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Monday, July 09, 2007

The Face of the Eleven PLus

Many years ago, as a young schoolmaster, I went on a MCC cricket coaching course. We were taught that the bat had to be as near to the pads as possible. It was to try to make sure that it was difficult as possible to present a catch to the slips.

Generations of schoolchildren all over the world must have been given the same advice from well meaning coaches.

“Adopt a careful back lift to your bat.

Reach your foot out to where you think the ball will bounce.

Play the ball with a straight face.”

The idea was that in a test match at Lords against the Australians, with a fast bowler hurtling down towards you, you would be able to avoid a ball arching towards the slips.

I am sure the MCC course did all of us young teachers lots of good. I am not so sure now of the effect of this coaching on the poor school boys I went on to coach.

Cricket has moved on. Today the West Indian batsmen seem to try to hit every ball that is moving. The West Indians do not try to grind the opposition down – they simply want to annihilate every single ball. The hot blood of the islands pulses through their cricket.

With the introduction of different forms cricket (20/20 Cricket) we do see English batsmen trying an extraordinary wide range of strokes. This has brought big crowds and vibrancy to the game. A target of one hundred runs off fifty balls is achieved in some forms of cricket. No one will score one hundred runs if the face of the bat has to stay beside the pad for all the strokes.

Some of the content of our eleven plus examinations is based to a large degree on what was judged to be suitable many years ago. A few of the type of questions set in those early eleven plus papers are still used today. (Apple is to orchard as horse is ……… .)

Time has, however, moved on. Surely we need new and exciting selection material. The ability to `upload’ a file to You Tube may be a far more relevant tool. The ability to use the advanced search facilities on Google may demonstrate ability and language development in a more relevant manner. These tools were not available to the early constructors of test materials – but they are there today.

Children in today’s school are taught to embrace technology – and change. A far reaching eleven plus test could incorporate elements of the breathtaking rush we are all experiencing as technology moves remorselessly on.

I will see around six hundred eleven plus children this year in our different centres on lessons and courses.

I am very aware that we need to challenge the bright children. We need to stretch their imaginations and encourage them to think. Surely we need thinkers and achievers in our Grammar School. I do realise that the ability to find 10% of a number is as relevant as it was fifty years ago. But at times I would prefer innovative and stimulating questions. (And innovative and stimulating cricket!)

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