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With increasing competition for jobs and an apparent ever-rising need to achieve the best grades, does education actually deliver potential leaders of the future? Sandy Loder looks at the challenges associated with selecting the right school.

Talk to any parent and the need to give their kids the best chances in life is something that most recognise and strive to achieve, within their means, and education and schooling is more often than not top of the list. But there are some serious questions that come to the fore when discussing the suitability of schooling, not to mention the grades delivered, the topics covered on the syllabus and the level of preparedness that individuals have for the competitive jobs market that they are ultimately going to end up in.

Society is looking at the need to deliver grades and the competition for places is tougher than ever. As Sandy Loder explains, “it is not uncommon to hear of children as young as three and four receiving tutoring to prepare them for the tests to get into their chosen pre-schools,” something that may seem difficult to comprehend for some, but a necessity for wealthy parents who are trying to secure a place for their kids in their preferred schools.

Schools inevitably have a reputation and they are under enormous pressure to continue to receive great reports from bodies such as OFSTED, not to mention the need to continue to deliver exemplary results too.

As Sandy continues, “there is undeniably pressure on schools to perform, but the bigger picture has to be the need to deliver results that put the UK economy on the right footing in terms of the skills needed in future generations to drive the UK to the fore when it comes to dealing with the competition for talent.”

Whilst there is competition for places, there also needs to be a more strategic consideration, which in many cases falls by the wayside. What is the best school to provide the holistic education and life experiences for the selected child. All schools have to deliver the core syllabus whilst offering other benefits too, access to sports, cultural studies, music, technology and never forget the networking potential and connections that can be made simply by being in the same school as peers who have parents who have already demonstrated an ability to deliver great results in their own careers too.

Sandy is aware that good schools deliver good results but he is prepared to question some of the syllabus, and as he puts it, “should we be spending hours teaching the history of Britain and World Wars when more could be done with leadership and technology to prepare them for the commercial world. Ultimately, history has shaped our nation and should not be forgotten but there needs to be balance, to make sure that the future generations deliver the best skills in people from the UK.”

The competition for grades is important and hence the desire to go to what have been long recognised as the ‘best schools.’ In fact, the names speak for themselves, and grades or not, people have aspired to go to schools such as Harrow, Eton, Wellington and Millfield, and then to secure places at Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge for generations and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

But, as Sandy continues, it is not just about grades. Serious questions need to be considered such as whether you want your children to board, and if so from what age? Do you consider the need to learn Chinese essential to prepare for the business world of the future? Is technology key to education for your children? There are others of course but there is a growing competitiveness amongst schools, and amongst parents seeking to gain access to the desired school for their children too.

And don’t forget the international element. More and more children from India, China and the rest of the world are coming to the UK to obtain what is, in their eyes, an exemplary education, and this places more pressure on the UK system. These individuals are coming to the UK because of the schools and the reputation that these establishments have where they come from and this is important. These children graduate and return home with the name of the establishment firmly contained within their CV and that stands for a lot.

So, clearly, it is not always about the grades, and a lot rests with the reputation of the establishment itself.

As a parent of two, Sandy appreciates the need to consider the education of ones children carefully. However, as he points out, “life is something of a game and we all do our best to prepare our children to achieve their full potential. However, one must never lose sight of the fact that each and every child is different and what will work for one child in terms of a school, may not be right for another. As parents, there is a need for honesty when it comes to each and every child, to make the right decisions for them and help them to find the right environment in which to learn and flourish. This is turn should help them get the best our of their education, get the best grades possible and then put them firmly on a career path for life.”

So as for grades, they are important to a degree, but in reality, the choice of school can actually open doors too through the alumni and ‘old boys’ networks, and if the best teachers are at the best schools and get the best results, there is a strong correlation which leads us full circle in terms of actually understanding why parents strive to send their children to the ‘best schools.’

Furthermore, if the education system prepared the future generation with the skills required, there would be no need for further courses and programmes to deliver the training and tools to become leaders. There are a growing number of MBA’s and other programmes coming to the fore to help plug some of the skills gaps from the general education system too.

Grades from school are one thing and help to meet minimum criterion when applying for jobs but there are also other ways that individuals can stand out such as volunteering, summer programmes, work experience and this can enhance the employability of an individual immensely.

Clearly, many of the best leaders and bastions of industry have not been to what are courted as the best schools and have done very well for themselves, but parents being parents will always try and push their children to achieve more. Hence it is easy to understand why there is competition for the best schools, but as Sandy concludes,

“Parents need to make the right choice for their children and not be afraid to challenge the system at any stage too. It is not just about the grades!”


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