As soon as a child enters school he or she is compared with others – by grades or other explicit methods. Some children at a pre school age may already have been classified and placed into `ability’ groups.
There is, however, a problem in relating achievement and the progress back to a score – and that is that is that that it is very difficult for one test result to be able to sum up all the progress that had been made – and the potential that is implied. Culture, educational opportunities, drive, ambition and speed of reaction all come into the picture. A single pass or fail score can struggle to sum up the whole of the estimated ability of a child.
Few eleven plus parents can think of the eleven plus as being a vehicle for vocational opportunities. Few parents will offer the following words of comfort: “If you pass the eleven plus you will be offered a blue collar job.” It is more likely that parents will be using words like `university’ and `success’. Some eleven plus parents may even be busy explaining to their ten year old the difference between a job and a career.
Eleven plus parents would no doubt prefer their children to act in an even tempered manner – and remain cheerful and calm even when under pressure. Eleven plus children would probably prefer their parents to be even tempered and enthusiastic. In just the same way parents will probably prefer their children to be accommodating rather than hostile and impertinent. How can a single eleven plus pass or fail score hope to pick out a child with little respect for property or the feelings of others?
Ideally a grammar school must want to work with children of roughly the same socioeconomic levels. After all, the school has to work as a cohesive unit. Yet grammar schools must necessarily deal with a wide range of intellectual, emotional, social and physical abilities. Eleven plus selection, however, does not rely on the sum of a child but on the ability of a child to pass a number of questions in a set time.
What the present eleven plus examination does appear to do is to stifle any attempt at originality. At times very bright eleven plus children must become bored with the banality of some questions – and attempt to inject some humour or even offer a ridiculous answer. There can be no place for the absurd or any calculated levity when completing a set of formal multiple choice questions.
The whole of a child’s past has to catch up with the future on a certain day at a certain time. Some children will no doubt keep developing intellectually after the age of eleven. The fifty minute snapshot that is taken on the day of the examination may be in focus for some – but blurred for others.