Last week I gave an assembly for 220 pupils aged 13-14 at Westborough High School in Dewsbury.
The school librarian Sarah-Jane Loughran had invited me to speak to the pupils to tell them about the literature festival but also to talk about the importance of books and reading – and how having a good grasp of written and spoken English can open up a wider range of professions.
The school has around 1,200 pupils and the first surprise was the very efficient security measures. At reception they have an electronic badge machine – after typing in my name and looking into the screen when prompted, it printed out a badge with my details and picture on it.
The school has a very good policy of encouraging all children to have a book or other reading material in their bags at all time. Some of the children don’t have books at home, but the school library was large and clearly well used.
At 14, some of them might be only a couple of years from leaving school and moving into employment, so after talking about my background in publishing and newspapers, I talked a little about career choices. I encouraged the pupils to think about what they enjoyed doing and what they were good at and suggested that they find out what careers might fit with this, rather than falling into the first job that came along.
The talk seemed to be well received – the pupils were all well behaved – and afterwards a small group came up to the library. One of the girls was very keen on Manga so we talked about the Manga Con at this year’s festival. Another girl was good at design so we chatted about some careers that might use this talent.
A photographer from the Dewsbury Reporter came along to take pictures of me sitting with the girls standing around me with letters they had made spelling out HLF2013 and we all got covered in the glitter they’d used on the letters!
Hopefully we’ll see some of the pupils at festival events, or at least they will have had some food for thought to encourage them to pick up a book and think a bit more broadly about their future careers.