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Friday, July 13, 2007

Strikes and the Eleven Plus

If we were to interview a sample of all the eleven plus children working towards the examination this year, I wonder how many of the children would be happy with the position they are in.

Some children will be happy because of blissful ignorance. They don’t know any better. They expect that the amount and range of work that is demanded of them as the norm. They believe what they are told by their parents and teachers. In other words they are perfectly normal, happy ten year olds.

There must be some, however, who are unhappy with their lot. There must be a wide range of reasons for an eleven plus child felling unhappy covering the family, the school, the syllabus and life in general.

“You never made Yvonne do all this work. She was allowed to do eleven plus papers when she felt like it. You just want to make me feel miserable and make me work when you want me to work, not when I want to work.”

“My teacher at school says that I am border line for the examination. Why do I have to do this extra work? You know I am on the top table for maths at school. I can do most of the verbal and non verbal reasoning questions. Any way you said that if I did some work every week you would let me go to the cinema – and you never have.”

“I can do all the exercises in that book (pointing to the table) but I hate that book. You always make me do the work I hate. I would really rather not do any extra work because I don’t think that I am going to pass and I want to go to the same school as my friends. None of my friends are trying for grammar school – and I want to be with them.”

“You never went to grammar school. You and Dad got degrees. Dad did not go to grammar either. I would much rather try to build robots. The mathematics we do is boring. We just do the same thing over and over. Paper after paper. You know I can do papers. Why do I have to do more and more?”

We know that children rely on their parents’ support while they are doing eleven plus examinations. We once had a father who was an inter-continental lorry driver. His wife did not drive. Their son was certainly grammar school material. You could not wish for a nicer and uncomplaining boy.

We all know that occasionally there are strikes involved with ferry crossings. This dad was caught on two occasions as he hurried back to take his son to lessons. The dad’s whole working life revolved around loading his lorry on the day after the lesson. He then drove off to Europe, delivered his load and then rushed back in time to pick his son up for his one hour lesson.

On one Thursday morning, during a long strike, he left his lorry in France. He crossed the ferry as a foot passenger, and hitched a lift to just outside Maidstone in Kent. He collected his car, gathered up his son from school, took him to the lesson, waited outside in the car, and they then went home together. The dad then set off on foot, in the darkness, to return to France to bring his lorry back. He would not accept a lift back to the ferry with me.

I was at the centre that day and so was caught up in the excitement and tension of the unfolding events.

So parents are prepared to go to enormous lengths to transport their children to activities. Parents do sometimes have to accept unjustified criticism of their actions. They are sometimes `dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t’. Most parents, very sensibly, simply keep their heads down, listen to their children, and then do what they want to do.

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