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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Eleven Plus in Six Months

There is a big debate on at the moment about training new teachers in six months. The opposition comes from a predictable variety of sources. The first job that springs to mind where training takes a lot less that six months is being a mother.

To safeguard your unborn child a mother has to eat the right food, take appropriate exercise, listen to the right music and give up other key pleasures of life – no smoking and no alcohol. This transformation of a woman’s life is called `Learning on the Job’ and comes with very few perks and vouchers. There are plenty of books, advice, videos and support groups but basically the woman is on her own.

When the pre Eleven Plus candidate is born a whole lot of new `On the Job Learning’ takes place. I have always admired the way mothers are able to unfold a pram carrying a baby, a hand bag, shopping, the bag of nappies and extra supplies. There are new guide lines that should be followed by the mother about child care and `Raising a Brighter Child’. This learning has to take place in a lot less than six months – because every mother knows the first six months are vital if the future `Eleven Plus Candidate’ is to learn to read well enough to be able to cope with verbal reasoning questions in another nine years time.

First time fathers also have a lot to learn about preparing their child for the eleven plus. If the family live in an authority where non verbal reasoning is part of the eleven plus then a lot of onus must fall on the father, Dad now has less than six months to learn how to prepare a child – who is not yet walking and taking – to be able to recognise shapes and patterns and cope with the multiple choice element of any form of competitive assessment.

From the child’s point of view the first six months are also vital. Not only does he or she have to cope with mood swings on the part of mum and dad and premature pre examination pressure – but the child has to be able to distinguish between four alternatives.

Option A: Cry for vitamin packed food
Option B: Refuse all food
Option C: Demand supplements to diet
Option D: Seek the arms on another.

Will the government win and help newcomers into a recession proof industry? Of course they will. Even the most vociferous of opponents must, in time, realise the benefit from the input of a seasoned professional. The new teachers must bring a sense of freshness and enthusiasm to their teaching. It is highly likely that the new recruits will welcome the advice and comments from more experienced teachers and colleagues.

Most important of all some of the new recruits may be able to cope with some of the more abstruse and esoteric of the eleven plus questions. After all if you struggle on an eleven plus paper at home, who better to ask for some help than your child’s teacher?

It is time to mention Mr Eric Morris once again. Very early in my teaching career my Head Teacher gave me the responsibility of a top stream class of nine year olds. We completed the year’s syllabus in the first term. Mr Morris taught the year ahead and would not allow us to infringe on the work he planned to follow. The parents, children and I had to devise new ways to educate and enrich the class. Perhaps if Mr. Morris had been a new fast track teacher he would have welcomed and embraced change.

So if you are the partner of one of the new breed of six month teachers then you need to count your blessings. You will have a partner eager to learn and receptive to change. You should enjoy the benefit of a partner determined to make a difference. Who knows you may also have a child ready to embrace the challenge of the eleven plus. If your child is then taught at school by one of this new breed of teachers you may have a child who will be able to actually benefit from the eleven plus experience. This could be a child able to think and explore and not just able to sit through the tedium of eleven plus paper after eleven plus paper.

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