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Case Study 2:'I couldn't be the best, so I gave up'

Edward, the son of university lecturers, had a very different school career. After prep school, he earned a place at a prestigious former direct-grant grammar school. As he says now: "It was further to fall from... a failure in ordinary life is bad enough, but failing from such a high point makes it even worse... there was a great struggle to stand out because there was a great deal of pressure... And if you couldn't be the best, then you'd give up. "

That view hardened after he had an unsuccessful Oxford interview. Realising that he wasn't "part of the elect, as I'd always hoped", he started to skip school and abandoned his history A-level course. He gained A-levels in English and general studies but was ungraded in politics - he wrote letters to friends during the exam.

Afterwards, Edward made a new start at a further education college and eventually got a university degree. But the damage had been done. He lives at home with his parents, is unemployed, and has no ambitions.

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