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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Story of the Eleven PLus

When you walk out into the large square in Marrakesh in the evening you see large crowds gathered around a wide range of story tellers.

These are men who tell stories in a manner quite different to the stories told on CBeebies. I watched one gifted man for ages. Naturally the language was difficult to follow but it was evident, or so I interpreted, that he was telling a story about crossing a river, toiling up a sand dune and finding an abandoned child. Now the story may have taken an entirely different slant if I had been able to understand the words but the gestures and use of props painted a picture that was largely irresistible.

Every now and then the story teller would pull a child, usually aged around ten years old, from the crowd. I don’t know if the child was a stooge or simply a willing participant. One boy, at a crucial part of the story, was made to stand with his arms outstretched at shoulder height. His head was snapped to one side and he was made to stand motionless for a least five minutes. I am not sure if he was in a catatonic state or just caught up in the grandeur of the occasion. I must admit I lost the plot at this point as I shifted my position to try to gain a glimpse of the child’s face.

To illustrate the next point a different boy was pulled from between the legs of the watching crowd. He too did not have a speaking part – but I suppose that you have to start at the bottom in any profession.

I grew up as I child around fires on my grandfather’s farm so I know full well how oral history is passed down from generation to generation. Many people have felt fully education by being an audience to graphic and well told stories of endeavour, romance, adventure as well as trials and tribulations.

The ability to capture an audience is an advanced skill.

Would the Eleven Plus experience not be a whole lot easier if our children had to be able to stand up and deliver a story? This would involve remembering a script, presentation skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure as well as demonstrate a gift for capturing people’s attention.

Surely these skills will be more important in years to come than the ability to find the next number in a series? Just because some consultant said many years ago that finding the next number in a series was evidence of future success in school, university and life then we need to be able to challenge this supposition or even statement.

Whole generations of children would grow to be confident at public speaking with good interview skills and have earned the ability to tell a good story. A head teacher of a grammar school needs to have a blend of pupils in his Year 7 groups. He or she need egg heads for good academic results but they also need children who are good at games, heads thrive on children who are prepared to work hard to achieve worth while results.

A new family of Eleven Plus sites will emerge:

The list is endless. The opportunities are immense. After all who wouldn’t prefer to stand under the stars on a warm African life and hold an audience in the palm of their hand? It could be your child!

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