My original response to Doug and Andy’s #purposed tweet was;-

"I think the purpose of education is a life-long quest to understand, question, evaluate, create, imagine & experience."

My new thoughts-

‘Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity’    Thomas Jefferson

I think the purpose of education is to provide opportunities and to continue to provide these opportunities throughout life.

I left school with 1 ‘O’Level and do not have any ‘A’ levels-yet I now have a degree in Education and have a qualification that enables me to be a school Head teacher.

On my Secondary school permanent record it states that my future job prospects were ‘Unemployable’. I had friends whose career advice at school was ‘You’ve got no brains-so be a Joiner, Brickie or Plasterer.’ and ‘You’ll never amount to anything but you could be a car mechanic.’

Ironically those that did become Joiners, Mechanics, Builders and Plasterers have done very well-most have their own businesses. Some of my friends became Doctors, Surgeons and University Professors. This was despite their 1980’s Inner City Secondary education, not because of it.

I spent 10 years working in the retail sector, I enjoyed it but after being made redundant three times realised that I needed qualifications. I took the opportunity to do a University ‘Access’ course and at the ripe old age of 28 became a teacher.

Yet this would not have happened without an opportunity, a second chance.


‘All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have as an equal opportunity to develop our talents.’
John F. Kennedy

I believe in the education of the ‘whole’ child,I think that the purpose of education is to provide opportunities to nurture the talent in whatever discipline, be it academic, creative, sporting or arts. When I was at school I wasn’t interested in academic achievement but loved playing sport. In my 1980’s comprehensive school this wasn’t celebrated but merely trivialised as a ‘distraction’ and 25 years later there is still an inequality of opportunity.

Is it equal that children from poorer homes achieve so much less than those from the richer ones? Given the obvious differences in the quality of wealthier pupils’ lives and their parents who have succeeded in education – compared with those whose lives are dominated by debt, poverty and poor housing and whose parents have only negative recollections of school, it is not difficult to realise that the two groups cannot compete equally in their Education. But why not?


‘Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.’
John Dewey

Can’t we offer these equal opportunities in all disciplines, dress them up and make them appealing to all students-whatever age? Shouldn’t we encourage this choice and value its diversity?

I now think that the purpose of Education is to create equal opportunities for life-long learning and to encourage and respect choice in whatever discipline.



Written by Julian S Wood -"rel="author"
  • Doug Belshaw

    You’ve done well, Julian, despite the odds. But how many would have taken those comments as some kind of ‘deep truth’ and let it affect the rest of their lives? Many, I suspect.

    I’d disagree with John F. Kennedy’s belief in us all having different talents, as if the ways that humans have co-created the world maps onto any genetic predisposition for the roles required within it. As a parent of a four year-old and a newborn, however, I’ve certainly had my mind changed as regards to predispositions and predilections! It’s those that we should focus upon rather than a notion of ‘talents’.

    Equity is not the same as equality, something that as an aspiring Head you’ll know all too well. The difficulty is in the balancing act that we’ve labelled ‘personalising learning’ (but which, in practice, has been nothing of the sort)

    • Julian S Wood

      Thanks for the comment Doug-appreciated.

      Talent is just a word-it could be ‘interest or hobby’, I feel that these should be celebrated in schools and not stifled by the confines of the curriculum or the practitioner.

      Personalised Learning should be about an equality of opportunity-why can’t the child that enjoys Art have the same value as the child who loves Mathematics?

      Being a parent does change your perspective and knowing how passionate you are about education you’ll find it hard to just let your kids enjoy it-unless you plan to set up your own Free School !

    • Anonymous

      Hi Doug – I have to discuss further that line about disagreeing that all people have different talents, mainly because I didn’t understand what you said after it. What do you mean by the ways humans have co-created the world mapping onto genetic dispositions? And what does it have to do with equality of opportunity? Forgive my ignorance, but I thought equity was something to do with housing – can you explain this too? Then I’ll be happy.

      • Doug Belshaw

        With pleasure! :-)

        1. I believe people are born with predispositions. For example, Steve Redgrave (rower) has a larger lung capacity than the average person and Michael Phelps (swimmer) has much larger feet than the average person. Neither physical predisposition *made* them world champion, but it helped. There have been world champions in each of these sports who have had average-sized lungs and feet. It’s the same with ‘intellect’ and things you *can’t* see.

        2. Equity is about the outcomes rather than the inputs. If I give a hungry man and a satiated man the same amount of food I’m treating them equally, but not equitably. If I treat children with behavioural problems exactly the same as those without, I’m treating them equally but not equitably.

        Does that help clarify?

        • Anonymous

          That does help clarify, and I can see how the word ‘predisposition’ is more precise, but I think for the purpose of Julian’s argument ‘talent’ is a precise enough word. There are two aspects as far as I can see: firstly when John F Kennedy is talking about us not having equal talent, there is the amount in which we are talented; then when he talks about us having equal opportunity to develop our ‘talents’ he’s more talking about the area in which we have talent – that’s closer to the predisposition thing – is it?

          So are there two things in that – amount of talent and variation of talent?

          And I suppose by bring in the word equity, if John F Kennedy had said we should all have an “equitable opportunity to develop our talent” then that might indicate putting more resources into parts of society that value education least. A bit like the current government are doing at the moment, offering free full-time nursery places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and not for everyone else – equity not equality.

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  • Anonymous

    The journey you’ve made is a powerful story to those who’ve given up on education at some time in the past. It would be great to know the specifics so that the education system we move towards provides earlier opportunities for people.

    For example, you describe negative careers advice as a factor; and the realisation in later life that you needed qualifications as another factor.

    Do you think if the opposite was true, that if you had had better careers advice and realised that qualifications were needed at a younger age that would have helped you do better at school? If so, would that follow for everyone?

    Myself, I had a very positive experience of 1980s education, so I am intrigued at the differences and parallels between our two journeys…

    • Julian S Wood

      Cheers for the comment- Steve.

      Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at school, just wasn’t ready to enjoy the ‘academic’ side of it, which was weird because I was mainly in top sets for subjects.

      I never really got any career advice-probably because back then I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

      But I know plenty of others did get terrible advice and yes this did spur them on to achieve.

      This is my point about opportunities-kids are pressured into finding a career path, like me, some aren’t ready to decide. So why not give them the opportunity to pursue what they’re interested in?

      It took me 10 years to have a moment of realisation, that to make myself indispensable I needed Higher Education. Luckily my parents are educators and they gave me good advice. I did an access course and completed my GCSE Maths, I also volunteered in my local school.

      Ironically I got made redundant in my 1st teaching post!!Still here though ;^)

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    Offering equal opportunities for life long learning would be a great direction to take education in the future and one that I wholly support.
    I had a very similar 80’s schooling – I drifted through it only interested in Art but that wasn’t seen as a career prospect by my careers advisor. Perhaps advisors then only pushed learners into solid professions requiring academic backgrounds but I never fitted the puzzle. It wasn’t until after Art school that I became interested in teaching and got into University due to being a mature student and having had the experience of working in schools voluntarily by that time.
    Great post.

    • Julian S Wood

      Really appreciate your comment Kevin.

      Interesting that you pursued your passion and went to Art School-despite career advice.

      I too went to Uni as a mature student and feel that having a bit of ‘life’ experience makes me appreciate being in the teaching profession even more.

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UK Primary School Future Learning Technologist.I am into Experience and Fun Based Learning.I use web tools to stimulate writing. I've been Playing and Learning since 1970. Have some fabulous ideas now & again.. Check out my profile!
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