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Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Eleven Plus Reasoning

Rugby playing boys grammar schools have a very good chance of going on a rugby tour. Some of the Grammar School rugby tours go remote and far flung points of the globe while other rugby masters prefer the comfort of urban life.

I used to go to school in a small town. We had an overnight trip on a train, every other weekend, to play games – cricket, rugby and athletics. The nearest school was an overnight train trip away. The team would travel up on the Friday evening. The opposition would host us for breakfast. We played the game and caught the night train back to our home town again. If you were lucky enough to play in a number of different teams you could travel away twenty times a year.

One evening an Anopheles mosquito flew onto my skin. The mosquito drilled through my skin and started to drink my blood. The mosquito then gave me a little squirt of a parasite and this then slipped into my bloodstream. I did not know about this until the next weekend.

On complaining of feeling unwell I was rushed to hospital. The doctor looked and asked just two or three questions before making a diagnosis. `Did you travel by train last weekend? Do you have a headache and are your muscles sore?’ The train had travelled to my home town through the swamps of Mozambique. Some where along the way the little female mosquito had come on board the train – only to enjoy a tasty meal. (Well I hope the mosquito enjoyed my blood!)

There is one type of malaria that attacks the brain. (Many will argue that I lost my brain years ago.) This particular type moves so quickly that a child can be bitten and be dead by nightfall! The cells multiply quickly so each parasite can multiply itself about forty thousand times! (We know that nine to ten of us a year die from malaria in this country!)

The name `malaria’ comes from Italian for `Bad Air’ - `mal’aria’. The Romans used to believe that poor air was the cause of malaria.

So this is where parents of Eleven Plus children have a problem. Do they leave windows open while their child to studying to maintain a flow of fresh clean air and thus aid studying? Should windows be kept tightly closed so that the home relies on air conditioning and central heating?

Just as in the `old’ days you used to look under beds for monsters and dragon just before putting the lights out it may be necessary as the Eleven Plus grows nearer to look for little buzzing mosquitoes So if you hear a little buzz in the room it may not be a buzz from an electrical appliance – it could be a blood sucking parasite.

I think that it would be a perfectly normal question to put to any Eleven Plus examiner: “Are there mosquitoes in the examination room?” But please remember that if you do ask – and you are then carted off to the nearest asylum - that at the time it seemed to be a logical and serious question.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Eleven Plus Resolutions

We all know that we derive much more pleasure from giving a present to receiving one. But think of the pleasure I gained from receiving a 100w solder gun with an illumination light and some solder.

The pleasure came in reading the instructions. Now we know that mere males are not allowed to read instructions but the instructions for the Soldering Gun Kit were very helpful.

Due to the function of the gun, the tip will become very hot. Inexpert or negligent use may cause burnt patches or scorches to working surfaces and even burns to skin.

I started wondering what kind of instruction parents needed to be given before embarking on an Eleven Plus course with a child.

Due to the function of the child, the emotions will, at times, run very hot. Inexpert or negligent use may cause friction between parents and children and even lead to tears.

Keep the work area free of clutter, damp and inflammable materials. Never expose the soldering gun to high ambient temperatures.

Keep your child’s work area free of TV, computer games and gadgets. Never expect or even allow your child to work in clutter.

Objects to be soldered must be clean. Items should be cleaned with steel wool, or fine abrasive paper.

Eleven Plus papers should be clean and preferably new. Pencil marks should be rubbed out with a good quality rubber. It is easier to return to a page if it is neat and clean looking.

So now that the year is nearly over why not add yet another resolution to your all ready long list of resolutions?

I will help my child to work in a clutter free area. I will allow TV and all distractions only at times that do not interfere with work. Every now and then I will surprise my child with a clean and new Eleven Plus paper. I promise to keep this resolution until after the Eleven Plus examinations.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Your Eleven Plus Buddy

A few years ago I had the privilege of being able to sail from Alicante in Spain to Las Palmas. Alicante is North of Malaga. Las Palmas is a Spanish City and is the capital city of Gran Canaria.

I joined the Lord Nelson which is specially designed tall ship. The ship takes a voyage crew of around 40 with a professional crew of about 10. Every one works on the ship – hence the name of `voyage crew’. The organisers aim to have 20 able bodied voyagers and 20 disable voyagers. Thousands of disabled and able bodied crew have sailed on the Lord Nelson.

The great thing about any voyage is that everyone is encouraged to take an active part in the sailing of the ship. The work is varied to encourage everyone to be able to do something. Able bodied crew are linked to disabled crew through a buddy system.

A buddy offers support twenty four hours a day to someone who is disabled. The help could be with dressing, shaving and eating as well as assistance with a wheel chair if necessary.

The Lord Nelson offers an experience very few of us are able to enjoy. We think of a buddy as being a friend or a casual acquaintance. There is also another form of definition of the term `buddy’ and this is where you assist some one less able or in need of help.

So as your child approaches the Eleven Plus examinations at times he or she will need you as a mum or a dad.

As the count down to the examination takes place, your child may need you at times as a buddy and a helpful friend.

Look out for

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scene One - The Eleven Plus Play

The Characters

Child A
Estate Agent

The home is large and well furnished. The action of the play is concentrated in a short period of time, not more than an hour.

Scene 1

(Dad is talking to Mum about school. Child A is lounging on the sofa half listening to the conversation – but wishing that the adults would stop going over the same ground. The conversation is dominated by Dad.

Child A has passed an Eleven Plus test for a school some miles away. He has, however, also been entered for a different Eleven Plus test in January of 2008 for a school with in walking distance of the house.)

Dad I really think that we should take this opportunity. We put the school down first on the list and we agreed that if he won a place we would move.

Mum That is all very well. We said we would move a year ago when house prices were high. Now that house prices appear to be dropping we could move into negative equity.

Dad The trip will take seven minutes to the train station and then about twenty minutes on the train. I know that he will have to wait for twenty minutes for a bus – but there will be other boys and girls waiting for the bus. The bus then only takes ten minutes and he will not need to walk very far at the other end.

Mum Our problem is that we have not yet had a good offer for our house. If we moved now we may have to move into a very different sized house just to find a suitable house near to the school.

Dad I know that you want `A’ to take the test on January the 8th – but I just can’t see the point. He has a place at grammar. We said that we would move – so let us simply get on with it.

Mum Why not ask `A’. He is the one who will have to travel every day for over an hour.

That is a good idea. What do you think `A’?

