Education Matters – Success Factors

A recent study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown, once again, that when it comes to education matters and follow-on achievement, there are several key success factors at play. As is often touted, where one receives an education matters significantly, as does chosen and subjects. It may not be surprising, but here in mid-2018, it is disappointing that background is still a factor when it comes to educational and post-graduate success.

Now, I know that this study is measuring success in a way that many may choose not to. However, there are a few stand-out elements to the snapshot provided in this BBC article – – that are worthy of consideration.

Again, medicine comes out on top, followed by economics. This study measures up to the 5 year mark, and inevitably, career choices and opportunities will vary for all over time.

However, this study shows is that when it comes to subject choice, choosing sciences, and subjects favoured for entrance to medical school, is a smart option, even if one ultimately chooses to do something completely different. I used the word option, because it’s the flexibility of having options which I believe to be vital.

When we talk about attaining top grades, whether through great schooling, natural talent, private tuition or a combination of some or all, it is this that supplies the all-important options.

Without the grades, one cannot expect to get into the best universities, or to get access to first choice degree subjects. And the rest simply flows from there.

So, whilst I agree with the many parents who will inevitably say that there is a pressure on our children like never before, it is now a fact of life. Of course, children should be allowed to play and to be children. And yet, why not make this structured preparation for adult life a regular and vital part of a varied and thriving childhood?

When it comes to education matters, and future career success, clear proof of attainment is the building block on which everything else is built. A strong personal statement, independent achievements, travel and experience (plus the usual Duke of Edinburgh, organised trips to Africa etc. – when they are commonplace, they no longer differentiate) may help to stand out from the crowd, one must be fortunate indeed to get ahead without top grades.

There is a silver lining in this article for those that haven’t achieved top grades or gone down an alternate route, and that is through computer science. Technology provides, and I believe will continue to provide massive opportunities, a different avenue and ways to thrive. A student studying programming and Artificial Intelligence today is positioning themselves as a valuable asset from day one of their post-graduate career.

Once again, this study highlights background as being highly relevant to attainment. It’s a perennially thorny issue and one that is far from simple. Coming from a working-class background myself, I realise I was fortunate to exit education with a PhD from Cambridge. In the great scheme of things, very few have the same opportunity.

It is with this in mind that I continue to try to engage with local schools (with frustratingly limited effect) to offer assistance in preparing pupils for secondary schools, and with an open offer to assist with exam preparation, motivational talks and whatever is takes to make a difference.

This coming academic year I will be making considerably more room in my schedule and expanding opportunities for access to top private tuition through my small group tuition classes. It’s about doing what I can to level the playing field and to help more children excel in those all-important subjects of maths and science. I should also add that we will be adding a considerably stronger focus on English tuition in this coming school year.

If your children’s school would benefit from some help preparing pupils for Year 7, insight into the benefits of maths and science, or just from a fresh perspective from someone who sees the entire educational spectrum, you know where to find me.


Muhammad Ali is the founder of Maths and Science Tuition and has helped hundreds of local students from a variety of backgrounds to achieve outstanding academic success. His commitment to social mobility will be further demonstrated by the creation of the MST Foundation which will be launched shortly.