There's little doubt that education is going to be a big issue in the forthcoming General Election, and I don't doubt that everyone's aspirations for our country's children's and grandchildren's future are in complete accord. As for teachers' workloads, I have seen with my own eyes the heart-wrenching struggles of a dedicated teacher who is also a parent, and witnessed the stress teachers are under to perform when the performance is based on the unpredictability of childrens' progress.
Any parent of grown-up children will tell you: they are all different and reach the recognised milestones at different times in their lives. One child will walk unaided at 10 months; another not until 18 months. One child will chatter away at 15 months and another will not utter a single word until they are nearly two. This developmental unpredictability continues well into the teens and even beyond. What about the pensioners who go back to college and study for degrees? And the 50 year old who finally decides she is going into teaching?
My heart sank when I read in the news yesterday that children may be assessed at fourteen and forced to make choices as to whether they want to go down the 'technical' route or the 'academic' route. I think its a brilliant idea to prepare young people for a career other than one which is the product of a university education and the inevitable burden of a huge debt to pay for it, but it shouldn't be at the expense of those young people who find, in their late teens, they have made a mistake.
My own door of opportunity was closed and locked when I was eleven. Fortunately, I was handed the key to open it when I was accepted into a 'technical college' at 15, where I got those all-important 'O'levels and some other qualifications which helped me get a foothold in an (eventually) well-paid and rewarding career. But I was lucky - lots of my classmates at the secondary modern school I attended weren't so fortunate and, despite being perfectly capable of much higher levels of achievement, were railroaded into factory and shop jobs where their doors of opportunity were not only locked, but bricked over.
I would urge anyone who eventually holds the key to children's future not to create another generation of 'failures'. As a grandparent I want the very best for my grandchildren's future - whether it be 'technical' or 'academic', but above all I want them to be happy in whichever route they eventually choose for themselves.
I just hope the politicians listen to all the parents and grandparents, who really do understand the unpredictability of a child's educational progress.
I'm still waiting for a response from JM about 'Sunlight'. I have just finished a radical rewrite of the second book in the trilogy (Melody of Raindrops) and now I'm going to have some fun with 'Horns of Angels' and just write, write, write and worry about plots, structures and the rules of writing another day. I'll go back to 'Melody' in a few weeks and give it an edit, but for now I'm going to enjoy myself and write whatever I like!