Something rather bizarre happened today here in Yorkshire. It was sunny with lots of blue sky. Most unusual.

Just after the dinosaurs had become extinct I was as at school. A time before home computers. A time when a domestic microwave was about as expensive as a Fusion Reactor. I was leaving secondary school just as MTV was starting. Definitely a different era. So you would expect a few limitations in the schooling system. Like the options available to kids in our sink school. A poor school in a poor working class area.

I remember the school option meeting. No parents. Just the snotty kid, the careers advisor and the headteacher. It basically went like this for me.


What options do you want to take?

I would like to take Latin, French and I would like to learn to program using something like Pascal.


Because I want to go to university.

Kids round here don’t go to university. You get jobs in the Chemical Works, the Steel Plant. The really smart ones might get a job as a clerk in a bank in the high street.

I don’t really fancy that.

We don’t offer those subjects anyway. Your option choices are woodwork, metal work or home economics. That’s cooking to you son…


That conversation always stuck with me. Clearly stuck with a the others in my year. I was the only one to make university. I managed to scramble through a system setup for the benefits of the local economy and not for the pupils. Fast forward all those thousands of years. We find ourselves in 2021. Surely a more enlightened time. When microwaves are really cheap but bizarrely a 24 pack of toilet rolls is harder to get hold of than a Fusion Reactor.

We are looking at Hawklads option choices. He has to take Mathematics, Sciences and English. But has to choose four more subjects. It’s strongly recommended that French is selected. Which is odd as school are super keen for him to ditch that subject. One option really does suit him – History. As his last teacher told him before she left – ‘you know the subject better than I do’. And he loves history. Then it’s going to be Geography. He is ok with that subject but it’s never really fully connected with him. Two options left….

Here is where the problems start. PE might have been an option but it’s an essential requirement that you represent the school or a club in a sport. So that’s out. Information Technology would have been an option but the last two years of force feeding coding has broken his will in that one. The other handful of options just do not suit him at all. No interest in them. The teaching methods don’t suit him. No connection with the teacher. Or it’s an area he really struggles with.

It really does feel like the schooling system is still not truly aimed at the pupils. Take what you are offered rather than let’s see what really works for the individual. The schools take is rather than look for alternatives let’s just let him not select 4 options. He could maybe only do 3 or 4 exams as that would potentially help him pass something. OK.

So what is he going to do. Well he’s going to randomly pick two more options for now. Go through the hoops in case he sticks with mainstream schooling. But we are going to look at proper alternatives. What subjects can we find which are outside of the school remit which really interest him. That’s how education should be. That’s how it should have always been.


48 thoughts on “Options

  1. Nothing much changed since when I was at school. Maths, English and french I remember I had to take and then a science subject, which then were individual classes, not combined in one class labelled science which started that way the year after. So I chose Biology and physics.
    Art was my favourite but didn’t get the grade I wanted and I chose Home Economics as you known it, which now is called food, I believe.
    Geography was my other subject.

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  2. School hasn’t changed much then other than technology. Kids aren’t individuals or treated as such, they are just a bum on a seat. I was never encouraged at grammar school in subjects I was ‘good at’. Had I not followed in my sister’s footsteps to grammar, maybe my confidence would not have been knocked out of me, or my sense of self worth reduced to nil as I was ‘too heavy’ for a particular teacher so she was always picking on me in PE, or comparisons made because her good subjects were not good for me so I was considered ‘not to have brains’.

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  3. One subject I think Hawklad might enjoy is Creative Writing, even if he never plans to use it. And, yes, it does require spelling and grammar components, but who’s counting. Self-expression is a good base to have. There are a multitude of Creative Writing courses online. I would timidly suggest the course given by Margaret Atwood, though I have never taken it. I have, however, studied under her for a fiction course, and she was a good professor.
    Just a suggestion for Hawklad to consider, of course. Given his imagination, I think it might interest him.
    Another might be animal husbandry. Animals are always cool to be around.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I can’t think of a stronger case for home-schooling. There must be a lot of online help out there for all sorts of topics. Creative writing, as mentioned above, is an excellent suggestion; from some of the put-downs your son has uttered, I’d say he has the making of a comedy writer – something alternative on R4, perhaps?

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  5. Similar in the US…the student must squeeze into the program no matter how ill-fitting, rather than finding a program the right size for the student. My son was special needs all through school and it took a real toll on his sense of self—he’s a deeply sensitive, kind, caring young man who was made to feel stupid because his brain didn’t understand math. So tragic.

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  6. I had a friend who was really good at languages. She ended up organising her Leaving Cert so, apart from compulsory maths which she barely passed, she did only languages (if you count music as a language). It did mean studying Italian outside of school but it worked for her. Hopefully you can find a mix that works for you. My kids have opted out of formal exams altogether but that’s another minefield.

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      1. Who knows. If they decide to go to university then they will either do exams, or try to get in via various “back door” options such as waiting till they’re mature students or applying for the disability access scheme. If they don’t want to go to university then we’ll have to look at employment options. And if they can’t access employment then there’s the whole arduous task of accessing disability benefits etc. Sure, it’s scary veering off the standard “exams, uni, job” path but better than the alternative as they’re mental health so much better now exams off the table for now.


  7. I think it’s great when we are aware of the flaws in our education system. We can either work together for reform and/or find ways to overcome the setbacks to achieve our goals for ourselves and our children. Back in your day, you found a way to get higher education. Now, you’ve got to apply that mindset for your son.
    By the way, I was saddened to learn that he hasn’t fully connected with Geography. As a former geographer, I found it to be the best subject for giving me a complete view of the world and how we humans have shaped it.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I remember those dinosaurs days. My last year the two classes I was allowed to choose, I took photography & a thing called “work study” for those of us with jobs. We had to report in every other week and submit our work hours🤷🏼‍♀️ I got to leave an hour early… to go work🙄

    I had to take a Science- physics, a math – trigonometry, Government, and English- film studies.

    School definitely hasn’t changed. I got my foreign language, and PE credits done early. We had to have 4 years of English, Math, Social Studies (history, government, geography) and 3 years of Science, 2 years of foreign language and various other “electives” for X number of credits. And my mother was never involved in ANY of it.

    With your help, Hawklad will get a proper education in spite of the school “system”. 💌💌💌

    Liked by 2 people

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