On Thursday 22 August, children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results. Usually, these examinations are taken at the age of sixteen and are used as a benchmark for the child’s employability or future study potential. Usually, the national release of the results leads to heavy debate in the press and pubs about the declining standard of children’s attainment, the inability to meet targets, unsustainable pressure on children, inflated/deflated grades.
Here, I’d like to declare a major, personal, vested interest in Thursday’s results (just so’s you know). Firstly, I’ve worked as an examiner (not for GCSEs) and thoroughly enjoyed the work and secondly, and far more importantly, my eldest niece was one of those receiving her results on Thursday. To say that I’m very proud of her would be an immense understatement; she did so well last week, I’m telling anyone prepared to listen and many who I’m sure aren’t (but are too scared to tell me, given the zeal with which I’m delivering the news). Put simply, she’s a star.
Now let’s take a step back from measuring the nation and quantifying its future to take a look at the children themselves. They matter. I love my niece and her sister almost as dearly as I love their mother (my sister). My nieces are great people and it’s a testimony to the way in which they’ve been raised, to believe they can do anything they set their mind to and work towards, so congratulations to their responsible grown-ups. Of course, I’m biased and proud of it. But my faith and happiness in children extends beyond this.
After years of enjoying working with teenagers from around the world (in education), I was fortunate while on holiday last summer to meet and get to know a particularly great group of children. I thought then, how bright the future looks in their hands and how exciting the world looks through their eyes. That cannot be measured or quantified, only enjoyed – not only by them, but by all of us fortunate enough to live on this same planet with them. We should all cherish our children’s futures and give them our love, not our thoughts – they have their own (thanks, JFK and Khalil Gibran). I’m happy and confident that, thinking ahead, this world is theirs.