Saturday, 12 October 2013

Living in a Cardboard Box

How many friends do you have who live in a cardboard box? That's what will happen to you apparently if you fail your English GCSE! It astounds me the pressure that teachers place upon their pupils in Years 10 and 11 and the worst thing is that they seem to believe it themselves.

I want to say to them "but what about Richard Branson, or Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison", but no matter how much I have tried to explain that I don't think good GCSE's necessarily make for a successful life (well not my idea of success anyway) it falls on deaf ears.

The frustrating thing is that actually these teachers represent a 'system' which has had an effect on them as much as on the pupils they teach.In a way they are right.If you are expecting to work for someone, get the Job centre to find you a job and want to earn pots of money then you will have to prove how good you are and if your potential boss has been through the state education system and succeeded academically then he is likely to look at your grades. 

Recently my son was looking through a list of apprenticeships. BMW were seeking apprentices and had strict conditions regarding the grades they required.I had no particular problem with that,in fact , I'm sure they have more than enough applicants from which to choose. What I did have a problem with was that the application form had nowhere to enter hobbies, interests and outside achievements.These I think are more revealing of the type of character you are interviewing than any test grade. I was left with the impression that the company must be very narrow minded.

Only the other day my sixteen year old son went to a garage with his dad and was talking to the company director during a test drive. He explained that he was about to start an apprenticeship in vehicle maintenance and repair. The company director said he was seeking an apprentice as he had already unsuccessfully employed three from the local college with no motivation or interest in cars.If my son found that his apprenticeship didn't work out then the garage owner was interested in employing him.That was purely on the basis of meeting my son a chatting to him about his interests.

The company director explained that in interviewing his employees he was looking for a) an interest in cars b) motivation and c) a qualification in motor vehicle maintenance, C was by far his lowest priority.

My son's new employer said the same at interview. They now employ a private firm to train their apprentices as they have found that the students from the local colleges often haven't the necessary practical skills they need.

So whilst I was very proud of my son when he accepted his GCSE certificates and educational vocational award on Thursday I am far prouder of his maturity and wisdom well beyond his 16 years and his determination to do his own thing rather than follow the crowd!

I will let you know Mr Teacher if my son  is living in a cardboard box as you predict at the end of the next academic year! I suspect that he will not although I wonder whether your perception of educational success will have changed. I do hope for the sake of all your future students that it has!


  1. What a fantastic post! I wish your son all the very best of luck. x

  2. Thank you he is SO excited.He starts tomorrow and I will pass on your best wishes!

  3. Oh, this is so true! My eldest's school recently had an evening to explain why they would be doing their maths & English GCSEs early, and it was very much "you won't get a good job, you won't earn much money" etc. In fact, they wanted to cut short his work experience week in order to cram in more revision but I fought for permission for my son to do the full week, as I felt that would be far more valuable to him! Luckily, he is one of the higher achievers anyway, but I have always stressed to him that there is much more to life than exam results! Good luck to your son for his apprenticeship!

  4. Great post Yvonne...funnily enough I was talking to my 82 year old father-in-law yesterday about bygone days when his generation left school at 14 straight into a job, work experience and willingness being so much more important than qualifications. We know so many young people that have gone through the school system and onto Uni or College as that's what was forced upon them as the best way forward, only to come out the other side in debt and yet none of them have ended up doing what they wanted to do. I question what direction my two will go in but at least being at home the choice will be theirs :)

  5. Rachel I think the thing that worries me most is that some teachers really seem to believe the propaganda they are promoting. It's the same when they read the statistics about taking time out of school in term time and say that children's grades will be affected. It really is down to whether the children use their time wisely or not.if they read,question and explore they will always learn and grow.

  6. Jodie, with so many young adults now going to University , it is very difficult to distinguish which students will make good employees as there is very little to tell between them. I know more and more people who are seeing the value of apprenticeships and the work experience that goes with them together with the financial backing that is lacking at university.University life for me was more about independent living and life skills- something that home educated children learn much earlier than those in state schools.The lovely thing about home education is that our children know there are a variety of options from which to choose free , from pressure and the stigma attached to vocational careers if they choose not to apply to university!

  7. The accusations we had when we were home educating were about us creating 'jobless, homeless, no-hopers'! I'm pleased to report that this hasn't turned out to be the case! Some people are so offensive in their small minded fear and need to control what everyone else does. The ironic thing is that schooling creating more joblessness than HEing ever has! :)

  8. I quite agree Ross. The more employers we come across the more I realise how frustrated they are with the lack of common sense and life skills that many school leavers now have.I think it is because the have been spoon-fed. I constantly challenge my daughter when she says she can't do her homework because 'they didn't learn that in class!'.She has learned to keep quiet and find a reference book or computer to research me then ask for help if she still needs it ! LOL