Post-exams Life Lessons from Top Speakers

4 July 2016

Politico’s Francesco Guerrera tells students that nothing comes easily but success that is earned is the most rewarding.

Speaking to around 100 students across a range of year groups at Lammas School and Sports College Francesco gave students an insight into his career journey in journalism so far. This was an excellent example of our Life Lessons & Advice themed talks, which you can read about here.


Now the Associate Editor & Chief Financial Correspondent at Politico, Francesco started out wanting to be a journalist but not getting anywhere in Italy, so he used his knowledge of the English language to come and study in the UK. Expecting to return to Italy and get a job he discussed how ‘the Italians weren’t impressed with me or my English degree’ so had to change his plans and look for work in Britain.

This presented its own challenges as he always felt like he had to work that little bit harder as some in the business community ‘eyed him with uncertainty’. Rather than being dejected Francesco told the students how he used this to his advantage, making allies with those he needed as sources for his articles and finding that it was advantageous ‘not to be like everyone else’.

Francesco emphasised the fact that nothing comes easily, if you appreciate the obstacles you have to overcome, success is even greater. It’s also important to always play to your strengths and take time to hone your skills, level by level, similar to playing a video game. Reflecting very specifically on personal experience, Francesco recounted being told that he was ill equipped to write certain types of articles. He was great at getting the stories but crafting articles took more time and work, luckily journalism is a craft that can be learned and through hard work has placed him where he is today.

FG1Another important message Francesco imparted to students was the importance of looking to those who are more experienced for advice and expertise. Mentors, he said, are vital for self-improvement and the students were lucky to have access to their teachers to fulfil this role for now. He told them ‘ask questions and never be ashamed to look for help’.

The talk was rounded off with a fantastic Q&A session in which some very insightful questions were asked. With Francesco’s economic and political background the initial conversation was centred on Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, a topic which we are running a whole talk series on, with one student asking ‘do you think Brexit will lead to the disintegration of the European Union and the breakup of the United Kingdom?’ Another student questioned Francesco on the economic impact of the vote with the immediate slump in both sterling and the stock markets. Francesco was quick to reassure the students and rounded the talk off with the message that ‘don’t play scared – no matter what we in the press or those in politics say, just work hard, these are not your problems, they are my generation’s problems. You make the best of what you have. None of this will affect you if you push on and work hard.’


Baroness Morris at Highfields School


Former Education Minister and now Peer in the House of Lords, Baroness (Estelle) Morris, visited Highfields School in Matlock. She talked to GCSE and A level Sociology students about the importance of resilience in education.

Estelle Morris gave a speech about her own experience of education where she initially failed her A Levels but succeeded in her degree and ultimately achieved high office. She linked resilience to the need to not give up your ambitions even if you have a setback. It was also a timely reminder of the public service that politicians give to their communities in light of recent events.

EM2Head of Sociology at Highfields, Amanda Serjeant, said, “We were so delighted that Baroness Morris agreed to come and talk to our sociology students. Her speech about the need to look at students abilities outside exams fitted perfectly with our syllabus about reasons for achievement in education. She was inspirational not just about her own success despite setbacks, but in terms of encouraging young people to engage with politics.

As part of the school’s commitment to encouraging youngsters’ resilience, Highfields rewards its students for work and behaviour showing the ‘5 Rs’: resilient, reasoning, responsible, reflective and resourceful.”


Our thanks to Francesco Guerrera, Baroness Morris for speaking and to Lammas School and Sports College and Highfields School for making these events possible for students!