(There is silence as `A’ has fallen asleep.)

Dad Wake him up. He should have his say.

(The telephone rings off stage.)

Hello. Who is this?

Estate Agent
Good news. Your offer …..

(To be continued.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Help For Children

I hope all thought of Eleven Plus papers will leave the minds of adults and children during the unfolding events of Christmas Day. The very presence of presents, food, TV, DVDs, games, walks, laughter and talk will surely overcome the anxious hearts and feelings of mothers and fathers.

It was the tradition on my grandfather’s farm for a ceremonial trip to the fields. We would pick the mealies (corn on the cob) and return to the farm house for a large breakfast. My grandfather would then climb into his truck and disappear for a few hours. He would always return with one or two `guests’. The `guests’ would be people who were about to endure Christmas Day on their own.

One year he arrived rather late with an elderly lady who wore one of cloche hats – in purple. The hat looked lifeless and drab. The old lady did not speak to anyone but sat almost motionless on the veranda for some hours. Her hat remained firmly on her head. It transpired that she had lived on her own for many years and was not used to company.

I can not remember her name but I can recall some years later she was buried in the farm’s graveyard. My great grandparents and grandparents on my mother’s side were all buried on the side of low hill overlooking a most beautiful valley. I wonder what happed to the trees on the East side – because my grandfather always kept the East of the enclosure clear of bushes and trees so that the early morning sun would brush the graves.

So if Christmas Eve is a time for looking back it must also be a need for looking forward.

This then is an earnest plea to any parents or relations of nine, ten or eleven year old children. If you have included verbal or non verbal reasoning books and papers in the presents – please take them out of the pile. If you have bought a special mathematics book for your most loved child – please put it to one side.

I think there should be at least one day a year that put aside from the rigors of Eleven Plus preparation. If this plea does not reach the hearts of any parents then children should be made aware that there is very special number for children to ring.

Every child knows this number 0800 1111.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pre Eleven Plus Thoughts

We have carpets in the rooms where the children have been doing their pre Christmas Eleven Plus Courses this week.

The children were working on a timed verbal reasoning exercise – and there was not a sound in the room. You could have heard a pin drop. (Except for the carpet cushioning the noise of the falling pin.)

This led me to wonder if acupuncture could help.

I have never had the privilege of having needles stuck into me by an acupuncturist. Doctors and nurses had treated me over the years – sometimes using needles – and I am grateful for their expertise.

We know that acupuncture has been around for around two thousand five hundred years. We know that acupuncture treats illnesses and a wide variety of problems by using needles.

I wonder when we are going to hear about the first ‘Eleven Plus Acupuncturist’. The adverts would appear in the paper:

• Let us use a needle to help your child become a verbal reasoning addict.

• Needle your way to success. A proven method based on 2500 years of science.

• Let us prick your child’s examination nerves away.

• Only ten lessons sitting on a bed of needles. Better Eleven Plus success. We get to the point straight away.

• We can diagnose your child’s Eleven Plus problems by sticking pins into your child.

• You can’t argue with success. Our `Acupuncture Needles’ will find the root of your child’s problems.

• No Pain. No Gain.

There will be courses for parents to attend. If both parents attend – and both succumb to the lure of stress free Eleven Plus preparation – then there will be a big reduction in the fees. Can you picture the counseling room? A series of beds laid out in groups of three for families. Dad gets the needle. Mum gets the needle. Eleven Plus candidate gets the needle.

You can see where my thoughts are taking me. At some time or another all the members of the family will `get the needle’ at some stage over the Christmas break. Children will need some reassurance that even though they are writing Eleven Plus examination they are still valued and much loved member of the family.

It is so easy to look at your child and see only their examination potential – and thereby miss all the other sterling attributes. Remember the first baby smile? Remember how your child relied on you for everything? Remember your pride when your child read to you for the first time? Remember when he or she was able to tell the time correctly?

So don’t get the needle if your child can’t achieve above 80% every single time on every single paper. Don’t get the needle if you are the recipient of the occasional rather sharp comment.

Think back over the past 2500 years of your family. Try to work out over many past generations just how many other ten year old children in your family were faced with selection examinations when they were just ten years old.

But if your child does happen to get a bit too `uppity’ then use a big, sharp and shiny pin to burst the bubble. After all …..

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Eleven Plus Confidence

I had the privilege of living in Rhodesia – which became Zimbabwe. My grandfather was a farmer. He farmed cattle, tobacco, maize, fruit and wheat.

One of the men who worked for him was from a tribe who had two toes. The middle two toes were not there – and the outer two turned in.

The tribe lived beside in a large rift valley along side the Zambezi River. We grew up believing that the two toed tribe developed because of the need to climb trees very quickly in a remote valley.

One of the major problems this man had was wearing an ordinary pair of shoes. I recall sitting beside him as a child as he made himself new pairs of shoes. He used leather and parts of car tires to fashion comfortable shoes. I enjoyed his company and was delighted with a pair he made for me. I kept the home made shoes for years – but they disappeared when we came to England.

I thought about him today because the tribe developed the two toes because of in-breeding and a rogue chromosome.

I wonder if our eleven plus children will in time become affected and change because of all this exposure to similar Eleven Plus preparation?

If a great majority of children work through NFER and Bond papers – plus all the other Eleven Plus papers available through the internet - then it is likely that many of the children will have covered similar ground. Some children will have studied some subjects in greater depth – so may feel more confident in the actual examination.

I wonder just how accurate the Eleven Plus examinations are if all the examination is doing is selecting children who have been well prepared?

We know in the lessons all over the country children are following different programs of study. When the children arrive home the great network of `parent power’ kicks in. Some children are more willing to work than others. Some parents are more involved in day to day Eleven Plus work than others. So on the day of the examination the playing field is almost level. Some children will have had tutors. Other parents will proudly proclaim that their child will pass, or has passed, without doing a single paper.

But don’t you think that there is simply too much study on too few papers? Don’t you think that selection for the Eleven Plus may be flawed for some children because there is too much reliance on the same types of questions?

There is one county where children only have to study a limited number of verbal reasoning questions. What happens if you a teacher and you try to stimulate your children? Will parent power rein you in and force you to teach to the types of questions that children will meet in the examination?

We are working through one of our pre Christmas Eleven Plus courses today. Today is Day 2. The course ends tomorrow.

A girl I met for the first time on this course called me over this morning. She said: “This is such fun. I have never met questions like some of these today. I can’t wait to show my mum.”

