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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Eleven Plus and the Middle Set

There must be a wide difference in the attitude of schools towards the eleven plus. We know of one school `down our way’ where the head teacher has arranged for children from the class to attend two afternoons a week, after school, for eleven plus preparation. This is, we understand, is a service provided by the state school and there is no charge.

Other schools are not geared in any way towards the eleven plus. The Local Authority may have issued instructions to schools that there should be no help with eleven plus preparation. The children who do pass the eleven plus, and go to grammar school, will have achieved their ambition through help from their parents and, possibly, tutors. Naturally all children who do gain entrance to a grammar school will have that invaluable ingredient – ability.

At one time there was much discussion about the value of children being taught in `homogeneous’ classes. Some schools preferred a `heterogeneous’ ability class. Some children today explain that they are in `Set 1’ or `Top Set’. Other children are in `Middle Set’. Some parents seem to refer to their child being in a `mixed ability’ class.

It is likely that some schools who do work actively towards the eleven plus will have parents who want their children to go to grammar school. It would be very sad to think that schools who do not `push’ towards the eleven plus feel that their children are not of grammar school standard and therefore are not helped towards passing the examination.

Putting children in groups, or sets, or streams is a form of a self justifying process. We had a girl last year who spent her whole mathematics career at primary school in the `middle’ stream. We worked on eleven plus and Level 5 mathematics – and in spite of this the girl stayed obdurately in the middle stream. The middle stream worked on helping children climb from level three to level four. The school were preoccupied with ensuring as many children as possible achieved level four.

When the girl came on an eleven plus course with us she met other children from a wide range of schools – and mathematics ability groups. She coped remarkably well and met every mathematics challenge with sanguine inner confidence. She passed the eleven plus with a place in grammar school. She will easily achieve Level Five in her mathematics. She is, however, still in the middle set.

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