Tuesday, 18 November 2008

No hope no future

It's heartbreaking to read the findings of the Action for Children Factfile Report. Apparently 1 in 5 of our young people believe they've little chance of making a success of their lives. That's bleak! If you believe you've no chance, you're probably right because negative thinking affects your behaviour and the choices you make.

I was pleased to see that the charity was warm to the SNP Government's commitment to young people and although governments have the biggest role to play in all of this, sometimes the impact of those we meet in our daily lives is far greater and has the potential to do more good and, obviously, more damage.

I came back from Sri Lanka to discover that my 16 year old niece was going into 5th year sitting two highers. She didn't know that two highers was not enough to get into university to do a languages degree. She didn't know because nobody told her. She had enough standard grades to sit four highers but the timetable clashed. She just accepted this and told nobody until I asked her.

When I explained that she wouldn't get to do what she planned if she followed that path, she resigned herself to working in the new Tesco in Port Glasgow! Obviously I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with shop work if that's what you want to do but she has a love of languages and she wants to travel the world and absorb new cultures.

What's more, she's an intelligent girl and more than capable of doing that but she was so down about her chances that it took a lot of talking round from the 3 McLaughlin sisters to convince her not to throw in the towel - at 16 years of age!

OK I'll skip bits of the story. She's now full time at James Watt College studying for 4 highers (including Spanish, thus my learning to speak it too) and actually loving it. She's full of beans and will talk at length to me about sentence structure or future imperfect verbs (I nod, say "si" and let her carry on!). More importantly she's excited about her future. She really believes it's all out there for her and so it probably will be.

My question is where was the school in all of this? They didn't tell her she wasn't doing enough to get into uni because they didn't KNOW she wanted to go. Why didn't they know? Because they never asked. Apparently she was asked if she wanted to see a careers advisor at some point and said "I don't know" in that teenage way we all once had. And that was it. She was not asked again. I've since spoken to the school about it and they admit that she was not very communicative so they didn't push it. No wonder kids at that school don't rate their chances of success if their future job plans are so unimportant that discussing career options is not an integral part of their education!

But it wasn't all kids at that school because apparently SOME get mentors. Those who are really struggling have a mentor in 4th year. Good idea. Those who are expected to do really well also get a mentor! Why? To make sure they actually DO do well. (Had to laugh when Christie described this category as "those from Kilmacolm" - I well remember that rivalry.)

And those in between like my niece who is smart enough but just doesn't know it, get left behind. If it'd been left to the school she would have slipped through the net. She'd have sat and probably passed her two highers and then discovered that it wasn't the passport to uni she thought it was. And maybe she would have given up and resigned herself to low paid shopwork. Maybe she'd have been one of that 20% of Scotland's young people who see no future for themselves.

All of our young people should be excited about the future. Of course they can't all travel, can't all go to uni but not everyone wants to do that. Everyone however deserves the right to feel positive about their future. Our governments have the biggest influence on all of this but family, teachers, youth workers, everyone around that impressionable young person has a responsibility too. Right I have to go because Christie's testing me on verb structures tonight and if I've not read up on it I'm in serious bother!

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