Every eleven plus child, in the eyes of loving parents, is a miracle of sweetness and goodness. Of course there are occasional slips – but, in general, few eleven plus parents can find much fault with their children. Quite right too!
What some parents will hope is that the eleven plus experience contributes to personal and social growth as well as intellectual stimulation. Ideally the eleven plus curriculum should be broad and stimulating. Many children seem to find the eleven plus year an exciting ride of the old fashioned carrot and stick. “If you do this, we can do this.”
Naturally there is a minimum amount of work eleven plus children will need to do. Some children will be blessed with enough ability to be able to pass the eleven plus with remarkably little extra work. Other children will find that they need to study virtually day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute and second after second. Most children, however, will work somewhere between these two extremes. Parents may find that they have to help their child establish a routine that will fulfil the demands of the examination.
The examination is examined externally. This allows parents to feel secure that whatever their child does on the day the result is not being affected by too many outside distractions. In one classroom the candidate may come across a teacher who champions the eleven plus. Across the corridor, in the same school, could be a teacher who is not as sympathetic to the concept of selection. Once the children are in the examination hall, however, every child has the same opportunity.
It is possible that there are other influences than the school’s on a child’s performance in the examination – for example the attitude of the rest of the family. A child spends far more time out of the school classroom than he or she does in school. The starting points of eleven plus children are wonderfully diverse. The language that parents use at home could, for example, be a decisive factor. Other children may benefit from the mother or the father sitting beside them each step of the way. Other children may flower under the: “Go to your room and don’t come down until you have finished the paper.”
One lasting benefit of eleven plus work, whether it is a pass or a fail, is the development of self-respect and the capacity to work independently. When your child emerges from the examination room, looks up at you and murmurs: “I did my best,” you can only say, “Yes, we all did our best.”