Time to give children more credit

Time to give children more credit

A study of 5,000 children has shown pupils’ mental wellbeing is not affected by taking the 11+ exam – and this does not surprise me in the least.

The University College London (UCL) research also showed that children report similar levels of wellbeing and school satisfaction regardless of whether they attend grammar school or live in a comprehensive education area.

The study analysed data from 4,784 children from the Millennium Cohort Study at ages 11 and 14.

Lead author John Jerrim, said: “If exposure to the academic selection process affected pupils’ mental states, then we could expect to see an association between living in a selective area and pupils’ social and emotional outcomes around the time they take entrance exams, but we observed no such relationship.”

“Likewise, there was no evidence that going through the academic selection process or taking an entrance exam had any lasting effect upon children’s wellbeing.”

In my opinion, there has been a tendency in recent years to wrap children up in cotton wool in a bid to try and protect them from every potential setback or difficulty.

Not only does that not prepare them well for life, when we all have to face challenges throughout our years, but it also shows little faith in the children themselves.

Children are far more resilient and adaptable than we, as adults, often give them credit for.

The idea of protecting children from every potential setback in life is unrealistic. Adapting to failures and setbacks often makes us stronger and tougher. After all, we cannot guard against every disappointment and problem in life. 

Taking the 11+ should be seen as a challenge for the child and we as parents and teachers need to encourage and support them without putting too much onus on the significance of passing or not. Passing the 11+ shouldn’t be treated as the be-all and end-all – because it’s not.

Many children who fail the 11+ have gone on to have very successful lives and careers.

But just because there is a chance of failure does not mean we should stop children from doing it – if they have the potential to pass then they should be encouraged to try to do their very best.

In a similar way, some people object to homework because it may be difficult to do or reject elitism and success in favour of mediocrity in the name of fairness – but life doesn’t work that way. We all have to work hard to succeed and this always presents many challenges.

The school system should be about preparing young people for real life and reflect the fact that we will not always succeed at everything and that tough times toughen us up.

If we don’t challenge children at all in their school life they will not grow up to be hardy individuals.