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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fifty Years of the Eleven Plus

We live in an age of unprecedented change.

The Eleven Plus examinations were conceived over fifty years ago. The questions must have changed – but the answers have probably stayed the same. It is now time for parents to band together and demand a style of Eleven Plus examination that takes into account the present and the future.

After the war there were mobile laundries. Grateful housewives carried their laundry out in baskets and delivered them to the touring wash house. Today we have automatic washing and spin drying machines that can deliver a non iron shirt in minutes.

Some women were still wearing their hair in a `Vingle’. This was a special hairstyle developed during the war so that women could wear their hair short. There were four V shaped partings – hence the V-ingle. Today a Vingle is to do with the Virtual world and Mingling. In other words online dating: “Fancy a little Vingling?”

Then there were classes of fifty children – with one dedicated teacher in charge. The whole class were taught at the same speed – but we must surmise that the children learnt at different speeds. Fifty years on the wheel is turning a full circle. The new Academies are returning to large classes taught by a `Super Teacher’. A Super Teacher is a teacher with the sole job of preparing inspiring lessons and delivering them to receptive children.

To pass the current Eleven Plus children still need to:

Learn their tables
Read enlightening books
Work through examples
Listen to advice from parents.

Today’s children have extra weapons to help them fight the `Eleven Plus Fight’:

The internet
Mobile technology
Downloadable papers
Ninety six television channels
Access to holidays all over the world.

Some problems must still be the same:

Some children will not read willingly
Some parents will still: “Hope for the best.”
The examination comes too early for some and too late for others
Some papers are hard and some appear to be easy.

Some questions from mothers to children will always be the same:

“How was it today?”
“Did you remember to check your work over?”
“How did the other children in your class find the papers?”
“Did your teacher say anything about the examination?”

We need to ask parents with children approaching the Eleven Plus years three or four key questions:

Is there time for a change in the format of the Eleven Plus?

What would you like to include in the examination?

Should parents have a say in the content of the examination or should parents `leave it to the experts’?

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