Last night, Joshua brought home the option pathway recommended by his school which will lead to the best possible outcome for GCSE success. It took me back to 1986 when I took my GCSE options. I still vividly recall how my academic year across the country were the first to take the transition from GCEs and CSEs to plain GCSEs. The doubts and criticisms that they would be easy, worry that coursework would be abused and undertaken by relatives and friends and that the exams would be soft. Concern that employers would not take them seriously and that within a decade the educational establishments would realise their error and revert back to the old system, leaving me and thousands of others with seemingly useless qualifications. How wrong they were.
Looking through Joshua's option paths I found myself longing to be back at school. I envied him slightly that he's now starting the point in life where his choices become important. Reading through the subject summaries I found myself excited at the content of some of the courses, and at times got rather carried away trying to convince him how interesting and exciting some subjects were, which inevitably turned out to be the subjects he's really not interested in! Looking at the History content, he liked the course, but did not relish the idea of writing long essays, the same for the compulsory English Literature. I was baffled. Strange boy! How could he possibly find essay writing a chore? I still remember walking into my A'level English Literature exam literally champing at the bit to get started on the four essays I had to write in three hours - was I mad? Probably.
I'm thrilled he's being forced to do a language. Seems cruel, I know, but I have the benefit of parental hindsight. My bitterness at not being allowed to do languages because apparently getting 91% in German and 27% in French supposedly meant I didn't have a grasp of languages, so because I failed French I wasn't allowed to take the German GCSE I so passionately wanted to do. To this day it still baffles and angers me. I'm glad that Joshua has to learn a second language - it's a skill he'll be grateful for one day. To my delight he favours German. He's getting the chance I never had.
In sciences he prefers physics and chemistry. I was a biology fan. He likes Maths and all things technical. I liked all things creative.
But what I really like is that he has sat with me, talked with me and discussed his feelings about subjects, what he loves, what he hates, where his strengths are, where his weaknesses are, his doubts, his fears, his worries and his concern at getting halfway through courses and being disillusioned. I'm finding it a privilege that he is sharing all this with me and not just ticking random boxes or picking subjects that he's comfortable with or naturally gifted at in an attempt to get the decision making done and out of the way. He's impressed me with how mature he's being about it all. He has a few weeks to choose, so now I'm stepping back for a few days to let him work out his own routes. I'll be there to support him, to advise him and where necessary to push him, but ultimately, the choices are his.