Search This Blog

Monday, June 28, 2010

An Eleven Plus Discussion

How valid are the questions taken from the more popular eleven plus papers? If children work from papers by the `people who set the examination’ are these going to be as useful as marks obtained on papers from other sources? It must be possible, for example, to find a correlation between marks on selection test and the chances of one of the top four football teams landing up in the top four again.

An eleven plus paper is only valid if it measures what it is supposed to measure. Eleven plus papers, however, do not set out to measure intelligence or personality. Being bright, however, as well as being verbally able, must help with some tests.

We recall fondly one boy who could not cope with one of the highly promoted eleven plus papers. His mother was horrified and attacked the eleven plus system. Her child had just come out of an inner city school and was totally unready to tackle eleven plus work. With six months to the examination the boy had reached Level 3A in his English and mathematics. His mum took the trouble to tell us, in a triumphant phone call, that her son had passed his eleven plus and was in grammar school.

Did this mean that the eleven plus paper, from the highly reputable source, was neither valid nor reliable? Did the abject failure of the boy the first time round, on an unseen paper, without the benefit of any preliminary eleven plus work, mean that he was deemed to be non selective? In a situation like this parents can not read too much into the value and the truthfulness of eleven plus papers if the papers can not describe true ability and prowess.

We know, for example, that applicants for the army – and in particular Sandhurst – have to pass rigorous selection tests. A selection test looks at more than `reasoning’ ability as it must also select bright young men and women who will do well in fields like engineering, becoming pilots or corporate management.

Would there be any use in the eleven plus being broadened to look at leadership qualities? Does a grammar school child need to be able to lead and be self sufficient and commanding? There must be many examples of children who have coped admirably with life at grammar school and beyond who would not dream of trying to lead a platoon into battle.

There could be a case for some parents to be able to argue that a reasoning test should not necessarily correlate with success in school subjects. After all there must be many cases where complex psychological factors lead a person to being able to succeed in later life without the benefit of grammar school education.

Selecting just one criteria, such as verbal reasoning, for measuring future academic success seems to be suspect. There must be a very strong correlation between the ability to do well on a verbal reasoning paper and being able to do well at a grammar school. What we can not tell, however, is how many children who are equally bright in other spheres are swept away and consigned to a life as being `non selective’.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Authority

We sometimes hear, with horror and dismay, about cowboy builders. There is a certain hierarchy about cowboys. A cattleman was the employer of cowboys. As an employer he was responsible for their welfare. He looked after their moral wellbeing as well as their physical comforts.

A cowboy had to respect his employer – and had to trust the owner to be both fair and loyal. A cowboy did not have to trust the cattleman just because a difference in wealth and position.

Cowboys were paid basic wages – but very often were housed and fed. Most importantly – cowboys were usually supplied with their own horses.

Some times a cowboy was responsible to a trail boss. The cowboy would need to report to the trail boss – who would in turn report to the cattleman. Off the trail the cowboy would need to heed the ranch foreman. Often cowboys simply wanted good food, fair wages and an open life.

Of course cowboys were very often footloose or fancy free. If they were dissatisfied they took their wages and left. Quite a few become drifters – with poor health because of hard work and too much drink.

Of course I have no idea where the term `cowboy builder’ came from. Sometimes we use the term loosely and at other times we feel anger and frustration. No one likes to be conned. No one likes to feel their ambitions thwarted. No one likes the feeling of helplessness brought on by deceit and dishonourable actions.

I have never ever heard of a cowboy eleven plus teacher. Of course parents will prefer one eleven plus teacher over another. Naturally one type of personality will appeal more than another. Some will charge more than others. Some teachers will prepare an eleven plus child by going through paper after paper. Other teachers will teach necessary eleven plus skills.

There will be some eleven plus teachers who have the ability to make a child happy, contented and ambitious. These are the teachers who give parents confidence by straight talking and firm leadership. These really special eleven plus teachers need to be appreciated.

It is no secret, however, that the really superior eleven plus teacher is called a mother. Only a mother has the all the skills to be able to bring out the best in a child. Sometimes a mother will be firm, and at other times forgiving. She will always be there! Only a mother has the authority to tell a child to stop moaning and get on with it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Eleven Plus Smiles

What happens when you look into the eyes of your child while the two of you are working together on a section of an eleven plus paper? You will know your child’s face pretty well by now. When he or she was a baby it is likely that his or her head turned from side to side when unwanted food was thrust into the mouth. You will also recall the first early smiles and the expressions of utter disgust when the wrong food was offered.

It is also likely that you will recall the impassioned expression on your baby’s face while tears were running down the face.

Bu the time your child has reached the eleven plus stage you will have learnt just how easy it is your child to suppress his or her emotions. Equally you will also be very aware when you have displeased your child or are being regarded with disquiet or (possibly) elements of anger and frustration.

The happy child, however, will be leaning towards you with an excited and contagious smile – drawing you into the web of joy and triumph. As you solve that perplexing Eleven Plus question you may well offer a hug and recall Lewis Carrol in the Jabberwocky:

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

(Some parents may need to substitute the word `boy’ for `girl’ – but the sentiment must be the same!)

Happy hugging!