Thank God It's Friday

15th March 1996 at 00:00
Monday: It's 11-plus week and anxiety is everywhere. I have a phone call from a mum to ask if it's true that she missed my talk about secondary schools, and was it important? Well, it seemed important to me, and to the anxious parents who packed the hall. Parents can express a preference for a grammar, high or "wide ability" school. For the undecided there is a bi-lateral school which has grammar and high school streams. Some schools are co-ed and some are not. Some are LEA, some are GM. The mum asks for a quick precis over the phone - she's too busy to get into school. I send her the handout of my talk.

Tuesday: Our invigilator arrives to witness me taking the tests out of the safe; he checks the seal is unbroken and then the English test can begin.

Once the test starts, silence reigns. This is so alien to the normal atmosphere of our semi-open plan school that it's eerie. A Year 3 boy, innocently taking the register to the office, wriggles through the gap in the screens and freezes when he finds himself in the middle of the test zone. I rescue him but he bursts into tears. I hope he doesn't have nightmares.

Wednesday: Maths day. This is the first year we've had a multiple choice test and we're worried the children will be confused. They seem to have more problems with the algebra, which looks like GCSE standard to me. Some are upset that they haven't finished all the questions and as soon as the test is over a fellow-head rings to ask if our children found the test difficult too. We agree that if we both thought it was hard the scores will level out, won't they? It's not just the children who are under stress.

Thursday: I've had to cancel swimming so we can hold the one-hour creative writing paper. This year the local GM grammars have insisted that children entering their schools sit an extra verbal reasoning test. These schools are going to use the VR tests as entrance criteria, giving the LEA grammar school rejects the chance of a GM grammar school place. No wonder the parents are confused.

Friday: Today I am a supply teacher in Year 3. It started well when a child handed me a sick note saying he'd been absent because of "headaches and bad breath". I pointed out that he'd got his plimsolls on the wrong feet. "But these are the only feet I've got."

I eat my lunch with a group of Year 6 children who can't believe the tests are over and can hardly wait for the rewards they will get "if they pass". I'm quite used to hearing about bikes, computers and televisions - but a pony! The world has gone mad.

I meet the confused mum from Monday outside my office. We spend half an hour going through the secondary school system but she's still got a glazed look. She decides to choose the school nearest to home, because her son likes itIand it's the nearest. Come September I'd better make sure her son isn't still here.

Bob Aston is head of a junior school in Kent

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