“And what do you want to do when you grow up?”
Miss Raynor, a compact woman, gowned in scholarly black looked down disdainfully at me. With piercing blue eyes and tightly curled grey hair our headmistress wasn’t someone ever easily impressed. She didn’t even entertain a sense of humour and was rarely seen communing with children. She did however like to meet the new pupils and so today she had deigned to visit our form room and as luck would have it, talk to me!
Up until that heart stopping moment this 11 year old was oblivious to the need for forward planning. Do? What could she possibly mean? I might not want to “do” anything for quite a while, thank you very much. I wracked my brains for a suitable response. What did girls like me ‘do’ exactly and when might we ‘do’ it?
‘Er…Er…’ I stumbled, eager to offer a plausible response, ‘Please Miss, I might like to be an …Air Hostess!’
Oh goodness, where on earth did that come from? Sounded reasonable however.
“Good Lord Lesley Ann! Are we wasting our precious educational resource on a trolley pusher? Oh dear me no girl! What must you be thinking?”
“ Well Miss, I like speaking French and I wouldn’t mind meeting new people and travelling…”
“No, certainly not! Never heard anything like it! Air hostess is it? Absolute nonsense!” And that, naturally, was the end of that.
I don’t remember another conversation with my headmistress. Strange how that immediate dismissal of eleven year old hopes and dreams remains, so many years later.
I was extremely fortunate (or so they told me, frequently) to attend a girls grammar school where academic success was demanded right from the start. I was also the only girl from our village primary school to get in that year so I made the daily train journey alone.
At BCHS, most girls had far loftier ambitions than I. There was to be no talk of commerce, catering or working with hair. We girls were expected to go to university or at the very least to a decent training institution. Those girls who chose to leave school before the age of 18 might be encouraged to find work in a bank or up in the city. Teachers did not really bother with them…
Perhaps it might seem an odd thing, that early but serious enquiry about future plans. In those days going to University was free. With a decent degree there would be lots of opportunity ahead and I would have the time to work out what I really wanted to do. Surrounded by some very clever girls and great teachers, I ended up going to university because I could, it was expected of us. I was the first person in my family to do so however, and my Dad was very proud about that!
So when is it too early to think about the future?
Having an ambition, a dream ahead, gives purpose to daily study and makes every small sacrifice less irksome –especially when there is homework to complete!
Young people today have so many choices when it comes to their educational future. For some children, their perfect job hasn’t even been invented yet!
What I do know is that a good education gives freedom. It opens doors and unleashes endless possibilities.
In primary school we have to ensure that all the children are ‘secondary ready’. That is to say have the pre requisite skills to access future learning. This means eleven year olds need to be able to read and write fluently. They need to be numerate too. Children need to be able to solve problems, think for themselves, and develop resilience so that they can continue to make good progress in more complex areas of knowledge. We are building life long learners.
We ask our children, ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ practically as soon as they can talk to us and we are more than happy to take range of responses!
Our academy is full of future scientists, doctors, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists and the like. It also has more than its fair share of footballers, athletes and musicians. It is quite possible that the future prime minister of this country is sitting in assembly this very morning! We will also produce skilled craftsmen and women too.
Let us not limit the horizons of this generation by expecting these children to conform to our dreams. They have their own paths to travel and just like me, they may well change their minds several times on the way!
I am not afraid of aspiration and have the highest ambitions for our pupils at High Hazels.
Now, what shall I do when I grow up then?