18 August 2016

Rather than berating parents for wanting their children to do well, we need to reassess the way we look at education. Show the parents that great grades are not the be all and end all and certainly don’t call kids thickos!

A screenshot of Harry Mount's headline

A screenshot of Harry Mount’s headline

For parents reading Harry Mount’s article in the Telegraph today, I want to highlight that not passing exams does not make someone a failure. If anything, it spurs people on, it shows which areas they can excel in and it certainly adds another level of motivation. I know this because I failed A-Levels myself!

In his article, Mount calls for “middle-class parents to accept that some children are too thick for private school”.

There are so many things wrong with this statement.

I wholly agree that money won’t buy academic success, neither will bullying, which is what this article is doing.

Saying that 25 years ago, when privately educated children failed, parents accepted that it was the child’s fault not the teachers, is completely missing the point! It is neither a child nor teacher’s fault! It is the endemic failure of our education system to recognise the talents and successes of children who do not fit into the narrow remit of academic success.

I have to wonder if Mount has a chip on his shoulder, perhaps his experience in private education has left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. I also have to wonder what his teacher friend thinks of all of this.

Releasing such a negative story on the day that many teenagers will be receiving results that are below what they had hoped for is extraordinarily dangerous. These young people are looking at their next steps into the real world, have just had their confidence knocked and are now looking at a national newspaper article that calls those who fail ‘thickos’! Wow.

If you’re a parent or young person who has not had the day they expected, don’t panic. There’s something out there for you. Don’t get too nervous. Some of the most successful people in the world don’t have academic success behind them. Richard Branson is proud that he failed. I am proud that I failed, that I didn’t do well but I didn’t let it knock me; it spurred me on to do better, to prove people wrong.

Success does not depend upon academic success. When you are on your deathbed, you are not thinking about how many qualifications you’ve achieved; you’re thinking about the impact you’ve had on the world, how you’ve left it a better place than you found it.

We desperately need a change in attitude towards qualifications. As I’ve said before, Einstein sums it up perfectly: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

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