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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:28 am 
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I would just like this forum to know that 24 years after taking the 12 plus, that I still have not recovered from the psychological damage that "failing" this exam has caused me.

In 1987, I took my 12+ exam in Warwickshire, and failed to gain a placement in Lawrence Sheriff grammar despite my teachers believing that I deserved a place. An appeal was turned down.

All of the friends that I cared about did pass, but I was separated from them and had to attend another school. At the time, I cannot tell you how badly I felt about having been labelled a massive failure and how jealous I was of my friends whom, I felt had now joined the elite, with me having to settle for second rate. It was like my world had fallen apart.

Even though I had a decent education at my second choice school, and went on to achieve a university degree, little did I know that this event would lead to a chain of behaviour that would eventually cause me, at the age of 28, to be diagnosed with clinical depression which I still suffer from on a day-to-day basis.

I have recently had the accidental fortune to meet the headmaster of Sheriff at that time, who still lilves locally. Although I don't blame him personally for my fate, I felt that he should know my story, and that he should also know that I will never let MY children be part of a system that labels them a failure at a crucial point in their emotional development.

As far as I'm concerned, I will welcome any future moves to abolish the 11 plus/12 plus and grammar schools.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 6:31 am 
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I'm very sorry for what happened to you and the way it affected you. THis forum, however, has members who believe that Grammar school education is the best way forward for their DC. We have gone into this with eyes open. Some of us have the same experience as you and still believe that we would be serving the interest of our DC by putting them through the 11plus. In an ideal world we wouldn't have to subject our kids to this exam, but this is not an ideal world. So, here we are, on this forum. Good luck to you and your DC.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:11 am 
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I am very sorry this happened to you, however I do believe that it is possible for a child to go through this without it having this effect. I have a bright Year 4 boy and I would not be acting in his best interest if I did not give him the chance to attend the excellent local grammar school and he is certainly on board for taking the exam. But I have also regularly stressed to him that I am quite happy with the local secondary school, that he will still take the same exams at the end of it and even that there may be certain advantages in being the bright boy at Secondary school rather than a more average grammar school boy! I am therefore hopeful that if he does not pass he will quickly be reconciled to our second choice and what ever way it goes I know that I have given him the best chances I can.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:19 am 
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It is very hard though when all their favourite friends pass and you dont. It's not just like one or two going.... Hard to dealwith. Especially when the expectation is there for you to go too. My son has the same feeling at the moment. It hurts a lot :(


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:18 am 
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Well I have to say I am in two minds here. Because I live in a grammar school area I go along with it, and will be going full steam ahead for my children, but deepdown after many years of thinking about it, I think a good comprehensive is better, and not just because of the deep unhappiness that the system could cause in certain people.

I don't know if this is right, but I always remember my Mum saying that in the real days of grammar schools and secondary moderns (until the late 1960s) there was a good second chance. She said that if you were in the top stream of a secondary mod and doing well, you had the option to shift to a grammar school a year or two later. Now that the grammars are few and far between, and the true notion of "catchment" is gone, there's not a lot of chance getting in later on.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 pm 
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I really feel for you Codestud, and it is something I agonized over for many months before my DCs sat the 11+

The system is indeed flawed and "failure" at such a young age can be damaging (although not necessarily so) However my argument would not be abolish all grammar schools, but rather, let's go back to the 60s and 70s when there was a grammar school in every town and the bright stood a much better chance of gaining a place.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:08 pm 
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Codestud, I am so sorry that the 12 plus was such a bad experience for you. You are not alone in having suffered long term ill effects. I have a friend who suffers from depression and personality disorders whose health problems date back from that early sense of 'failure' and separation from her peers.

It is important as parents to consider the emotional well being of your children when we make choices about selective education opportunities - and one of the things I like about this forum is that the parents here do put their children's happiness and ability to thrive so high on their list of priorities. A lot of people condemn '11 plus parents' as being pushy and purely result oriented but that has not been my experience on this forum. (Give yourselves a pat on the back forumites! :D )

My DD found out last week that she will not be going to the grammar and the mature and sensible way in which she has handled it has made me admire and appreciate her far more than if she had scored the highest ranking in the county but I do know that her confidence must have taken a knock and there may be side efffects later on. Fortunately she takes music and dance exams regularly so will not have been put off competetive examinations by this one unfortunate experience. DS is still probably going to go for the 11 plus when his turn comes - and I spent some time this morning convincing the mother of a Year 5 girl that she shouldn't be put off applying just because DD's year group had a bad time of it this year.