I feel confident for her in the January Kent Eleven Plus Examinations. She will treat challenging questions with joy and enthusiasm. Well done to this girl. I don’t know if she has a tutor – but if she does well done to the tutor too. Congratulations to her school for fostering such a love of learning. Her mum and dad must be very proud parents.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Eleven Plus Rights

It was only a matter of time.

A `big’ announcement from QCA (Qualifications and Assessment Authority) who published the new GCSE criteria was:

GCSE pupils may retake examinations under reforms.

This will allow pupils to re-sit an examination if they are unhappy with their mark.

This blog has argued the case for re-sits for Eleven Plus children for some time. For some children it is grossly unfair that their future determined by the Eleven Plus examination.

One of our boys who sat an Eleven Plus examinations in October described how the boy sitting beside him threw up. Our boy described how the sick went all over his papers and he also had to be wiped down. His paper was also affected. The few minutes associated with these unfortunate events may have altered the Eleven Plus results. We also have to feel very sorry for the poor boy who was ill. Think too of the teachers having to clear up. There must have been some disruption to all concerned. I wonder if this could be a case for a re-sit for both the boys involved?

Illness in an examination is, however, an extreme case and can not be regarded as the norm. We can not change the way a whole county runs an eleven plus system just because we feel sorry for someone.

Youngsters have been re-sitting `A’ level modules for some time. If an `A’ level student is unhappy with a mark it is a simple matter to organize a re-sit. Some `A’ Level students will study for the examination without any input from outside. Others will attend classes at school, college or a tutorial establishment. Some too will attend a tutor. The student will simply do a little calculation of how much work is needed – and hey presto – a higher grade. The higher grade could mean a different university – or even a different course.

Dr Boston, The QCA’s Chief Executive said on the QCA website: (

"The revised GCSE qualification and subject criteria will give learners a reliably assessed, consistent and fair qualification."

So if GCSE boards can give learns a reliably assessed, consistent and fair qualification – why can’t we achieve the same for our Eleven Plus children?

The government is already starting to trial different types of SATs tests that will be offered when children are ready. I know there must be flaws in my argument but if a sixteen year old makes a number of mistakes in a public examination – then the sixteen year old will be allowed to re-sit – but an eleven year old does not have the same opportunity.

I know that the parents of the eleven year old can appeal to a Grammar School for a place – but the examination can not be re-sat.

Parents unite!

Children – surely you have rights too?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eleven Plus - Blog number 500

This is blog Number 500. Thank you to all the readers and commentators. I have enjoyed the experience.

To celebrate we need a cool Eleven Plus question.

What do you know about the number 500?

500 ÷ 2 = 250
250 ÷ 2 = 125
125 ÷ 5 = 25
25 ÷ 5 = 5
5 ÷ 5 = 1

2 x 2 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 22 x 32

1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 125, 250, 500

The prime factors are: 2 and 5. (1 is not a prime factor because a prime factor has to have two numbers.)

If we multiply out all the factors we obtain 1.562516. This leads us to the Standard Form of numbers. The first number has a value between 1 and 10. It is either a single number – or a decimal point follows the first figure.

The number is followed by the index of numbers – in this case the index is 16.

There have been readers from all the continents. For some time an academic in a University in California was reading the blogs on a daily basis. I am not quite sure the relevance of a blog on the Eleven Plus to American contemporary education.

There have also been readers questioning my sanity. I am sure their diagnosis has been correct on more than one occasion.

A paraphrase of the comment would read:


Dear Blog Writer Number 500

I question your competence to comment on the current Eleven Plus scene.

For many of use getting our children into a grammar school is as stressful as getting married or buying a house.

If we followed your advice we would need to have a very different form of Eleven Plus. The examination would need contain elements that educated, entertained, diverted and stimulated.

As parents we do the best we can. We simply do not need any more attempts to confuse the already complicated system of selection.

Is it not time to …..

Yours sincerely

Worried Parent.


Dear Worried Parent

You are correct on all counts.

I will endeavour to make the next 500 blogs a little more ….

Yours sincerely

Blog Writer Number 500


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Eleven Plus Technology

I wonder how many times a week the average Eleven Plus family use their microwave ovens? We know that microwave ovens cook with radiation rather than heat. The microwaves are high frequency electromagnetic waves that bounce off the oven wall and into the food. The waves are absorbed by the water in the food and converted into heat.

The great thing about microwaves is the speed they can cook at.

“Would you like a baked potato?”

“Yes please.”

“It will be less than ten minutes. You have enough time to start on the paper.”

The next great use of microwave technology that will occur in nearly every Eleven Plus family is Bluetooth.

We use Bluetooth to engineer a method of allowing a connection between a range of devices like our mobile phones and Sat Navs. We can even transfer information and photographs or video between laptops and cameras.

So here are all the tools for a child to have in place before starting on a piece of Eleven Plus work.

Security in the knowledge that `mother’ or `father’ will be able to produce a hot meal in around twelve minutes.

Confidence that in the knowledge that a meal can be reheated in a few minutes without becoming soggy or losing its flavour. (This is especially helpful if your Eleven Plus wonder decides to complete the paper before eating.)

Wonder in participating in an exchange of data through Bluetooth. (I wonder if we will ever take this for granted.)

So as parents you can now go out to buy last minutes Christmas presents. Your Eleven Plus child can connect up to seven devices through Bluetooth. So look for the label and buy in confidence.

Oh, and how will knowledge of microwaves help in the examinations? We know that the micro wave is on a short frequency. Hence food cooks in a uniform manner within a microwave. We know too that Bluetooth is at present a `push technology. So in a last resort in the examination room your child should be able to connect to six other candidates. The phrase `Ask a friend’ should help considerably.

Good luck to all parents at Christmas – and buy wisely.

P.S. Naturally all children attending our post Christmas Eleven Plus courses are cordially invited to bring their Wii to the course. We could have a fantastic time!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eleven Plus Winners

We have all seen programs on television about the way lions hunt down their prey. Picture the scene – a lioness crouched down in the grass. An unwary zebra is lured towards the waiting predator. Other animals in the pride move smoothly and quietly to cut the zebra out from the rest of the herd.

The lionesses are able to set up effective ambushes. In a pride of lions it is often the lionesses that do the hunting – while the males watch from a distance. After the kill lions join the females and enjoy the feast.

In the African bush competition for food can be intense.

