There is a distinction between an educational examination and a competitive examination. No one needs to pretend that the eleven plus examination is educational. The competition for an eleven plus pass will begin, in some cases, well before the eleven plus year. It is not hard to imagine, for example, a reception class teacher casting a baleful glare at a parent asking if their child is eleven plus material!
The eleven plus is an external examination where the teaching and examining functions can be completely separate from the school’s concerns. The examination papers are prepared by examiners who can be external and outside of the school system. Some individual school prepare their own eleven plus entry tests. This enables these schools to look at different types of ability. External examiners can revise papers and add or substitute questions to try to make the papers as representative as possible.
In internal examinations teaches can set their own tests and examinations. They can also revise and adapt questions but would possible be doing this to cover the needs of their class rather than a group of eleven plus children.
All eleven plus parents will want is justice for their child. The chances and consequences of accidental problems and problems occurring during the hours of the actual eleven plus examination are probably greater during this examination than during a test or examination set within an individual classroom. Eleven plus invigilators, as do class room teachers, have to be vigilant, thorough and fair.
If an eleven plus child does not do well in an examination parents can look at the school, the eleven plus preparation, the materials, the quality of the eleven plus teaching and at their child’s ability and willingness to work hard. There is very little scope for originality in the eleven plus on the part of parents, teachers and the examiners.
Any reform of the eleven plus system must come slowly and painfully. We must be heartened, however, that must of the most thorough, but least progressive, work with ten year olds has been through the system of eleven plus preparation and examination.