The usual furore over GCSE and A level exam results got me thinking about my own children's experiences with exams. Elder daughter always wanted to be a doctor but had to redo one of her A levels due to poor teaching, so she had a gap year doing chemistry A level and working in a local bar. Elder son always wanted to go into the army and so he did, but as his was a summer birthday and the army wouldn't take him until he was 16 and a half, he spent a term helping me in school, which he thoroughly enjoyed and he proved himself to be really good with the children. He had done his GCSE's and could easily have done A levels and gone to Sandhurst but that was not what he wanted.
Younger son got his GCSE's and was given a place in the 6th form but left within weeks, complaining that he wasn't being treated like an adult (Yes, I know!). He has always had an entrepreneurial side to his character and had a few different jobs, including working in large pet shops before eventually settling to the job he has now, concerned with the sale of mobile phone accessories. Along the way he has picked up a lot of expertise on computers and I.T., supporting the theory that, in the world of learning, boys tend to devote their time and effort to what interests them rather than what the system dictates.
Younger daughter worked hard at GCSE's and A levels and won a place at university to study drama and english, but within weeks, realised that she wasn't happy either with the course or the university and came home before Christmas. To her credit, she picked herself up, got a job for the rest of the year and pestered her current university to give her a place. which they duly did.
I'm not intending to get into the argument about exam standards here. I have my own views but I feel some sympathy for pupils who are caught up in the discussion year after year. They have worked hard within the system as it is and that is all that can be expected. Meanwhile, politicians will always use statistics to support their own views.
But I am proud of my children's achievements, whether they've benefited from the exam system or not. They have all shown, in their own ways, that if you have strength of character and belief in yourself and your abilities, you can make it - not always in the way you expect, but you can get there in the end!