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Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Eleven Plus Challenge

The introduction of a national eleven plus would require some schools to rethink their curriculum as well as their attitude to their bright children and their parents.

“I am sorry I can not give an opinion on your child’s chances of passing the eleven plus.”

“It is not school policy to talk about the eleven plus. My hands are tied.”

Naturally there could be a `little uproar’ from some teachers who would oppose selection. Other teachers may feel that the time spent on preparing top groups for the eleven plus would be better spent on other educational activities.

One way of gaining almost universal approval would be to re-introduce the system that worked happily for many years in England. This was called: “Payment by Results.” The better the teacher taught the better the results and the better the pay envelope at the end of the month.

If such a system was introduced the professional culture of the primary school would need to be strengthened. An additional layer of administration and planning would need to be introduced. Teachers would need to continue to share judgement about children and draw on expertise from others.

The scope and extent of secondary school would need to be developed to take into account whole generations of bright children trying to access academic environments. It is very obvious that thousands of bright children are happy and fulfilled with the present system. I heard, however, last week from one of our eleven plus children that the Gifted and Talented scheme within her school had been put on hold until there was more money. She went on to remark that she was sad about this because the teacher who was responsible for the programme in the school was funny and very clever. (She said too that her mother had said: “Never mind. You have got your eleven plus to look forward to.”)

Naturally help for the very able preparing for the eleven plus would not take the place of the present Standard Assessment Tasks. It may simply add another level. The new level may, however, end up with the understanding that it not the teachers who are being paid extra for a different type of teaching but the children who are being challenged, enriched and extended.

Instead of parents bemoaning the shortcomings of present attitude of some schools to the eleven plus they may then be pouring praise of a different provision for the eleven plus. Some parents then may be able to say: “I am on the new G and T programme – and this would mean the Gifted and Talented rather than the Gin and Tonic.”

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