At this time of the year the thoughts of some people may drift towards perfume. A trip through the hallowed halls of any big department store shows immaculately clad and carefully coiffured women with skilfully applied makeup. The bottles, jars and packets are built into high piles – each with distinctive colours and logos. It looks as if a lot of perfume is sold around Christmas time.
Few wearers of perfume would want to think back to how perfume in the early days was often used to disguise interesting standards of personal hygiene. The Egyptians, however, were frequent bathers and used moistening oils perfumed with various herbs, spices and resins. Archaeologists have found perfume from around 3500 BC – which was made from imported conifer resin and vegetable fat. At times scent was used to play an important part in daily life. Sweet smells were believed to repel evil.
Local Authorities, when setting eleven plus papers, do not need to rely on coming up smelling of roses. An authority can choose the types of papers it wants to use to select children for grammar schools. Some authorities select on combinations of mathematics and verbal reasoning, while others look towards mathematics, English and verbal reasoning and some test on mathematics as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning. One large authority selects children for grammar schools only on the results of verbal reasoning papers.
It may possibly be too easy, however, to portray an authority as a villain because it tests children in a different manner to other authorities. At the moment Governments, for a variety of reasons, choose not to become involved in eleven plus arrangements. It does not seem as if there is much pressure for changes to be made through any legislative will.. For some years Governments have chosen not to become involved in the eleven plus affairs of local authorities.
We must imagine that there is constant pressure on the budgets of local authorities and some authorities must have more money available to test eleven plus children. In some authorities thousands of children are offered the opportunity of eleven plus tests. The cost in terms of time, money and effort must be high. Authorities engaged in eleven plus selection procedures need tested regulatory systems and must, at times, act in a bureaucratic manner.
It seem that some parents of genuine eleven plus candidates are prepared to commit considerable resources to developing an effective eleven plus campaign. Of course there will be some with ambitious but rather vague gaols – but the majority will be focused and purposeful.
There may be some parents, however, who tap some resin out of their real Christmas trees. They will be using the resin as part of an individualised eleven plus concoction. The ensuing perfume will be rubbed onto their children just before the examination to ward off evil. Parents will be willing their children towards the sweet smell of success.