This Cutting Edge film followed the fates of three children who were all competing for a place at the hallowed and revered Harrow School…
However, these were children whose families couldn’t afford the astronomical fees of nearly £29,000 a year, so they were chasing two places offered by benevolent ex-Harrovian Peter Beckwith, who funds those places for two “exceptional” boys per year.
And while it is of course incredibly kind of him to do so, the children are put through gruelling hoops to be judged worthy of that benevolence. And perhaps it’s just the liberal parent in me, but I don’t really approve of competitiveness among those less than 4ft high.
I believe it sets a child up for failure, and for one of the children we followed in this film, that’s exactly what he got…
Numhan’s father has dedicated his life to improving – and, arguably, pushing – Numhan to achieve greatness. And while of course every parent wants good things for their children, there comes a point when hope becomes obsession, and judging by what we saw last night, I’m afraid Numhan’s dad falls into the latter category.
Numhan really wants to become a footballer of the world class variety, and he’s good at football too so it may not be the unattainable dream that it is for many little boys. However, his dad seems to be unaware that footballers don’t need to attend Oxbridge in order to play professional football, and his disappointment at Numhan’s rejection was painful.
“He [Numhan] just has to try harder now” his dad said sadly but determinedly.
I don’t think that kind of pressure can spell anything good long-term, and it would be very, very interesting to see a follow on in years to come to see how the children featured got on.
We also met the rather precocious Krishnan and the slightly timid Tumi, as well as the very musically gifted Alex, all of whom got into the school. For Tumi, a third scholarship was added in order to secure him a place, so while it didn’t make Numhan’s rejection a less bitter pill, at least we didn’t have to swallow two of them.
But on balance, what struck me and worried me most about the children who did make the scholarship grade was that they are forever going to be second-class citizens in that school…
They won’t have the ponies at home in the stables or daddy’s chalet in St Moritz or the sports car when they turn 17, or every expensive gadget and piece of clothing known to man at their disposal. Their paying peers will, and that stuff matters to kids. It matters a lot, no matter how clever they are.
So maybe, just maybe, Numhan had a lucky escape rather than a disappointment.