Thank God it's Friday

11th April 2003 at 01:00
Monday A close friend has at last found herself a "proper job with proper money". She's going to become a learning mentor - something between a social worker and a teacher. In that order, she thinks. She's superbly gifted, having a natural empathy with children and a terrific sense of fun that gives her an instant rapport with anyone under 18. She's also well organised and efficient. Her new organisation is lucky to have her on staff. But there's bad news. She's a teaching assistant and her head will have difficulty replacing her with someone of the same calibre. She could have become a teacher. Sadly, she didn't want the hassle.

Tuesday Eleven-plus results are due. Last week, a friend's son, Ben, told us he was going to sleep by the front door so he could catch "The Letter" as it fell through the letterbox. And he's not even the nervy type. We were surprised he was bothered about the result - until we were told that he's had his eye on his elder brother's cast-off uniform.

Wednesday The pass mark is 220; anyone scoring below this will not get into the grammar school. But there are still too many children for the number of places available. So the pass mark is raised to 223. Ben's mother has a sleepless night. Even laid-back Ben is quiet and frowning.

Thursday We find out that Ben has scored 238. His relieved mother starts to sort out his brother's outgrown shirts and trousers ready for him. Buying new uniform for a different school would have been very expensive. Plus, it means she has to attend parents' meetings for her four children at only three schools now. Then comes the bad news. Ben is the only boy in his class to have passed. All the others will be spread around the town's other secondary schools. Many feel they are failures. How does a 10-year-old understand that experiencing a sense of failure can be a springboard for growth?

Friday It's been a quiet week at school, with no professional dramas. Just personal ones. I've been manning an unofficial telephone helpline every evening, listening to distraught parents whose children have "failed". I try to reassure them. Many of their children will blossom as, for the first time, they find themselves at or near the top of the class in their new school. And I congratulate myself that I turned down a request to coach children for the 11-plus.

Angela Pollard teaches part-time in Rugby

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