i Editor's Letter: Why we're launching a back to school campaign

State schools can emulate the successes of private alumni networks

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The Independent Online

Last month I asked you: a) should i campaign, and b) if so, for what? A shrill crusade of the sort seen elsewhere on Fleet Street would obviously be unacceptable and out of keeping with i’s tone – which I hope is respectful, and involves you in a lively discussion about the paper. You and we prize our impartiality. “Keep your distance!” urged Dennis Gittins of Runcorn. “It’s what I like about you.” Norwich’s Jo Anderson, meanwhile, wants to see i campaign but adds: “I agree, no hectoring.”

So we changed the question a bit: is  there a project that’s politically neutral, would benefit from being brought to public attention and be of interest to our readers? The answer arrived in the form of a smart, polite young man called Jake Hayman, who came to our office to tell us about the work of the charity Future First. Its goal: improve opportunities for state school students by arranging for ex-pupils to come back and talk to them. Or, as they put it, “inspire and inform young people about their futures”. With such a tough job market and almost 1 million young people unemployed, we liked the sound of that.

Public schools frequently invite  old boys and girls back to give talks, offer career help, work experience and an insight beyond the formal  curriculum. But why should this be the preserve of a private education?

The good news is that state schools can emulate this success. The Back to School project we launch today (pages 20-21) helps people from all trades and professions to return to their old schools to give inspirational talks or offer practical career advice.

We kick off our coverage with me visiting my alma mater to discover what sixth-formers want to know about life beyond the school gates. I’m pleased that various public figures are already coming forward to support the campaign.

Please let us know your thoughts on i@independent.co.uk.

Visit ind.pn/backtoschool for more information