Back to School: Ex-pupils inspire today's pupils

Past successes can be key to great futures

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Kingsmead Academy is a shining example of how state schools can encourage alumni to return and deliver inspiration to current students – thanks largely to a teacher who can remember past pupils from as long as three decades ago.

Maroulla Richardson, who is in charge of the alumni programme at the 1,300-student school in Enfield, north London, has worked in its classrooms for 31 years.

She has made sure to keep addresses of former pupils so that she can ask them to give aspirational talks to the current students on how they could pursue their careers.

Even she was glad of help from Future First, however, in tracking down some of the former students who had eluded her network.

One of the most sought-after ex-students is George Rhoden. A founder of the National Black Police Association, he has proved to be  an expert in explaining about opportunities in the police force, particularly to ethnic-minority students – and has recently spent time in Mexico working on helping the country with its rampant drugs problems.

“He’s just retired as a senior policeman,” says Ms Richardson. “He’s someone I’ve got to know particularly well and he’s now become a school governor. He’s done so much with his life – he’s met Barack Obama.”

The school serves a hugely diverse community in the city suburb – with many of its pupils coming from ethnic-minority groups and using English as their second language at home.

Many of the pupils bring with them the “pupil premium” – the extra cash the Government gives for every pupil entitled to a free school meal to help with their education.

Through the alumni scheme, the gifted and talented pupils are given encouragement to apply to the more elite Russell Group universities or to take up work experience places to gain an insight into possible careers.

Every year group from ages 11 to 18 has assemblies at which alumni, from a range of employment backgrounds, return to the school to do a question-and-answer session with the pupils.

“There are a high number of  students who say how this has  motivated them to work harder and fulfil their dreams,” says Ms Richardson.

“Children who live in the same streets and come from the same area as consultants, say, and students who have gone on to Cambridge.”

Kingsmead features its alumni scheme on the school’s website,  urging alumni to contact them so that they can be interviewed to build up a profile on a private website that Future First is designing for it.

The job is not yet complete, however. Ms Richardson mentions she is yet to lure one of the school’s former alumni, actress Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in EastEnders, to return.

- by Richard Gardner

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