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?


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.