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Monday, March 23, 2009

Changes to the Eleven Plus

Between 1933 and 1941, in America, there was an eight year experiment in which thirty schools and school systems co-operated to try to discover the consequences of removing the external pressure of traditional entrance examinations.

About three hundred schools and colleges agreed to admit students on the basis of the evidence of school records. (In our eleven plus terms children would apply to the grammar school of their choice. The grammar schools would look at the marks and reports from the primary school – and would then select the children they wanted.)

The Americans found that the students were more confident and independent if they had not been made to pass an entrance test. Each student was paired with a student with equivalent school grades – but who had passed a competitive entrance test. More than fourteen hundred students were paired. Participation in extra curricular activities was also part of the equation. The study thus did not only look at how well the students did academically – but also how the students developed and participated in university life outside of the lecture hall.

The findings suggested that progress at university was seen in a number of key areas:

Intellectual curiosity and drive

Interest in contemporary affairs

Social Maturity

Emotional stability

One conclusion that was drawn from the study was that because the feeder schools had a much freer atmosphere to learning and education – that in the end there was no real reduction in academic standards.

Think of generations of eleven year old children being prepared for grammar schools without having to work through paper after paper. Think of eleven plus tutors being charged with broadening the minds of their charges. Imagine encouraging children to learn to take an interest in current affairs. Think of children who were taught to think logically and argue thoughtfully.

Think too of the position of the grammar schools. Do they really want children who have been coached to a very high standard – but have no outside interests or desire to become involved in current affairs?

Grammar schools, as they stand today, only select on the basis of children who can pass examinations. If your child does not achieve the marks on the day – then a place is not offered.

If the grammar schools really want mature and stable eleven year old children, full of intellectual curiosity then the grammar schools will need to call for a change to the present system of eleven plus selection.

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