Back in my day, compulsory education ended at the end of year ten. The rules have changed a little bit but in my mind that is still basically how it works and this week Liam finished year ten.
He will go on to finish high school and he intends to go to uni as well so his formal education continues but I thought the end of his compulsory education would be a great time to reflect on the education that the Australian people, by way of our government, have given him.
It all started in about October of 1999. I took my little boy to orientation day at the local school, Narwee. I was delighted with the family atmosphere, the weatherboard buildings seemed welcoming, the playground had an organic feel about it, if I can say that. My delight with the school combined with the reality that my baby was growing up conspired to have me in tears for some time!
Waterworks over with , his first day of school the following January was not dramatic and he slipped easily into school life.
Those early years were marked by teachers who were kind and patient, they recognised the artistic talent that I didn't because I didn't have anyone to compare him to, they fostered his interest in the world, they supplied costumes for dress up day when his Mum forgot, most significantly they taught him to read and write, the basic skills he would need for a lifetime of learning.
As time went on there were so many opportunities offered to him through the school: he participated in athletics, soccer, choir and art workshops. He went on trips to farms and the zoo, to historic sites, gold panning, museums......I'm sure I have forgotten most of it.
All the while teachers helped him to build on his basic skills, teaching him to research, to read with insight and to construct different types of text.
The shift to high school at Hurstville boys High was smoothed by transition days and orientation programs, there was opportunity to play with a school band, to work in laboratories, art studios, and to learn wood and metal working skills in dedicated workshops. A trip to China last year and performing at the Opera House were highlights in the broadening horizons of my boy and his classmates.
The community of school life has been a continual source of interest to my aspiring psychologist, too. There were those sweet teachers in the early years, later there was the one who demanded that people with dirty mouths seek the dictionary meaning of their preferred curse or insult, the men who modelled discipline, integrity and sensitivity. The principal who read stories to the littlies and got the older boys working in the garden. There was the humour of Mr Farr, who would bestow the legendary Farr Cup on those who stuffed up. There was the extreme conservative who probably shouldn't have made his political views public but who has inspired my apolitical young man to engage just a little with federal politics.
There were volunteers who provided his in-school religious education and supported the schools by helping at special events, running fundraisers, providing extra supervision on excursions and listening to kids read.
Our public education system has given my boy (and his siblings following behind) a solid foundation. He has been exposed to so many opportunities that I probably couldn't have provided, he has a good general knowledge and knows how to pursue the things he wants to know, he has experienced literature, drama, music, visual arts, debate and understands intellectual rigour.
Eleven years of schooling have prepared Liam for continued study and for life's university. He can go forward as a rounded and discerning individual and for that, each and every teacher, support staff, volunteer and interested onlooker has my unfailing gratitude.