If a select number of children receive help towards the eleven plus examination does it mean that the norms associated with eleven plus examinations are meaningless? After all when the tests were standardised did the cohort of children who made up the sample of children include children who had been offered top quality extra tuition?
If any coaching is given towards a test then the norms must become suspect and possibly unsatisfactory. Years ago the promotion of teachers, and the payment of teachers, was based around the results their children obtained in school. Think of the outcry today if a group of children in one class were given extra tuition – and so helped the school teacher with promotion and / or payment!
Familiarity with a test must lead to artificially high results. We hear of eleven plus teachers who base their whole teaching around one particular type of paper. Will this help their charges to be among the elite? It is very hard to call.
A cry must then be heard. What is the actual potential of the children compared with those the eleven plus tests were standardised on? Parts of verbal reasoning tests rely on good reading and vocabulary skills. Children who do not come from homes where parents read are possibly handicapped. A boy or a girl who has been read to from an early age and has a desire to read for reading’s sake is likely to enjoy grappling with many parts of verbal reasoning tests.
When eleven plus results are published schools quite rightly take lots of the credit for the number of children who pass. It is likely that an eleven plus candidate, who has been offered the very best of eleven plus opportunities, and has, therefore, benefited from good teaching at school and at home, will enjoy the whole build up towards the eleven plus.
We are not told about the standardisation of the actual eleven plus tests – other than knowing that standardisation is an effort to make the tests as fair as possible to all children. Perhaps in the final analysis we do not need to know about who the tests are standardised on. What we must be concerned with is that the content of eleven plus tests is becoming so predictable that some children must be force feed into trying to pass while other children must become no more than passive learners.
There may be a case for more transparency about the nature of the questions within the actual eleven plus examination – and more openness about who the tests were standardised on.