There is a sense in which all education is preparatory - a process of acquiring skills and knowledge that will fit us to face our futures with confidence. But this is too simplistic. Schools should not be driving children ever onward to make early acquaintance with tomorrow.
Preparation for the future must not be made by stealing the present. One of the best preparations for becoming a confident 12-year-old is to live fully as an 11-year-old. This philosophy poses problems for parents and educators when they want to make sure their children can face and survive the hazards of drugs, Aids and the rest, yet they do not wish to run the risk of damaging childhood innocence. Channel 4 faces up to this problem with these eight booklets aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds in a series called Choices and Consequences.
They have a very sound structure founded on three approaches. First, under the heading "opportunities", children can explore situations they might encounter in daily social interactions, for example the boy who tries to get round the school rule that insists everyone take part in games.
The second approach is through examining decisions that need to be made in different situations. And the third involves confronting children with the consequences of actions and of the decisions they take. This approach works well across a range of themes such as work and wealth, drugs, diet and exercise, and the move to secondary education. The discussion material is excellent and, in the hands of wise teachers, these books will help schools "prepare pupils for the opportunities, experiences and responsibilities of adult life", as the 1996 Act demands.
But does this material destroy innocence? Certainly not. That could only happen as a consequence of the actions of the adults in whose hands these books lie.
Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire.