The 11-plus can safely lay claim to being the most controversial exam in England. Melissa Benn’s recent article on the subject, and the vehement avalanche of responses it generated, are a case in point.
One way in to the debate is to see how it’s shaped by two psychological tendencies which are always in opposition: altruism and egocentrism. This fact alone should tell us the arguments will rage on and on, and often within the same individual. Many parents have egalitarian ideals, but at the same time want the very best for their child. As with all oppositions, balance must be sought, whether at the personal or societal level.
Ultimately, however, parents for whom the 11-plus is an option must deal with the system as it currently stands. They need to be sensible and pragmatic. If they decide to go for it, not only forward-planning, but the whole approach from the start is critical. No child should be made to feel a failure. As Susan Hamlyn, in her excellent article on The Tutor Pages states, ‘the business of applying to this or that school should be a ‘let’s give it a go’ venture, not a matter of life, death, family honour, tradition, pride or, above all, fear of letting one’s parents down.’
Luckily, there is good advice at hand. Firstly, Susan’s own book, 11+ English: A Parent’s Toolkit is a recognised authority on the topic. Secondly, the website elevenplusexams.co.uk contains a staggering amount of information on the topic, as well as several very active forums. This website features as one of our top 20 educational websites in the UK, as listed in our own resource, Tutoring: The Complete Guide.