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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Eleven Plus and Personality

Similar types of eleven plus papers are used by parents and children. The home environment, however, is not uniform. The attitudes of parents and children will vary considerably towards the amount and the degree of work that needs to be done. There will be cultural differences as well as social and economic influences.

Within a family a mother and a father will demonstrate different personalities and attitudes to work and to study. I was surprised one year to work with a family where a mother and a father started arguing with each other in the middle of the initial discussion on their child. I then noticed that the child was wearing a frown – as did the parents and the older sister. As the lesson progressed this pretty little ten year seemed to be perpetually frowning.

Of course we must expect children to acquire the likes and dislikes – and the responses and habits of the family. Children, however, will never totally conform. It does not necessary follow that a hardworking and essentially moral family will have a child with the same characteristics.

I also remember a family rent by divorce. In the early days of the lessons the whole family arrived to pick up the eleven plus star. The parents made a point of having a little chat with the teacher. They were always appreciative and receptive.

One day the father was not there. A few weeks later the child left the lesson and walked downstairs to the mother sitting in the car. One week the child did not talk at all. It transpired that the father had left the marital home. There were problems with the house and money.

In the end the bright and engaging little girl chose not to write the eleven plus examination – even though she would have passed easily – with or without any extra support. We think the family moved. There is no doubt that the family became dysfunctional and disrupted. We can but hope that the girl survived. We know that most children are pretty tough – but her world was turned upside down.

A child’s personality must be a product of the interaction of heredity and environment. A child’s ability to focus on trying to pass the eleven plus must also be a product of the interaction between heredity and environment.

It is impossible to generalise about the type of child who will pass the eleven plus. There must be at least one common factor, however, and that is the unstinting support of the adults in the family.

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