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Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Eleven Plus Friend

Your child has made an application, with your help, to enter the eleven plus examinations. Your son is used to discussing the examination and the implications of passing and failing in a mature and thoughtful manner. He is comfortable with being in the top sets at school. The teachers throughout his school career have both acknowledged and lauded all his different academic successes. The eleven plus lies ahead.

The examination will take place in the school hall – which is pleasantly removed from much of the rest of the classrooms. On examination day the hall will be a haven of silence – mixed with the sighs of a few anxious children, On entering the hall, your child will see the familiar face of much loved teachers along with one or two smartly dressed outsiders (probably invigilators). One subject your son will feel very confident with is mathematics. After all he started with some sympathetic tuition when he was just five years old.

When your child started school you told the teachers that he had a hearing problem – and was only picking up sound in one of his ears. His new school started work immediately to install a surround sound system in the classroom. He could hear his teacher – and his new friends at school. The wonders of modern science! What would Thomas Edison have thought of a classroom equipped with sound!

The boy thought all his life that it was natural to only hear out of one ear. After all he could hear his father when dad wanted to play football in the park!

When he walked into the examination hall he saw a familiar face from years gone by! The `new’ boy had only just joined the school – even through the two boys had played together at play school. There was immediate symbiosis – and great feelings of fraternal pleasure. Because they were ten year old boys they did not hug each other - they simply punched each other on the shoulder. They did not talk much either but promised to meet after the examination.

We know that children and their parents will react differently to the eleven plus. The reason is that we are all conditioned to think: ` If such and such an act occurs, such and such a response must (or should) follow.’ We know, for example, that an examination hall should remain largely silent. Parents would expect this – but some children may miss the familiar hum of the classroom. If the invigilator speaks in an unfamiliar voice will our boy be able to follow what is being said? Any mother or father – or grand parents worth their salt – will naturally want to have a level playing field. The boy enters the examination room with his identity already defined. He knows, by the age of ten, what is expected of him and what he can hope to achieve. He does not, however, have the same rights and obligations of his long lost friend. After all their lives must have diverged widely over the years between nursery school and the eleven plus.

Is there then a level playing field in the examination between the expectations of the two boys? In the one case our boy has had the best possible education the school can offer – from sympathetic and understanding teachers and the best hearing equipment available. The other boy has just entered a new school, days before an examination – with few friends. Those few precious moments outside the hall may have meant a lot to each child. However much their parents exhorted them to keep calm and do their best the reaffirmation of the bonds of friendship may have contributed to a sense of well being and confidence.

Both boys had much to offer each other:

“A friend in need, is a friend indeed.”

“Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.”

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