This morning I tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, then poured myself a cup of ambition before I yawned and stretched and tried to come to life. It was a routine I have become accustomed to, yet rarely questioned, until the dulcet tones of Dolly slapped me around the chops as I once more drove into the 9 to 5 breach.

Ambition has dulled over time. As bright young thangs, we viewed the world as our oysters. We were unstoppable with no peak insurmountable as we dreamed the dream and dared to live it, yet, having been beaten repeatedly, we still convey that mentality to our offspring. "There’s no reason you can’t be Prime Minister, if that’s what you want!" we cry, as we grit our teeth in the knowledge that we are but setting them up for a fail. We stop short of mentioning the main barrier to entry into their profession of choice, that of education. Some 30 per cent of MPs are privately educated, along with 65 per cent of senior judges, 52 per cent of diplomats and 44 per cent of all newspaper columnists (and no, I wasn’t).

And so, we talk of systemic discrimination on the one hand, be it based around the colour of one’s skin, which is undoubtedly the hot cultural potato of our time, whereas maybe we should also be directing our attention toward others factors to explain as to why our ambitions are tempered, exponentially, and over time, even in the most glamorous of occupations. Top actors total 44 per cent who attended independent schools, along with 30 per cent of our best-selling musicians. In sport, 37 per cent of rugby players attended such educational seats, with 43 per cent for cricket and 5 per cent for football, which shows that, despite their best attempts to snatch the beautiful game away from the working classes, they are on a losing wicket (excuse mixing my sports).

Watford Observer: Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson

It is estimated 6 per cent of UK students attend fee-paying schools, which smacks of our country being elitist in the extreme. Now that’s not to say the education and outcomes afforded at such schools are not excellent, as with an abundance of funding comes options and small class sizes, but it leads back to the quandaries for us Joe Averages, as we attempt to fan the remaining embers of our own ageing ambitions, while blowing like gusto to ignite the spark of our young, who are naïve regarding the true challenges facing them.

Now it is easy to criticise what the private system offers as most of us are not end users, and ultimately can not afford to send our bairns to it, although, given the financial freedom I think most of us would. It is a rarity when you have the likes of Paul McCartney, who sent his kids to my secondary school in Rye, East Sussex, although it could be argued that the family name, irrespective of the education afforded, has gone along way to allow his children to remain in the realms of the elite.

In whatever industry your child chooses to enter, how do we allow them to reach the echelons of perceived excellence of the likes of Bojo, Frank Lampard, Martha Lane Fox or Joe Root? The answer, if they have the ability and skill set, is to hope for a fair rain and a dash of luck. Many who are not thrust into their positions, or at least given a huge leg up due to their alma mater or parentage, have had to work hard to be noticed, learn to be submissive and say ‘yes’ to anything and everything requested of them. As the saying goes, many of these ‘yes’ people then find themselves promoted to their level of incompetence and making decisions that they have never had to make, and thus they are welcomed in, tentatively, to the elitist club, as a token, and so the bandwagon rolls on.

In my late 40s, my ambition is waning and, like all of us who had lofty ideals but never quite realised them, it has been beaten out of me through a war of attrition. So, all that is left is to hope that having reached an age, and the supposed ceilings of our ambitions, that others afford our kids the rare opportunity to break into the nonpareil, as we sup the dregs of the cup of ambition and hope it doesn’t poison them as it has us.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher