Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I didn’t sleep well. What can I say? I am stressed. Why? Because today my younger daughter had her first pre-assessment for secondary schools.

She will have to endure 4 or 5 sets of exams over the next two months, with two or three papers each time. Then, there will be the interviews. She is ten years old and a big baby, if you ask me. But that’s the way it is. We have to go with the flow. I am starting to question my choice to stay in the British system. Gone are the days when you just went to your local school, as I did in France.

I am freaking out. What if she doesn’t get into the school she wants? What if we end up with a school that is on the other side of London? And what is it with this testing frenzy?

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My daughter is a normal child. Sometimes she does well, sometimes she is a bit tired and does less well. She is going to a primary school where she is as happy as a clam. They prepared her for the tests, but they only started a few months ago. Maybe I was irresponsible: I should have chosen a more academic school. Maybe they didn’t push her hard enough, and I was wrong to encourage her to be curious and play. You see, she is passionate about volcanoes, but I don’t think it will help her pass the assessments. But I do think that it is important to be passionate and enthusiastic. With a mother like me, does she stand a chance? I don’t know. Damn it, here comes the guilt again. I should have done more. When will I learn?

That said, I have a fundamental issue here: does testing really drive better instruction? Does it improve student performance? Don’t get me wrong, I am all about having objective measures to assess a child’s progress. But I also believe that such measures go way beyond grades from teachers. How do you assess creativity anyway? How do you assess emotional intelligence? Kindness? Compassion?

This whole 11+ assessment is getting on my nerves. Why am I affected? Well, because everybody is. Rightly or wrongly, I feel like the results will also reflect on me, and I don’t like it. I did what I could. When does it get easier? I am freaking out. The next few weeks will be difficult. Wish me luck.

 

  • James Casserly Omaexlibris

    It’s a horrible system and deeply unfair to children and parents. What on earth are they interviewing children for? My suspicion is the schools want to weed out anyone not academically intelligent enough to make them look good on the league tables. I am totally against selection. There is nothing like this in Ireland, for which I am grateful. Children need to be children and have a life of exploring, developing and finding their self confidence and own worth before these pressures are on them. I think 14 to 16 is early enough to have to undergo all these exams. And no, it is not a reflection on you whether your daughter does well or not. I think your attitude is to be commended. It’s a reflection on a broken system which sees children as nothing more than future economic units who must be prepared to be economically “productive”. ake it easy on yourself. It’s a horrible system and deeply unfair to children and parents. What on earth are they interviewing children for? My suspicion is the schools want to weed out anyone not academically intelligent enough to make them look good on the league tables. I am totally against selection. There is nothing like this in Ireland, for which I am grateful. Children need to be children and have a life of exploring, developing and finding their self confidence and own worth before these pressures are on them. I think 14 to 16 is early enough to have to undergo all these exams. And no, it is not a reflection on you whether your daughter does well or not. I think your attitude is to be commended. It’s a reflection on a broken system which sees children as nothing more than future economic units who must be prepared to be economically “productive”.

  • Karen Nelson

    Testing of this sort is not suitable for younger humans and should be delayed until their late teens.