I was talking to my daughter about selective education and how she might feel if her brother passes the Kent Test. She failed her eleven plus, maybe because we moved to Kent just a few months before it took place. I was misled by the name and thought it happened at eleven. Yes, I failed my Mum test!
Almost all her friends had tutors, the tutors worked, they passed and went to grammar schools. She was understandably upset and decided she wasn’t as clever as they were.
She is a sensible child, and simply said she wants her brother to go to a good school. She stays in touch with her friends at grammar schools, and the conversations I overhear tell me more about the differences between school types than any statistics. My daughter’s first secondary modern went into special measures and closed down, her current school just got an Ofsted ‘requires improvement’ rating. Her friends in grammar schools seem to have an easier ride, and the way they describe their grammar schools suggests less classroom disruption, better organisation, more school clubs, and lots of homework.
I considered the differences my two children will experience if my son achieves eleven plus success.
I thought of Peter and Jane and that idyllic depiction of childhood. What would have happened if these two happy children had been divided by the education system?
So here’s my story of Peter and Jane, who live in Kent and get different exam results. Jane fails her eleven plus and goes to a failing secondary modern, Peter passes the eleven plus and goes to grammar school.
Of course all this is a bit of fun, and apologies for my shoddy Photoshop skills..! It is quite possible for Jane to grow up, get a good job and earn more than Peter. I just worry that the aspirations encouraged in secondary moderns are lower, children in these schools must rarely see the possibilities of academic excellence or others aiming for the top. I worry that social mobility stagnates in a setting where children are assumed to settle for trades and vocations.
And maybe I am overplaying Jane’s concerns about her ‘fail’ mark. Perhaps she wouldn’t mind her brother having a different school experience, or care that she was judged not very clever at ten. But in most areas of the UK she would go to the same school as her brother, and I think Mummy would like that.