“Even at 58, I still often think of Villiers Park.”
Ian came from a family which didn’t have much money and didn’t value education. There were few books at home; reading for pleasure was anathema to his parents.
School was an escape for Ian. He went to a large comprehensive and by his own admission was no angel; but education struck a chord with him. His teachers were a heady mix of stern, old-school masters and newly-qualified left-wing radicals. Together, they fostered his sense of curiosity whilst instilling a work ethic in him.
Ian particularly loved English and the Arts. He started to dream of going to Oxford to read English, and was on course for the grades. Encouraged by his teacher, Brian, he attended a Villiers Park Study Course in his O-level year:
“It was a great experience. I remember feeling like I was being treated as an adult for the first time in my life. It was a very different experience to learning at a big comprehensive school: a small, caring environment. At home, I was made to feel like I had ideas above my station. At Villiers Park, being curious and asking questions was encouraged. It was more about learning for enjoyment than educational outcomes, and that’s stuck with me.”
Ian was able to attend another Villiers Park course during his A-levels and was set to apply to university. But a change in his family’s circumstances put pressure on him to take a different path. He spent the next 20 years as a wildly successful City trader, returning to learning in his mid-30s:
“I went back to first-principles: education unlocked opportunities for me; I want to others to have those opportunities; I should become a teacher. I did a part-time Open University degree whilst still working as a trader. I did it in five years instead of the usual six as I was so passionate about it.”
Ian started teaching in 2001, later becoming a personal tutor, which is what he does to this day.
“Looking back, I realise how good my teachers were, both at school and Villiers Park. It sounds corny, but they made it seem cool to be curious and to want to learn - and to keep learning throughout life, whether formally or informally. I’ll be forever grateful for that.”