The thirst for education is equally intense. I can remember visiting Hope Fountain as a child – many years ago. Hope Fountain was a missionary school in Rhodesia – now called Zimbabwe. At that time more than ninety per cent of the education in Rhodesia was church controlled. Some sixteen year olds started two year teacher training courses. As `mature and trained’ eighteen year olds they were sent to rural communities to teach. Yet these young assistant teachers helped school children to become literate in two languages. Some of the teachers studied further using correspondence courses. Others went on to take degrees.

We can see the same desire to do well in many of our Eleven Plus children; we know that a really high number will go on to take degrees. We know that the children who leave grammar school will have wonderful educational opportunities all of their lives.

Many of our prospective grammar school children are prepared to work hard and do extra `Eleven Plus’ exercises.

I watched a boy today in his last lesson with us. He will be writing the Kent Eleven Plus tests in early January of 2008. He was working on area when a discussion on the properties of quadrilaterals came up. He identified a range of different quadrilaterals – including a trapezium. He studied the sketch of the shape for a few seconds and formulated an acceptable method of working out the area. He displayed high excitement and real pleasure.

He did not want to watch any one doing the work for him. He wanted to solve the problem himself. Earlier I mentioned lions sitting in the shade while watching lionesses work to capture food. He was a boy who would never sit back to watch someone else. He will be a winner. He will be able to provide. We wish him every success in the January Kent tests.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Codes Verbal Reasoning

One of the most useful aspects of the Home Information Pack (HIP) is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The data includes:

Construction and Condition of the house on the day it was inspected (CCH).
Location (L)
Gas Electricity, Water, Drainage (GEWD)
Heating, Insulation (HI)
Contaminated land and Flooding (CF)

So you commission a person to collect for a report covering:


This may seem a whole lot of letters but think about the Eleven Plus.

You go to school to have a chat with your child’s teacher and Head Teacher. (CTHT)

You listen to other parents in the play ground. (OPP)

You have your child assessed. (CA)

You find and engage a tutor. (FET)

You work yourself in the evenings. (WUE)

You pray for your child. (PC)

So now we have:


So the next time you meet a verbal reasoning question that asks you so solve a codes problem you know the solution.

Lay the top line over the bottom line.


Work out the relationship of the letters. Enjoy the challenge.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Drilling Eleven Plus Problems

Every now and then on the television we see shots if squirrels working very hard to solve problems for the reward of a few nuts. Zoologists have set squirrels tasks where they have to solve up to twenty tasks in order to reach food.

Very often the tasks the squirrels have to conquer are very different:

Pulling levers
Balancing on thin wire
Work on a seesaw
Pulling nuts up on a string

It is highly entertaining for us to see these little animals solving quite complex problems.

Suppose we set our own Eleven Plus children a series of twenty tasks:

In a classroom the teacher would need to say:

“Open your books to Page 21.

Write down the date and underline it.

Look at the white board while I explain this exercise to you.”

A tutor, however, would:

Open the book to page 21 for the child

Write the date and underline the date for the pupil

Copy out an example and explain.

Parents would simply listen to their child:

Explain the need to have a drink.

Discuss the point behind having to underline headings and copy out examples.

Wish for a ready acceptance for once.

Naturally all three methods will land up with a similar result. This will give us a happy child, satisfied parents and a general feeling of good will.

But back to the squirrels - the squirrels can be drilled into learning a sequence. The squirrels have to solve problems and come up with solutions. But the squirrels do not have language. This is where our Eleven Plus children leap light years ahead. The power of speech and language enables our children to think and plan and do far more than follow a set of drilled instructions.

We have to make our teaching challenging and any lessons, however incidental, have to engage our children. Drilling children in methods of solving problems will not give them the tools to be able to be creative and think in an innovative manner in the actual examination.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Pulse of the Eleven Plus

Dear Teacher

I would be very grateful if you would be kind enough to help me with my examination preparations.

I have only a few days left to go to my examinations which will take place in early January of 2008.

As you know I am particularly worried about reading the questions carefully.

Please help.

Your Pupil.


Dear Pupil

I am happy to have this opportunity of trying to help with your examination preparation.

You have always been a hardworking and ambitious pupil.

I think that you must place your watch down on the table in front of you. You know I have suggested that you used a watch with a very big face. Before you start on the a question look at the second hand of the watch and count off ten seconds before you start reading. This will remind you to slow down and read the question carefully. You may also remember to read the question twice!

Good luck.

Your Teacher.


Dear Teacher

Thank you for your clever suggestion. I know that Father Christmas is going to bring me a watch with a big face for Christmas. I have already asked Father Christmas for a watch with a large clear face – and a big second hand.

What worried me about counting to ten before I start on a question is that my heart starts to beat really fast.

I know that my pulse slows down as I read the question and write the answer.

Do you think that the rise and fall of my pulse rate will affect my performance on the day of the examination?

Your Pupil


Dear Pupil

You are most observant. It is clear that you have been practising in a sensible manner. Well done.

As we have discussed previously you measure your pulse rate by placing the tips of three of your fingers onto your wrist.

You will feel your blood pulsing. On some questions your pulse rate will probably remain between 60 – 70 beats a minute. On other questions your pulse may climb to around 100.

It is normal to have fluctuations of your pulse rate.

Enjoy the examination.

Enjoy the drama of Eleven Plus day.

Thank you for coming to me for lessons.

I remain –

Your Teacher

Friday, December 14, 2007

Positive Eleven Plus Steps

When I was training to be a teacher I was fascinated by a man called Skinner. He looked at behaviour and reinforcement.

In Eleven Plus terms he would have argued that if a child answered a question correctly there should be an immediate reward. Some praise? A kind word? A pat on the back? 10p? A piece of chocolate? The nature of the positive rewards is not as important as reinforcing to the child that good behaviour or correct answers should be rewarded.

He advocated breaking everything down into small steps so as to allow for lots of positive reinforcement. If you want your child to learn something break it into small steps and be very positive.

He wanted to go from a simple step to a complex step. He wanted immediate feedback – and lots of positive reinforcement.

We have a computer system called etcACTION. etcACTION takes test results and builds lesson plans. The lessons are usually broken into five segments – so that no child spends too long on any one subject or topic. The computer endeavours to deliver a multilevel lesson.

Each piece of work should be marked immediately.

The National Curriculum is broken into ten levels with many skills within a level. We have over 1600 current skills. The books and teaching materials are all graded within a skill. The children make progress because they achieve a range of tasks within a lesson. They feel successful. We try to make this feeling of being able to cope transfer into the classroom.

