Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Posts Tagged ‘exam

The child prodigies that make me uneasy

with 2 comments

Parents are always proud of their children’s achievements, however small and insignificant. From the first “proper” smile about seven weeks’ through the ten metre swimming certificate and beyond, we are programmed to burst with pride at every opportunity.

Every child is talented at something, of course, and it is always something to celebrate.

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But there is something about stories of child geniuses and academic achievements that make me a little uneasy.

Take, for instance, six-year-old Esther Okade, who has just attained a grade C maths GCSE, and seven-year-old Oscar Selby who was awarded an A* grade in the same subject .

No doubt these children are incredibly talented, bright and gifted. Their parents are proud. The two wunderkids look happy enough.

I wish them every success as they grow up and hope they are happy and settled as they go through life.

But stories like these nag at me and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Am I concerned about their well-being as they grow older and put themselves under intense pressures to prove themselves? Or is it about the outside influences, which heap pressure on them, leading to myriad problems?

Is it pushy parenting? There are elements of that in some cases of child prodigies, of course.

Is it about allowing them to have a “normal” childhood so they develop the social skills that are vital to living with their fellow humans?  A person who cannot empathise is an isolated and lonely figure.

What is it that makes me so troubled about six and seven-year-olds taking such formal exams?

Most importantly, what do you think?


Written by CommonPeople

August 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Jayne's posts

Tagged with , , , , ,

A polished performance? Fingers crossed

with 12 comments

It’s over and it couldn’t have come a day too soon.

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All we have to do now is wait. And wait. And wait.

Yesterday, after months of preparation, my daughter actually sat the entrance exam for the grammar school she wants to attend.

She has worked hard for it, too. Since August, she has been seeing a tutor so she could get to grips with the verbal and non verbal reasoning questions that these school tests ask.

Starting from a low-ish base, the trajectory of her understanding has been steadily rising until – at last – she really felt she could tackle most of the questions.

My friend, whose son sat the exam and managed to attain a coveted place at the boys’ school a few years back, warned me how I would feel on the day of the test.

“You will feel dreadful,” she said.

I laughed. “Of course not,” I replied. “It’s just a test.”

She was right.

Yesterday morning I sat at home with the sickest of feelings. My guts lurched when I thought of it, even though I knew – deep down – that my feelings were faintly ridiculous.

My daughter was allowed the morning off school and didn’t see my wan face. Thankfully didn’t suspect my nerves and had no inkling that my stomach was doing a darned fine impression of a washing machine.

She didn’t even click when I asked her in a wobbly voice – an hour before we were due to leave the house to find a car parking space in town – if she was OK.

As cool as a cucumber, she turned away from the Nickelodeon channel and said yes. And carried on painting her nails (she wanted to look good for the test).

Painting her nails!

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Thank goodness she had that attitude.

I’ve heard horror stories of girls and boys being harangued by their parents about the importance of the grammar school tests and how they are EXPECTED to pass – or else.

My daughter reported that there were a handful of girls weeping as they sat the test, most probably because the formula had changed and the questions were nothing like they had seen or practised before.

She and her friends were all worried about their performance because of the surprise change in questions, but we parents reassured them that all 800+ girls who were competing for the 96 places would have had the same concerns.

So, it’s done. Over. The £26 a week tutoring is finished with (thank heavens). Results are out on March 1.

To celebrate the end of this stressful three-month chapter we ordered pizza. It was pulled at delicately, though: she didn’t want to spoil her French polish…

Written by CommonPeople

December 3, 2009 at 5:05 am