On of the big problems associated with the fairness of the eleven plus is the lack of published follow ups. We can see that if a child passes the eleven plus with a good score that it should be possible for the same child to achieve good GCSE and A level results. What we don’t have is the opportunity of retesting all the children some years later and then comparing the results. There could be some very able potential grammar school children who may possibly have missed a place.
We know that it is possible to raise a child’s verbal reasoning score by some marks – simply by helping the child to prepare for the test. We sometimes get to offer a verbal reasoning test to a nine or ten year old, and then have the opportunity to retest them some years later (if they are going to try for the thirteen plus). Sometime the results are the same, at other times the child could reach a much higher level. Occasionally the comparison of the test results makes it looks as if there has been an impossible decline in ability.
Many facts like motivation, however, must come into play. It could be that when the child was ten, he or she could have been set on grammar school. The thirteen year old may not be as determined to pass. For example he or she may prefer to stay with their friends at their present school – and not go on to grammar. Some nine year old children may not have been mature enough to take full advantage of that all important reasoning test, but could be ready at thirteen. We know that children develop at different rates and at different times.
We can’t even compare a verbal reasoning test result with the scores reached in an intelligence test – because the two tests are not looking for the same attributes. Elements of a verbal reasoning test may be contained within an intelligence test but the strictures of a verbal reasoning test can not describe general intellectual ability.
There was an article in a newspaper the other day suggesting that the observations of teachers could replace SATs. This could start to place quite a heavy burden on teachers as the results could appear, to the outsider, to be subjective, at times, and suspect.
A verbal reasoning test looks at a number of different sets of unknowns. Teacher observations, however, are not the same as results on a verbal reasoning test. Teacher observations for SATs test results would necessarily look at standards in English and mathematics. This way of looking at a child would not be the same as the necessary observations on the suitability of a child for grammar school.
It is easy to attack elements of almost any eleven plus test – but essentially eleven plus tests exist to try to help children into grammar schools. It is hoped that the children who enter the grammar schools are willing to try to make the most of their grammar school experience. Grammar school tests do not need to worry about innate ability. The Eleven Plus does not need to take into account that a child may do very well on one day – but not so well on another.
In one sense the major factor in determining how many children pass the eleven plus is the number of places in the grammar schools. Eleven plus tests simply try to make the entry as equitable as possible. It does not mean that eleven plus tests have to be fair to all children.
The number of passes at the eleven plus is decided by a percentage. How may poor children miss out because of a percentage point?