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Friday, February 09, 2007

Changing the System

We all know about the eleven plus tests that look at achievement. After all the verbal and non verbal reasoning tests, along with mathematics and English, are used in eleven plus examinations. Parents are presented with signs or achievement like good reading skills and the ability to argue from an early age.

We also, however, all pray for bright children with well balanced personalities. If the eleven plus examinations had to include personality tests then this would open up tremendous opportunities. Some schools do encourage children to have to an interview. In the interview you hope that your child will smile, appear confidant and enjoy the chance to `show off’ to interested parties. An interview, however, does not quite test the same skill as a personality test.

Does it really matter if a child attending grammar school is introverted? Will it really affect their education if they can not bring themselves to make eye contact with their teachers and peers? Should we mind if a Year 7 child at grammar school does not want to take part in games and other social activities? There must be very few grammar schools that would be able to claim that the ethos and social environment in the school suited every single child.

Imagine the eleven plus questions your child would need to answer in the personality test:

Do you prefer to:

Sit by yourself in the classroom
Work in a group

I like friends who are:

Chatty and noisy
Quiet and reserved

I like to wear:

Bright and cheerful clothes
Reserved and `ordinary’ clothes

I don’t think that I:

Spend enough time worrying about problems
Spend too much time worrying about problems.

Poor parents. How on earth are they going to be able to coach their children to be able to select the right answers? One year school may be looking for bright and happy children who don’t worry too much. In another year the school may want serious hardworking children. It will drive some parents mad as they try to second guess the system.

Suppose a family has two children. The elder one is very bright. She is hard working and very serious. She loves school and work. Even better she always keeps her bed room tidy. But – this is the year of the `HAPPY’ eleven plus child. She could miss her rightful place.

Her brother however is an original. He is one year younger. He plays sport for his county. He never makes time to read. He loves parties and big social occasions. He has the sweetest little girl friend. BUT – he always does really well at school. Unfortunately his potential grammar school is not much interested in sporting ability. The school just wants quiet reserved boys who work hard and never answer back.

Both children could miss out on their rightful places in grammar schools. There would be no blame on the Junior school. The parents have done nothing wrong. The children are bright enough. It is just that the eleven plus examination was looking for something more than good scores on mathematics and reasoning tests. Do we dare to argue for a change?

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