I was listening to Diane Abbot's Desert Island Discs earlier today. One incident from her past struck me. She talked about how she had spoken to a teacher about attempting to get into Oxbridge and had effectively been told she wasn't up to it. She replied that she thought she was up to it.... and wasn't that the point?
She's obviously someone who carried on despite some low expectations. But I wonder how many other youngsters achieve a lot less than they could because of the low expectations of teachers, parents or others.
It strikes me that poverty of aspiration is almost worse than material poverty.
Obviously it would be wrong to give young people the impression they could achieve things that are always going to be way beyond them. But surely we need to make sure they can aim realistically high.
There are schools in which high attainment is seen as employment in the local catering or retail sectors. And there is nothing wrong with working in either of those fields. But youngsters will probably never think they can be doctors, or company directors etc if they are constantly given the impression - by their school and adults around them - that they are destined to work in a hotel.
I guess its all down to role models - to children and young people seeing that "people like me"can achieve all sorts of things.