Thank goodness that the clocks have gone forward. We can now quite safely think about visits to the sea side. Even those of you who live by the sea need to spend some time looking at the ebb and flow of the tide.
Watching waves breaking on the beach for twenty minutes is where your eleven plus child will come to realise how remorseless the forces of nature actually are.
It is very difficult for your eleven plus child to be able to look ahead and visualise the future. Before you started work you will have discussed the events leading up to the examination, you will have picked out key selection papers, and you will have sorted out the tuition side. Surely you will also have discussed the events of actual examination?
If you have looked that little bit extra ahead you will have commented on the consequences of passing and failing the examination. You will have talked about what changes will need to take place if the examination is passed.
One thing, I hope you are never tempted to do, is to say, in front of your child, that if her or she does not pass you will never allow him or her to go to that `horrible’ school.
What ever your feelings you must not let your child take that feeling of failure into the proposed new school. By all means appeal – and fight very hard. Borrow the money, if you can, to go private. Move house in the hope of gaining a place at a better school.
We had a family last year that did just that. They were given just on three months to make up their minds – and they had to sell, find a new house, offer on a new house, cope with the chain and move in – all to satisfy the entry requirements. I can not tell you how much I admired their fortitude and inner strength.
So now we need to get back to the waves. The grammar schools have only so many places. Some years a pass mark at a certain level will gain automatic eleven plus entry. In another year the same mark will not be good enough. There may be a shortage of suitable candidates – but the grammar schools still need to fill their places. These different scenarios represent forces over which you have no control.
You can push as hard as you like against the waves but when the tide is coming in you are powerless. But this does not mean that you have to give up your dream of a grammar school education.
You have to look very realistically at the strengths and weakness within the family. Perhaps a favourite aunt may be an ideal role model who can offer a monthly chat about progress. There may be a grandmother or grandfather who will be able to explain algebra to your son or daughter. Some member of the family or a friend may be able to offer advice on which activities to keep and which to give up. (We met a girl last week who was a talented gymnast – and a dancer. She had after school activities every evening of the week and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There was not much time for a peaceful hour of contemplative study!)
Equally there may be members of the family who will urge you to leave your child to develop naturally – and not do much work on papers before the examination. This will not necessarily be a much loved grandmother who will urge you to let your child develop and not to push too much. It may be your partner you will suggest that you leave what happens to your child to the school and not to put too much pressure on your ten year old.
So over Easter try to make some time to sit quietly on the beach with your eleven plus child. Wait for when the tide starts coming in. Build a little sand castle. Watch the waves demolish the castle and discuss the eleven plus pensively and warmly. Chat about strong and weak forces. Talk about aims and dreams and desires. Don’t make any promises. Have a good old `heart to heart’. You will all feel better for it.