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Monday, January 17, 2011

An Eleven Plus Debate

There has not been a country wide debate on the value of the eleven plus for some years. An important ingredient in the early arguments for the eleven plus was the ability of the examination to find bright children, who were poor, but would benefit from an academic education.

It would be very difficult to have a broad debate about the present effectiveness of the eleven plus without the presence of newspapers. Would a barrage of negative articles about how the eleven plus was failing poor pupils help to sway people’s attitudes?

Would the intervention of powerful forums like `Mums Net’ help to build a tsunami of opinion that would force the government to act?

The underlying assumption of the eleven plus is that the examination will filter out a number of bright and able children. The evidence for this may have been compelling some years ago – but it may be time to question the nature and content of the examination.

Children from poor backgrounds may benefit additional preparation – but the sheer economics may help to militate against their progress. Books, papers, connection to the internet, teachers, tutors and transport all cost money. As in all walks of life the parents may be very willing to do what they can – but may lack the financial resources to be able to help their children.

A wider public airing and debate may help some parents caught in what some call the `poverty trap’. The notice of a `means tested eleven plus’ may, however, be an anathema to some.

Any attempts to question the eleven plus would bring in the main political parties.

I have seen the immense value of the eleven plus in its ability to change the lives of children.

Boys who were hitherto uninvolved and disaffected; clamouring for more work.

Girls learning to love mathematics - and subsequently wanting to `do’ mathematics at university.

Bright children achieving their potential.

Class room teachers being delighted by the progress that some of their charges may have achieved.

Parents happy and proud of their children.

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