The 11+ Exam

The year had been taken up with tests and re tests but now the results day was looming and the whole class was getting excited. We would know the results on Friday. The classroom was always laid out in rows facing the front. Yellow, Green, Blue and Red. The person who sat in the front desk of the yellow row was the best in the class. The person who sat in the desk at the back of the class in Red row was the worst. Every week on a Friday there was a test and on the Monday the class would change desks according to how well the test was answered. I usually alternated between red and blue row. The reason for this was that I would much rather play football and go out playing than do school work. ( However I did do these things with children in Yellow and Green rows?).

On the day of the 11+ results the Head teacher came into the room and asked the following people to stand up there were three of us. 2 boys me and John Williams and a girl Sarah Donaldson. We were asked to go and wait outside the classroom.

As we were outside wondering what was happening there was a great cheer from inside the classroom we three looked at each other and slowly the realisation of what was happening began to materialise in our heads although nothing was said.  The head teacher came out of the classroom and spoke to us saying that we had failed the 11+ entrance examination and that we were to take a letter home to our parents and let them know.

We wander out of the school the girl lived in the opposite direction so she set off by herself. John and I walked the same way for most of the time. We talked about what we would say, we talked about running away we held back tears as we walked. John turned right into his street and I wished him luck he nodded in return a look of hope that we would be OK.

I wandered dejectedly down my street nearing the house where my mother was busy doing the washing and the cleaning. So many times I thought about just running away, so many times I went through the questions I could remember and tried to work out why I had not put the correct answers. I had obviously had a my paper marked by someone who didn’t understand the exam! I opened the door and the look on my mothers face said it all.  She thought there had been an accident, thought the school had been blown up, demolished. She had a look of horror at the fact that I had been sent home. I gave her the letter she read it and put her arms around me comfortingly and told me that everything would be alright and that uncle Henry had not passed his exams and he was doing OK thank you very much. This made me feel better I had a cry resigned myself to failure and found a biscuit in the tin. The really hurtful thing about that day though was that as we three had left the school the teachers came into the class with sandwiches, cakes, pop and crisps and the rest of the class had a party to celebrate. Over 40 years later and I still remember that day. However like uncle Henry I have done alright, I have a BSc degree, a PGCE a Diploma and an MEd and I own an educational company. I would still liked to have had the party though.

Examinations do not unify they do not bring out the best they do not  show greater intellect or negotiation skills. They do not measure empathy or collaboration they do not bring out the best in a child. They do give a ranking and that ranking can change a child’s future failure or success. Surely our young people are worth more than that.


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