Does high school education really matter? Surely you can be anything you want to be?
So I attended Whitchurch High School. There has been a lot of coverage over the last few weeks focusing on the highly successful sportsmen that have studied there, namely Sam Warburton, Gareth Bale and now Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
I will not take their achievements away from them, they have all worked extremely hard to get to where they are today. However, it does annoy me that other successful ex-students are never mentioned. There are business owners and entrepreneurs, and those at the top of their professions including chef’s, engineers, photographers, scientists, doctors, nurses, civil servants, lawyers, creatives and so many, many more.
When an article appeared a few weeks ago on the boys, I shared the post on my social media with my above sentiments. I was expecting a bit of backlash as I appreciate that my view can be seen as controversial. Still, I was surprised to read how so many agreed with me.
One memory that has always stayed with me was when I attended a parents evening with my mother, in Year 9. I have never been a standout player in sports, but I thoroughly enjoyed being part of a team. I played hockey and was a sub for netball and athletics, which meant I often travelled to Leckwith to compete. So at this parents evening, the PE teacher said that I often missed class and did not like to participate when I did turn up. My mum said she was shocked to hear this as she had usually came to watch me participate. The teacher, flustered, riffled through some paperwork saying she must have confused me with another student.
This is very typical of my experience at the school. If you were bright and stood out, you were pushed to succeed, and equally, if you struggle you were given extra support. Those in the middle were left to get on with it. Surely, they should be mentored too? So many of my friends can back this statement up. I think it comes down to the size of the school, having 40 students in a class is too much.
Two male PE teachers take the credit for helping Sam, Gareth and Geraint get on in their sport. The majority of my male friends do not speak of the teachers them fondly. Those who wanted to play football were pushed into rugby or if they were more academic were made to feel insignificant and are tormented by the memories of being shouted at and belittled. However, some fellow classmates spoke fondly of their time on the sports field and were given opportunities to make lasting friendships and to travel.
We all left school eighteen years ago, do these ill feelings matter to our current lives? Probably! Don’t they say your school years shape your life? These memories have not melted away over time. To the sporting celebrities, this early start did help their careers, but not for the rest of us. For me, my failures from school have taught me lessons for my adult life. My education has not stopped me from doing what I want to do. (I had C’s and D’s for my GCSE’s.) It has not stopped me getting interviews or ‘climbing the ladder’. I have gained further qualifications since leaving, but not until my mid-twenties onwards. I do believe we put way too much pressure on teenagers to get qualifications in school. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing it on the job or later on in life. Most people do not know what they want to do at 16 years old, and at 34, I am still unsure of what ‘I want to be when I grow up’.
Whether you want to be a sports star, work in an office or even be a stay at home parent; I genuinely believe you can do whatever you want to do, and your education is only a small part of what makes it happen. There is no need to cling onto this – you can always re-train, learn more and be adaptable. Be who you want to be!