Year 10s, that is 14 to 15 year olds in the UK, have to do a week of work experience towards the end of the school year, in June.
My teen goes to a private school. I can't afford it. We go without basic necessities (new shoes!) in order to pay the fees. Why have I done this? Several reasons, not all of them decent.
- She's half French. Her French father not being around, the only way I could ensure she would speak fluent French is by sending her to a French school which just happens to be private.
- I want the best education for my child. I feel she is disadvantaged in some ways and I want to give her a chance.
- I don't want her to go to the local comprehensive. And here's the rub. It's an inner city school. 50% of its pupils do not speak English as a first language. Many of them are refugees from war zones and have severe mental health problems as a result. The teachers are over-worked, physically attacked and have to please a government obsessed with targets and paperwork. But the educational goals are low, in an attempt to cater for everybody. In a country where accent is everything and peer pressure is the single most important influence on a teen, I don't want her to speak 'street' talk. The police patrol outside every day. I know some of this first hand because I sent my daughter to the local state primary for a year, reportedly the best in the borough according to league tables. It was awful. The teacher could not spell. When my daughter told me that some kids (in uniform and easily identifiable) were nicking from local shops naturally I told the head. The head teacher clumsily made it clear to the rest of the kids (despite pleas from me) who had 'grassed' them up. My daughter's mobile phone was stolen that afternoon. The head did nothing. Bullies and naughty kids were constantly appeased with rewards. Good/quiet kids got scarce attention.
However this work experience at her private school makes me sick to the stomach. Evidently many of the parents are well-off and seriously connected. The children of these parents get to work for the BBC, top fashion designers, pop stars, film directors...and who can blame them? They, like me, are trying to give their kids a head-start in a tough world. Who am I to complain about privilege when I have 'gone private'?
I simply don't have those kind of connections. I cannot provide that opportunity for my daughter. I feel terrible about that. But also what should be simply a chance to learn about the world of work has turned into oneupmanship amongst the pupils.
I pay the school fees but I can't keep up.
My daughter doesn't help of course winding me up with statements like:
"When I leave school I'm going to be on the dole"