Tis the season of eleven plus results


The roads are empty. I whizz into work and am seated well before Ebenezer can make an appearance. The few lost souls in the office are unnaturally talkative and welcoming and there are no queues in the canteen.

The White Paper is causing a significant amount of comment about selection in schools. Yesterday the today programme had a fascinating item with Dr George Carey and Lord Stevens who both failed their eleven plus and talked very well about the shame and feeling of failure it engendered in them. My own child has just gone through this and didn’t get into the local grammar school, despite attaining superior scores and the highest possible reading age, according to the prior assessment of the County’s own Educational Psychologist.

Very interesting to me is the procedure when you want to appeal, at which point it becomes clear exactly how much success in this depends upon the ability of the parents and not the children. The appeals process in my county is off putting, messy, unnecessarily complicated, and I believe, very unlikely to be undertaken by anyone who doesn’t have a high level of education, patience and persistence themselves. It’s probably not conducive to the social mobility grammar scools are intended to promote.

The gathering of evidence depends upon my ability to display a high degree of organisation, to have kept meticulous records of my child’s achievement over the past few years , to recruit a favourable report from our headteacher (thank goodness we were nice to her) and to gather academic references to papers on my child’s medical condition from professororial friends who lecture in psychology and education in a variety of universities around the UK. But I expect it’s fair. All parents are equally able to do this. Aren’t they?

I’ve sent my documents in and continue to research more in preparation for my trial. I’m glad I have a broadband internet connection. So much more useful than trying to find books in my local library about obscure educational issues.

I’ve been given an appointment to go and “present my case” when it will be me against the County. Why the adversarial mode I wonder? isn’t “the County” supposed to be seeking to offer a fair and appropriate education to all those who can benefit from it, regardless of the parents’ ability to imitate Kavanagh QC?

I wonder whether the way I dress is going to affect them? The sober suit or the velour tracksuit? I expect the jury is trained to be impartial on these matters.

Don’t Cry For Me….


From one extreme to the other. I spent the 3rd – 11th In Argentina, working with my opposite number there. Amazing and, sadly, a good reminder of my various blessings. By far the worst thing is the skinny, scruffy children, five year olds tugging at the clothes of shoppers on BA’s answer toSouth Kensington. A crazy faced boy with his arm burrowing deep into a lamp-post mounted bin, as he retrieved a half eaten McDonalds. A collection of boys asleep in a broad shop doorway.

It was a far cry from the picture painted in my travel guide, which went on and on about what a crazy, great, hip, swinging, hot, hot, hot place this is. Looking back on it now, the description seems like that of a desperate teenager, hoping to plant a picture of a vacation that would force their friends to envy them, even though the reality was all a bit more sad and embarrasing.

Good things were many as well. A lot of friendly people, good food – with vegetables – means a lot to me when I’m travelling. Great, great wine, not that I got to drink much, beautiful avenues and traffic which, though at first it seemed murderous, was in fact much more decorous than its equivalent here, as 10 lines of cars wait patiently on each side of the massive July 4th Highway for all the pedestrians to cross, only nudging over when it’s safe to do so.

Very passionate TV and film makers. I saw some superb work on children and the media, some of which I would like us to emulate here.


It was a heavy schedule in the end, but fortunately one day was a holiday. On that day, I went, on the advice of my lovely PA, to Colonia, In Uruguay. A bit daft to go all that way to one country and them immediately depart for another, but everything was shut in BA. Queuing up for the 3 hour ferry across the River Plate was long and tedious, and I resolved to get the fast one back. Only time for a nice lunch and a quick English tour of the area, before I was back across the river and into Argentina.

The travelling to and from Argentina was extremely unluxurious. On Standby from Madrid, I eventually got to BA to discover my luggage was in Barcelona. No car to meet me as I’d spent so long fruitlessly trying to claim my luggage, the hotel Plaza San Martin Suites on Suipacha,


refused to let me in till 1pm and it was only 10.30 am when I got there. They suggested I go out on the street for lunch, at 10.30 on a Sunday, having been travelling for 22 hrs, with no currency, no water, no luggage and nothing open. They also refused to let me call collect to my insurance company. Welcome to BA. The service got better after that. It could hardly have been worse. Maybe it was just the collection of press queuing up to interview me in subsequent days that made them all a bit more helpful. Whatever it was, it improved.

In one mad taxi ride I also managed a brief glimpse at La Boca and Casa Rosada, and a more leisurely walk round Recoleta in a downpour, as I visited the grave of Evita. Or Madonna, as I tend to think of her