To give an example of positive reinforcement we need only to look at the national Lottery. Suppose one day we selected the numbers on a lottery ticket by sticking pins into range of numbers – and the ticket won. We would be elated. It would take a very strong will on our part if we changed a successful method of selecting winning numbers to going back to using a date of birth as a random number generator.

So continue to believe in luck in the actual Eleven Plus examination.

Continue to be nice to your child.

Try to be positive.

Reward yourself on a regular basis with all the really good rewards of life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eleven Plus Tassels

An enduring sight is the moment when an undergraduate swings his or her tassel round the mortarboard at graduation. This is the reward of all the hard work over a number of years.

An equally seminal moment is when a golfer steps up to the tee, with shiny new clubs and bright golf shoes adorned with tassels. The newer the clubs and the longer the tassel the more likely the ball will land in the rough never to be seen again.

When we go to Morocco we sometimes see men wearing a fez – and this is often adorned by a tassel.

A tassel is an essential element of a belly dancer’s costume.

We see tassels on curtains and curtain ties.

We also see tassels on boys’ caps.

Girls some wear caps with tassels when they act as bridesmaids.

There is a wonderful website called :

So with this wide use of tassels we need the special Eleven Plus Tassel.

The Bronze Tassel would be for children who have completed 5 full Eleven Plus papers before the examination.

The Silver Tassel would be for children who have worked through all the Bond, all the NFER, all the Athey – and the works of three other publishers.

The Gold Tassels have to go to the children who remember to say: “Thank you.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Walking To School = Better Results

We know that a yellow bus system would help traffic congestion outside schools at the start and the end of the school day.

Using a yellow bus would save on fuel.

Climate change would also be affected.

Some children may even have to walk a little to meet the yellow bus. This would help with obesity,

We know that reducing congestion and obesity are twin targets for every right minded person.

So we need to be able to help some of our children to be able to cycle or walk to school. Walking is easier to organise than cycling. To cycle to school our children would need properly defined cycle paths or cycle lanes – and that is not always possible.

Mini exclusion zones around schools have already been suggested. This would allow children more freedom as they approach school.

Naturally a good percentage of our bright and alive Eleven Plus children would want to be involved in a scheme that encouraged healthy eating and saving the planet.

Picture the scenario. The bus pulls up outside the door. The much loved Eleven Plus child sinks onto the bus seat, hooks up the seatbelt, slips on the headphones and plugs in the video ipod. The Eleven Plus lesson of the day is downloaded. There would be an Eleven Plus teacher on the bus to help with any problems:

Lost ipod
Lost headphones
Lost the will to work
Lost the will to walk

Changing fractions to decimals
Non verbal reasoning problems

The school bus pulls up half a mile from the school. The road to school has been cleared of all traffic. The children walk to school and arrive flushed and healthy.

The children are greeted by a team of happy and involved teachers who look forward to a day of teaching without trauma and strife.

The main benefit to our Eleven Plus children would be the fifteen minutes of revision and consolidation on a variety of topics. This will provide refreshed memories, larger brains, better results, happier parents, fulfilled children and improved Eleven Plus results. What a combination! I can’t wait.

Would all these riches accrue as a result of walking to school? Fewer cars, less congestion, more buses and better examination results – it all sounds like a dream.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Motivation and the Eleven Plus

Our Eleven Plus children need to be motivated when they enter the examination rooms.

Parents have the ability to be great motivators. Every parents can play the `carrot and the stick’ game or the `good cop bad cop’ game. Parents do not need to be taught how to give with one hand and take with the other – it just comes naturally.

“If you stop hitting Father Christmas you can have the chocolate.”

“Yes we can go for a swim if you complete the reasoning paper.”

So how are you going to motivate your child on the day of the examination? You want to be cool and not smother your child. You don’t want your poor child to suffer the indignity of other children seeing you weeping inconsolably on the head teacher’s shoulder.

Winston Churchill gave great speeches during the Second World War. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” springs to mind. Football managers must also give great speeches at half time. “Right, Wanderers, we might be five down at this stage of the season but you have to fight!”

You won’t actually be sitting in the examination room with your child. You can, however, educate your child as to what is going to happen in the examination.

Explain how the nervous system will collect information from all over the body. Explain that in the examination room your child will be using all of the senses. Demonstrate how adjusting the centre of gravity will affect how comfortably your child sits on a chair. Convince your child of the necessity of sitting comfortably during the examination. The old words: “Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table,” may be more useful than slumping all over the table.

Explain how little noises in the examination will appear to be magnified. It might sound as if a herd of elephants is stamping on a pile of newspapers while in fact the noise may only be one child who has dropped a paper onto the floor.

Talk about the necessity to taste the wood at the end of the pencil before the examination. If your child suddenly, for no apparent reason, starts chewing the end of the pencil then he or she may be exposed to a bitter and unpalatable taste. So add chewable pencils to the `List of Things to Do’.

Talk about smell. Explain how the smell of a room can vary if there are many anxious humans pumping out fear.

Finally talk about time. I have chatted during the course of lessons to some of our very able children who have already sat Eleven Plus examinations. Without exception they have talked about time. Very few talk about finishing too early. Very few say they ran out of time and did not finish the paper. All that can happen is that when the children hear those dreaded words: “Ten minutes to go!” it is likely that some children will rush their final answers.

So your final words could include: “Sit up straight, don’t fiddle, don’t eat your hair and look at your watch.” Of course you could add: “Good Luck!”

As you child turns his or her back and walks away you could whisper very quietly: “If you pass I will give you a …… “

Monday, December 10, 2007

Smoothing the Eleven Plus Journey

I used to play golf on a golf course that was made of sand.

The nine hole course was laid out between trees and rocks. There was no green grass on the fairways or the `greens’ just sand and low shrubs. The course was near a little town in Zimbabwe called Umvuma.

The tee was placed on a raked area of sand. The rake was made of slight branches tied together. Naturally the rake accompanied the golfers and their bags.

We would drive off and see the ball spinning away into the bush. There would be a puff of dust so we knew where the ball had landed. There is a peculiar rule in gold where the ball is not allowed to be touched by the player or the player’s club – without incurring a penalty. We played `local rules’ on this rather remote course and were allowed to lift the ball, clean it and replace it on a firm piece of ground.

