The present form of the eleven plus has been evolving over many years. Yet we still seem to hop between one eleven plus theory or idea and another. Until the closing stages of the nineteenth century English educators were deeply concerned with the curriculum, how to teach and how to organise school. The parents and tutors of today’s eleven plus children are probably concerned with rather similar issues. Once the eleven plus child is actually sitting at the table, it is unlikely, however, that there will be time for much educational theory and philosophy. The bright and alert candidate will probably want some action –`give me problems to solve. I need to be fed on questions and puzzles’.
While the eleven plus tutor is engaged with an eleven plus question, there is possibly little time, for example, to think about Pestalozzi or Froebel. Look at the tutor sitting with his or her pupil reflecting on a rather typical eleven plus question: “William was sitting his eleven plus examination and kept checking his watch every ten minutes. If he first checked his watch when he started the examination at 9.00 a.m., how many times will he have checked his watch by the end of the examination at 10.05 am?” But it was Pestalozzi who maintained: "The role of the educator is to teach children, not subjects." It was Froebel, who followed Pestalozzi, who wanted learning to be a `spontaneous, enjoyable experience for children’. (This was back at the beginning of the nineteenth century.)
The man who was appointed by Butler, following the Education Act of 1944, was a Mr Clarke who remarked on the need for `the freedom of individual schools to use and develop their own resources in accordance with their own expert judgement – and the freedom of parents, within reasonable limits, to select the schools to which they will send their children’.
The eleven plus examination does try to give parents a choice.
Would my child do better in a comprehensive or in a grammar school?
Does my child need a formal education or should there be more freedom of choice?
Can hard work and fun ever come to terms with each other?
Do I want my child’s tutor to work on papers towards the examination, or to try to help my child to think and fly?
Should I listen to my child if he or she complains about the work being boring and repetitious?
Children, however, irrespective of philosophers, educators, tutors, teachers and parents do have the ability to put life into perspective. Who cannot remember Eggy Peggy?
This is a duel between two hoppers – but with a set ritual for determining who shall be the second combatant. One person is called Eggy Peggy and hops up to the other children and calls out:
Eggy Peggy: Eggy Peggy has broken her leggy.
Children: What On?
Eggy Peggy: A barbed wire gate
Children: What do you want?
Eggy Peggy: A pair of stockings.
Children: What colour?
Eggy Peggy names a colour – and if a child has chosen this colour, he or she hops out and the battle begins. The winner, of course, is the next Eggy Peggy!
If it all this theory gets a bit too much for the family, and you tire of hopping from one eleven plus scheme to another, you could all enjoy a little game of Eggy Peggy!