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Monday, January 24, 2011

Eleven Plus Compassion.

We once had a very bright girl who attended lessons. Her mother was invariably cheerful and upbeat and very positive with her daughter. The daughter achieved all but perfect marks on two papers – but failed one, inexplicably, by one mark.

Mum did not want to appeal. “If she had been meant to pass she would have passed. I am quite happy with the local school.”

Her head teacher said that would support an appeal. I offered to attend an appeal. Her dad said he wanted his daughter to go to grammar. The girl said little. Mum did not want to change her mind. “What will be, will be.”

Both parents were professionals within different fields.

The girl was quiet, modest and very able. She was not one to laugh and joke – she simply wanted to do her work to the best of her ability. She certainly had the necessary tools to be able to argue with her mother about going to a grammar school – but chose to adopt her mother’s advice. If the girl had had a different personality would she have pressed for a place?

We know that a person’s personality alters as he or she grow older. Certain traits must become ingrained while others give way to new ones. The shock of not passing the eleven plus may have helped the girl, mentioned earlier, to almost freeze her thoughts – and listen without question to her mother’s arguments.

Personality is studied through interviews, questionnaires, projective tests and direct observation of behaviour. There will always be some degree of scepticism about the assumptions that the tests are based on. Who needed the personality assessment?

The bright, articulate, well educated and down to earth mother?

The able, hardworking and `super’ little girl?

The human in the local authority who did not pick up the phone - when he or she looked at the wonderful marks on two of the tests – and the strangely out of line mark on the third test?

Should compassion play a part in the eleven plus?

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