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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Survey of Eleven Plus Opinions

We are used to being bombarded with election forecasts every few years. The results are presented as drawing a picture of a country at war with itself. The key market forecasters can comment on the length of a party in power, attitudes towards political figures and even on the colour of a candidate’s shoes.

The raison d’etre of the surveys is to give information about how an electoral campaign is going. Every now and then a survey pops up to tell us about how the government is doing – whether the opposition is making progress. Sometimes questions are eased in that appear to be more predictive rather than reflective in nature.

It may be possible for a survey to change people’s minds. With a really strong results for one side then some may be tempted to `hop on the band wagon’ and change allegiance. We also have the typically British desire to sympathise with losers.

If ever an august body decided to poll feeling and attitudes towards the eleven plus, then some children could benefit considerable. Suppose the authors of eleven plus questions were told in no uncertain terms that the scope and nature of the present eleven plus questions were out of date and no longer fit for today’s eleven plus children? Would the integrity of the nature of the survey and its results be questioned? Is it possible that the results would be ignored?

There would be very little point in collecting data for data’s sake. Men and Women with copies of The Times on the 3rd of August 1955 will recall an article on children’s shoes. “Out of 1200 Somerset children, between the ages of three and fourteen, only two thirds were present when their shoes were bought.”

A blog of the 28th December 2011 stated: “Out of 1200 eleven plus papers bought in bookshops in December only one third of the purchasers were accompanied by their children.” This fact may be incontrovertibly true – but how could it be verified? How would it be possible to have an observer on hand day after day in the bookshops stocking eleven plus books and papers? Would it be safe to leave the gathering of the information to the shop assistants? Should children also be engaged in the act of buying eleven plus papers?

Perhaps a different statistic could be gathered: “98% of mothers of eleven plus children, on Christmas Day, would rather swim the Channel than work through an eleven plus paper while basting the turkey.” Being Christmas some of us may have seen a few more daytime advertisements than usual. “78% of 146 women prefer this hair colouring.” What happens to the rest of the women? Why didn’t the manufactures collect data from 500 women? Why was it just 146 women?

With these reservations and caveats in mind we can now take a tentative step towards collecting preliminary elements of a survey questionnaire. (All the questions are on a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 is no and 10 is yes.)

Does the present structure of eleven plus examinations need to change?

Should there be a nationwide referendum on grammar schools?

Should a new style of eleven plus questions be developed – designed to test children’s thinking and aptitude rather than the ability to benefit from coaching and careful preparation?

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