Give a man a fire and he’s warm for a day, but set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life. 

Last night I attended an event organised by the Stephen Perse Foundation – a collection of Independent schools in and around Cambridge – one of a series of talks organised under the heading Inspire Me.

The concept is simple: invite successful people to come and talk and take questions about the work they do, in the hope that it will inspire the next generation of young people to consider things beyond their immediate horizon.  As far as I know this – careers-advice with a hefty dollop of reality – is unique, though the BBC’s Economics Editor, Robert Peston, offers a match-making service: inviting well-known figures to give up a bit of their time to visit schools and give a talk.

I was motivated to go because the topic was Jobs in the Third Sector. Dame Fiona Reynolds spoke for twenty minutes or so on her work with the National Trust, and the rewards of volunteering.  Equally striking was another short presentation given by a Year 11 student at the school outlining, with genuine enthusiasm, all the things the pupils do each year to raise money for their charity, Barnardo’s. Two other panelists also answered questions about their positive experiences working for charities.

And I came away thinking that surely this is the educational bottom line. Beyond exam grades. Beyond subject knowledge even. To show what’s possible. To forge a dream. To light the flame, then watch as they run with it.


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