Other teachers are often a most fruitful source of ideas. Some eleven plus teachers, however, have little opportunity to interact with each other. If one of more teachers gets a really good idea, then it could be hard to develop a scenario where other eleven plus teachers could share that idea.
When teachers get together the talk is often about school. Would eleven plus teachers be as eager to share their ideas? We would hope so because after all their common ground is helping their children to do as well as possible in the eleven plus examinations.
Most serving school teachers are likely to be used to a system of bureaucracy. They have their senior teachers, deputy heads and head teachers. This `system’ allows a fertile ground for developing strategies, testing ideas and receiving peer to peer feedback.
The continuous stream of new ideas about the National Curriculum offers long suffering school teachers the opportunity to communicate and think about change and the effects of change. Dedicated and involved teachers, however, have the chance to plan, design and evaluate ideas.
Eleven plus teachers who are outside of the school system do not have quite the same opportunities. This does not mean that the ability to help children to pass the eleven plus is lessened in any way. It simply means that some of them will not have the same opportunity.
The eleven plus examination in some areas appears to be a fairly set and closed type of exam. Aspiring eleven plus children have to learn a relatively narrow set of skills. There is little need for teachers to engage in continuous development. “I have used the same method for the last ten years and all my children have passed.”
It would be not be too hard, however, to imagine that every single one of these hitherto isolated eleven plus teachers would welcome the opportunity to interact with other teachers and have access to a wider stream of outside help. If these teachers had the time and the energy it is likely they would accept innovation and change.
We had a situation a few years ago in Bexley where children were only tested in mathematics and verbal reasoning. Non verbal reasoning and English were dropped. We had to change the way we worked in a number of centres. There was a major benefit in that there was more time to offer children work in greater depth, along with wider opportunities for revision and consolidation.
Bexley did not leave parents with ambiguous and general information. Their pronouncements and guidance notes were clear and uncluttered. The changes were easy to implement. We were all aware that there would be lots of questions that had to be answered very quickly and accurately.
If there were more planned changes to the eleven plus examinations then this could lead to a ground swell of demand for reform and restructuring. The `authorities that be’ may not, however, welcome change. Some parents, however, may welcome change and should be involved in any dialogue.