Watching some eleven plus children at work is sometimes more than edifying. A child bent over an eleven plus problem is more than the question – that he or she is working on - at the very least, the child is the product of the parents, the school and the educational opportunities.
We have a picture of gentlemen back in the Eighteenth Century who were witty, urbane and well educated. Yet these gentlemen were not taught from a wide curriculum – they were often taught the humane subjects as well as the classics. The Industrial Revolution, however, demonstrated that men and women needed to have knowledge of the sciences as well as some knowledge of manufacturing and mathematics.
Little by little schools became more complex and offered more educational opportunities. This broadening of the curriculum has continued over the years and today very few parents would want their child to go to a grammar school that offered only a few `A’ Level subjects. A viable grammar school is one where children have the ability to make choices from a sensible range of subjects.
An eleven plus examination based around verbal and non verbal reasoning focuses the minds of children into pretty stereotyped forms of thinking and reasoning. A child from a home where discussion and the promotion of learning is paramount will, hopefully, do better in the eleven plus than a child who has simply been drilled.
A bright, articulate and motivated eleven plus child should succeed in spite of the present narrowness of the eleven plus syllabus. If England today needs more engineers and scientists surely the eleven plus should look for children with ability in these areas? In one sense elements of the eleven plus could be considered a throwback to pre Industrial Revolution days. Someone, somewhere, needs a good talking to.