WORK. It dominates your adult life and plays havoc with your childhood, too. The days of sending children up chimneys may be over but in Birmingham three-year-olds are already looking at career options.
Visits to the post office and library to look at the world of work are part of the school day for nursery pupils at St John's primary in Sparkhill. For pupils aged seven and upwards, there are trips to the pizza parlour and a chance at school to practise their maths and literacy skills by pretending to be chefs and waitresses in a make-believe restaurant.
Pupils also take part in work-related role-plays using an imaginary hospital and supermarket. Chris Farmer, foundation stage team leader, organises trips to businesses for pupils up to twice a term and teaches them important life skills such as timekeeping.
Parent Rachael Taylor, an early- years teaching assistant, said: "It really opens their eyes. The children have a better understanding about different jobs than most children but no one is pressurising them. You are never too young."
The school is one of 280 in the area working with Birmingham and Solihull Connexions, which replaced the old careers service.
Sarah Smith, deputy head, said: "Many of our inner-city children come from families where there might not have been work for years. It is important that they have expectations that they can work."
Ian Smith, a parent-governor, accompanied his seven-year-old son, Nicholas, to Pizza Express. Nicholas is still more interested in dustcarts than cooking, however.
"As far as broadening their horizons go, I think it is a good idea," said Mr Smith. "But children have to grow up quickly enough, so I think at four and five they are a bit young to think about what they will do at 18."
And Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Associations, said: "If this is the beginning of business marketing in nurseries, then we say 'no thank you'."