Your article struck a nerve with me. My husband is from England (we live in Canada and I’m Canadian) and he was just telling me stories about his experience in the English school system that was very similar to yours.
He did badly in his exams because he was bored at school and got relegated to a lesser life because nobody noticed he was gifted.
He has a good job now that he likes, but it has been a much longer and more difficult road than it had to be.
He also did exactly what you said at the end, when he was young he traveled the world. It was the best decision of his life.