As chance would have it I was driving in to work on #ALevelResults day when up popped a podcast about entrepreneurs who had left school with few or no qualifications.
‘Education and Entrepreneurs’ was the title of an episode of The Bottom Line, the excellent Evan Davis business conversation show from BBC Radio 4. You can find this show and a lot more besides here
As usual there were three guests sharing their experiences in relation to the shows theme. They were:
- Jo Malone, the CEO of Jo Loves, who left school with no qualifications at all.
- Mark Featherstone-Witty who set up the Brit School and is now the CEO of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) who has 1 ‘A’ Level (though at one point he ran a successful business for students wanting to cram before taking or re-taking 2, 3 or 4 ‘A’ Levels).
- Gary Grant, CEO of the toy retailer The Entertainer, who has just one ‘O’ Level (GCSE) in mathematics.
The show’s conversation ranged far and wide as the guests talked about the specific events and situations that led to them starting up their respective ventures. They reflected on what had motivated them; whether they would have taken the risks they did if circumstances had been different; whether there was something special about the DNA of an entrepreneur or not. All fascinating stuff.
Right at the end of the programme Evan asked a question which elicited the most interesting answer of all.
All of his guests had failed at school after battling with dyslexia, teachers who had humiliated or ridiculed them and a curriculum they just couldn’t connect with.
“So what”, asked Evan, “would you say to the parents of a child who was struggling at school now?”
Gary Grant said something that really resonated with me as it chimes with so much that we are wrestling with at Bromford.
“I would urge every parent to find out what your children love and what they are good at. Do not focus on what they’re struggling with. I would say, believe in your children. There will be an amazing skill or talent in your child. Find out what it is. And tell your child not to be put down by people who tell them ‘that can’t be done'”.
Too much about the world of social housing and the welfare state focusses on what people are struggling with; the things they can’t do. Not enough attention is paid to the things people love or the gifts and talents that every one of us has. Too many people are told what they can’t do, what they mustn’t do and what they will never achieve.
Luckily for my 18 year old daughter, who had found out her #ALevelResults half an hour earlier, the people around her (at home and at school) had learned to turn down the volume on their ‘if only you asked more questions in class’ and their ‘it would be great if you spoke up more in lessons’ and their ‘it’s a shame you’re so quiet’.
She can’t run or hit a ball. She doesn’t act or write poems. She doesn’t party or tell funny jokes.
But she will lose her self for hours while creating a wonderful painting of a forest.
She can turn a string of numbers and symbols into a thing of beauty.
And she has fallen in love with psychology.