Search This Blog

Friday, June 01, 2007

Eleven Plus Questions

We had a science teacher at school. We thought that he was a really pleasant man. He never shouted at us or got angry. The experiments were always ready when we walked into his lab. He always wore a clean white coat. His coat never seemed to look dirty – and his coat did not have the little acid holes so beloved by science teachers.

He always seemed to start the day in a good mood. If our class was first period he was happy and he made lots of jokes. The lessons seemed to fly by.

He did have one characteristic; he used to disappear into the equipment room behind his raised desk. We knew that he was conducting experiments because sometimes we were very aware of sweet smells.

Over the course of the morning his sentences seemed to be a little disconnected and he appeared to lose his place at times. When he was walking round his laboratory looking at our work he would occasionally stumble. We were also aware of a faint but unfamiliar smell.

One morning, alas not in our period, he did not return from the little room behind his desk. The boys called a teacher from the second science room who found the teacher lying on the floor.

Our teacher had set up a still and was using distillation to make alcoholic drinks. We understand that in the early days he used starch and sugar to turn into ethanol through the process called fermentation. This was carried out by the micro organism yeast. He met a problem when he tried to develop stronger alcohol because it is impossible to achieve an ethanol concentration over 15% by fermentation. For the strong stuff he needed to ferment the liquid using distillation.

Now we all know that an excise licence is needed for commercial production. Our science teacher, however, was producing for his own consumption. I am sure the whole school benefited from his dedication to the act of brewing.

We can now buy a range of equipment that will allow us to measure the amount of alcohol in our blood. We know that the police force have campaigns about safe driving. The majority of adults are very knowledgeable about units. Some may even know more about units than calories.

So if this is the sort of content that will excite children’s interest then we need to change some of the element of eleven plus examination questions. A typical Eleven Plus question – aimed at the more able child – would be:

“Henry is three years older than Tom, and in four years Henry will be three times as old as Tom was five years ago. Find their present ages.”

I know there is a very good reason to include questions of this nature in examinations. I suppose a question like this identifies children who can think and reason. Surely our eleven plus children would also benefit from questions relating to calories and units of consumption? I urge the next generation of eleven plus test writers to think carefully about the children and adults who will be using their books. This is not a plea for topical eleven plus questions that will become less relevant over the years – but a demand for questions and topics that children may actually use in their daily life.

Do we need to feel sorry for the teacher on the floor? I hope so because most teachers at one time or another will have felt the need for a little `pick me up’. If there are any teachers or parents out there with suggestions on interesting flavours to share …….

No comments: