Going through clearningI got off to a bad start at my school. I grew up on the Essex / London border and had to travel on 3 buses or 2 buses and a train to make it to my school in North London. We finished school at 3.45 and I wouldn’t make it home till 6pm, usually missing Neighbours and all the decent kids tv! It’s fair to say that all my friends, and my whole life was based in Essex and I was not happy to have to trek over 2 hours every day into a London dump. I was used to playing on the streets with my friends every evening, and now by the time I got home they were often long gone, venturing further than the safety of our local streets with new friends they were making at their new local schools.

With this resentment always present, my school life was never easy. Most teachers found me difficult to deal with and I was certainly not interested in making life easy for them, or myself. I actually did ok at GCSE level, enough for the school to allow me stay on and do A levels and probably slightly raising their expectations of me and how I might perform at this level.

The school was very concerned about its results performance in the annual league tables and this only really became apparent to me as I neared the end of my final year of the upper 6th. We must have been half way through the last year of A levels. Lots of coursework had already been completed and we were probably a couple of months from revision time.

Then, one day I went to school, and the secretary called me and 2 of my friends into her office. She told us that one of our best friends had been killed the night before in a car crash, which another 2 of our friends had been involved in too. As you can imagine, this was a very difficult thing for a 17 year old to deal with. Mixed emotions ranging from anger, to sadness, to frustration came rushing through and I was left completely shell shocked. That night a few of us went out together as a kind of group consolation. As my best friend dropped me at home that night I couldn’t be prepared for what was to follow the next day. I arrived at school only to be told I had to leave as my best friend had been admitted to intensive care with meningitis that morning, and that anyone who came into contact with him was not to be near school. My friend and I went straight to hospital, where we spent the best part of the next 2 weeks watching our best pal on a life support machine. We were told 3 times by doctors that he wasn’t going to live and to go and say our goodbyes. I had to do this twice with only me and his mum there. It was truly one of the worst experiences you could ever hope for. Thankfully someone was looking out for him, and slowly he recovered, and in fact was able to be released for an hour to attend the funeral of our other friend. As you can imagine, during a time like this, school work was far from my mind.

The school half recognising this, and half thinking about their exam results strongly suggested I drop a subject.

Mentally I had already dropped all of them, but officially I was down to 2. I’d have needed As in both to stand any chance of going to a decent university. As it happens, I got one A level, and failed the other. This meant my options were severely limited. I had two options. Leave and find work, or do further education the hard way. I looked at my mates who had left school at 16, and saw that some of them had done well, but a lot were stuck in tedious menial jobs.

I decided to give education a go, and looked for somewhere that would take me.

As Media was the only subject I had an A level in, again my options became smaller. I found one place in the whole of the UK that would take me on a Media HND and decided I had no choice but to try it. The place was an absolute dump, nothing to do, and nowhere to go. The course was ok, but nothing special. I had to work and do the course to survive, and the two years were very challenging. I hated the place so much I just wanted to leave, but stuck it out and got my qualification in the end. I then decided that a HND wasn’t enough to get you into a media job, and tried another two years of further education elsewhere which had been opened up because I now had a HND. After another two years I had to enter the work place. I wrote about 50 letters a week to television companies and production companies. I got no replies. After 6-9 months of doing this, I finally I got a break and went for an interview at a top kids broadcaster.

I prepped very well and after two long interviews they gave me a chance as an assistant in their programming department.

Nearly 8 years on, and I am still with this company. I have tried numerous different roles, and have travelled the world buying programming for children. This might not be everybody’s perfect job, but for me it is, and some reward for the hard work put in some 10 years ago. My point is that I would never have got this opportunity, without putting in hard work and sacrifice following very poor A level results. The message would be, no matter how bad you have done, or think you will do, always keep trying. If you give up early in life, it will become easier to give up later in life. If you make the choice to try hard and graft early on, these characteristics are likely to stay with you as you grow older, and they are characteristics which anyone in life respects, not least, employers.


Richard Rowe

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