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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Single Mothers (20/01/09)

How do single mothers, on income support, mange to help their bright children through the eleven plus?

We like to enjoy a picture of a middle class family of 2.4 children with enough disposable income to be able to afford all the accouchements of a comfortably prepared Eleven Plus preparation. What is involved in the preparation?

The following is only conjecture. Books would come pretty high on any list. It is difficult to comment on what parents spend on books and materials. After all there are many free on line papers and materials. We do know, however, of one mother who bought £162.56 worth of materials – because this went through our bookshop. This was out of the ordinary!

We also have the privilege of seeing what children use at home because of our courses. On the courses, which run in different locations, we see children who have been prepared by parents and a range of tutors. We encourage the children to bring their books so that we can try to help with weak areas. It is quite extra ordinary the range and extent of the materials. The old favourites are there – like the Bond series – but there are a myriad of other preparation books. Some are rather dog eared having been passed down though the family and from friends. Some are brand spanking new – never opened even though the examination is weeks away. It takes all sorts!

Then comes mum’s dilemma. How can she afford the fees of a tutor? She wants the best for her child just like any other mother. How does she approach the powers that be (the mandarin controllers of her income and expenses) that she needs an extra sum of money every week to pay for additional help for her child?

Not all mothers on income support are ill educated. Some land in that never never land through absolutely no fault of their own. I heard a story where the family went for a short break. At the departure gate the father said to his wife and children that he was just going to get something and that he would meet them on the other side. The mother told me how anxious she became as she and her two children boarded the plane – and there was still no father! What could she say to her children? Where was dad? He did not answer his mobile phone when the family landed. There has been no sign of him since. This mother, she fears, may have to land up on income support – but not through any fault of her own.

Some single mothers will try to help their children themselves. Time then becomes the enemy. It must be extraordinary tiring to try to put three children to bed at different times, cook, clean, iron and work through an eleven plus verbal reasoning paper. I know that limited time is not the solve preserve of single mothers, because it is possible that a tiny majority of non single mothers have to carry out the same tasks with exceptionally limited support. (Not in my backyard!)

Of course grandparents can help. With the world in such financial turmoil some grand parents may have seen their savings and pensions at risk where an assured sum of weekly money to a much loved grand child may have been of little consequence just a few short months ago, many families have had to rethink lifestyles and disposable income.

What about the internet? Well there are some families without the internet for various reasons. Where does the computer come from? Who pays for the broadband? What about consumables? Nothing is really easy.

The government has invested so many billions into shoring up failing banks, I can’t help thinking that a tiny fraction of that `toxic’ debt could be offered to single mothers on low income, with bright children, in the hope that one of the these children may have enough common sense to help all of us out of our present dilemma.

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