Future Frontiers was born from the belief that all young people have high aspirations. But too many miss out on the guidance, networks and opportunities they need to turn these aspirations into a reality.
For Dominic Baker, Future Frontiers, founder at CEO, the mismatch between aspiration and achievement amongst young people from disadvantaged backgrounds was all too clear.
Here is his story.
‘On a personal level, I had mixed experiences growing up. Until the age of nine, I lived in Surrey with four brothers and sisters - my dad was a parish priest. But just after my ninth birthday, my parents split up and my mum took us all off to live near my grandmother in Bedfordshire without my dad knowing. I didn’t really understand what was going on. We’d visited there a lot, but suddenly we were living there, and it was very different to the suburban, gentle place I’d grown up in.’
‘My mum was a single mum with five kids, we were all on free school meals, there obviously wasn’t much money, and the secondary school we went to was pretty rough.’
“I remember at about 13, asking one of my teachers how to become a doctor, and he replied, “you can only be a doctor if your parents are rich and you’re really smart, and you have neither of those.”
‘I felt pretty isolated, my dad wasn’t there and dealing with my parents’ break-up was pretty brutal. But the one thing that kept me going was this idea that I was going to become a doctor. It was a bit of a fantasy - I loved biology, and thought I was going to be a heart surgeon. And I remember at about 13, asking one of my teachers how to become a doctor, and he replied, “you can only be a doctor if your parents are rich and you’re really smart, and you have neither of those.”’
‘By the age of 15, I’d had enough. My dad had become chaplain of a private school in Wales and I left my mum and family and went to his school for three years. It was a big thing to move away. My family were very surprised. But I knew what I was doing was going to get me to where I wanted to be, which, in the end, turned out not to be medicine, but education.
‘Straight out of university, I worked at a college in Cardiff, and it was full of the kind of students we’re focussing on now, studying for level 2, level 3 vocational qualifications..’
‘Attendance and engagement was appalling - at one point, the government was testing paying them to show up! I could see they had potential, but hadn’t really thought about their futures. They weren’t excited and they saw no link between college and future opportunities.’
“Again, here I saw young people with high aspirations, and heaps of potential, but there was nothing in place to nurture their ambitions and help them understand what they needed to to to turn them into a reality.”
‘I then became a teacher through the Teach First Programme. That was 2011, at the time when the then Education Secretary Michael Gove was dismantling careers education, so there was none at all in the school I worked in. Despite being less than 2 miles from the City, again, here I saw young people with high aspirations, and heaps of potential, but nothing in place to nurture their ambitions and help them understand what they needed to to to turn them into a reality.
‘In my second year there, I managed to get a tiny amount of funding for careers advice, mostly because I was a Science teacher and I wanted them to engage with Science in a more meaningful way. I sat them all down for a one to one, and it made a huge difference. I think a big part of it was them knowing someone wanted more for them. That core message, and the focus on personalised guidance is still the foundation of Future Frontiers now. ‘
“I sat them all down for a one to one, and it made a huge difference. I think a big part of it was them knowing someone wanted more for them.”
In 2014, Future Frontiers won the Teach First Innovation Award prize. This support allowed Dominic to leave his job and work on Future Frontiers full time. 7 years later, Future Frontiers has a team of 17 and has supported over four and a half thousand young people across 86 schools.
Future Frontiers will support 1600 students this academic year through partnerships with 50 schools and 80 businesses. Six hours of coaching can transform a child’s chances.