I tend to steer away from writing about political and topical issues because I prefer to keep this blog easy-reading, but today I am absolutely disgusted to hear the recent rumours, and a supposed leak, that our useless government are considering scrapping GCSE's in favour of O'Levels. I am quite sure several people will be writing about this today because once again the powers-that-be are making a mockery of their chance to better this country. One post in particular that I have read is by the lovely and very talented journalist, Liz Jarvis. This news could have the potential to destroy the next generation of our work force. Sounds a bit extreme doesn't it, but look at it from my point of view, a mother to a special needs child.
When I was at school I admit I was somewhat academically challenged in most subjects, and wasn't even given the option to take O'Levels. High school for me was a dead loss, I'd have been much happier finishing school at 11 and being home-schooled, but of course that wasn't to be and I was packaged off to what was dubbed as a good church of England secondary comprehensive. In year 3 (age 14), we had to choose our options, in other words, we had a very brief discussion with a careers adviser, and I mean brief, where we were given the chance to decide our future. At 14, I didn't know what day it was never mind what my future held. Nonetheless, I knew I wasn't clever enough to be a vet, my dream occupation, and living as a townie I was realistic enough to know my ambition to be a farmer was pretty far-fetched. So I chose what most other girls in my year chose, to be a secretary or office clerk. But I had one quality at school (apart from that of being able to blow smoke rings in the girl's toilets), and that was music. I was quite talented in that one subject; played the piano, the violin, sung in the choir, was always chosen as a backing singer in the school plays, yes, that was the one subject I could have excelled in. If I'd been given the chance. As it happens, I wasn't given the chance. There were only two pupils in the whole year, out of about 130, that chose music. I was one and the other was a friend of mine who I'd known from primary school and whom I had violin lessons with. The problem was, our music teacher didn't think my friend was capable of doing O'Level music and because to him it seemed pointless doing two different levels of exams when there were only two pupils in the class, I was forced to step down and take CSE music instead. I got a grade 1, I think my friend got a 3, but the point was I could have got a high grade O'Level.
I took seven CSE's altogether; Science, Music, Maths, English, French, RE and History. I messed about at school and on one exam paper, I think it was Science, I hardly answered any questions. I was deemed stupid and a waste of space by some teachers, but I was never encouraged to do well and I was never given the chance to shine. When GCSE's came into force, schools spent quite some time complaining about changing the system. But it meant an exam that could be beneficial to pupils across the board. When Amy started in special school last year, one of the first questions I asked was "do you think Amy will be able to take a couple of GCSE's?" The school's answer was a "maybe, we will certainly encourage her to."
And now we are faced with the prospect of our children once again being put into two categories; the clever ones who will be encouraged to take O'Levels, and the less able ones who can opt for a CSE, seeing they aren't clever enough to take O'Levels. Does our government realise how this will make children feel? Do they realise that the majority of special needs children will never in a million years be able to sit an O'Level, therefore their job prospects will be even less than they would have been otherwise? And when you have a condition such as autism, believe me, your job prospects are pretty shit to start off with. My daughter, and your children, deserve a better future than this. The whole system may need an overhaul, but our children need to feel equal, and with these proposals they will once more be made to feel inferior to the better educated children.