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Friday, March 25, 2011

An Eleven Plus Profile

Children who can play chess at an early age are often recognised as being of a type of superior intelligence. Sadly the ability too play chess is not recognised by the current eleven plus examination boards – but we can live in hope. Imagine armies of children being taught to play chess – and then going onto to play against each other through the internet, chess foundations and classrooms. The children who won through the various rounds would be the children who would `go to grammar’.

Parents would need to learn to play too – so instead of grappling with unending eleven plus papers parents could discuss various opening and closing gambits in the playground. Instead of informing the world that their child had reached standardised score of 132 – mums and dads would be able to talk about their child’s progress towards Grand Master status.

In time the ingenuity and perseverance of the English teaching profession would turn its attention to producing books and papers about chess. Children would then be drilled in counters to the `Queen’s Pawn Opening Gambit’. Children would be able to say: “I got into grammar because I beat the Grand Masters from seven different countries.” The teachers and the tutors would be able to share in the glory. Instead of being able to say: “All my eleven plus children earned a place in a grammar school,” the tutors would be able to say: “I produced seven Grand Masters.” Sic transit Gloria!

Elements of the eleven plus industry may even be tempted to replicate the work of Baron von Kempelen who was a mechanical genius who intrigued 18th Century Europe. He developed a chest that was 4 ft long, 2 ft wide and 3 ft high. In front of him was a chess board,- and he challenged all comers. Before the game started the Baron would open the chest’s compartment to reveal a bewildering array of levers, gears and cylinders.

Hidden behind the machinery was a man manipulating the pieces through magnets attached to the base of the pieces.

It would not take some parents to submit the view that ability in monopoly was a skill that would be more descriptive of ability. Scrabble and draughts could also be brought into the equation. This could lead to a super child who was able to play chess, win a scrabble – make millions through monopoly and learn to jump over others when playing draughts.

Last year we had a number of children on an eleven plus course aimed at two highly competitive schools. A mother telephoned and followed the telephone call with an email. The mother was upset, rightly or wrongly, because I had sanctioned a series of five eleven plus verbal reasoning questions that would not appear in the eleven plus. The mother felt that we had wasted her daughter’s time. Her daughter had answered all of the prescribed questions correctly – but had made mistakes on three out of the five `unscheduled’ questions.

A picture of an eleven plus child is emerging, the child should be able to play different types of board games, work through papers and cope with unexpected questions. Some grammar schools may enjoy looking at a slighter wider profile of their prospective pupils.

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