i's campaign receives backing from Government

Minister supports involvement, praising 'brilliant idea'

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The Independent Online

i's campaign encouraging people to return to their old schools to give pupils inspiration and advice on careers has received Government backing, as the number of new volunteers soars into the thousands.

Elizabeth Truss, minister at the Department of Education, said she thought the Back to School initiative, run by the charity Future First and supported by NUS, was "a brilliant idea".

"I really hope as many people as possible get involved," Ms Truss said. "I would love to go back to my old school – in part to see how my old teachers have changed.

"But more importantly it's immensely valuable to current students to see the opportunities that are out there for them. And who better to help them see that than the people who has been to the same school where they are now?

"It's all about giving children as many opportunities as possible during their formative years."

Her backing for the campaign came as Future First announced that i's support has led to a huge jump in volunteers, with more than 2,000 former state school pupils signing up in the past week.

Last night, Jake Hayman, Future First's chief executive, said the number of alumni joining the movement signalled the success of the "first national campaign to get former students engaged in supporting current students at their old schools".

He added: "Forty schools and colleges have been in touch to discuss how they can make better use of their alumni and 2,500 young people have benefited from inspiring events this week alone."

Back to School "will become a regular feature from now on" said Mr Hayman, calling for people to continue coming forward.

"It's the first time a campaign like this has been run and it's been more successful than we could possibly have hoped for – we've got the i and NUS to thank for that as well as our many other employer and student union partners," he said.

Nurses, consultants, marketing managers, barristers and musicians have flocked to their old schools, while alumni taking part have included the former England footballer Ledley King. "It's important for me to let them know that I grew up just the same as them," said King.

Earlier this week a YouGov poll indicated that one in 10 people would be "very likely" to give careers talks or offer current pupils work experience placements.

Private schools have long pushed the importance of the so-called "old boys network" that nurtures future talent by giving students access to the experiences of school leavers. Fee-paying schools frequently invite leavers back to give talks, offer career help and work experience placements.

Labour's Stephen Twigg, who until recently served as the party's shadow Education Secretary, also described the campaign as "brilliant" while visiting his former classrooms at Southgate School in Enfield, north London.

Report by Sam Masters

Mrs Clegg inspires girls

Efforts to recruit 15,000 women from a wide range of occupations to visit state schools and inspire girls to aim high in their careers have been launched by Miriam Clegg.

The international lawyer, who is the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and is known professionally as Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (pictured centre), yesterday attended a speed networking event for 100 girls from state secondary schools to speak about their career ambitions.

The session was part of the "Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women" campaign, which aims to give 250,000 girls access to advice about the range of jobs available to them, encouraging them to overcome sexism in the workplace.

"Through taking women into state schools to talk face-to-face with girls around the country this campaign will help to remove the stereotypes and absurd labels that still today surround women," she said.

Report by Chloe Hamilton