In the first of a second series, we witnessed six above-averagely intelligent teenagers continuing to battle the effects of poverty and nonconformity
‘Be safe, and be successful.” This is what Rene, a full-time security guard and single mother of two (since her husband’s application to remain was refused a year ago and he was deported to Jamaica), wants for her musically gifted son Jamarley. The order is telling. Safety first, when there is nothing beneath to catch you if you fall.
Last night’s Growing Up Gifted was the first episode in the second series following six above-averagely intelligent children, three girls and three boys, from low-income backgrounds and – well, seeing if they’re doomed, basically. It is hedged about with the usual phrases about social mobility and so on, but it is, in essence, a study of if, when and how the noose of class begins to tighten round dreams and potential and choke them to death.
At the start of the programme, the three boys (the girls are covered next week) are in year 10 and still breathing fairly easily. Liam, from Newcastle, is still planning on becoming a doctor rather than going into catering as he had originally planned, and falls in love with Jesus College, Cambridge, when the school sends their possible applicants to attend an outreach open day. “Everything around us is new and different and … I just love it,” he breathes, gazing at the warm red buildings dotting the expansive grounds of the university’s third wealthiest college. Its motto is Prosperum iter facias – may your journey be successful. Its intake is 60% state school. You can practically see Liam’s ambition swell. His mother buys him a special maths book to practice. If he writes the answers on paper instead of in the spaces provided, she says, it can be used for his little brother in a few years’ time too. But, over the next few months, he becomes withdrawn, stops working and avoids family visits to his beloved grandad. It emerges that he has realised he is gay and is frightened to tell his grandad. His fear and turmoil are palpable and terrible to see.