A big step in the walk of life;Opinion

4th June 1999 at 01:00
For parents of my generation, Penelope Leach was a godsend. She didn't always get it right, but her book on parenting was extremely comforting when things went bump in the night.

On the final page of the manual, she describes your child walking away from you into the outside world, taking their initial steps unaided as they begin their first day at school. She points out that your work as a parent has been preparing the child for this first big step and that all will be well.

Soft centred as I am, this passage brought a lump to my throat before my son was even born. Even today, as he reaches the end of his primary schooldays, I can get emotional on the odd occasion I drop him off at school.

I really had no idea of the vital role St Peter's, in the Morningside area of Edinburgh, would prove to play in Patrick's development. Secondary and primary teachers tend to circle one another warily. As secondary staff, we shiver at the thought of the emotional demands that younger primary pupils invest in their teachers, whereas primary colleagues wonder how we cope with huge post-pubescent teenagers.

Clearly we each have our strengths and talents, but I have to declare a great admiration for the work done by St Peter's and its staff in guiding my son from a quiet P1 to the relatively confident and secure P7 that he has become.

As teachers, we see every day how experience shapes attitudes. Any parent would recognise the vital need for that experience to help shape a child who is positive about learning, secure in being challenged to improve continually and comfortable with the social demands made on them in and out of the classroom.

As in all sectors of education, to meet this ideal, primary teachers are asked to give that extra piece of themselves, emotionally as well as professionally. When staff are lucky, parents don't take that for granted, but recognise the hard grind, as well as professional pride, that contributes to preparing pupils for their next big journey - into secondary.

Patrick is a happy and secure pupil who has enjoyed his primary schooldays immensely and benefited from them enormously. One day, he will look back and recognise the huge influence that every one of his primary teachers have had on his life. I don't have to wait - I can gladly acknowledge that right now.

Reflecting the views of P7 parents across the country, I say thank you to all the staff of St Peter's, for their hard work, commitment and caring, and for the pupil my son has become, and the opportunities he has been helped to take.

Now for the Big School!

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