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Friday, May 22, 2009

Flipping and an Eleven Plus Answer

A little bit of history. The Robbins Report of 1963 noted: “The numbers who are capable of benefiting from higher education are function not only of heredity but also a host of other influences varying with standards of educational provision, family incomes and attitudes and the education received by previous generations.” I still have my copy of the Robins Report and it is interesting to look back at some of the statements made in the report.

The Spens Report of 1938 was the trigger for much of the reorganisation on which the 1944 Education Act was based. The Spens Report felt that Intellectual development during childhood appears to progress as if it were governed by a single central factor usually known as general intelligence. Our psychological witnesses assured us that it can be measured approximately by means of intelligence tests. It is possible, with a few exceptions, to predict with some degree of accuracy the ultimate level of a child’s intellectual powers.”

It was on the basis of the Spens Report that much of the early Eleven Plus techniques were developed.

In today’s world, many years on from the 1938, it is hard to believe that some of the present verbal reasoning questions still survive.

We know that education must be vastly different from what it was sixty years ago.

We know that society has changed considerably.

One factor is remarkably similar – in 1945 Britain was poor because of the war effort. In 2009 Britain is again poor. This in itself should not be enough reason to maintain the belief that some types of reasoning question, which date back 60 years, will select children accurately – much less find the `ultimate level of a child’s intellectual powers’.

One other area we can take into consideration is that of the `education received by previous generations’ (Robbins 1963). We know that today’s parliament is made up of M.P.s from widely different backgrounds. Some even have moats and others modest second homes. It is not clear, however, how many M.P.s have claimed for the education of their children. As the slow drip of `transparency’ takes place it must only be time when we will hear of an M.P. who has not been able to prepare his or her child for grammar school and will blame parliamentary rules.

For the rest of us without free access to tax payers’ money (our money) we simply have to rely on the education we received – and hope that we know enough to be able to answer some of the more mundane and even fruitless questions. After all when we look through an eleven plus paper – and see some of the questions – we must question the relevance of some questions. Our children will not be able to say in the examination:

“I am sorry and I will answer that question again. I have the feeling that it was well within the parliamentary laws to select Option B. I know that the right answer was Option A – but I was told, in a written letter, by my tutor, who worked part time as an M.P., with a second home near mine, that eleven plus children can flip an option in the middle of an eleven plus test.”

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