If I had taken the 11 plus I would have failed and it would have only reinforced my belief that I was a failure.
So, the wheel may well be turning a full circle. Theresa May and her plans to introduce the grammar school model ( wholesale) is naturally causing debate and controversy.The principle of higher quality education being a provision for all with ability, to create maximum chances of life-time achievements are being questioned and challenged yet again. The Them and Us scenario being created is already being denounced by opponents, who argue that this is a backward step which will do nothing to eradicate social inequality,if anything quite the opposite.
For me, my intial reaction was to say: thank goodness, I was spared the 11 plus examination. If I had taken the 11 plus I would have failed and it would have reinforced my belief that I was a failure. I am aware that the Prime Minster is not thinking of restoring this exam but a process of selection of the best is sending shudders down my spine.
In my previous post, I talked about fear and how early childhood fears transfer into adult thinking and actions. The fear to take risks and to stay within comfort zones of behaviour. Interesting, I recently completed a questionnaire to assess my number one success blocker. The answer was that I feared failure and that one thing alone was holding me back.
Back to the grammar school debate and I do want to admit one thing. I would have loved the chance of a grammar school education and I have had two conversations with friends who attended one. Both have been highly successful people, and both individuals told me the positive experience that being immersed in a culture of excellent education and high aspiration ( with great role models of the teachers ) had a hugely positive impact for them. In these cases, perhaps, I wish I could have taken such an exam and passed it. I think I would have achieved more, whereas for me success has been hard fought. Even now I am still fighting to achieve my full potential- hence my curiosity in doing an online questionnaire to find out what is stopping me.
So part of me thinks, let’s celebrate the return of such schools and yet, part of me feels equally appalled. Having thought about this a lot and considered the advantages and disadvantages, and with the insight now of one who works in a school, this is my personal conclusion NOT endorsed by any one person or institution.
We need schools where all children can be individually nurtured and encouraged to be the best they can be, but where they can explore who they want to be. We want teachers who are passionate in delivering both the quality and inspiration in the lessons they prepare and with the drive and energy to say that learning is awesome.However, to demonstrate that this learning can take on many forms and shapes and that our ability to learn will change and be unique to us all.
We need to say it’s OK that not all can, or that everyone will want to be brain surgeons or lawyers and that genius and intelligence can be demonstrated by practical abilities, creative qualities and unique skills. We need to give children confidence so that they can take set backs, failure and be given the tools to get back on the horse and have another go. We need children to feel safe and emotionally secure so that they can grow and develop into well adjusted human beings who can debate, make friends, trust people, handle instructions and respect that sometimes you need to follow rules. We call the later examples emotional intelligence.
What DO we have though in reality, and will the opportunity to go to a grammar school ensure that both children and teachers can achieve this?
What we HAVE, at the moment, is stressed out, exhausted teachers having to meet the following: stats, Ofsted, mountains of paper trails, exam prep, plans and more paper, and figures to comply with this Government’s obsession with performance management and targets. To just live to get to the end of the week, then start all over again. Teachers who are counting the years left before they can retire. I have heard comments about schools being exam factories-NOTE, not anyone past or present in my school has said this but in general conversation this has been aired.
Nationally,we have children who are experiencing more mental health instability than ever before within the last generation. We see examples of bullying, anxiety, childhood depression and increase in behaviour problems. Of children medicated with ADHD pills and the creation of more pastoral care support services; with a acknowledge need of more specialised counselling support required in main stream schools.We see reception children who come into school at four needing toilet training and who clearly do not know how to use a knife and fork. Some of these very young children clearly do not possess the maturity needed to start formal education, even though most will have attended pre-school nursery.
We have parents who are clearly struggling with the many complex issues of living in the world of today. Of family breakdown, of isolation, addiction and within their own world struggling to read with their children, to talk, to listen, to be an effective role model. We are also up against parental apathy and a feeling that schools should do this job. I am not trying to generalise or judge here. I am not blaming or condemning teachers, parents or any school nationally but what I am asking is this: Will the creation of new grammar schools really address these issues?
No, is my answer. Certainly, I believe in one thing. That until any Government stops treating its children like canon fodder, a unit of production, a process, so that the Government can meet its national targets ( to give itself a pat on the back, brownie points and the endorsement of re-election ) then I fear nothing will change.
Overall, until children can be allowed to be children again, to play, fall over, get dirty and not be ‘Performing Monkeys’then we shall continue to lag in the international league tables of education. Only yesterday was I reading about Finish children starting school at seven, where they have the opposite of everything that makes up our educational Think Tank. Perhaps, it’s high time we stop this nonsense and take a leave out of their book. You might think,Theresa May, that a new dawn of grammar schools will really do the trick. Will it reverse all the damage of Gove, plus other educational policies so called experts have introduced, with the dire results for our children as a nation? If so think again. As Steven Covey ( author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ) puts it. You are walking up the wrong road.
What do you think?