Recently there have been a number of changes in national policy which seem to have neither rhyme nor reason, but the most arrogant of them all, apart from the wars, is the proposal to extend the school leaving age across the board. In the 30s, some of my friends matriculated, and others left at 14 to take up apprenticeships in various trades. One joined the Daily Express as a trainee press photographer, the job he was very successful in, until he retired. Another went into a butcher’s shop and finally owned one. In those days there was no stigma at leaving at 14, as the majority did so. In engineering of every type, as in printing, shop-keeping, and many other trades, starting at 14 enabled one, with the right guidance, to become professional in one’s chosen trade, during a period in life when personal responsibilities are generally at a minimum. As one who has had to study for 4 years, while maintaining a growing family, the latter would clearly have had some advantageous aspects.
There is no shadow of doubt that this proposal has more to do with teenage criminal behaviour than concern for their educational capabilities. In consequence the schoolteachers are to become surrogate parents, as the chiid’s parents have to work to maintain the standard of living which is considered the norm. I am convinced a youth, either not wishing, or not able to take advantage of higher education, should have the opportunity to start at around 15 years of age as an apprentice. He or she should be apprenticed to a recognised journeyman-tradesman, who has the breadth of experience, and all related standards set by, and approved by an appropriate authority, for the required period – not kept on at school at great national cost, in order to keep him or her off the streets, possibly with little to show for the added years. The men I worked with, started as apprentices and became gangers, foreman, and general foreman, with good wages and prospects. It was my experience in the later years of my working life that the quality of the tradesman who were available for short-term working, not part of an organised company, were not of the standard I was used to, their training had been shortened for convenience.
I changed my job on six occasions and each time it took time to find my feet and understand the routine of the new company. This period was tiring for me and I was not providing the productivity that I was capable of. From this, one can draw the conclusion that change is inevitably unproductive for a period of time until the new system has bedded down. Untried change, for a whim, and the wrong reasons, is letting down those involved in the implementation, probably going to have to be countermanded, and those promoting it will not bear the brunt.