Are eleven plus materials prepared for boys or girls or both sexes? Are typical eleven plus questions sanitised and androgynous? Do test writers have a responsibility to ensure a gender balance?
Some mothers and fathers may feel that their son would possibly have enjoyed his early reading exercises better if the books had reflected his interests. There may be some six year old boys, for example, who would have enjoyed early reading books about cars and tanks rather than looking at pictures of little boys and girls running through meadows.
It is possible that there will be an almost equal split between ten year old boys and girls who want to watch Top Gear. The masculine role that is created by Top Gear may resonate in the hearts of some alleged `Tom Boys’ but this is largely unverified so this statement must remain an observation!
Questions, however, can be loaded towards one sex or another:
Eight boys and seven girls divide £2.26 between them. The boys are given 2p more than each of the girls. A) How much does each one get? B) Is this fair?
The average age of a class of 21 girls is 14 years 3 months. If the oldest girl is not counted in, the average drops to 14 years 2 months. How old is she?
In both these questions the word `boy’ and the word `girl’ are interchangeable. (Astute parents will have worked out, in their heads, the 16p and the 14p along with 15 years 11 months.)
But parents could try a little experiment. One parent prepares the `test’ and leaving the rest of the family, including the `candidate’, to try to solve the problem.
Give each member of the family a paper parallelogram. Ask the family to find the area. Look for the first person to cut the ends off and put them together to form another rectangle. Widen the experiment to include other members of the family and friends. Collect and co-ordinate the evidence. Are you are able to draw any conclusions?
Look closely at the eleven plus papers and exercises your child is invited to work through. Do the questions reflect his or her ten year old attitudes and interests? If the questions do not excite some form of resonance in your child, is there any evidence that the questions are really simply reflecting the intellectual disciplines of the author, or authoress?