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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

We Need an Eleven Plus Champion

Is there not a need for a new quango? What about an Eleven Plus Ombudsman?

We do not have a national eleven plus body that can look after the needs and worries of eleven plus parents. Different authorities have a range of guidelines, ambitions and preferences. There is no co-ordinating body that brings it all together. Nothing seems fixed at all. There are `experts’ scattered all over England. The experts will range from classroom teachers, to dedicated heads, eleven plus tutors, publishers, grammar schools and especially knowledgeable parents. This range of expertise gives a gravitas to the entire eleven plus scene.

There will always be vigorous debate about the eleven plus from parents in the playground, at meetings, through twitter, face book, blogs and on the internet. This debate has the ability to keep key issues before all these groups. No curriculum changes can come from all this confusion – parents are faced with an overload of information, rules, regulations, dates and content. The authorities are able to feel that they are in control of their own little eleven plus world – because there is no mechanism for parents to be able to question and debate.

Eleven plus children are prepared for examinations with a wide variety of objectives. The quality of eleven plus work and the comprehensiveness of approaches must vary from teacher to teacher and tutor to tutor. Some parents will feel that they can rely on books, papers, on-line tests and sheer hard work. Other parents will want to call in professionals to try to help to prepare their children. Some parents will even be producing their own materials – to augment the wide range of material that exists at present. Fortunately new materials are at the heart of the eleven plus.

Some parents will want their eleven plus children to be taught from materials that consist primarily on facts, questions and answers. Other parents may want their children to be taught by inquiry methods or develop attitudes to papers, questions and answers.

On-line lessons with a live tutor have been able to bring technology, tutors, candidates and parents together in new and innovative ways.

Children do need to base elements of their learning processes on concrete specifics – rather then relying fully on abstract and conceptual thinking. Of course eleven plus children must discover key elements for themselves. The children can not be spoon fed – and they should not have to rely on expository methods of learning.

Who then can bring this hegemony of myths, theories, dictates and regulations together? We can’t rely on public opinion – because since the 1960’s there has been little appetite to attack the concept of grammar schools. We need a sword bearer – a Joan of Arc – who can stand up and be counted. We need someone, or some formal or official body, who will be listened to and respected. Our present eleven plus scene needs an Eleven Plus Champion.

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