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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eleven Plus Curriculum (11/01/09)

If there is a strong enough call to change the present system of how children are selected for the Eleven Plus, then one of the issues that will have to be faced is: “What is the Eleven Plus curriculum?”

There must be many different definitions of the word curriculum – but we need to find one that will apply reasonably easily to the eleven plus.

There can be no call for a discovery type of curriculum where the eleven plus children become involved in discovery type activities. At the other end of the spectrum there should be no desire to change the eleven plus into an examination that follows a prescribed syllabus.

A simple definition of an Eleven Plus curriculum would be one where the children follow an organised plan of activities.

This is one of the problems that parents face when their children prepare for the eleven plus by working through book after book of selection papers. Selection papers can cover all the topics in an eleven plus syllabus – but may not work in a planned sequence.

We hear of children being prepared for the eleven plus with different teachers for each subject. One teacher will teach mathematics while a different teacher will teach reasoning skills. There could even be a third teacher working on English. How then is the curriculum integrated?

It is hard to argue that children prepared by having different tutors will be disadvantaged. The concept of subject specialist is enshrined in senior schools – and specialist work happily in cross curricula activities in primary school.

One problem that could occur, whether the eleven plus child is prepared by one teacher or three, is that the eleven plus examination is not intended to be knowledge based. There should, however, be no need to compartmentalise the different subjects because this could restrict children’s thinking and limit what they learn.

A different problem is that grammar schools have looked for a certain type of child. Of course a grammar school will want, and need, articulate, hardworking and able children. The eleven plus examination, however, has changed little over the past fifty years. We still see very similar types of question. The way that children are taught in schools today plays very little resemblance, however, to how children were taught fifty years ago.

Even a very traditional grammar school will teach in very different ways to those employed fifty years ago. We have a bright eleven year old who has passed her eleven plus examinations and will enter a very good grammar school in September. She recently scored 96% on an Edexcel GCSE Foundation mathematics paper. How will the chosen grammar school cope with enriching and extending this ultra bright child? She reached a standardised score of 140 on last September’s eleven plus mathematics paper.

This presents us with a problem, if we are to change the Eleven Plus examination, and hence the eleven plus curriculum, we will have to face some questions that can not readily be answered.

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