It would be interesting to hear the views of parents, eleven plus teachers and children about the extent that working towards the eleven plus changes the lives of children and their families. After all the children are in the process of leaving primary school and going to secondary. Some children will pass the eleven plus and others will find themselves in a wide range of local schools.
A key question must be based around the extent to which preparing for the eleven plus helps a child to be ready for secondary school. A place in a grammar school should, in theory, provide the springboard to a wide range of opportunities. It is hoped, for example, that a grammar school will help children to develop their own talents. In some cases these developed talents may even ultimately help and benefit elements of society. A balanced look at education will insist that some children who attend other forms of secondary school will also be of advantage to mankind. It does seem, however, that a wider choice of career can be offered to those children who have the tools to be able to advantage of their education.
Does working towards the eleven plus actually give children skills they will be able to use in later life? Successive governments have insisted that strength is needed in numeracy and literacy. Eleven plus children studying mathematics are expected to achieve a higher standard that the majority of the rest of the children of the same age group. Enlightened eleven plus teachers and parents will be teaching towards the examination but also trying to provide the groundwork for any future career involving mathematics.
It also seems to be very important that eleven plus children do not become passive learners. We want our children to be articulate and able to express themselves. If this sometimes appears to look like confrontation it could be no more than a child trying to learn his or her limits in a changing world. Some children may also need to learn how to be good listeners. Years ago a teacher or a parent could say: “Shut up and listen to me!” Today a more understanding and diplomatic vocabulary is needed.
Some eleven plus children may need to learn to make a greater contribution to the family. For some children it could be something simple like picking up the dishes. Other eleven plus children may need to learn to be tolerant and forgiving. After all not everyone in the family may be blessed with the same natural intelligence. Eleven plus children, like all other children, need to feel a degree of respect for authority.
If some eleven plus children learn to work imaginatively and responsibly then it does seem likely that the act of eleven plus preparation is of value. Honest and diligent hard work may help some children to become a little more mature. Remember that bit by Keats?
The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness.
We hope that attending a grammar school will help to fill the space.