The `green’ was an area of sand. The rocks had long been swept away. There were hoof marks from animals. I remember one green where a python had obviously slumbered just a short time before our golf balls had dropped onto the green. Like all good golf courses two holes were near a stream – but the water had long since dried up as the drought encompassed more and more of the land. We were sure that elephants had passed through the course one day – there was plenty of evidence of torn braches and piles of smelly dung.

To move the ball from where it landed on the green to the hole all golfers and their caddies used a sack. A rope was attached to two corners and the sack was pulled towards and beyond the hole. The put had to be firm as the ball was rolling over fine sand.

There was one hole that would have graced any championship course. It was a short hole of about 75 yards. The `green’, however, nestled in the middle of a ring of rocks. Some of the rocks towered thirty feet into the air. The diameter of the sandy green was no more than about eighteen feet. If a shot hit a rock it would bounce and fly in a totally uncontrolled manner. The ball could bounce out of the ring, it could bounce over and even back towards the player. When the golfer drove off he was well below the ring and could not see where his ball was going to land. We all used to cower behind the striker of the ball.

The relevance of this reminiscence is that there are times when we all wish we could draw a line in the sand.

We have a few children with us who have heard that they have not passed one of the local Eleven Plus examinations. They are now working towards the next examination which is in January.

How I wish they could just have a sack drawn over the past so that they were not saddled with the feeling of failure. The sack would have the power to smooth the path towards the next examination. The sack would erase all previous failures.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hard Work and the Eleven Plus

We went to watch Bee Movie today.

We booked seats on the Internet. An email confirmed the booking. At the cinema I popped my card into the ATM and the tickets were dispensed. There was no one on the gate of the Multiplex. We collected popcorn and drinks through Self Service. I said `thank you’ to the attendant for taking the money. There was no one on the door of the multiplex cinema. We found our sets with speaking to any one else.

What a change from years ago. The whole set up today was designed to move people through the doors and into seats with as few people on duty as possible.

Bee Movie has a simple story line. One special bee, Barry, leaves the hive and meets a glorious girl. She is astounded to hear him talk.

Barry is horrified to see humans taking bees and honey for granted. The overwhelming message the film is that bees have to work hard to achieve the heights. If you are a bee you can take pride in a menial job. It does not matter if you do a repetitious job because you are contributing to the common good.

So this was a morning of wide contrasts. We encountered a business attempting to minimise having to employ humans. We also met a movie saying that hard work has real dignity.

So if you need to drive a message home to your Eleven Plus child, take him or her to the cinema on a wet Sunday morning. You can show your son or daughter a big business run with remarkably few people. You can make the point that it may not be enough to expect to have the job of your dreams without hard work – and that some jobs may simply disappear in the future.

Bee Movie is so powerful that you may not need to make too many points. The script will do it for you. You could just whisper on the way home: “Take pride in what you do, be adventurous and life has some unexpected twists that you can not plan for.”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

How Ready is your Child to Write the 11+?

Thank goodness that the Eleven Plus is not like a game of cricket.

I have mentioned before a Mr. Green who was my teacher when I was in Year 5. He was a tall unsmiling man. We were never sure who he liked – but we all knew who he did not like.

I don’t remember any of the mathematics or history or geography he taught us – but I do remember some of the English. He liked us to learn a range of poetry and sections of plays. I am not sure if he actually liked poetry and the arts but I do know he liked his class to learn verses off by heart.

One of the shortest poems we had to learn was by the wonderful Mr Longfellow called:

The Arrow and the Song.

I shot an arrow into the air’
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of a song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found an arrow still unbroken;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

I am sure that at ten years old I did not appreciate the sentiment behind the verses. I was too preoccupied with the mechanical side of learning the words.

You see if we were not word perfect on the Friday we would sit at break the following week writing the words out again and again. I am not sure if he was trying to teach us to appreciate our heritage. I am not sure if he was trying to instil in us a love of literature. I am quite sure that Mr Green enjoyed seeing children sitting in at break time copying out verse after verse.

So when parents start off on the Eleven Plus adventure I trust they are shooting an arrow into the air – but they are not quite sure how the whole Eleven Plus `thing’ will end up. Children are learning from each other, they are learning from their teacher, their parents and sometimes even their tutor.

I watched a little seven year old today with incredible reading skills – around the eleven year old level.

The bright child sitting beside was working through an Eleven Plus paper. There was one of those Verbal Reasoning exercises that tends to rely on a strong reading vocabulary:

Underline the word which is different from the rest.

Trawler cruiser submarine battleship line cargo-boat.

The seven year listened to the ten year old reading the question aloud. He then whispered `submarine’ and continued with his mental arithmetic exercise.

The ten year old discussed the difference between a cruiser and a battleship and commented that they were war ships.

The seven year old whispered: `Under water’.

So how is the eleven plus examination going to challenge this little one when it comes to his turn to work through papers? Would it help if he was encouraged to learn poetry off by heart in the same way that the dreaded Mr Green attempted to shove `literature’ down our throats? Did Mr. Green’s lesson plan have the rider: ‘If any child does not learn the verse sit him down and make his write the verses out until he knows the words.’

If the Eleven Plus is truly going to select the very brightest – then we may need a complete re-think about the type of questions that will come up.

Any way if that seven year old could pass the verbal reasoning paper when he was just seven years old don’t you think he should be able to `bank’ this result so he has one less paper to write when he is ten years old? After all if we shoot an arrow into the air who knows where it will land?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Eleven Plus Workers

If ever your most loved ten year old has the slightest sniff at the idea of doing some Eleven Plus work at an `inconvenient’ moment may I commend to you a prolonged viewing of the Ant Cam at the Natural History Museum.

This is the life of a worker in the raw.

Here your child will be able to see earnest workers plying their trade.

He or she will see ants carrying big loads.

The endless round of routine work is demonstrated is a graphic form.

Now I know your child may think that you are trying to be funny. But explain that looking at ants at work is quite an educational exercise. Explain that that if he or she wants to cope with something that is really sad, they need to learn some handy hints:

“When pouring medicine from a bottle always pour from the side opposite the label. This will prevent drops running down over a label and obscuring what is printed on the label.

Use a tea strainer when taking eggs out of a saucepan.

So if the minutiae of the Eleven Plus seems to be getting to you with wide ranging conversations about watching worker ants to pouring medicine and retrieving eggs then why not trying a traditional Eleven Plus drink called a `Corps Reviver’.

The recipe for a pre Eleven Plus `Corpse Reviver’ is:

2-3 ice cubes
1 measure brandy
0.5 measure Calvados
0.5 measure sweet vermouth

Shake to mix. Strain into cocktail glass.

