Wednesday 28 October 2009

Careers advice for seven-year-olds

Ed Balls has been the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families since June 2007.

Mr Balls (and you have to feel a smidgen of sympathy for someone who has to go through life with that surname – how he must have been teased/bullied at school. Now he's married and it's obvious who wears the trousers – Mrs Balls! Ta-da!!) in his infinite wisdom or otherwise misguided by one or several advisors, has decided that careers advice should be available for seven-to-eleven-year-olds. The scheme is being piloted (don't you just love that verb? It smacks of large ships being guided into small harbours or pilot whales corralling shoals of cod when squid are scarce) in several primary schools. One inner-city school in Norfolk has been trialling (another verb rich in meaning, bringing to mind horse and motor-bike trials, sea trials, television series) the scheme for two terms. Listening to someone involved in it I was not impressed by the lack of clarity exposed during the interview.

Where has Ed been during the last few years? Surely it cannot have escaped his notice that many seven-year-old children can barely manage to speak in sentences, let alone read or reason. How can career advice help them? As they are monosyllabic 'career' is a word too advanced for them. They will have had little experience of the world of work even at second hand since disgracefully there are growing numbers of families whose members have not worked for several generations. For these children, growing up and leaving school means 'going on the dole' with no hope or expectation of ever earning money through employment. Even worse, a significant number of eleven-year-olds enter secondary school unable to read or write fluently or coherently or express themselves articulately. Surely the emphasis should be on helping these children to learn the basics needed for everyday life and the extra funding earmarked for this absurd initiative should be spent on employing teachers gifted in teaching reluctant or slower learners.

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