How Much Did School Impact On The Person You Are Now?

Impact of education

How Much Did School Impact On The Person You Are Now?

Did school have a positive impact and equip you with the tools you needed for life? or did it mould you to view education in a negative way and leave you with more questions than qualifications?

Let’s dive in…

The Beginning 


‘I enjoyed school’.

7 years secondary education and that’s my summation.

School was a tale of two stories for me. At the beginning and for the first few years, I was pretty much a quiet, quite significantly overweight little guy with really big ‘get up and go’ blonde hair. It’s difficult to envisage the response my Mum would have given to the ‘what we having?’ question from the hairdresser.

Despite being a young boy more prone to width than height, I was good at football and this was to later act as my pivot into a different schooling experience.

By the age of 14 (Yr10) I had begun to blossom a bit, had thinned out and had become the school football captain. This is important to note as I believe it was causal to my overall school experience.

Academically however, school wasn’t particularly a success for me. It wasn’t a failure, but I certainly didn’t move any mountains with my GCSE and A/Level results. I just did ‘okay’. But then, really, academia was secondary to me. The reason I looked forward to going to school every day was mostly for the social and sports aspect of it.

I sometimes think about how much school determined the adult I grew into. I think it was quite significant. As much as school was a good experience for the younger me, for the later version, it was probably quite detrimental.

School is essential. It grows a person an incalculable amount. But it can also leave scars, some of which take a long time to notice.

All roads lead to a test


There’s no getting away from this one. Your academic success at school is going to be largely based on your ability to conquer exams.  There are more alternative routes available now than ‘in my day’ but exams are still very prevalent.  Coursework does contribute to the final grade in some subjects but largely, that final paper is going to decide your fate.

The thing is, assessing a student’s learning isn’t easy. Exams serve a purpose but  a range of assessment methods are required to get the full picture. There’s also a preparation and skillset required to fulfil your potential in exams, something that a lot of those aged 16–18 haven’t yet developed the tools for.

Test anxiety is real as well. The idea of having to perform in an exam is pretty frightening. The psychological variables that could affect your outcomes certainly weren’t addressed when I was at school. There was no ‘exam training’.

And crucially, you’re also still a child, which I’ll reiterate again before the end.

Ohata’s study (2005) revealed that most of the participants in the study admitted that they feared taking tests, because test-taking situations would make them fearful about the negative consequences of getting a bad grade.


I did however, find success in exams as an adult, aged 27. There were clear differences in me by this time and these are important to note –

  • I was studying a subject that was interesting and relevant to me now.
  • I was able to fixate on preparation.
  • My poor experiences evolving from a history of poor exam performance at school was a driver.
  • My sense of achievement, ambition and career progression was much greater.
  • They had cost me time and money and would cost more of each if I didn’t get the desired results first time.
  • They just meant more.

As a child, exams were something I had to do. As an adult I chose them and what I wanted was based on me succeeding in them.

We are conscious that nowadays testing has become an inherent part of our society. It has become more extensive not only in education but in every sphere of life and many important decisions are specifically based on test resultsTrifoni and Shahini (2012)


The Big Problem(s)


The big problem is actually two-fold.


Big Problem 1 – That immediate pathway you take after school is based on your academic success in those final months of school in subjects that for me personally, I didn’t really enjoy.


Lots of schools, colleges or universities require you to do well in subjects you don’t enjoy to even get a look in. You need to get the required number of C, B or A grades they demand just to even be able to walk through their doors.

And we are all made aware at the time that if you don’t get 5 A-C grades then your life is officially fxxxed, which quite simply isn’t true.


Big Problem 2 – You have to make life changing decisions at ages 16 and 18 when you have no idea what life is about.


If you went straight to university after school and you can look back now in hindsight and say that ‘that degree paved the way for the life I wanted’, then you did very well and a genuine congratulations to you.

Mental scars aren’t always forever


The scars of those experiences stay with some forever. How many people never do an exam again after school? It’s a lot. It’s like that period defines you as learner.

You hear so many people say, ‘I’m rubbish at exams’, ‘I don’t have the memory’, ‘exams aren’t my thing’. These are all misconceptions. Maybe this was the case when you were a child. But you’re not a child anymore.

If you were able to repeat Year 10 & 11 at age 30 (not that anyone would actually want to do that), I think it is highly likely you would improve on your GCSE results from when you were 15.

Things out of your control


There are so many other variables that contribute to overall learner success at secondary school that are out of your hands.

  • Was your school actually a good one?
  • Was the teaching consistent?
  • Were the leadership team actually good leaders?
  • Were the facilities up to standard?
  • The overall environment is everything. Was it suited to you as an individual to learn and thrive in?

