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Monday, February 06, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Europe

Last weekend was the opening salvo of the Six Nations Rugby tournament. Six countries come to try to win a prize. Results are recorded and pored over by pundits and the rest of us alike. There are winners and losers.

I thought of this because I remembered the story of Gaston Vareilles who was selected to play for France against Scotland in 1911. When the train arrived at Lyon he jumped off to buy a sandwich. Exactly how long the train was supposed to stop remains a mystery – but by the time Gaston had ordered, bought and paid for his bread the train had left. There was no alternative form of transport. (This was well before the days of Easyjet and Ryanair.) The poor man missed the match. He was never again picked to play for France!

Is there an eleven plus moral to the story?

Leave plenty of time to get your child to the examination.

Buy your food and drink the day before.

Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.

Remember not to offer `choice’ words in front of your children if a problem should arise.

Have a back-up plan in case there is a problem with transport!

But suppose we have a Six Nations Eleven Plus tournament? Can you imagine the pride of a mother being able to say that her child had beaten the cream of five other countries? Think how that self-same mother would feel if a letter arrived saying that in spite of being in the top three per cent the local grammar school did not have a place for her child!

In England we have an established system of appeals covering different types of eleven plus problems. Can we imagine the bureaucracy involved if we could mount an eleven plus appeal to the European Court of Human Justice? We can look back at poor Gaston and wonder, in today’s world, if France would have dared to drop him for simply missing a train. Instead of the eleven plus being an examination that has to be passed (or failed) we could add rivalry with other nations, complex systems of appeal and possibly a European law covering a poor mother having a puncture while taking her child to the eleven plus examination.