Back to school

Terry Hunt re­calls that sink­ing Septem­ber feel­ing

EADT Suffolk - - Inside - CON­TACT terry.hunt@eadt.co.uk Terry Hunt is editor of the East Anglian Daily Times. Suf­folk born and bred, he has lived in Ip­swich for more than 25 years.

SEPTEM­BER al­ways sends shiv­ers down my spine. Not be­cause every­thing sud­denly turns chilly and au­tum­nal – in fact, re­cently it seems Septem­ber of­ten brings bet­ter weather than July and August. No, the shiv­ers come from memories of start­ing back at school.

Af­ter weeks of care­free sum­mer days, spent play­ing with friends, vo­ra­ciously read­ing books, or sim­ply ‘chilling out’ (not that we used that phrase back then), there was the sud­den re­al­i­sa­tion that the ar­rival of Septem­ber meant only one thing . . . back to school.

I don’t want to give the im­pres­sion that I hated school. I quite en­joyed it most of the time. But the start of the new aca­demic year al­ways brought fresh hur­dles to cross. For me, four times it meant start­ing at a brand new school, with new friends to make, new rules to learn, new teach­ers to get to know. Even if I wasn’t chang­ing schools, each aca­demic year meant dif­fer­ent lessons, dif­fer­ent teach­ers, and – hor­ror of hor­rors – al­most cer­tainly tough and im­por­tant ex­ams.

Once I was back in the swing of things it was fine. In fact, be­ing with lots of other young peo­ple, play­ing sport and, oh yes, learn­ing, was ac­tu­ally en­joy­able. But it didn’t stop that ‘Septem­ber feel­ing’ ar­riv­ing every year. So, as Septem­ber ar­rives, my thoughts are with the many thou­sands of young peo­ple across Suf­folk who are get­ting ready to go back to the class­room. I’m sure the vast ma­jor­ity will be look­ing for­ward to it, but there’s bound to be a lit­tle trep­i­da­tion for some. Make sure you en­joy your­selves, but work hard as well!

Suf­folk’s army of teach­ers will also be mo­bil­is­ing ready for the new school year. Decades ago, there was a widely held view that teach­ing was a bit of an easy op­tion. Short work­ing days, long hol­i­days, a bit of a cushy num­ber, lots of peo­ple seemed to think. I haven’t heard a sin­gle per­son ex­press that view in the last few years. It seems we have re­alised that teach­ing is a tough job. I cer­tainly couldn’t do it. I’ve stood in front of classes of chil­dren as editor of the EADT, and I find it tough. It’s the huge vari­a­tions in lev­els of in­ter­est that al­ways throw me – ul­tra-keen young­sters, who ap­pear to hang on your every word, whose hands shoot into the air when you ask a ques­tion. Then the less en­gaged, who make it ob­vi­ous you’re the most bor­ing per­son on earth.

How pro­fes­sional teach­ers deal with that, and get the best out of pupils, day af­ter day, I have no idea. My daugh­ter is a pri­mary school teacher in quite a de­prived Lon­don bor­ough, and, risk­ing a Proud Dad Mo­ment, I’m sure she’s re­ally good at her job. She knew she wanted to teach from when she was about 13, and she loves it.

As I men­tioned, teach­ing isn’t a cushy num­ber, and politi­cians don’t help. Over the years, suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have been un­able to re­sist tin­ker­ing with our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Mov­ing the goal­posts? More like turn­ing the whole pitch around.

I couldn’t re­sist an ironic smile when I saw that GCSE grades have been changed back from letters to num­bers. A case of back to the fu­ture. When I took my O-Lev­els, grades one to six were passes, and seven to nine were fails. I got a seven in gen­eral sci­ence (sci­ence for dunces) and a crash­ing nine in art, which I was sup­posed to ex­cel in.

So, on be­half of all teach­ers and school pupils, I would ask the politi­cians to leave well alone. Let good teach­ers get on with their vi­tally im­por­tant jobs. In Suf­folk, things are look­ing up. Af­ter sleep­walk­ing into a pretty poor place five or six years ago, the county’s ed­u­ca­tion set-up is get­ting its act to­gether, and re­sults are steadily im­prov­ing. Still a long way to go, though.

To all our school pupils and teach­ers re­turn­ing for the start of the new aca­demic year, I wish you every suc­cess. Work hard – and en­joy it!

‘So, as Septem­ber ar­rives, my thoughts are with the many thou­sands of young peo­ple across Suf­folk who are get­ting ready to go back to the class­room’

Above: Trust me . . . the hard work will be work it. Pupils at Deben­ham High School cel­e­brate their GCSE re­sults in 2016.

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