If you have the drive to learn, the right support and the necessary resources you can excel. You can A* any subject.  I’ll argue that point with anyone until the cows come home (never really been sure with that comment where the cows have actually been, but you get my point)

Social experiences count 


I asked 10 of my learners (currently working in or training to work in a teaching role) if overall, they would say they enjoyed school.

3 of them said ‘yes’.  

3 said ‘yes and no’.

4 said ‘no’.


30% could confirm they enjoyed school.

70% couldn’t.

I was quite shocked by that.

Obviously, my research with a sample size of 10 doesn’t hold much weight but I still think it’s relevant here.

When I dug a bit deeper, the reasons behind this were all down to social experience.

Those that enjoyed school said they thrived in diverse communities and it helped them to communicate better with a wide range of people. That they had specific teachers that helped them achieve what they did and who made learning enjoyable.

Why wouldn’t you want to get up and go to school if these are your day-to-day experiences?

Those that didn’t enjoy school said opposite things. One was bullied, one was mocked for having a stammer (by teachers and students) and another lived 9 miles from their school.

Why would you want to go somewhere everyday if you are subject to any of those?

The subconscious view of yourself today


School can condition us to view ourselves in a certain way. There’s lots of variables that at the time you were at school you can define yourself with, a lot of which aren’t important but appear to be the time. For example

Were you popular or not?

In with the cool kids or not one of the cool kids?

How many people ‘fancy’ you?

Top set or bottom set?

Introvert or extrovert?

Confident or anxious?

Reputation in general.

Wherever and whoever you were in school it’s important to remember that this isn’t automatically applied to the adult you will become. Far from it in fact. Especially when it comes to your ability to learn.

Whatever decisions you made or whatever self-perception you finished school with, it important to note two things.

  • You didn’t choose to be surrounded by the people that were in your school environment.
  • You were a child then. All of the decisions and choices that you made were that of a child.

As I mentioned, for me school was a positive and happy time. I guess I just sailed through, and I’m grateful for that. I look back with fond memories. But it kind of conditioned me to think that life is a positive and happy thing that I’ll just sail through as well. The realism of it is, is that it isn’t.  I had to learn that as I got older.

It can be those things, but it also has a habit of not being. It’s ups and downs, and at school, for me, the downs weren’t frequent.

Adults are creatures of habit. They like things to stay the same even when some things are quite obviously dysfunctional – Ellen Walser Delard


Important life skills the curriculum forgot


On reflection I only really started to develop a hunger to become something or someone when I was about 26. I guess you’d say I just dossed about for 8 years after leaving school. I always worked, but had nice easy comfortable jobs in the leisure industry, in social environments that were similar to school. Did the bear minimum but had a lot of fun.

It took meeting my late partner aged 26 to open my eyes. She naturally installed a drive in me. I became hungry to provide more than I currently was. I was soon enrolled into university, accepting any work-based qualifications I could get my hands on and was finally driven to be/do better.

School teaches you many wonderful and amazing things, like how to write properly, work with numbers and be part of a community.

But on reflection, some of the most important skills I needed to know as a young man they didn’t teach me at school. Things like financial management, emotional intelligence, recognising, managing and maintaining mental health.

These things I had to pick up on my own and that took a long time to do.

I’m not sure how many hours I spent in French class but it was hundreds. My second language skill on leaving school extended to 3 phrases. ‘bonjour’ ‘au revoir’ and ‘mon pote a une taille de 12 pieds’ (my mate has size 12 feet).

If I had spent that time in a financial management class, although I cant guarantee I would have paid much attention, it’s far more likely that class would have served the adult I was to become in a much better way.

Let’s conclude 


So, with that said, I think there are three things that we need to remember when you consider yourself as an adult learner.

  1. Your success in learning at school is often determined by exams. If you didn’t do well in these it’s highly likely it was the timing of your life that was the reason.
  2. The decisions you have to make when you leave school initially have the potential be the wrong ones. It’s never too late to reverse those mistakes. Although legally by age, you have just become an adult, in the grand scheme of understanding life, you are very much still a child.
  3. School social experiences often define how school worked out for you. Remember, you didn’t choose to be put in an environment with those people. Some are luckier than others


Some find a lasting relationship with learning and education early. Through individual persistence and the right support, they discover how they learn best from a young age. What a gift that is.

But for others, they leave school none the wiser, almost the complete opposite.

If you are part of the latter group, you always have time and the chance to work this out. Don’t leave the box closed forever that only contains information and experiences from when you were young. You only got part the way through the journey.

Thanks for reading.