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Take a closer look at the instructional resources we offer for secondary school classrooms. Use the Web Code found in your Pearson textbook to access supplementary online resources. Want to get your little poppet into a decent school? Between now and the first week of March, there will be much dodging and much gloating at the school gates. The great 11-plus showdown is entering its denouement. From today, letters go out from grammar and private schools to say whose progeny has won the race for the most prestigious places.
There’s no doubt that in the multiple choice of life, the first big test for many comes if their parents decide to try to push them into a selective school at the age of 11. This year, it is more brutal than ever. Recession has driven more middle-class parents towards the few remaining grammar schools, and those willing to pay want to pay only for the best. Anywhere there are pockets of middle-class parents with even a nod to Tiger Mother-ish tendencies becomes a bloody battlefield. Military strategies include coaching, styling, the setting up of fake hobbies, playing obscure musical instruments, rehearsing interview techniques and even taking fake exams in big halls. Many schools now boast a ten-to-one ratio of applicants to places.
Dead Poets’ Society, with their feet up on the desk’, asking her whether she would rather live on a hill or in a valley, then staring out of the window while she struggled to reply. Desperate to have a baby, Frances found a sperm donor on the internet – then fell in love with him. Schools would counter that in an age of coaching, only a really left-field question can discover a child’s true self. That’s just what worries the parents. My son Alex was asked which three people he’d have at his fantasy dinner party,’ says Liz Leonard, a Wandsworth mother. By the time he told me he’d answered Justin Bieber and someone who plays for Arsenal, I’d given up hope.
I’d given him three practice interviews myself, but you can’t prepare for everything. Bear in mind most parents will register for at least four schools. I’m not sure I could fill that, and I’m a grown-up,’ says one Cambridge parent. A passing interest in stars had to be turned into a passion for astronomy, meaning we had to buy books, a telescope and talk about it all the time before the interview.
Needless to say, many middle-class parents are making their children’s lives hell over the whole thing. By now, coaching will have been under way for months, and in some cases years. Two years of Saturday mornings’ seems to be an 11-plus catchphrase. Even some expensive private preparatory schools now advise parents to hire home tutors. At state primaries it is now accepted wisdom that all but the genius children of teachers need coaching to get into a grammar or a competitive private school. And even the coaches are selective — they’ll take on only the most promising pupils so they can claim a 100 per cent success rate, the Cambridge mother says.
We had a lovely guy,’ she adds. Not that many parents admit to coaching. It’s become common practice at the school gates to deny it, let alone share recommendations. Each school has four papers: maths, English, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning — each of about an hour’s duration.
So a ten-year-old whose parents have applied to four private schools might face 16 hours of exams. They won’t necessarily be that formulaic, either — canny schools have started commissioning their own papers. But you can prepare for the scary seating arrangements. 65 to have a practice exam in a hall with other children so that Alex wouldn’t feel daunted by the sight of 250 rival candidates sitting in alphabetic rows and being barked at with a megaphone,’ says Liz Leonard.