Children Tell of 11-Plus Stress; Survey Reveals Pupils' Thoughts on Transfer Process

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), May 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Children Tell of 11-Plus Stress; Survey Reveals Pupils' Thoughts on Transfer Process


VIVID and sometimes disturbing accounts of children who endure the 11-plus exam have been recorded in a new report by Save the Children.

The details were revealed in a major review on the future of the exam in Northern Ireland which was yesterday launched at Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

The report by Save the Children charts the experiences and opinions of 360 Belfast children and spans the period from the exam last autumn to the day they received their results in February.

Many of the children attended the launch where Stormont education minister Martin McGuinness pledged to the children: "Your voice will be listened to."

He said he wanted to get away from the "nonsense" that adults know best.

"Children know a lot too, and there is much food for thought in this report."

Gerry Burns, chairman of the Stormont-ordered review, said his group had received over 1,000 submissions on views of how the transfer process from primary to second level education should be handled, but none had been as "dramatic" as that put forward by the young people themselves.

"It is one of the major submissions to the review body . I can assure you it will be given full and careful consideration," he told the children.

Save the Children said the report - which did not make any recommendations - showed many children accepted the test as part of life, but most tended to be critical of it - both among children in middle or working class schools and among pupils whether they scored a top or bottom grade.

The report revealed the stress that the children experienced throughout the entire process; from exam preparation to receiving the result months later.

"Their experiences are frank, vivid and build up a unique image of what it was like to take the test and the agonising wait for the results," said Save the Children.

One child in particular, painted a particularly vivid picture of the torment caused by the exam.

"It felt like you were in a big cage with all dogs, that you know are going to destroy you. You think if you don't keep good you are going to die. The dogs are the 11-plus and have to kill you. …

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