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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When it was decided, through a degree of consultation, that education should be available to all the powers that be had to have a rethink of what was wanted in education. There was no national Curriculum in those days – but there were many different bodies that were responsible for education. Education for all required:

Education had to be socially comprehensive.

This was many years before the eleven plus. One of the main planks of the eleven plus was that it would help a number of able children, from some poorer homes, to have as good an education as possible in grammar schools.

Education had to be based on a total commitment. There could be no place for limited or religious elements.

The total commitment in the selection process does not take place in many eleven plus areas – some rely heavily, for example, on a single test, like verbal reasoning, to select children for grammar schools.

Education had to link with technical and social change.

Again some eleven plus papers seem to have very little to do with anything technical. No wonder that England does not seem to have boys and girls aspiring to be scientists and engineers if the very selection process they have undergone has excluded them.

Education had to rely on the state.

The state, in many counties, has rejected the eleven plus. The playing field is not level all over the country.

Education and the state became partners. Over one hundred years ago political parties were able to try to manipulate education to suit their needs. Not much has changed there – as we all remember, in very recent times, the words: “Education, Education, Education.” Public investment all those years ago was vital to the development of school. The present `Building Schools for the Future’ represents a massive investment in buildings and technology.

It is that very diversity in the eleven plus that brings so much richness to what children have to learn. One of our boys three different eleven plus tests:

Bexley – Verbal Reason and Mathematics

Kent – Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning and Mathematics. (Along with a little English.)

Medway – English, Verbal Reasoning and Mathematics.

He passed all three eleven plus examinations. His preparation had to be very different from that of a boy or girl only working on verbal reasoning and mathematics. We hope he was the richer for the eleven plus preparation because he was expected to cover a much wider syllabus.

The eleven plus plays a very big part in the lives of involved parents, children and schools. It would be wonderful if the examination could be more comprehensive, recognised as a vehicle for progress and enrichment as well as acknowledged by the state. Then we may see some progress in more of our schools.

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