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Jamie Beale’s academic achievement is far from towering compared with many teenagers who have enjoyed a less turbulent adolescence. But he is quite pleased – if a little dazed – after reading out his GSCE results: a C in science and a smattering of Ds, Es and Fs in other subjects, with only one outright fail.

“I did alright. It’s quite good,” says Jamie, minutes after digesting the news at home in Camden. He did “about the same” as he had been expecting, after studying at Chalcot, a special school for children with emotional and behavioural disorders where he went after exclusion from a mainstream secondary.

Jamie says his GCSE results are important to him for two reasons: a sense of achievement and a feeling they will “definitely” smooth the way for him when he tries in the future to get on to practical courses in plumbing, his chosen vocation.

The 16-year-old’s next step – an 18-week course giving him a taster of plumbing, painting and decorating and other practical skills at City of Westminster College in Queen’s Park – was not conditional on his GCSE results. Building on this, he hopes eventually to do a plumbing apprenticeship.

But Jamie appreciates that some things he has learned at school will help him in his future career. For example, “to do plumbing you would need maths obviously” – in which he says he earned a D.

In some ways Jamie is like many people in Britain: his physical dexterity, allied to nascent business nous, could prove more important to his success than academic qualifications. He has already learned something of the working world through experience organised by the education charity Edge.

Jamie has had more than the average teenager’s usual share of behaviour problems, but in one respect he is the child that every parent would hope to have: “I’ve always wanted to do something constructive ever since I was a little kid, when I used to go to Ikea with my mum, and we’d come back with loads of flat-packs and I’d assemble them in 10 minutes.”

Armed with such talent, he plans to be a millionaire, employing his own stable of plumbers, by “about 25 if I work hard”. Asked for a possible name, he rapidly and cannily suggests Ardworking Plumbers – early enough in the alphabet to appear near the beginning in Yellow Pages, witty enough to catch the customer’s eye, and conjuring up an image of diligent workmanship.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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