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.


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