There has been a suggestion today, put forward by a politician, for national grading of students at 11 years old. I only hope this is electioneering and not to be taken seriously.
I wrote the following in February 2013. It is the unedited copy of the book, 'Are you Chasing Rainbows?" The chapter is on 'Skills and Resources'
"The education system in the UK for the majority of children does not appear to give enough credence to 'natural talents'. The focus seems to be in 'testing and 'grading' the natural talents off the educational radar. Cities, towns and villages all have people, who have been 'written off', who go round saying that they're stupid, but are not.
In 2011 I was in a branch of Waitrose. A floor manager opened a folder of papers, including a matrix for meal break entitlements. It looked a well used piece of paper. I couldn't help but mention that I had designed it and told them the story of it's inception. "Was it difficult to do?", someone asked. "No," I replied. "It just came to me in a meeting."
Designed by someone, so poor at maths, that I wasn't allowed to sit any maths exams at 15 and 16. Designed in 1993 and "not improved by modern technology." I was told by the store manager in 2011.
At the time, I was given a £100 bonus for 'a good idea', but not before someone from head office had come to the shop to check that the design really was the work of the lowly checkout manger using her own innate talents. Something, that a department of people in head office had not been able to do. "
In my mid 30s, I started at Waitrose as a shelf filler. My education had not suggested that I was capable of any other role in retailing other than serving. I looked around at the people managing me and thought that I could do the same as them, if not better. With thanks to John Lewis Partnership, they put me on a management training scheme. I did well, until I tried to run before I could walk, but that's another blog (and chapter in the book).
After my rise and fall, I rose again. At an annual appraisal, I was overwhelmed to see a list of positive attributes. It mentioned skills such as leadership, loyalty, motivator and incisive intelligence amongst many others. I couldn't believe what I was reading. But I could not have taken an exam in one of those skills, though maybe there were signs, even in primary school. "Would do better, if she concentrated on her own work and didn't try to help others."
At 11 years old I was a school failure.
Forty years later, at a reunion I had organised, I met the brightest pupil in our year. The one, whose name was all over the honour boards. She had burnt out and retrained as an aromatherapist.
I also met another pupil from 'top stream'. She told me, "we were told not to mix with bottom stream. We were told you were stupid. You're not, are you?"
But that was a long time ago, things have changed. Have they? I was surprised to hear the Head of Sixth Form from my old school on the radio last month. The news item was about the pupils receiving 'stand-up comedy' lessons to help them in debates. When asked by the presenter, why this was necessary, her reply was something like, " the girls are clever, this is a very academic school, but I was appalled when I heard them in a Public Speaking Competition with boys. Their self-esteem is so poor, that they were demolished." "Learning to do stand-up comedy has helped."
I winced. Yet more young adults with high IQs and low EQs, being let loose in the world where it might be more use to be emotionally mature too.
This is not to say that all the boys will have high EQs, because that is most unlikely. But their self-belief is higher. It's also interesting to note that at 11 years old, boys generally lag behind girls in several areas of brain maturation. They catch-up through the teenage years.
So, no tests at 11 years old? Well maybe some.
Tests in emotional intelligence please.