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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Cream of the Eleven Plus

My grandparents farmed in Zimbabwe for many years. My grandfather, Mr W.G. Hamman, believed in diversification. The farm had horses, cattle, maize, tobacco, vegetables, fruit orchards and a wide variety of pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, geese and chickens.

I was a small boy when a large covered truck arrived on the farm. Planks were carefully attached to the rear and a massive bull strode majestically onto the African soil. It was the first Friesland bull to be introduced into the district. Rhodesian cattle were traditionally small boned – and remarkably mobile. The bull was there to build a dairy herd.

Farmers and their families came from all over to see the bull arrive. It had travelled from England, on a boat and then by train. Government vets also came to wonder at the size of the bull.

A two hundred strong party took place in the tobacco barns and outside under the trees. My grandparents supplied pig, sheep and a young bullock for food. The rest of the produce came from the farm. Naturally every family brought food and drink. I have an idea that most people seemed to go home the next morning.

The milk yield grew year after year. The farm supplied fresh milk to the local town and made cream and butter. The cream was rich and plentiful. The first batch was usually `creamed’ off for use by the family.

`Creaming’ is a term usually supplied to highly selective schools. These are the schools that attract the most able pupils – leaving the other children to be shared among the rest of the schools in the vicinity.

The phrase the `cream will rise to the top’ can be defended, by some, on the grounds that the country needs bright, well taught children.

Much more attention should be given to children who just fail the Eleven Plus. Over and over we hear of children who could have benefited from a grammar education but failed for the want of one or two marks. Thank goodness for the `grammar’ stream in so many non selective schools.

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