Sir Cliff Richard once described his failure to pass 11+ as one of the biggest disappointments of his younger life. Instead of going to the grammar school of his choice, feeling like a failure, he enrolled at the local comprehensive. It was there that his interest in music was sparked. What was deemed as a ‘failure’ at the time, turned out to be the springboard for Sir Cliff’s path to greatness. It is useful to remember this story on the day when parents around the country are getting the results of the 11+ exams. If you open a letter from your preferred school and read the dreaded words: “We are sorry that we are unable to offer…”, bare in mind that not only is it not the end of the world, it might actually lead your child to better things.
Of course, when you first learn of the ‘bad’ news, emotions could be overwhelming – from agony, guilt, fear and panic to despair, resentment and envy. If it happens, try to deal with your own feelings first, in order to avoid sharing them with your child. If you, as an adult, are feeling tearful and devastated – imagine what your child must be feeling. Some children respond with anger, aggression, tears, sickness, blame, guilt or fear. Others internalise their feelings. All of them worry whether they’d find another school to go to, whether their friends who got a place will stay in touch, whether they have let their teacher down or angered and disappointed their parents.
Try to stay positive and reassure your child. Congratulate them on taking on the challenge of the 11+ exam. Explain that in conditions of tough competition, if 300 candidates apply for 60 places, a school can’t offer a place to everyone. No matter what’s the result, take them out for a meal. Once the emotions settle, discuss it further. Make sure to place the emphasis on the journey rather than the result – this will help your child learn how to deal with disappointment and understand the importance of making new plans when things don’t go to plan the first time.
And then, put the issue into perspective. Like in the case of Sir Cliff Richard, not getting a place in a school of your choice could be a turning point, which will lead your child to finding their calling in life. If they were not offered a place, it is most likely not the right school for them. It is most certainly an opportunity to rethink your plans and realise that other schools may offer a much more fulfilling opportunity for your child. As put by the Headmaster of King’s College Wimbledon Andrew Halls, “A school that had barely been considered before swims into view, and bit by bit, a family realises it might fit their child far more completely.”
At Gabbitas, we are happy to help the parents to find an alternative solution. If you don’t get into the school of your choice, remember that there are many other brilliant schools in this country, and at Gabbitas we have the knowledge, expertise and contacts to help you find the right school for your child, where they can thrive, fulfil themselves and be happy.