James Callaghan, in a famous speech at Ruskin College in Oxford in 1976, talked about `complaints from industry that new recruits from schools sometimes did not have the basic tools to do the job required’.
It is very difficult to assess performance when trying to compare the present with the past. Various politicians have continued to grapple with the problem. We have similar problems with trying to understand the present condition value of the current eleven plus examinations.
Children from rural communities, for example, may have different life experiences to children drawn from a densely populated urban sprawl. One group of children may be `street smart’ while other children may be thought of, by some, as rural plod hoppers. Wherever the children are drawn from, we know that in order to pass the eleven plus we need confident and competent children. Being exam savvy plays a bit part in success in eleven plus examinations.
Parents have to try to work out how much work has to be done by the candidate - and the rest of the family. Parents also have to make continuous judgements on the effectiveness of the school and the tutor – if indeed one is involved.
Children also have to play a part in the decision making. They have to work out how much effort needs to be put into examination preparation. Children also need to be able to feel they can talk about how effective their teachers are at school – and how useful the eleven plus tutor is.
All parents, schools and tutors can do is try to give their charges the best possible opportunity, and the correct tools, to do as well possible in the eleven plus.