Linda Colling: Blazing a trail

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WHAT would you like to be when you grow up? The eight-year-old little girl answered “A babysitter.”

Bless the bairn – like millions more she didn’t know what a proper job is. That’s not her fault.

Those of us who grew up with the work ethic can’t imagine what it’s like to have no concept of work. But in homes everywhere – in Sunderland there are three generations who have never worked – the idea of getting up and going to work is unknown.

It’s shocking that working for a living is an alien concept to children who don’t see anyone go to work.

That’s why I am delighted to see a primary school in Longbenton, Newcastle, providing such a shining example by tackling this problem.

Staff at St Stephen’s RC Primary were shocked by pupils’ lack of knowledge of the working world. So, top marks to head Stephen Fallon for pioneering a scheme aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty and helping youngsters with parents who are long-term unemployed.

Pupils as young as eight are being introduced to police officers, firefighters, vets, dentists, plumbers and midwives to inspire them.

Stephen says it helps identify careers and has raised academic standards, adding: “So many live in homes where mum and dad don’t work, so they don’t have any concept of work. Some had very low expectations. The scheme lets them see they can get good jobs.”

How inspirational and aspirational. It’s completely changed their restricted outlook. The sky’s the limit for kids who once didn’t know a marine biologist from a midwife.

Next week a plastic surgeon is popping in along with a florist, representatives from the armed forces, a photographer, magazine editor, police, nurses, travel reps, the Dogs Trust, firefighters and oh, yes, a marine biologist. You name it they’ve got it.

Which begs the question, will we see this happening in Sunderland? We should follow suit and have a career week like St Stephen’s in every primary school.

Children are never too young to know what the working world is all about and the diversity of jobs.

Once there were jobs for anyone who wanted one at whatever level. Now that’s not the case, but that’s no reason not to educate our young in the work ethic and also for them to look to their future in what they would really like to do with their lives.

I think it’s absolutely crucial raising aspirations and getting children to aim for the stars. For too long this has been a neglected area in so many of our schools, unlike the private ones.

Top marks again to St Stephen’s whose assistant head, Bernadette Dunn, told me: “Our children say they would like to be a nurse. We say ‘Perhaps you would like to think about being a doctor.’ What is important is we recognise and we try to offer a full spectrum of jobs out there.”

St Stephen’s has been blazing a trail for five years and that’s down to hardworking governors who take responsibility for bringing in the working people.

Talking of responsibility, Wearside’s jobless Keith Macdonald, 25, branded the nation’s worst father is to be a dad – again – his ninth at least, by eight mothers.

Clare Bryant, from Houghton, is reportedly expecting a baby.

The pair already have a daughter, Paige, who will be one-year-old next month and got back together after a split. What are these lasses thinking of?

She says: “Last August I had sex with Keith. It was a big mistake. I was mortal.

“There is a tiny chance it might not be Keith’s. There was a two-week gap between me having sex with him and with someone else, but I am sure it is his.”

Pity the bairns.