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Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Wider Eleven Plus

The top universities seem to be trying to select a wider range of students. There has been a lot of discussion about the need to try to cater for a wider range. Quite simply the universities want to try to get the right kind of person. Traditionally young men and woman from top public schools and good grammar schools have been fortunate enough to win places.

Top universities want top students. We wonder, however, if the admissions tutors are looking for bright young men and women who also all rounders. The 11+ and Common Entrance do the preliminary selection. Once the children are in the most academic independent schools and the highest achieving grammar school they are put under pressure to achieve good results.

When many of these youngsters reach years nine and ten they are already amassing GCSEs. Year 11 for some is simply a year of consolidation. The A Level years allow the accumulation of yet more qualifications. Some will also be working for university scholarship examinations – aiming at Oxford or Cambridge.

We also hear stories of young men and women school leavers winning places in top American universities.

Many years ago the scholarship examinations were introduced to Oxford and Cambridge to find bright candidates who did not have the opportunity to attend privileged schools. The two universities endowed scholarships for poor boys when no alternative university education existed. At one time some grammar schools were able to select less fortunate children under similar altruistic conditions.

Much has changed over the years. Entry to a top grammar school is still a prize for many parents. We do not seem to hear all that much, however, of a society of equitable eleven plus opportunity. We also do not seem to hear all that much about efforts to eliminate the unfair advantage some children have when they study for the eleven plus.

A further perplexing question is wondering how studying for the eleven plus is preparing our bright and able children to go on to achieve high academic honours? A diet of prescribed verbal and non verbal reasoning questions, for example, seems to suggest a worryingly narrow waste of intellectual ability.

A wider form of the Eleven Plus examination could help.

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