All summer there has been a small shadow hanging over us. The knowledge that, in a few short weeks (well, days now), my son will sit his grammar school entrance exam. In many ways it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for since he was 18 months old. Because it was that age I realised how crazily clever he was – and I wasn’t wrong. I’ve been proved right over and over again ever since. Since he was 18 months old, I’ve known his destiny was grammar school.
It’s a one-shot thing. Pass that exam and he gets into grammar, fail it and he goes to comprehensive.
I know that with a completely level playing field he will pass that exam with flying colours. He will smash it. He will be one of the top few kids entering it. But it’s not a level playing field. There are kids who have been tutored to within an inch of their lives. Kids who go to private schools. Kids whose state primaries place a lot of emphasis on a grammar school education.
And then there’s my son. A normal kid. Who just happens to be really clever.
What if he freezes on the day? What if the exam conditions freak him out? What if he’s ill? What if he doesn’t read the question properly? What if he misses a page or two without realising?
What if, what if, what if? There are so many what ifs.
And that’s why I want it over. That’s why the big day can’t come soon enough. Because this really matters to us. Grammar school is where he is meant to be. It’s the right place for him. But things can and do go wrong.
We’re not obsessed with it. We haven’t spent every minute of the holidays worrying about it, but it’s cast a shadow. I haven’t pushed him or pressured him, but he has done a little bit of work every few days, just to keep his mind sharp. You can’t take six full weeks off education and come back as on the ball as you were. And you be sure that nobody else is taking six full weeks off. There are kids out there who are doing mock tests under exam conditions every single week.
I wish the exam had been held right at the end of year 5, instead of it hanging over us all summer. But it wasn’t. Instead it’s very soon, right at the start of year 6. I just have to hope my son is ready for it and on top of his game.
I know that not everyone agrees with grammar schools and you can get a perfectly good education at a state comprehensive. I had one myself, my eldest is having one right now. I know that my son would do just brilliantly at a comprehensive. But we still feel grammar school is the right environment for him – the right attitude to learning to help him do his very best. And that’s where we want him to be. Most importantly, that’s where he wants to be.