Even child geniuses need a good school and support at home

Even child geniuses need a good school and support at home

Now I’m no geneticist but it would stand to reason that even the most gifted children would still require a good education and a supportive family to reach their full potential.

According to a report released this week genetics play a far bigger role in children achieving good GCSE results than the fact they attend either a private or selective school.

But there are many variants that can influence academic ability so can we really be that certain?

Let’s take Mozart as an example – a child genius without a doubt.

We are all born with a certain potential and a genetic make-up that we can do little about. The young Mozart must have had the potential for genius as his father was one of the most successful court musicians in Austria. But unlike his son, he did not go on to become one of the world’s greatest composers. So what made Amadeus and his dad achieve different degrees of success despite them coming from the same gene pool?

Without a doubt, we are all subject to a certain home environment or social circumstances, which may or may not encourage study and learning. We are greatly affected by our home life, our parents’ attitudes and their socio-economic status.

The young Mozart did not just pick up the tiny violin he was given as a child and start playing it like a musical genius (as some legends state). His father wrote a violin method that was used all over Austria. He was able to help his son because he was such a fine teacher. Mozart was privileged and was given expert tuition and support.

And then we are exposed to a variety of opportunities for learning –  some more than others. This can be excellent or poor schooling and other educational or learning experiences that may be positive or negative. Mozart learnt his trade by being exposed to the best composers and musicians and was able to perform and work with the most outstanding orchestras of his day.

Would Mozart have achieved so much if he hadn’t been exposed to so many opportunities and received so many benefits – despite undoubtedly having a predisposition to such talent?

My argument would be no. Genetics on their own are not enough for a human to reach their full potential.

Three main elements play a crucial role in what we achieve – what we’re born with, how we’re brought up and schooled, plus what we ourselves do to improve our chances.

Of all those, schooling is the one thing that the state has control of. It can play a significant part in a child’s development. The other two elements are not within the gift of governments.

Many gifted children will rise to the top as they come from privileged backgrounds and are afforded the best schools and opportunities.

But there are some children born with huge potential but do not realise their dreams because of poor schooling and lack of opportunities.

On Monday it was revealed that there is a huge gap in the achievements of children in the north in comparison to the rest of the country.

The findings also showed that poorer children in London were outperforming their counterparts in the north.

One of the main reasons for this was the lack of access to good schools in the north as compared to the rest of the country.

Surely this is evidence that schools can be huge influencers in how a child ultimately succeeds and that it is not just down to genetics and upbringing?

And in my view, this is where the government really needs to play its role.

Providing opportunities to the less privileged is crucial if our young people are going to fulfil the potential they were born with. Targeting areas of deprivation and where there are a lack of good schools must be a priority.

This is why I would like to see the government press ahead with its grammar school proposals but target them in the most deprived areas. This will help the less privileged who are academically gifted  – those with the potential to do well also need the right circumstances in order to achieve it

The secondary school system also must be far less rigid and offer up more opportunities for children of all talents at post 14.

There is far too much focus on academic success in this country when only around 25% of children are academically oriented.

We are all born with potential and for some that might be in the arts or sports and for others in the technical and manufacturing industries.

But at the moment we do not have enough choice in our education system to help children blessed with those genes to reach their full potential.

Grammar schools or grammar style education would suit the highly academic children post-14 (around 25%) and a more vocational oriented approach would work for other children (around 75%) post-14.

So let’s not underestimate the role schools have to play in all our future successes.

What if the young Mozart was never taught to play the violin and the harpsichord? It was the social context and the opportunities he was given that allowed him to utilise his potential, his genes just gave him a good starting point.