The myth and realities of being a modern spy

Wednesday 25 January 2017

It's not every day that Sixth Formers get to learn about international espionage. The work of MI6, which is officially known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), is shrouded in secrecy and James Bond myth. However, the realities of being a modern spy are altogether different.

Dr Alex Mehta from Judicium Education lead a group of students last year, on a visit to MI6's iconic headquarters in Vauxhall. There he met, "C", the Head of Service (who is known as "M" in the Hollywood movies) and “Q”, the Head of Technology. Dr Mehta was later hosted in our school to talk about the visit, and what he's learnt about SIS since.

Our Principal, Matt Jones said:

"The students were very excited but unsure what to expect before the talk. There was a perception among the students that MI6 only recruited from certain schools, universities and backgrounds, so for them to hear that wasn't the case was a revelation. Social justice is one of our core values, and part of our culture at Ark Globe Academy. The talk explored the opportunities which are available at SIS for our students; provided they work hard".

As Dr Mehta explained, human relationships are at the heart of SIS; empathy and trust. "Being able to connect with another human being is the cornerstone of the Service" said Dr Mehta; to a packed group of over 50 enthralled Globe Sixth Formers. "Car chases and fist-fights are great for the big movie screen. But the reality is very different".

"I don't think I'm the ‘Oxbridge-type’" asked one student "Would I still be eligible to apply?" she enquired. "C is looking for talent" replied Dr Mehta. "He doesn't care what University you went to, or what school or background. But if you've got the ambition, tenacity and drive he'd like to hear from you".

Dylan, Year 12, was surprised "Alex spoke about the diversity within MI6 which I didn't expect. The different ethnic groups and genders. They are normal people like me and you. Of course grades count, but it's more about what SIS can develop you into. A spy is anonymous and could look like me".

Dr Mehta then discussed the work of SIS in more detail particularly around counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, cyber-security and overseas conflict and instability. Given the diversity of threats facing the UK, it was clear that SIS welcomed a more diverse workforce to counter that challenge.

Ishmed, Year 12, agreed "James Bond is not a good representation of a real spy. In fact, he's the complete opposite of what an effective spy really is".

To sum up, Matt Jones, Principal commented: "It was fantastic to see so many Sixth Form students attend this talk, which shows their depth of interest and appetite for knowledge. A lot of myths were exploded this evening and a career that seemed completely out of reach to many students, was suddenly made far more realistic. After University, our students could definitely make a positive contribution to SIS in the years to come. Students at Globe are now aware of the opportunities available in the Service, and as educators, we'll be reinforcing that message here in school. A lot of eyes were opened this evening, and perceptions shifted."