School's in, says Britain's new generation of swots

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The Independent Online
Rebellious, disrespectful and disruptive? Not at all. Britain's youth are far more likely to be serious and studious, according to the Talking About My Generation survey.

Doing well in examinations was the most important thing amongst nine out of 10 children - more so than pleasing their parents, looking good or winning a competition.

That certainly seemed to be the case yesterday at South Camden Community School, a comprehensive school for 800 pupils in north London, where pupils aged between 12 and 16 insisted that exams were the most important things in their lives.

Esther Anato-Dumelo said "GCSEs and A levels can make people freak out but you can't go to college or get that good a job without education."

She was heartily endorsed by her fellow pupils, who said they did not even mind having exams before the all-important GCSEs, so that they could get used to the examination process. "If you only do exams once, you don't have enough experience," said Noras Alrammani. "And your parents can help you in doing these sorts of things.

"You're going to have pressure on you the rest of your life," Esther added. "So this is a good way of getting used to it."

Only John Agbe dissented: "I don't know whether the best way of seeing how good someone is is by sitting down writing things on a stupid bit of paper."

While school posed few worries for them, the teenagers said they worried about increasing violence on the streets.

In the report, one in five children aged eight to 11 worry so much that they can be described as "anxious", with girls suffering most.

"It's not so much now but in the winter when it's seven or eight o'clock and dark, it gets scary if you are walking around alone," said Tooba Ahmadi.

"You feel there are so many crimes and you don't know what is going to happen," she said.

"Boys are scared as well as girls," said Esther. "They can get beaten up as well."

But the boys and girls also said that teenagers were unfairly seen as being violent and badly behaved.

"If my brother walks down the street, old ladies think that he is going to mug them and hold their bags tighter. It is just people reacting to stereotypes," Esther said.

"Older people say all sorts of bad things about you if you are a teenager," said Tooba. "When you are going on the buses old people don't trust you just because you might be one of those people."

As for restrictions, the survey found that children respect the views of their parents, and less than 25 per cent think they ought to be the ones to decide what time to come home. However, the South Camden pupils felt that they knew how to live their lives sensibly.

"You can't make a teenager do what they don't want to," said Noras. "A lot of adults don't know about practical things that are going on now, "added John. "Their ideas can be different. Life has changed."

"Adults should sit back and listen to teenagers. Some teenagers know more about what's going on now," Esther said.

"They don't know what's going on in everyday life. You have to say 'It's not the Sixties any more, it's the Nineties'."

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