Repeat until you feel better.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Eleven Plus Maze

We often hear the phrase: `Navigating our way through the maze of the Eleven Plus.”

Back in the ninth century Arabs in the Indian Ocean appeared to be the first to use instruments at sea. They measured star altitudes by using a staff – which became a series of wooden tablets on a knotted string. This gave estimates of latitude – and helped navigation.

Many years ago I struggled through the maze at Hampton Court. I can recall the feeling of helplessness as I tried to find either the centre of the maze or the way out. The hedges all looked the same. The people all looked the same. I remember too the shouts from groups as they thought they had discovered the way out.

When Theseus entered the maze he tied one end of a ball of string to a post at the entrance. But we do know that he was given the ball of string by the beautiful Ariadne.

So this is a little warning to fathers of eleven plus children. If you are handed a piece of string during the Eleven Plus year you will need to be especially careful.

You may be asked to take over the navigation of the Eleven Plus. (Leave it to the one who knows.)

You may be asked to slay a Minotaur – half a bull and half a man. (Dangerous Work!)

You may be asked to distinguish between a maze and a labyrinth. (A typical Eleven Plus question.)

You may be asked to solve tricky Non Verbal Reasoning questions. (Not for the faint hearted!)

At times too you may feel `all at sea’ and just long for the comfort of a series of worry beads.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An Eleven Plus Vision

One of the most popular books of the twentieth century was `How Green is My Valley’. I recall one section of the book vividly. It was when the hero, Morgan, was moved from Standard 4 to Standard 6.

While he was out of the room the boys broke his pencil box into three pieces.

The pencils were cut up, ink was on his books and everything was broken.

He vowed to fight the boys who had broken his pencil box one by one.

The pencil box was over a hundred years old and had been used by three scholars before him.

He had his first fight before he went home – and was hopelessly beaten.

His father, when he arrived home, taught him to fight. The advice he gave was: “The best fighter is the one that can slip under a punch and give two in return.”

Before Morgan went back to school he repaired the pencil box as best he could.

As the days went by he was trained to box by a real fighter – and went on to beat up the boy that had abused him on his first day in the new school.

Morgan, you see, was attending school so that he could win a place at Oxford. In those days, just as today, Oxford was the ultimate prize.

Today’s parents know full well that their children will not have to fight on their first day at the new school. Boxing is no longer offered within the curriculum. Few children will have wooden pencil boxes. Even fewer children, however able, will be allowed to `jump’ a class.

Yet the fierce burning desire to succeed is still within some of our Eleven Plus children. Not all children have to be coerced to study. Some children just aim for the best and work hard to achieve that goal. If your child is one of the children with vision and determination then we wish you, and your child, every good fortune.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Eleven Plus Help

We need to start planning now for New Year’s Eve. We know that the New Year does not really start on January the 1st. We know too that many resolutions will be made only to be broken.

But New Years Eve is a time for haggis.

There is only one person who can describe a haggis with any great authority.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain ‘o the Pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe of thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The great Robbie Burns lived between 1759 and 1796 and he wrote a poem: `To the Haggis’.

Now the Scots do not `Do the Eleven Plus’. But I am sure that they would be proud to donate one of their most famous recipes to the general well being of English children preparing for Eleven Plus children.

There are lots of sheep in Scotland. A few years ago we had a wonderful weekend staying with Peter and Anne Clarke in Argyle. The meals were wonderful – rich and diverse. Anne has the ability to marry flowers into stunning bouquets. Peter has not only been a shepherd all his life but he has also shown his sheep dogs in trials all over Scotland.

Peter and Anne gave us a lecture on haggis. Apparently some of the Scots are thrifty folk and they have found a way to turn meat that would otherwise be wasted in delicious savoury food.

`Take a sheep’s stomach and fill it with liver and heart. Add mutton, oatmeal, suet and onions. Any impurities pass out the wind pipe as the haggis is boiled for an hour and a half. You then prick the haggis all over to avoid the sheep’s stomach bursting – and then boil steadily for 3 – 4 hours.’ This then is the `Great Chieftain of Pudding’. By tradition in many households the haggis is the first thing eaten in the New Year.

The Scots also believe that they need a tall dark haired man to bring coal over the thresh hold in order for the household to have good luck.

The Scots also express a great need to drink lots of whiskey to lubricate the New Year.

So this New Year why not adopt our great and traditional `Eleven Plus Good Luck System’.

Take the heart of sheep and sew it into a sheep’s stomach. Rub a little coal over your child’s face. Hold your child’s nose and pour some aged whiskey down. Read some wild Scottish poetry aloud and then explain to your child why his or her father is wearing a skirt.

You never know. This might just help!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Eleven Plus Music

Every now and then parents could get drawn into a prolonged discussion about working and background music.

“Mum, you like to have the radio on in the kitchen when you are cooking.”

Dad, you listened to your music while you were cooking Sunday’s roast.”

“Mum, you listened to music when you were reading for your degree assignments.”

“You are only just saying that because you do not like the music I like. You are so behind and un-cool.”

So to save yourself from being behind and un-cool you may need to occasionally break the rule.

The first track to `get into the mood’ will need to be some rag time – preferably Jelly Roll Morton.

As your child’s heartbeat needs to slow down you need to play some blues – what about the master – Louis Armstrong. Some really cool blues trumpet playing could be guaranteed to raise scores by as much as 6 points!

As you reach midway through the `working to music section’, what about some Charles Brown? This would help to set up the brain patterns with a combination of rhythm and blues.

Before the work comes to an end you need some Queen Latifar. This will bring a cadence and an urgency.

Finally, as you put the books away, you will need some of the new Spice Girls music.

A little music like this, delivered through your ipod, could educate and uplift your child.

Eleven Plus work could become a source of discussion and learning far beyond the confines of mere verbal reasoning exercises.

Naturally I welcome any improvements on my selection.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eleven Plus Success

It is rather sad to think that perfume was originally used in ancient times to disguise low standards of personal hygiene.

The Egyptians, however, were frequent bathers and used moisturising oils perfumed with flowers, herbs and spices. The Egyptians took great comfort in the Seven Sacred Oils. The Egyptians believed that the gods were fragrant beings – so they devised perfumes that told the story of the gods. Sweet smells were used to repel evil and strong smells to restore the senses of the dead.

A particularly brave commander, after having won a battle, was commanded to anoint his victorious soldiers with perfume.

