Gifted children who come from low income families show resilience and passion but also self-doubt in a new BBC documentary series.
‘Generation Gifted’ is a six-part series following six highly-talented kids from low income families in some of the poorest parts of Britain.
The first episode follows Anne Marie, from Port Talbot, Wales; Jada, from Handsworth, Birmingham; and Shakira, from Tamworth in the West Midlands. All three girls are in Year 9 and beginning to prepare for their GCSE subjects.
The girls all display a range of emotions - from fear and anxiety about their future, to strong mindsets and a will to achieve. Here are five lessons we learned from the first episode of ‘Generation Gifted’.
1. A passion can be a haven.
Without a doubt, whether they feel confident or not, all three girls show a huge passion for their talent and the subject they excel in.
Anne-Marie loves writing and reading and has hundreds of books in her bedroom. She is one of the top students in her year for English. To her, reading and writing is her safe space. “When I’m reading, I feel like it’s where I want to be,” she says. “It’s not on the planet, it’s within those lines of those pages, that’s where a reader wants to be, because that’s where they feel like they are most wanted.
“I feel like I can’t walk to people, writing gives me a chance to express myself properly. I can write about every single thing in this world and every thing is a new story. If you feel like life isn’t good enough, you can always write.”
Shakira’s passion is art. “I feel happy when I’m drawing,” she says. “I feel like I’m escaping everything around me.”
2. Support can make the difference between success and failure.
For two of the girls in the episode, self-doubt was high and confidence was low. Anne-Marie is often told to speak up more: “Everything makes me uncomfortable,” she says. “I’m not a confident person, I keep myself from thinking about stuff that I’ll probably panic about later on. I upset myself about it and then I can’t read and I won’t even pick up a pen.”
Shakira is also faced with the constant battle of not believing in herself and is often told by her teachers that her self-doubt is something she needs to overcome. At one point, Shakira has to be encouraged to audition for the performing arts show, but battles with her anxieties and nearly pulls out.
When she is encouraged to get up on stage and sing Sam Smith ‘Only One’ for her audition, she makes her friend cry. She later goes on to perform in the school play.
Still need encouragement. Shakira encouraged to do performing arts, but it took her a lot to get into the room and audition. Despite her teacher constantly telling her they thought she could do it.
She went in and sung.
3. Big dreams are the best motivation.
Anne-Marie wants to be a criminal psychologist to “help people” and plans to go to university to achieve this. Jada wants to go to grammar school, the best university and become a paediatrician. Their dreams inspire them to work hard.
Shakira’s dream job may at first seem less academic - she wants to become a tattoo artist, but knowing what she wants her end goal to be, does motivate Shakira to push herself at school, particularly in her art classes and takes onboard constructive criticism from her teacher to make sure she’s the best artist she can be.
4. Children can have resilience beyond their years.
Jada became homeless after her parents separated and now she and her mum and siblings live with her nan. They are currently looking to speak to the council about moving into a bigger house, as she has to share a room with her younger sister. Despite her difficulties at home, Jada’s strong mindset shines through.
“I know it’s going to be hard but anybody can do it if they put their mindset to it,” she says. “Nothing would stop me, I will show them you don’t have to always come from the top end to go to the best school.”
5. Children feel a responsibility to make their parents proud.
The girls are very conscious that their parents want them to harness their talents so they can have a better life than they had themselves and they don’t want to disappoint anyone around them.
Anne-Marie says: “I feel like I have a responsibility to do well and help my family. I am the eldest, I want my family to be comfortable rather than having to live in a small house.”
Jada feels the same: “My mum pushes me and makes sure I always go for the best, go for gold. She will tell me I can do better than that. She will say nothing less than gold, so there is no silver and no bronze for me, she just expects the best.”
Shakira, waiting for her mum during her final performing arts show, says: “I just want to make my mum proud.”
‘Generation Gifted’ begins on BBC Two on 14 February at 9pm.