Writing children off are the age of 11 is not fair - Argus Friday 16 September 2016

Posted Tuesday 20th September 2016   By Ericka Waller

SO Brighton and Hove Council are opposed to Theresa May’s proposal to reintroduce a grammar school system.+ Grammar schools are secondary schools which select children based on their ability to pass an exam, the 11 plus. The exam is designed to sort the wheat from the chaff, or in education terms, those likely to make it to university, and those that won’t. They were banned in 1998 and replaced with Comprehensive school who teach children of all abilities together with no academic entry requirements.

May is claiming this system has ‘held bright poor children back’ and that selecting schools by the area in which the child lives gives an unfair advantage to children in affluent areas, therefore close to good comprehensive schools.

I’m not sure creaming the top 10% of children from schools and leaving the others as write-offs based on a rigged exam, taken far too early, is fair either.

Award winning Author Michael Morpurgo failed his 11 plus. He remembers everything from the snow on the ground outside the exam hall to his parent’s silent disapproval and disappointment when the result came in. Failing tests became his norm and he struggled with a stammer when reading aloud in class.

BBC South East politics asked what I thought about Brighton and Hove making the decision to oppose the reintroduction of Grammar schools on our behalf. Much as I don’t approve with segregating children into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools, I don’t agree with the council segregating us from educational options for our children either.

Brighton and Hove have said there is simply ‘no need’ for Grammar schools in this area. I’m not sure all parents would agree.

At the end of the day, we all want the best for our children. Does that mean putting them under the stress of a weighty exam at 11 years old, or working with our local schools to make excellence achievable in all educational settings?

Speaking of schools, my eldest daughter is learning about the Second World War. 

This week her class were taken on a trip to Newhaven Fort. Apparently some of the children cried when they were locked in the Air Raid shelter and a mock raid was played through the speakers.

Some parents thought it was too traumatic for such young children. Admittedly, I did have trouble putting Gracie to bed that night, but as I said to her (as I tucked her in with the cat and some warm milk), people in our family were forced to live through the real thing. She is where is she because of them. She was lucky to be able to shake off the bad experience after five minutes and go spend her £3 in the gift shop.  

I’ve promised to show her the family photo album of my Great-grandad, aunts and uncles going off to war. There are heroic stories of bravery amongst all the horror that all children should know. Poems like Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier ‘If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field, That is for ever England.’

And John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields ‘Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw, The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow, In Flanders fields.’ should be committed to memory.  

I agree that the visual depiction of WW2 shown at Newhaven Fort was dropping the kids in the deep end. However, I think we have a responsibility to work with schools when they are teaching our children our harrowing history. 

Complaining to the Headmaster after the event is not going to make much difference. We can’t candy-coat events of the past to make them sweeter for the future to swallow. War happened, and continues to happen.

Some children play games like Call of Duty, the most graphic depiction of war and all its gore, with no fear. To them, the biggest tragedy that can happen is their Wifi losing signal.

Well, lest we forget.

And finally

So we are enjoying an Indian summer down here in Brighton. I’m pleased I was not among the unlucky souls stuck in the 47 million pound i360 for two hours in the heatwave. I’d be the one who tried, and failed not to use the mini port-a-loo in front of everyone.

Apparently they are working hard to sort out the ‘glitches’. A FAQ entry on the i360’s website claimed the vertical cable car could not get stuck because it could use gravity to return to earth. It has since been deleted and all the FAQ’s are being readdressed.

I think I’ll stick to going down the Helter Skelter on the pier if I want a dizzying view.

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