19/07/2016 05:51 BST | Updated 19/07/2017 06:12 BST

The Keys to the Door

When I was a child, my ambitions were to play tennis at Wimbledon or football for Leicester City. Alas, neither my racquet nor footballing skills ever set the world alight so I went down the tried and tested route of university and worked in finance before setting up my own business. I've been interested to read that boys today are being put off studying because they want to emulate their heroes - and they're not sports stars, they're entrepreneurs.


A report published Monday by the think tank LKMco and commissioned by King's College London, has found that white boys from less affluent backgrounds are abandoning their studies because they don't see how it will increase their earning potential. Instead they look to imitate celebrity billionaires, such as Sir Richard Branson, Lord Sugar, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft's Bill Gates, all of whom got rich without setting foot in university or, if they did, by dropping out before they finished their course.

The world of work is changing. Nowadays you can set up a successful business with just a laptop and a good idea. Young people who have grown up with technology and embrace fast-moving trends are often best placed to spot a need in the digital market. It's not unheard of for teenagers to earn a fortune from developing new software or creating a brand new thing. The rising cost of higher education means even if you do pore over the textbooks for three years, you can leave with a large debt and feel forced to take on a low-skilled, low-paid job just to chip away at it. It's not surprising some boys are wondering if it's worth it.

Geography can play a big part in how parents think. From working with clients around the world, I have found Americans to be far more open-minded about exploring different educational options such as homeschooling in favour of the structured schooling day, especially those from California, home to Silicon Valley, where thousands of digital start-ups are born. They are less focused on status and the end goal and treat children more as individuals with an emphasis on the youngsters' happiness.

Meanwhile, parents from China, India and the Middle East tend to see education as the top priority for the entire family. Getting their child into a top British school is seen as an investment in the future and an asset worth paying for above all else. They want their children to work in law, finance or medicine: professions that almost always require qualifications to get on the ladder.

As I write this I'm sure there are a number of teenagers working on the 'next big thing' in social media or digital technology and no doubt one or two will go on to become household names and enjoy a billionaire's lifestyle. However, take it from someone who watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon a few days ago, rather than lift the trophy himself, for the vast majority of us, childhood dreams are just that - dreams. In the real world, education and qualifications are still the keys to a decent job. So boys and girls, I beg you, don't give up on the studies just yet.

To read more news and opinion on key educational issues - go to William Clarence Education