Yup. I am unlikely to send out three kids into the world with CVs boasting GCSE passes of 10 A* grades each. Or even 5 A* grades and a few humble others. But will the lack of a basketful of GCSEs harm them, as you say?
Let's look at the reality. My kids might emerge from home ed at age 16 with CVs that show an eclectic range of courses, some intriguing and uncommon skills, a scattering of GCSE grades in a bizarre range of subjects, and a whopping great load of interests, curiosities, and experiences that don't fit into any box labelled for that purpose.
I'd also hope that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger know how to learn stuff for themselves; how to organise their study and respect people who teach them. Maybe those qualities will show in an interview. (Or maybe not, if in five years Tiger remains painfully shy, if Squirrel still lives on Planet Squirrel, and if Shark doesn't climb out of her pre-teen awkwardness, in which phase she is presently sinking.)
But are they worse off because of a CV which reads like an antidote to an A* shot? We're asking each of our children to think about the next few years in terms of the interests, curiosities, and experiences they'd like to look back on and use to head off into the future.
Of course in this enterprise, I'm being egged on. By people who tell
me they see lines of A* candidates, one after another, and they are
lovely. It's just that so many are non-critical and non-thinking. When
they're asked what interests do they have outside school, the response
is nervous laughter, indifferent answering, a questioning gaze and,
worst of all, an expression that reads 'What interest would you like me
to have? Tell me what it is, and I'll tell it back to you'.
That's unlikely to be my three kids. Shark, set on watery futures, is this week on a lake again, sailing, taking her junior stages 3 and 4 certificates. She attends her weekly diving club, and her browser tabs are a variety of fish forums, tank health, water quality and how to prevent fin nip. I don't think she's headed for a career in Accountancy. Squirrel, appropriately enough, says astronomy might be useful. Tiger wants me to find an embroidery course, and lace making would be helpful.
So while I know that children in school work so very hard for those lines of A* - and don't forget, I've taught there - a bit of me hopes that they have time to do what we do: develop interests out of the system, do things that fire them up in passion and delight, and let them create futures for themselves that are expressions of themselves. And that, as far as I know, doesn't come with a grade at all.