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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Eleven Plus Diary

How can eleven plus teachers evaluate what their pupils think about them? Children, as well as parents, are likely to want to know that they are on a satisfactory curriculum and are being taught in effective ways. It may be that widespread monitoring of the experiences of eleven plus children could help to bring about changes in the eleven plus.

A child knows that he or she is going to arrive at a tutor – or work with parents. There may even be some remarkably lucky and able children who do not need eleven plus preparation. “My child never opened a paper and still passed.” Other children may be cared for by siblings. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and neighbours who will all, surely, make some form of contribution. The internet offers endless papers and learning experiences. Who can take on each of the child’s experiences and help the eleven plus child to assess its relevance?

What happens if the eleven plus has simply evolved into an examination where children are expected to spend their eleven plus time working on papers, revising mistakes and learning new concepts? Surely there should be more time for discussion?

I remember reading about an evaluation of a lesson where pupils spent most of the first sixteen minutes listening and observing. The last fourteen minutes were spent in writing, sometimes talking – generally in a sitting position. Where would the children have been most attentive? While the teacher was talking or where the children were engaged and active? Does this then mean that a child sitting for half an hour working through a paper is engaging in a pointless exercise? We must all hope not – otherwise a whole industry would be decimated and wiped out. It must be reassuring for parents to have the evidence of the labour of thirty minutes – where their child was quiet, absorbed and visibly engaged.

It may be that an eleven plus diary could be a valuable tool in understanding a child’s view of the eleven plus. How many children would start their daily diary with the words:

“Dear diary. I was called to do my eleven plus work. I did not resist because I knew I had to do the work – and anyway I wanted to do the work. ”

The diary could, possibly, go on to say: “I love it when my parents sit beside me while I am working. I don’t mind if they don’t speak – but I do like their company. I find it reassuring.”

Would a diary comment on the quality and extent of eleven plus papers? “My mum keeps saying that it is only twenty minutes a day. But some papers are a bit similar. I never meet anything new or interesting.”

Possibly the diarist would talk about friends at school. “My best friend never has to work on eleven plus papers. Well that is not quite true. My friend only works on a Sunday morning between eight thirty and nine. I have to do twenty minutes every day – which is one hundred and forty minutes or over two hours a week. I think that my parents are trying too hard – but don’t please tell them I said so.”

Is a bright and able eleven plus child qualified to comment on the effectiveness of their eleven plus teacher? Should the child’s comments be listened to? Would an analysis of five hundred diaries give us something new to think about?

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