I was a complete failure at school. Period. Well, colon actually: I was a complete failure save for grade one CSE in woodwork. So there you have it; a drop out, but not a layabout. In fact, life was very active in my teens – just not at school. I was up early each weekday for a paper round, always took my bike to school and left on the first ring of the final bell dashing off to learn how to work with metal at our local blacksmiths. But for me, school, in the main was a drag and I read a book until I’d left the fabricated walls of Biddulph High behind me. But it’s been a problem.
When at the age of nineteen I decided to follow a call the Christian ministry, I could hardly punctuate a sentence correctly and when I saw a notice on the college board which finished with an exclamation mark it was the first time I had grasped its context and how it should be used (like here, for example)!
In many respects, the whole of my adulthood has been lived in catch up mode – working to keep up with my peers, whilst flying by the seat of my pants in order to make my contribution in the world – something which is a great passion of mine.
Today, I value the importance of education from the perspective of what I missed. The gaps which adulthood reveals are mere blind spots to a young adolescent. The importance of knuckling down rather than messing about lost to the carelessness of a misspent youth.
Now, as a parent, I see with different eyes. And not only as a parent but also as an observer of life – things are a changing, and education is more critical than it used to be if we desire a future for our children that doesn’t have a bearing on our past. Today, the market place of western society is changing, globalisation is playing its role and scientific progress and automation it’s part – and you can’t just ‘get by’ like we did in the good old days.
The success of our children lies, first and foremost in the hands of its parents. We can’t simply abdicate responsibility to the State. For those, who like me, left school unqualified and find education intimidating need to reassert our confidence in the lessons learnt since and accept that our lack of need not be our children’s portion. Let’s heed the warning of a recent government report and breathe encouragement into education by embracing it with warmth, fun and aspiration. Here’s how the Beeb reported on it:
Prof Alison Wolf, from King’s College London, highlighted the link between concentrations of underachievement in school and where traditional industrial jobs had disappeared.
“A lot of the careers and jobs that were the bedrock of white working-class family life for many decades and generations have vanished and have not been well replaced,” she said.
Committee chairman Graham Stuart said working-class parents might not realise how much the labour market had changed – and that their children would face a tough future if they failed to achieve in school.
“They might have hated school, left early – but still did well for themselves and they mistakenly assume their children can do the same,” he said.
Like the above mentioned, I was one of those who slipped through the net, but as a parent of children growing up in the modern world I have to recognise that educational disengagement is not a badge of honour but an error of judgement and so need to work hard that my lack does not become their inheritance. It might be a bitter pill to swallow – but mum always told me that which tasted worst helped most, and I still believe her and I am working at taking the medicine.