I looked today on Amazon for the date when a book called “The Practical Junior Teacher” by Potter was published. There is no date in the copy I have. Amazon had four copies at £18.00 each. The book, according to Amazon, was first published in 1931. The Editor’s Note in my copy, however, discusses the 1944 Education Act.
Potter had strong views on education. Of history he said “Class textbooks can kill interest and enjoyment if they are used for the valueless drudgery of learning facts by heart, but books that can be read for enjoyment and used for reference are excellent and the children must learn to use them.”
Mr Potter might have been talking about parts of today’s Eleven Plus. Some bright eleven years olds still have to put up with working through rather old fashioned eleven plus exercises and answering dated questions.
He discussed the Eleven Plus in terms of the eleven plus being based on a belief that formal examinations are able to forecast future academic success. Mr Potter wrote: “It is now realised that a child’s general attainment at school depends largely on his intelligence, or innate intellectual ability.”
Mr Potter was concerned with the selective examinations that took place at the end of a child’s junior school career. He explained that in some schools education had been abandoned in favour of continual practice in the basic subjects. He put forward the concept of a record card that would replace the formal examination in arithmetic, English and General Intelligence at the age of eleven.
He hoped that a child’s future education would be decided by his `potentialities’ instead of by his attainment in basic subjects. “Thus the temptation for teachers in Junior schools to overemphasise the basic subjects of the curriculum would be eliminated.”
If only we could find a way to eliminate some of the father vacuous questions our children have to face. A successful eleven plus child has to be bright, with a good vocabulary and sound problem solving skills. But being able to answer a question based around ‘mouse is to cat as rabbit is to …’ is surely an over rated eleven plus skill.
There does seem to be a strong case for the eleven plus examination to be looked at with fresh eyes. I suppose `don’t rock the boat’ could be an answer. Some teachers and publishers may not like the idea of a fresh examination that challenges present views on the eleven plus. No one would argue change for change’s sake. Some extremely bright children, however, could miss out because the present examination looks for a certain type of grammar school child.