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July child ponders on August children

It's the "result season" when each year we hear about the successes of our 18 year olds at A levels, and 16 year olds at GCSEs, with an inevitable (it seems) rise in pass rates and a cry of "they're getting too easy". I'm not going to jump into that particular controversy, but I will congratulate anyone who's just got their results on what they've achieved - if you put in hard work to get those results, then congratulations are in order.

But there's one subject that has come up - at least in the media I have been following - this year, in relation to how "August Children" are said to be disadvantaged. It works like this ... children in the UK start school, at the age of 5, in September - so that there are children who are nearly 6 with September and October birthdays, mixed in with children who have only just stopped saying "I am 4" with August and July birthdays. And that's a substantial gap that young in life.

Unless the system is radically changed (for example, to have three sets of classes each year throughout the school system, with September, January and May starts) there's nothing prescriptive that could be done. But I'm not sure that doing anything prescriptive is the right answer anyway - the system should be flexible enough to be tailorable for each individual child, with the professionals such as the teachers able to work with the parents [[as appropriate]] to get the best of each and every young person.

I heard parents talking of their 29th August child being immature for school, and of how being the little one in the class effected them all the way through their school career and beyond, but then feedback (via email and otherwise) to the programs from young people, some of whom are still pupils quite early in the system, saying how much they have personally gained from being the younger ones - how it has helped to make them more robust and more mature and being in a group that's slightly older has set them higher targets to go for and achieve. Exactly my point that the solution should not be a prescriptive one.

A declaration of interest here. I'm a July child, and still have a vague memory of utter confusion the first day I went to Crofton School. Whether I was just unprepared, or too young, or if it happens that first day for everyone like that I have no way of knowing. And I most certainly have school day memories very strongly coloured by being bullied. And yet on the other hand, my parents did make the most enormous sacrifices (Dad may well read this - THANK YOU) to ensure that I wasn't just another pea in the pod; being at the younger end, I could have been easily lead off the rails and I know that I could get easily bored which wouldn't have been exactly a recipe for highly concentrated success from that initial environment.

So I put my position as the "youngster of the class" - in the following environments at Dulwich and Sevenoaks - as a distinct advantage and challenge. For sure, there was break time bullying especially at Sevenoaks, but that in turn lead me towards other activities which were in themselves educational while others were kicking footballs around and indulging in something akin to tribal warfare. And it lead me to a hardened and perhaps fierce independence where I didn't rely on others.

I wasn't top of the class at either of the schools - but there must of been something that the teachers recognised - perhaps they saw me as "coasting along". I might describe my approach, if truth be know, as only and lazily doing what was needed on subjects that didn't interest me. So they put me through an accelerated stream where I took 3 years in 2 and ended up in following years in classes with a 2 year age spread, and sitting my 'A' levels while still just 16. I managed to get through all four, although not at the 'A' and 'A*' grades that are almost the norm these days [[hey - we are looking back 35 years!]] ... and that early school finish gave me the opportunity - and what a golden opportunity - to take a "gap" year before starting University, getting some real work experience under my belt. And that was such a good year too which has helped make me some things I'm proud to be today.

Do I have a conclusion? If this entry is anything more than a rambling, it's a plea to the bean counters and school system managers to treat each and every child based on their individual needs and circumstances. My own example shows how everyone IS different and it shouldn't be forgotten. And it also says a big "thank you" to those who looked at me as an individual and helped (sometimes having to push me quite hard!) me come out with what - I feel - is an experience that set me up well for life.
(written 2008-08-23, updated 2008-08-24)

 
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  [4735] Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May? - (2017-02-24)
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  [4725] Writing Python 2 such that Python 3 is easy - (2016-11-06)
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  [4548] Melksham - two small townships, or one big one? - (2015-10-22)
  [4489] Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08)
  [4485] Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04)
  [4476] Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29)
  [4354] Wiltshire Police - assuming someone is guilty just on the say-so of a member of the public? - (2014-12-16)
  [4343] Politics and the railway the connects Wiltshire - (2014-12-06)
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  [4275] Eurpoean Elections, and other elections ahead. Some thoughts on campaigns and policies - (2014-05-08)
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  [216] Cheap purchase - votes paid for with selfish promises - (2005-02-15)


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