Eleven Plus

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A test or examination once commonly taken by pupils at the age of 11 to determine their progression route into secondary education. Administered by local authorities, the Eleven Plus could take the form of an examination in English, mathematics, and general knowledge, or of a test which aimed to measure the intelligence quotient (IQ) of pupils. Those who achieved highest scores gained entry to grammar school or grammar technical school; the rest were destined for technical or secondary modern schools. When this system of selection at the age of 11 gave way in most authorities to a system of non‐selective, comprehensive education following the Education Act 1976, the Eleven Plus was largely discontinued, except within those authorities with a strong Conservative council, such as Lincolnshire and Kent, where the policy of retaining their grammar and secondary modern schools was enabled to continue by the Education Act 1979, which made the abolition of selection optional rather than mandatory, and meant that the testing for selection at the age of 11 continued to be used in some authorities into the 21st century.

The accuracy of the Eleven Plus as a predictor of future achievement has been widely questioned. In addition, it is now argued that two key factors cast doubt on its validity and reliability as a method of assessment. One concerns doubts raised over the use of blanket IQ testing, with its assumptions of implicit cultural and ethnic norms. Another arises from the recognition that testing for selection tended to favour boys, since their scores were often adjusted in cohorts where fewer boys than girls achieved a ‘pass’, in order to balance the numbers of boys and girls progressing to grammar schools. See also Butler Act; intelligence test.

Subjects: Education.

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