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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Future of the Eleven Plus

Many of our GCSE boys and girls today opted to work through past papers. The first mathematics examination is on Monday. When asked about the teaching and revision they had received at school almost all gave unqualified praise.

This year we have had a much higher number than usual who wanted to move their mathematics from an `A’ to a `A*’. These were highly focused boys and girls who knew what they wanted. They all appeared to be very aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Almost without exception they had brought along a short list of three or four topics to go over.

In a few months time some journalists will be writing inflammatory articles about the value of GCSE examinations. In one hour today we had youngsters from five different grammar schools all striving for top grades. One girl, who was not at grammar school, whispered that she had achieved the best marks in her school for the Higher Mathematics paper she had completed the previous week.

When the journalists start quoting statistics about `easy’ GCSE examinations, it is to be hoped that some of these `experts’ will at least feel a prick of conscience. They will be writing about real children – not just statistics. Some GCSE students will have had dedicated teachers – and will have worked conscientiously.

In a few short years time our present Eleven Plus children will be writing GCSE examinations. Some of them will be writing in Year 10 – and others in Year 11. Some of our Eleven Plus children already know how to work out the `Area of a Trapezium’. Some parts of education are speeding up.

Fifty years ago, in the early days of the Eleven Plus, there were about 600 million people living in cities. Today over 2 billion people live in cities. More and more people are going to be crammed into cities in the years ahead. By the time our Eleven Plus children are forty years old, there could be about 7 billion people living in cities.

Our Eleven Plus children, like the Grammar School youngsters referred to earlier, will be facing very different problems to those we are experiencing today. We expect a grammar school pupil to emerge, in time, as a leader and a manager. Our responsibility is more than a set of formulas and `a way to do verbal reasoning questions’. We owe it to these bright children to try to help them to become caring and thinking leaders.

At some stage there will need to be a rethink of what an Eleven Plus child needs to know in order to earn a place in a grammar school.

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