Jude Collins

Friday, 13 May 2011

Fourteen: is there a worse age for deciding anything?

It’s funny how quickly people forget. Gerry Kelly, Arlene Foster, Danny Kennedy, David Ford and Alastair McDonnell were on BBC’s Hearts and Minds yesterday and all of their minds have been scrubbed clean of teenage memories. Noel Thompson asked them about the Eleven Plus and transfer to secondary school. All looked very wise and said putting a child through exams at eleven was far too demanding and fourteen was a much better age.

EH? How can you have forgotten being fourteen, Gerry, Arlene, Danny, David and Alastair? Or were you ever fourteen? Fourteen is the worst of ages – ask any teacher. It’s when puberty has seriously kicked in, the hormones are bouncing and ricocheting around the young mind, heart and other parts. One minute they’re screaming with laughter, the next minute they’re just screaming. They sulk, they cry, they push boundaries, they break rules, they worry about sex, death, world hunger and if that girl/guy two seats back fancies them. In other words, they are at the peak of their irrationality. You don’t believe me? Ask any teacher which would they rather face, a class of 12-year-olds or a class of 14-year-olds.

And it’s at 14, the centre of the whirlpool, the core of the twister, that Gerry, Arlene, Danny, David and Alastair think young people will be able to make decisions about the direction of their lives.

Dear God. Let’s pray the new Education Minister remembers what fourteen feels like.

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