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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Fairness of the Eleven Plus

Years ago one of the arguments against grammar schools was that people in grammar schools felt themselves to be socially as well as intellectually superior. Grammar schools then, as now, represented between twenty and twenty five percent of the children selected at eleven.

Grammar schools were perceived to spend time on manners and speech – in order to enhance professional prospects. This made some parents keen to send their children to grammar school.

Arguments made against grammar school included strong feelings against coaching – as it was felt that coaching was unfair because it gave children an advantage.

People were also upset by parents who could afford to send their children to independent schools if their children did not pass the selection tests. Even today some preparatory schools prepare children for the eleven plus as well as common entrance.

Another argument that still persists against the eleven plus is that the examination places a restrictive influence against schools.

Protesters used to complain against the reliability of the eleven plus. These protests have, to a degree, fallen away as parents do not want to `rock the boat’. Today parents appear to accept the content or the syllabus of the examination and work hard to help their children to do as well as possible.

The only way that the present examination could be made fairer for more children is if an independent enquiry was established into the present needs of the grammar schools – and then a thorough investigation into the efficacy of the examination. There are a wide variety of eleven plus examinations. Perhaps this adds a richness or diversity to the selection process – but surely this can not suit all children.

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