their networks. Polling shows us there's a wealth of opportunities if schools can organize to take advantage of them.

Former students won't transform the low confidence in state schools compared to private schools overnight or alone, but they'll help a lot on the way. Before Future First launched only 1% of state schools and colleges had an alumni network. Today, less than 5 years later, it's around 15%. We intend to change statistics on a national level, and we have only just begun.

Join your school network and read more about our campaign at:

Or have a look at our TEDx Talk at