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Lord Porter is the Leader of South Holland District Council and a former Chairman of the Local Government Association.

We all know that the Conservative Party is the party of real opportunity for all. For decades now we have worked to create a society where anyone who wants to succeed and is prepared to work for it can do so – no matter what their background.

If I can make it into the House of Lords after a career as a bricklayer there’s no limit to what children in our schools today can achieve.

The message that every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter what their start in life, is also central to the charity, Future First’s, philosophy and at the heart of their new crowdfunding effort to help set up alumni networks in every state school in the country.

The support I needed to succeed didn’t come when I was at school but much later when I entered politics. Politicians get support from their peer group all the time and that is especially true of the Local Government Association. Unfortunately, there is still much we need to do to inspire children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the belief that they can succeed. Often, the alumni networks that can provide support and advice from those who have done it before don’t exist.

So, I’m delighted to be supporting Future First’s effort at such a crucial time, when the confidence and resilience of our young people is likely to have been knocked by the chaos of the coronavirus crisis. There’s never been a more important time to give our young people the reassurance they have every chance of pursuing their dreams.

As many of us who went to a state school will know, it’s very easy to think the odds are stacked against you – that all the best careers out there are only open to young people lucky enough to go to independent schools.

In truth, the reason so many young people do well – whether in the independent sector or the state sector – is down to belief. They know other people – just like them – have left their school and gone on to achieve great things. That sense of belief gives them the confidence and resilience to go out and succeed for themselves.

Unlike their counterparts from more privileged backgrounds, 35 per cent of disadvantaged young people don’t know anyone in a job they want to do. It’s frankly a scandal that so many young people just don’t know that there is a world of opportunity out there. That’s where Future First can step in and help.

South Holland District Council and Future First are piloting the Crowdfunder to see if the community can help build these networks. If successful, it will be rolled out nationally so every child in every school will be able to benefit from the experience of former pupils who have left before them.

Creating these networks in every school won’t just be good news for pupils – it will be good news for councils too, because these pupils will be the local workers of the future. And with a successful workforce comes economic growth and prosperity.

It’s a cause that every Conservative councillor in the country should get behind.

There are more details of Future First’s crowdfunder appeal here.

7 comments for: Gary Porter: To level up, we need alumni networks for state schools

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