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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Lazy Children

“I am sick of doing eleven plus papers.”
“I wish I could go to my tutor instead of going to school.”
“I don’t want to do any extra work.”
“I’m bored with all this extra work.”
“Yes, thank you. I love school.”
“I really want to go to grammar.”
“I don’t want to try hard and do my best.”
“Can’t I even have one day off?”
“Please can I do the verbal reasoning first?”
“I hate maths.”
“I love maths.”

Parents will be offered a variety of `opinions’ on the eleven plus at one stage of the preparation or another. The range of comments about the eleven plus will change during the natural cycle of the eleven plus.

Many years ago some bright children were sometimes labelled as `lazy’ or `unwilling’ - and these are words no parents wanted to admit or even hear. The efficiency of these teachers was challenged by parents and educators and this lead in the nineteenth century to a system within schools of` payment by results’. The argument was that since all children were born equal – any difference in the ability of a child to learn to read and write was down to the teacher or tutor.

Of course teachers protested and rebelled against the assumptions and this lead to a need for tests to be developed that would take into account individual differences. Back in those early days the tests were often a reading age test and basic and rather crude intelligence tests. The way in which children were taught in schools was modified to take into account individual differences. Progress was in the air.

Of equal importance it was recognised that learning was an active process – where the co-operation of children needed to be matched by the enthusiasm of the teacher.

As the value of testing was recognised by more and more parents and teachers, so new tests emerged. It was noted that girls tended to do better than boys on tests. It was also recognised that intelligence, as measured by intgelligence test, tended to continue growing into late teens.

Little bit by little bit educators began to recognise that bright children were more likely to do well at sport. It was also seen that able children tended to have a wide range of hobbies and interests.

Today’s eleven plus children naturally benefit from these observations. There must be many parents of bright children who will be eternally grateful for the benefits of wall to wall television, internet and computer games. After all a Google search is a whole lot quicker than a trip to the library.

To label a bright eleven plus child as `lazy’ now seems to be more than unfortunate. The child may not enjoy the confining scheme of work covered by the present eleven plus. After all a diet of paper after paper must be essentially inedible and unappetising for some.

As the children gain more confidence in their ability to cope with eleven plus papers, it is likely that comments will change. When a child has worked through a key eleven plus process several times sentiments and the perception of the content of the examination may also alter.

“I know how to do these. We did them before.”
“These are easy.”

Testing has been with us for a long time – and the use and application of tests is not going to go away. Attitudes to testing on the part of teachers, parents and educators will also remain uneasy. There are some sure things, however. Girl will always be able to do better than boys on some things. Parents will always want the best for their children. Some children will always need to be encouraged and stimulated. Bright children are always likely to be all rounders.

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