Victorian factory image unfair

5th January 2001 at 00:00
The article on Common Entrance (TES, December 15) is misleading and could be construed as biased against independent schools.

It says: "Over four days, children as young as 11 can struggle through 14 hours of examinations in up to 10 subjects." This is nonsense. Common Entrance at 11-plus essentially involves only English, maths and science, and includes only four examinations, totalling three-and-a-half-hours.

At 12-plus, French and (optional) Latin are also involved, but only at 13-plus can 10 subjects be involved. The clause "children as young as 11 ca struggle" seems calculated to trigger a negative reaction, as if comparing them all to Victorian factory children.

Indeed this stereotype of the Common Entrance as a mechanical exam redolent of Dotheboys Hall is revealed later on in the suggestion that the revised syllabuses will aim to test the ability to use information rather than just regurgitate facts, when the existing exams already test the ability to discriminate, evaluate and extrapolate.

RA Scaife Director of studies Thomas's preparatory school 28-40 Battersea High Street London SW11

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