Attending a school prize giving always provides a tonic, to see raw, young, talented enthusiasm. A generation with their lives in front of them and almost limitless potential. That was very much the picture at Chew Valley School, and I expect the story is repeated right across our district, since the standard of our education is so high.
However, what struck me on this occasion was the emphasis that was given to celebrating those who had not only succeeded in their academic studies but also contributed positively to the life of the school, whether that was by their involvement in organising sixth form representation, music, sport or entrepreneurial endeavour. This last prize was sponsored by the local Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce and was won by a group who had not only provided the traditional leaver’s hoodie, but also made a decent profit which went to supporting the Sixth Form Ball.
It once again underlined for me the point that is sometimes overlooked, that the best employees are not necessarily those with the top paper qualifications. Indeed they may not have very much in the way of certificates at all, but they do have ambition, an eagerness to learn, commitment and what a wise man once called “attitude”.
The particular group of young people I saw happened to lean towards Universities as their next destination. But I expect I could have been in another school where Further Education or Apprenticeships were the preferred options. And the great thing for our own local economy is that neither is wrong and both have an important contribution to make.
Schools are always delighted when people from the business community offer to help them, either by giving talks or joining the Governing body. They know the value of being linked in closely to the places which could provide employment opportunities, guidance or experience of a workplace. It’s a great way to break down the barriers and do something to counteract the tired old claim that schools don’t care about making their young people ready for the world of work.
And I can tell you that the young people are under no illusions about what is expected of them and they are doing their best to prepare themselves. Business can help them in that process and we should not miss the opportunity to do so without being judgemental about which is best – a graduate, an apprentice, someone who leaves school without a certificate to their name. They all have a part to play, and our economy will be the better for us finding the right role for them all.