Well… (sigh)… it’s that time of year again. The time when we examine all our 10 year old children and decide their educational futures. Yip…. it’s 11+ exam time again. That pinnacle of educational examination where standards are so variable that if a smart kid where to take the tests on two successive years he/she would get into grammar school one year and not the next! One of the few exams where we have a quota to fill and not a standard to reach. The sad thing is that it has blighted our system for so many years that we are afraid to ditch it and explore how we can do more to have ALL our children educated in the best possible conditions and to the highest standards possible.
This year 15,750 pupils have been signed up for the tests in English, Maths and Science. Now, that number is up on the figures for the last couple of years but its not because of a massive rise in pupil numbers. DENI say its just a wee blip in the pattern of the falling school population.
So, what will happen to-day? Well, wee kids will put their futures on the line by answering a series of questions on English, Mathematics and Science. Shortly they will undertake a second test. After grading parents will be informed in February if their offspring have been successful in the test. Those that are successful get the reward of a grammar school place while those who are unsuccessful get to feel complete and utter failures and enter our crumbling secondary school system where the preoccupation of the moment seems to be re-branding to ape the grammar schools.
Of course, we’ve been saying for years that this exam will have to go. And the NI exam quango (CCEA) have revealed that they have not been asked to prepare 11+ exams for 2009. But, there is still no indication from our political leaders of what format the replacement selection procedure will take.
So… there are a few things to do to-day. First, if you see a glum looking 10 year old kid point out to them all the really successful people you know who didn’t “pass” the exam and, secondly, contact the minister for education, Caitriona Ruane, tell her to shift her political mass and make a binding decision about the future of Northern Ireland educational selection.
Alternatively you can read me writing about this same problem in 2009/2010/2011/2012…..