Points of View: An 11-Plus Religious Fuss?; Education Secretary Martin McGuinness Is Threatening to Wield the Big Stick to Schools Which Do Not Support His Views on the 11-Plus. He Believes Nationalist Children Have Been and Continue to Be Disadvantaged by the Selection Procedure Which He Wants to Abolish. SANDRA CHAPMAN Who Was Educated in a Mixed Area Believes the Minister Has a Fanciful View of History

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), May 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Points of View: An 11-Plus Religious Fuss?; Education Secretary Martin McGuinness Is Threatening to Wield the Big Stick to Schools Which Do Not Support His Views on the 11-Plus. He Believes Nationalist Children Have Been and Continue to Be Disadvantaged by the Selection Procedure Which He Wants to Abolish. SANDRA CHAPMAN Who Was Educated in a Mixed Area Believes the Minister Has a Fanciful View of History


Byline: Sandra Chapman

Both my sons did the eleven-plus..... and I bear the scars of those two separate years when their regular schooling was turned upside down as we all attempted to grasp the elements of verbal reasoning.

I'm told that in some houses still, the nightly scene of cramming for the exam is nothing short of a battleground. This, despite the fact that over the years, since my children did the exam, the subject matter for it has become more relevant to what the children have been taught in the classroom.

In my children's time it was still based on verbal reasoning and pupils could do verbal reasoning or they couldn't. My two had few problems with it once I asked someone to show them how to do it.

The speed with which they did the papers depended on which cartoon was on television at the time. I always found a bag of Midget Gems at their elbow greatly helped their concentration.

Never having passed a maths exam in my life I couldn't work out the 'tricks' in what seemed simple enough questions in the verbal reasoning papers. To this day I still can't do percentages and the 11- plus always seemed to be mathematically based. I'm convinced the reason I couldn't do maths was due to incredibly bad teaching. The fact that today I can count and work out the household bills is due to those little black things they call calculators.

In fact I never did the 11-plus. My mother worked out, quite cleverly in fact, which of her large brood would succeed in it. All I wanted to do was read books and roller skate. She knew her day-dreaming daughter wasn't ready for the 'grammar' after being taught in a school which put more emphasis on rounders and nature walks.

On the day the few in the class who were to sit the exam turned up to take it, I was at home, helping her with the household chores. Ultimately I moved on to the Secondary. Some parents decided to pay their children to the grammar. That was their choice and among them were parents who scraped and saved to pay for it. And that included catholic parents in the area.

I lived on the border of a protestant/nationalist area, so we had two types of primary schools, the state kind and those run by the Roman Catholic church.

The choice of which school to send your child was usually dictated by whether the child could walk there, especially if there was no bus service.

Probably this was why some of my cousins went to the local RC school while we went to the state school, an appallingly bad school academically, as it turned out, from which only an occasional child passed the eleven plus.

In fact, academically there was little to separate the two schools. …

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Points of View: An 11-Plus Religious Fuss?; Education Secretary Martin McGuinness Is Threatening to Wield the Big Stick to Schools Which Do Not Support His Views on the 11-Plus. He Believes Nationalist Children Have Been and Continue to Be Disadvantaged by the Selection Procedure Which He Wants to Abolish. SANDRA CHAPMAN Who Was Educated in a Mixed Area Believes the Minister Has a Fanciful View of History
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