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Monday, May 18, 2009

Scraping the Eleven Plus

There is no way of knowing of this is a true story. It all took place a long time ago.

Hadrian went one day to the public baths, and saw an old soldier, well known to him, scraping himself with a potsherd for want of a flesh brush.

The emperor sent him a sum of money.

The next day Hadrian found the bath crowded with soldiers scraping themselves with potsherds. He said: “Scrape on gentlemen, but you’ll not scrape acquaintance with me.”

We must all wish for a new emperor who will want to take a fresh look at the eleven plus. The emperor will not be satisfied with questions like:

Spot the odd word out:

Strode, clambered, sailed, journeyed, and swam.

It is easy to see that the odd one out is journey – because it is a less specific word that the others.

It is also easy to see that a less able child may have some difficulty in unravelling the conundrum – but a question like this can mean the difference between a grammar school pass and fail.

The problem is that many years ago some erudite scholar announced that `spot the odd one out’ could offer a fair test of ability. Writer after writer, tutor after tutor, parent after parent and child after child have all perpetuated this travesty.

Why should we continue to scrape acquaintance with these heirlooms or antiques of early eleven plus tests?

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