Some children will spend as long as one hundred hours working towards the eleven plus. This is not an average length of time – it was simply picked from the ether. Parents, school, tutors, teachers and children all hope that if enough work (of the right sort) is done, the word `pass’ will echo round the land.
Let us take the same child, and instead of encouraging work towards the eleven plus, we could spend the same amount of time teaching cooking. One hundred hours of cooking tuition, with all the books and resources that are thrown at the eleven plus child, should produce a child who can cook. Will all this effort, however, develop a gourmet cook?
What happens if the grammar school calls for all eleven plus children to be gourmet cooks? Surely cooking to a high standard is a measure of excellence? The ability to follow a recipe, sort out ingredients, organise time and the kitchen as well as prepare and present the food, must require a great majority of the skills demanded by an eleven plus examination. Why then should a child be accepted to go to grammar if he or she has simply has aptitude in the ability to pass a verbal reasoning test? In one sense the verbal reasoning test calls on many skills and talents – but a tasty meal delivered on time with the right panache should count for something. (Ask any mother about this!)
I wrote an appeal letter today for a boy who started with us with average mathematics and verbal reasoning – and well below average non verbal reasoning. His results after a mere four months of tuition and work were 133 for verbal reasoning, 124 non verbal reasoning and 109 on mathematics. He `failed’ the eleven plus by two marks – and the parents have had to appeal.
A boy like this shows just why the eleven plus was created. Here is an obviously bright boy who had not been able to make full use of his talents – until the right eleven plus recipe was invoked. What was the magic ingredient? Probably the boy began to feel confident in him self.
We need to remember Abraham Lincoln. He said: “You may repeal the Missouri Compromise; you may repeal all compromises; and you may repeal the Declaration of Independence and the events of history, but you can not repeal human nature.”
The sheer effort of the boy mentioned earlier must be applauded. It is easy to suppose that if he had one hundred hours of cookery tuition he would be able to deliver an outstanding meal. We just hope that in time to come he will become a politician who can lead our country. We can but hope that he will develop the depth of thought of Lincoln – and make an equivalent contribution to the free world. We must all hope that one day someone will say: Of course he was a grammar school boy.”