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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Power of Music

Many years ago someone came along with yet another theory on education. This one was called eurhythmics. This is a system of physical and mental training, akin on the one hand to physical drill, on the other hand to dancing. Rhythmic movements and bodily control are practiced to music.

It was developed by M. Jacques-Dalcroze, a Swiss, and was introduced by him into England in around 1912. For one reason or another, the method was mainly adopted by girls’ schools. I am not sure how many boys’ schools used eurhythmics as a method of teaching!

One element of the eurhythmics method was to try to improve bodily grace and harmony.

It is very easy to see the relevance of his teaching to today’s eleven plus candidates. Working through an eleven plus paper requires many elements of music. We have, for example the overture, which can be likened to walking into the examination room, with all the resultant nerves, and the anxiety of staring at the unopened paper.

To initiate proceedings a conductor will raise his or her baton to guide the orchestra – just as the invigilator will intone: “You may open your papers.”

There is a rhythm to answering an eleven plus paper in an examination – the candidate has to keep solving questions with the speed and accuracy of a metronome.

As the paper comes to an end – and the time ticks away – the heartbeat rises to a crescendo.

Eurhythmics, however, is much more than music – there is the dance element which must play a large part. What better way of relieving stress in the examination than to have a five minute half time break where boys and girls can dance unselfconsciously, relieve tension and prepare themselves mentally for the rigors of the second half of the paper. Parents and children could even try this at home!

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