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AROPS Conference

Grace Cather reviews her experience at the recent 2017 AROPS (Association of Alumni Societies) conference.

On Saturday 13th May, Ginny Stephen and I attended the AROPS (Association of Representatives of Old Pupils' Societies) conference at Prior Park College in Bath. The day was a great oppurtunity for us both to meet with representatives from other old pupils' associations and hear about what they are doing.

The day began at 9.30 am with registration and coffee overlooking the stunning view of Bath from the College's portico. The conference was then opened by Prior Park Headmaster, James Murphy-O'Connor, and President of their alumni association, Terry Ilott, who explained the history of Prior Park, including the challenge of rebuilding their alumni database and archives after a terrible fire destroyed all their records in 1991. That's one challenge I am very glad we haven't had to deal with!

The first session of the day 'Working Together: Alumni Societies and Development Professionals' was led by Mark Coote, Director of External Relations and CEO of the Wells Cathedral School Foundation. Mark spoke about the increasing importance of fundraising to independent schools and of the need for the Development Office to have a good working relationship with the alumni association. He memorably used a great metaphor to describe the relationship between Alumni assocations and Development offices: he likened them to two halves of a walnut, both separate, with different roles and responsibilities, but both required for the walnut to work as a whole.

For the second and third sessions (punctuated by a tea break, and by a delicious lunch) we had the choice of two each from five different break out sessions to attend. Ginny chose to attend the Data Protection and Social Media for Associations sessions, whilst I went to the Events and Work Experience, Networking and Mentoring sessions.

The events session was a great chance to hear what other almuni assocations and schools arrange for their old pupils, which of them are working well and which they need advice boosting the numbers for. Many lovely ideas were discussed such as boarding house reunions, performance days (where a musical recital or play is practised during the day and then performed for friends and family in the evening) or perhaps one of the most popular ideas mentioned - St Columbus College's Rambling Society. A lot of ideas were also discussed on how to increase attendance at events and involvement with committees, such as tailoring events by location or activity and holding meetings via conference call to save travel. If anyORs have thoughts on this, please let me know.

The networking session was led by Tracey Ahmet from The Rugbeian Society, who talked about their very popular internship programme. Each year Old Rugbeians who run their own businesses offer internships to Rugbeians aged 19-25. The society handles the applications and formal interview process before assigning applicants to companies. This sparked further discussion on how we can involve former pupils more with careers evenings and internships. Of the ideas that were mentioned, I'm pleased to say we are already working on, or already have plans or events in place. One idea that I particularly liked was Prior Park's suggestion of careers speed dating. In this instance, rather than the pupils moving around at their own pace and only talking to representatives for careers they are already thinking about, they are given a short amount of time rotating through several different careers, giving them the chance to explore areas they may have never thought about.

The final question and answer session of the day was, as perhaps could be expected, largely based around the upcoming changes in data protections laws, but there were also lively discussions on archives and on engaging with more recent school leavers.

All in all, it was a very useful, informative and interesting day.