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Is 14 too early to choose vocation?

I had a special interest in reading John Morton's viewpoint article (NCE 5 June).

After passing the 11 plus examination in 1947, I was sent to the Technical High School in Northampton where we did the new GCE course as did boys at the local Grammar School. We did the same core subjects, but while they studied Latin and Greek, we did metalwork and technical drawing and took a higher GCE maths course and General Science while they did separate sciences.

The net result was that they were at least as well prepared for engineering as we were.

Nevertheless I was pressurised to become an engineer – "the country needs you" – despite wanting to be a journalist. Meanwhile our Grammar School contemporaries chose according to their wishes and went off to Oxbridge to become government ministers, surgeons, professors and even journalists. I remain rather jealous.

I enjoyed my time in public sector engineering but I always knew that I was not an engineer by choice and moved into lecturing. My civil engineering background was very useful but I could also use the communication and other skills that led me originally towards journalism.

Should such specialised courses as the diploma in engineering be introduced from the age of 14 when children are not yet equipped to choose? Surely 16 is quite early enough to decide one's future. I am glad that my daughter studied a general course up to 18 and only when in the sixth form decided to enter medicine.

IAN HAMILTON (M), 1 Albert Road, Richmond Surrey,
TW10 6DJ

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