Comments on stress, children’s wellbeing and the emotional impact of the 11+.
I went through this test process with my eldest daughter a few years ago and she’s now in Year 9 at secondary school. It was a really tough time as she thought she was a failure because she didn’t pass the test. It’s far too much pressure to put on the shoulders of young children and the system needs to change!
It is so intense and competitive to prepare for the 11+ and then to go through the exams. In my county (Warwickshire) junior school teachers almost don’t mention it — all the competition is driven by parents and secondary schools. I remember my son wrote a checklist for the day of the 11+ exam. the final item was ‘have hope’ which he had added. It still makes me sad thinking about that.
Kent Test results
Today is Kent Test results day… He refused to leave for school, then refused to get out of the car and go into school. There has to be a better way.
I wasn’t aware of the grammar system when I chose to move to Kent 20 years ago, long before marriage and starting a family, I hadn’t even considered the educational challenges posed. It’s been a whole year of stress and angst in our household trying to prep for a test aged 10.
A friend’s daughter had to be withdrawn from the test because her nerves were so bad that she was actually sick. It is a test that is supposed to judge brain power but how many little children have exam nerves and don’t do themselves justice? This is not a system that works for ten year olds unless they are resilient.
My son is eight and the 11+ already looms large
Every year, as the year 6’s prepare for the 11+ a sense of panic pervades the playground. My son is eight and starting to feel the pressure already. I would love to just opt out if the whole thing and trust that grammar schools don’t actually improve outcomes, as the evidence suggests, but there’s a lot of pressure from the rest of the family not to take this “opportunity” away from him. It’s doing both of our heads in.
This test is damaging to children
I have seen my two kids go through the Kent Test in the past two years, and can only stress how flawed the system is, and how damaging it can be to children. My daughter was lucky enough to ‘pass’ last year, but the process was one that made my wife and I extremely uncomfortable as to what we were putting her through. A few nights before the test I had looked at the search history on her internet tablet. The last search read, “How to cope when you’re panicking about something.” A ten year-old.
On several occasions in the weeks before she had asked would we be ashamed of her if she failed? I told her that it would be the test that failed.
My son found out last week that he was not ‘deemed appropriate’ for grammar school education. He passed the overall mark, but marginally missed in one of the three components. He is quite a stoic sort of lad, and when we opened the email together, he immediately told us he was fine, he was happy. Later that night he came downstairs, and confessed that when he said he was happy he hadn’t been truthful. He sobbed. He had wanted to go to the same school as his sister.
The next morning on the way to school he had to answer the dreaded question of how he had done in the test half a dozen times, by well-meaning friends in our village. God knows how many times he faced the question that day in school, as many of his successful classmates, most of them intellectually on a par with my son, celebrated. No doubt he did as I had seen him earlier, shrugged his shoulders, gave a thumbs down, and said, “I failed”.
Tom turned ten in July – he’s a young ten, and fairly immature compared to some of his classmates. I have never been more proud of him, and saw a new emotional maturity in him as he faced that horrible day, a day that divided him from most of his closest friends and peers. I know that all of the successful kids were boys and girls who had been coached to pass the test. Some of them were tutored twice a week for up to three years! Many of their wealthy parents had decided that it was worth the expense, because if they failed the test they would send their children to a private school, something that would make the investment in tuition seem paltry.
That morning, as I saw my son’s forced smile, I knew it was us that had failed Tom. We were wrong to decide coaching was immoral and that a few practice tests in the last weeks of the summer would suffice. The test creates an economy of coaching, and despite every attempt to make it tuition proof, this continues. Looking at Tom’s peer group, I can only say this system creates a situation where the wealthiest kids will pass more often than the less wealthy, regardless of ability.
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