Entrepreneur Richard Branson caused some controversy this week by saying that kids who didn’t pass their exams shouldn’t worry too much – reflecting on the fact that it didn’t do him any harm.
Although nobody would advise their offspring to go out of their way to flunk their GCSEs or ‘A’ Levels, there is much truth in what Branson says.
Of the many successful entrepreneurs I have had the privilege of meeting over the years, the majority of them will confess that they were under-achievers as far as academia is concerned.
In my own business, some of the more talented team members have been those who may have struggled at school, whilst ‘Graduates’ have tended to be somewhat of a disappointment.
The truth is, the ability to pass an exam is a skill possessed by some and not others; and in reality, they tell you little about the individuals skill set as they enter adult life.
Of course, the failure to hit your examination targets can prevent you from entering further education or University – but that doesn’t mean that other avenues of opportunity are closed to you too.
And herein lies one of the many problems with our existing schools – the career path that our children are presented with says little, if anything, about setting up your own business.
The lack of awareness around commerce in schools is scandalous for a nation that prides itself on enterprise.
It is not just in this area where education lets itself, or rather our kids, down. Apprenticeships, vocational training, and more practical skills are not seen as important to our schools.
To be fair, it’s not necessarily their fault. Any move away from the ‘national curriculum’ tends to be met with scepticism from the ‘Big Brother’ of the academic world OFSTED. Even the most innovative of initiatives will not be recognised by this bureaucratic, out-dated monitoring service, who have a one-size -fits all approach to children’s performance, weather they be in Westminster, London or Skelmersdale, Lancashire. It’s A-C grades that matter to this bunch of pen-pushers, and nothing else.
The inability and inflexibility within our educational institutions is stymying our ability to offer kids a broader, more eclectic, and more practical programme that may not see them walk away with a fist full of certificates but can offer them the wherewithal to enter the world of work with a sound knowledge of what is expected of them – or pursue the avenue of starting up a venture of their own.
Our education system needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. I have given up the on the mandarins of Whitehall delivering on this crucial agenda. Hopefully, the metro mayors across the country can begin to get control of the levers of power in relation to the skills and education issue – and deliver something that suits their localities, and the needs of our young people in the future.