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School for Startups

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Friday, December 9 at 7pm

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The last sustained recession in the UK began in the late eighties as the "Lawson boom" turned to bust. So what was it like to leave school then? Especially if your school was in the North East, an area that had already seen much of its established industries such as mining and heavy manufacturing disappear? And what if yours was the first year to sit the new GCSE exams, replacing the O Levels that employers knew about?

Prudhoe is a small town in the Tyne Valley, a transition between urban Newcastle and the wilds of Northumberland. Prudhoe Community High School is an ordinary school drawing pupils from the local community. Looking at the world through the eyes of a single year group -the class of 88 - the programme evokes their hopes and expectations as they recount their experiences of school and of stepping out into a career. For some it was a chance to make their own future by starting up a business of their own. For many, a choice had to be made about staying or leaving the region and their roots.

In the summer of 88, Yazz was in the charts for 6 weeks: their song title provided a refrain for the class of 88 -The only way is up. Now in their thirties, how did they cope with the struggles of career amid economic ups and downs? Did the experience of recession tap into hidden reserves of gumption? Were they driven, as one classmate put it "to get the hell out of the North East" or did they stay and make a success of it at home? And what do their experiences tell us about the prospects for school leavers today when, once more, prospects appear far from rosy?

School for Start Ups mixes memories and music to offer a snapshot of life through the eyes of Prudhoe's class of 88.


Presenter: Richard Collins
Producer: Mike Greenwood
A Pier Production for BBC Radio 4.
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