There's a lot of positives in the 11 plus system and I think people should continue to take advantage of it.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:00 pm 
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Location: Not in a hole in the ground but in a land where once they dwelt-the Beormingas
Dear Codestud,

I really do feel for you but I don't think abolishing the grammar school system is the solution- as I'm pretty much sure our DC will experience other types of 'failure' as they live life: how they deal with it is the issue.

Recently, my own DS2 didn't get his first choice. Three of his best friends ( and DS2 was also expected to) passed for their first choice. To rub salt in the wounds, his eldest, DS1 also passed for the same school.

Yes, DS2's initial reaction was 'tears' when he learnt of his result and it was hard for me to see that, but life is full of ups and downs: it's all a learning process.

He's always been the 'happy-go-lucky' type but what I'm really proud of, is the way he has emotionally matured, his sincere happiness for his friends and continuous desire to excel.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:08 pm 
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I've heard the arguments for and against, and what I have to say is this.

Firstly, I am not against teaching children "to their ability" and letting brighter pupils go further if they are able to. Yes, this does often mean having to stream pupils into different classes in a school which means a certain amount of selection. We used to have this in my secondary school - top, middle and bottom maths classes. I don't have a problem with that, because at the end of day we all mixed together in the same playground and our friends were our friends.

What I do have a problem with, is that the 11 plus is a blunt instrument, which, firstly builds up expectations and myths in a young child's mind for a few years (and for a child, a few years is an eternity) about the need to pass the exam in order to attend the grammar schools which are seen in the communities that have them as the holy grails of achievement - and then on the ONE DAY of the exam itself, it then passes judgement on the several years worth of the entirety of a child's learning career up to that point.

It doesn't take into any account what the teachers of the children actually think, many of whom will know the children's REAL strengths and weaknesses on a day-to-day basis, and it also arrives at a judgement which is flawed, because I think there are different KINDS of intelligence and I do not think that the 11 plus can possibly be a measure of all of these.

Some parents are happy to spend thousands on coaching their children to take the test and to come on websites like these to give themselves an advantage, so if a child can be taught to pass an exam then that tells me none of this is a level playing field.

Yes, maybe there's some good old fashioned elitism at work here as well. The whole system creates a culture of it whether people like it or not, or whether that was intended or not.

And so - this judgement that is reached on ONE DAY then affects the child psychologically for several years. The age of 11 and 12 is an immensley sensitive time in a child's emotional development, and maybe some adults who defend the system have completely forgotten that.

Yes, I accept that some children feel it more than others - many can brush it off but I am living proof that the feeling of failure has damaged me. At the time I bottled a lot of it up and so my parents probably didn't think it was as bad as it was - but trust me when I say it is the worst thing I have ever felt, and as I already mentioned I am still feeling the repercussions.

So if your child is the sensitive type and you think they've brushed off the "failure" then think again, because they may well not have done, not really.

What's happening right now is this. There are less and less grammar schools now in existence, and therefore the competition to gain a place at one is becoming even fiercer because they are still seen by some as the holy grail. This is becoming an even more vicious circle of pressure put on both parents and children.

IT'S WRONG. So it's time to abolish the 11 plus so that this vicious circle can be put to an end.

I feel sorry for you, if you think that you have to be part of the rat race in order for your children to be any good at anything in life.

If the excuse is that the local comprehensive is not a good school, then more efforts should be made to improve these schools rather than feeding a culture of "pull the ladder up jack and sod the rest".

I won't be having any part of it and will, if necessary, move house in future to an area where I know that there will be more of a level playing field and equality of opportunity in the education system, rather than this insidious and pervading culture of elitism.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:22 pm 
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Codestud, some of us move to be in Grammar school areas as we feel that the comprehensive schools cannot offer what our children need, similarly others like you may wish to move from GS areas to Comprehensive areas - that is fine too.

I appreciate that you still feel distressed by your 11 plus experience and the fact that it is all down to one day - but unfortunately life is a bit like that.. A levels are exams that mean a lot and are taken on specific days and times - University exams, Viva Voce, job interviews similarly. I know of people who have felt utterly dreadful on the day of a final part of a crucial exam but actually they just have to plough on and focus - often costs far too much money to quit at that point and do it again.

Hope you find the right schools, I don't think you will escape the rat race however by moving from the 11 plus - there will just be another event in its place.


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