OPTIONS OPTIONS

It’s Options time in our house. I cannot believe that my eldest is about to have to make a real decision about something that matters. It is, of course, just the first in a long, long line of decisions and it’s unlikely that any fatal or irreversible errors can be made but even so I feel that the situation has to be given due deference.

When I chose my O level subjects back in 1981 there wasn’t much choice. Two Englishes, Maths, French, History or Geography and a Science were all compulsory. After that, you were either arty or sciencey. I did three languages and dropped all the science that I could. As I already had my eyes on the prize, I didn’t bother with anything that wasn’t traditionally academic. No cookery or sewing for me!

I don’t remember it being a difficult decision. Maybe this was because I already had a clear direction mapped out or perhaps there was relatively little choice? I just picked the subjects that I believed I had the best chance of doing well in and that was that.

These days the whole system is entirely different to the one that I battled my way through and is changing almost year on year. There are fewer exams and it does seem that success is far more formulaic than it was in my day. Of course, we all like to think that they are easier to pass because the results are comparatively so high. I don’t actually know if that is true but in any case it doesn’t matter as my children have to succeed in today’s system and not the one of thirty years ago.

So now my eldest has three weeks in which to choose her GCSEs and I know about as much about it as I did when I was 14 and choosing my own. I still have all the same prejudices against particular subjects which I assume I picked up from my own parents. It’s that whole middle class prejudice against anything that isn’t a ‘traditional’ subject. I look at some of the things that are on the list and immediately disregard them as not being suitable. I would always prefer academic subjects to non – academic. But am I right? Is it still as important as it was or do they now just need to show good marks in a broad range of subjects but it doesn’t really matter what?  She has to do at least one creative subject from a long list  of choices. Should she go with what she enjoys or what she’s best at? Is Music a better option that PE? Does it really matter?

The whole thing is a bit of a minefield!

When push comes to shove, these are decisions that she has to make for herself. I will try and give guidance and make sure that she doesn’t close any doors for herself at this stage although I’m not sure you really can get it terribly wrong. I suppose she needs a balance of subjects, preferably that she enjoys and that accord with the school’s recommendations.

It’s still scary though for me, the first time parent. All I want is for my children to be happy and successful in whatever they choose to do but if they have a sound academic grounding so many more options are available to them. And so as she steps out into the big bad world of public examinations for the first time, I am biting my lip and hoping that she’s got it right and that all is well.

What do you think? I'd love to know...