A Royal Farewell to Futures Director

12th May, 2023 Read time: Two minutes

Sandra Cowley, Director of Strategy, Growth & Partnerships of the Futures Group has been recognised for her contributions to education and children's services over the last 25 years. This recognition saw her invited as a guest to the first 2023 Buckingham Palace Garden Party, just one month ahead of her retirement.

For nearly two decades of Sandra’s early career, she worked in many sectors and felt no real purpose. Until 1998 when working in manufacturing she was asked by her employer to visit a local school to speak to GCSE students about textiles as a study subject. It was here that her passion for education and guidance was unlocked, leading to a long career dedicated to helping others reach their potential.  

“I made sure I never lost sight of how I felt leaving school not knowing what my career would look like. Regardless of my job title, I have always made it a priority to go back into secondary schools to connect with young people, the same as I did that day in 1998.” 


“The air was filled with excitement” 

Established during the reign of Queen Victoria, Garden Parties are an important way for members of the Royal Family to speak to a broad range of people from all walks of life, all of whom have made a positive impact in their community.   

On the 3rd May 2023, the Palace gates were opened to their honorary guests. The Party officially begun when royal hosts, The King and The Queen Consort, arrived accompanied by The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and The Duke of Kent.  

Sandra tells us while music was played by the military brass band, members of the Royal Family circulated among the guests through 'lanes'. Each taking a different route and random presentations are made so that everyone has an equal chance of speaking to a Member of the Royal Family. 

“It was very uplifting the air was filled with excitement and it was a wonderful sunny warm day. There was lots of laughter but it felt quite calm and casual although everyone was in beautiful outfits and talking amongst each other in small groups. I think everyone that had been invited felt the enormity of having the opportunity to be there and reminding themselves it would be a day they would never forget.”  

“Standing in the gardens with my husband and meeting many other people who had been nominated to attend, really was a life highlight for me. In that moment I reflected on the memories I have stood at the front gates with my family as a young girl but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get the opportunity to be on the inside of those same gates. As I retire at the end of June to have been nominated to attend was a great way to leave on an absolute high.” 

"Find a role that feeds your soul."

We asked Sandra what her final piece of advice would be to someone looking to follow in her footsteps.  

“For me I never set out to be recognised for the career I have had, that has been a very unexpected  reward, so my advice to anyone at any time in their career would be find a job or career that you are incredibly passionate about and a role that feeds your soul.” 

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