At the beginning of the twentieth England did not have an organised system of secondary education. There were grammar schools where the rich and selected poor children mingled – but the schools were called `grammar’ because of the curriculum that was taught in the schools.
Two institutions, Oxford and Cambridge, instituted local examinations for schools which had the effect of building a curriculum that could be followed by all the participating schools. There was, however, no connection between the teachers who were preparing children and the universities themselves.
All the universities had their own system of entrance test. This led to a diverse and chaotic system of examination. A central authority was introduced to try to bring order into the chaos. When children passed the `school examination’ and obtained a `school certificate’ they then had a qualification that the universities could rely on. With your school certificate you could apply to most universities.
We are preparing children for different eleven plus examinations – as there is no centralised system that looks after the concerns of children across the country. We have to prepare different courses for children in Manchester down to Kent as well for individual schools. The courses have common elements – but are not the same.
Parents, however, have to rely on their own investigations, word of mouth, the internet and advice from experienced teachers who operate to help children into grammar school. Teachers ploughing a lonely furrow with their children on a one to one basis have no input into the content of the examination.
A few selected publishers have great influence over what the eleven plus children are told to learn. Eleven plus teaching and examining functions, however, are kept separate. The prize of grammar school place is so great that parents will put up with almost anything as long as their child wins a place.