There are two arguments that are often put forward about the value of the eleven plus. The first is that the nature of the eleven plus examination will direct children to work harder and reach greater heights. A second reason is that it is hoped that the tests actually measure the ability of children. The problem is that some forms of the eleven plus do not set out to test true ability – but do test the ability to answer certain types of question.
The present form of the eleven plus allows grammar schools to find children who have reached certain levels. An achievement test tells how much a child has achieved. An attainment test tries to describe how much a child has attained. Elements of the present eleven plus seem to mix attainment and achievement. This could be unfair to some children who may have true ability but do not have the opportunity in the examination to show their prowess.
Parents, schools, eleven plus tutors, publishers and other interested parties are all involved in trying to help children achieve the present high standards of the eleven plus. The high standards are sometimes achieved by drilling children. Eleven plus children, however, have to be ready on examination day – regardless of what has happened previously.
If their child does not do well on papers or in the actual examination parents may, at times, feel let down. But the eleven plus requires parents to understand that the examination will not cater for their child’s creative and imaginative ability.
Boredom and resistance may, sometimes, creep into a child’s mind as he or she is expected to complete question after question. Very bright children may become accustomed to putting just enough work into a paper to keep his or her parents satisfied. A drive to achieve even higher marks may need to be weighed against the perils of having concerned parents an un-necessary set of tools.
“What do you mean you only achieved 78%? Last time you reached 83%. This is not good enough. You will need to try harder next time.”
We should want eleven plus children to be attentive, interested, involved and motivated. It would be wonderful if a set of eleven plus questions can be developed to cater for the needs of some of our brightest children.