Ben Fogle: "The wilderness has healed me"

Virgin Radio

26 Oct 2020, 16:07

For many young people, school can be stressful enough as it is, let alone taking exams.

Ben Fogle joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky this morning and talked to Sam Pinkham about his childhood and how exams made his life a misery, and his new book

Ben recalls: "I had a great childhood, the thing that I still have a great problem with is exams. I still find it extraordinary that in 2020, we still decide the difference between success and failure down to those exams... I still am pretty terrible when it's when I'm under pressure like that."

He continues: "The problem is, that if you fail as prolifically as I did as a child... it strips you of your confidence and your self-esteem and my entire life has been trying to build back that confidence because failing an exam effectively tells you that you are a failure."

"That's how it's measured. You can't pass the exam, then you are destined to a life of failure. We mustn't underestimate the huge mental impact that that has on youngsters who have this great spirit" insists Ben.

He's keen to stress it wasn't all bad: "I've always been optimistic, I've always been hopeful like I said, I had such a fantastic childhood living above Dad's veterinary clinic in central London, Mum was a successful actress".

"But at the backdrop of all of this was this failure, this cloud that just followed me like a bad smell. Everything that I've done since has been trying to exorcise doubts that were constantly telling me that I was hopeless and a failure" says Ben.

He wants to change this for the younger generation: "It really saddens me that there are so many children still today, who probably experience exactly the same. This book is kind of how the wilderness has healed me, I suppose it's been my therapy."

Ben has a few ideas about how we can make a difference for youngsters: "I've had a lot of time to really think about what we should be encouraging our children... for me, the keyword is spirit.  I've always had spirit. I think the role of education should be to nurture that spirit."

He's aware that some jobs do need exams and academia but recognises that it simply isn't for everyone. "I don't doubt the importance of exams, for those that want to go into vocational jobs, if you want to be a doctor never has it been more important. To have scientists and doctors, that is crucial. For those who are brilliant at retaining information, and remembering things, then I think it works very well."

"There are many others who just have this spirit of sports, the spirit of theatre, this spirit of being a radio DJ, the spirit of being an artist, the footballer, gymnasts, whatever it is" enthuses Ben. "The problem is that exams can crush that spirit. So the key is to try and nurture that beautiful internal hope and optimism in as many youngsters as possible."

Ben Fogle's new book,