We know that as a human race we are great believers in tradition. We know too that some traditions transcend races, nationalities and borders. This is why there have been outbreaks all over the country of men and woman buying perfume.

This is nothing to do with smelling sweet for Christmas. It is simply to do with the Eleven Plus examinations. Parents new to Eleven Plus traditions may not be aware of the need to anoint their children with selections from the ever changing `Eleven Plus Perfume’ range.

There is a special perfume for children who have passed the examination.

There is a special perfume for the `failed by two marks’ children.

There is a special perfume for the `Oh, we only did it for the practice’ children.

There is an even more special perfume for the children who really do want to go but just could not achieve the pass level.

The other three perfumes are for children who have simply done their best.

Naturally you know that the perfumes are only available `on line’. All the major credit cards are accepted. Simply log on to

Remember that all your hard work is really for: `The sweet smell of success!’

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Free From the Eleven Plus

The School Fete was today!

An indoor fete has cakes, tombola, games and prizes, guess the weight as well as many donated items.

There are proud parents and grandparents. There are smiling and relaxed teachers. There are hundreds of happy and excited children of all ages.

I did not hear any discussions on school work. No one was talking about the Eleven Plus.

It must have bliss for a child to have been at school without any mention of examinations and levels.

A happy and pleasant afternoon.

Well done school!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Looking Back at the Eleven Plus

I am very fortunate to have a copy of `Essential of Verbal Reasoning’ by O.B. Gregory. This was first published in 1963. Exercise 1 starts:

Write down the word which should be next in line. Choose your answer from the words in brackets:

Triangle, rectangle, pentagon (square, octagon, hexagon)

Find one word which is unlike the others:

Alter, regulate, adjust, modify, replace

In each line two words are opposite in meaning. Find the words:

Quality, right, success, mistake, error, failure

Find the words that complete the analogies:

Doom is to mood as (Ward, Matron, Plum) is to (Nurse, Lump, Draw)

I like to look at this book occasionally – and I often think about the teachers and psychologists who are making all the `New’ Eleven plus tests and papers. I wonder how many of them think about O.B. Gregory.

I did a search on Google for `O.B. Gregory’ – and there was a copy of the book for sale for 1p on Amazon.

So if you want to find out what Verbal Reasoning was like in the `old’ days then there is a copy on Amazon.

For those of you who are nostalgic – and would like to see what the questions were like in the days when you did the Eleven Plus – there is a copy on Amazon for just 1p.

Look back with Pride!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Style of An Eleven Plus Child

How would you set out to develop a business selling jewellery? I suppose first of all you would have to like jewels. Then you need to look at who is going to buy your jewels.

You may be the sort of person who saves up until you can buy a `big’ jewel and thus make a `big’ profit so that you can become a `big’ player in the market.

Equally you may chose to start small and display and sell a range of affordable jewels. You would then go onto challenging the `big’ boys when you have built a firm base.

I looked a hand made ring on and thought about the range of attitudes that parents will display towards themselves and their children. The children too will attack their work in different ways.

We will have a large number of Eleven Plus children passing through our hands this year. I wonder just how many would start small and how many would try for the big jewellery sale straight away.

What makes a child who will gamble on a multiple choice question – while another child will try to work it out?

Why will some children be prepared to show all their thinking and working out while other children persist in doing everything in their head?

Why will some children settle down to their work without a word and others will try to argue and `discuss’ everything – down to the last detail?

Why will some parents just want their children to do their best while other parents will try anything to help their children pass the examination?

Why will some people try to make and sell a hand made ring and others want something `from the shop'?

As long as you and your child are happy with the Eleven Plus work then you must be prepared for a range of emotions, language and desires.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Eleven Plus Answers

Holding on for call centres is one of the most frustrating experiences available to us as human beings.

“Thank you for your patience. Your call is moving up the queue. Please continue to hold.”

Ring ring.

Ring ring.

“Thank you for your patience. Your call is moving up the queue. Please continue to hold.”

Ring ring.

Ring ring.

It would easier to control our emotions if we knew just how long the queue was.

I wonder if our ten year old children have exactly the same feeling as they wait for us to solve a verbal reasoning or a non verbal reasoning question.

We use very able `A’ level students as assistant teachers in our centres. They bring intelligence and vitality to the lessons. One of our very bright assistants, with excellent GCSE results including ten `A’ stars, two `A’s and a `B’, was puzzling over a question for some time. The question came from a standard and highly reputable source. The answers were available – and were open on the table.

We all stopped and watched. It was one of those moments caught in time. An extraordinarily intelligent seventeen year assistant struggling with a mere Eleven Plus question!

Was there a problem with the answer book?

Was the question phrased in such a manner that an answer was impossible?

Naturally we were drawn like magnets to the source of the problem. We now had assistants with A’ level special subjects covering all the mathematics and science subjects as well as art, psychology, history and economics.

There was enough energy in that room to have made a lot of things happen!

I look down at our smiling pupil. There was no evidence of frustration. She was enjoying the moment! After all I am sure we would all like to be fussed over at one time or another.

One by one the other assistants and then the teacher in charge wandered away leaving just the three of us looking at the question. A girl sitting at another desk whispered to me: “I know how to do it. I did that paper a few weeks ago. Questions like that are really easy. Look …”

In two sentences she explained the solution. There were in fact two answers. The answer book was correct but did not show both answers.

So the next time you try to access a call centre and you hear those dreaded words:

“Thank you for your patience. Your call is moving up the queue. Please continue to hold.”

Try not to feel too frustrated - just take your anger out on a poor and unsuspecting Eleven Plus reasoning question. (Where there are two answers!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Multiple Choice Questions

Some Eleven Plus children appear to hate doing multiple choice tests. But some Eleven Plus examiners prefer setting multiple choice tests because:

• They are easy to mark. The choices are often a matter of choosing between A B C D or E.

• They can be marked by a computer.

• The numbers can be added up the computer.

• The computer can prepare the list of results in order.

Other Eleven Plus tests are set by an examiner who wants to look at how problems are solved. The examiner would be looking for a `good’ answer.

The person who sets the question, however, is going to be aware that there are many variables than can affect the result.

When the marker has to mark a large number of tests a number of factors can affect the result:

• Fatigue on the part of the examiner

• An unbalanced marking of what is `good’. This could be where some questions can be marked down simply because of the repetitive nature of the answers.

Suppose more than one marker is involved then these variables can be multiplied by the number of people involved.

But occasionally your Eleven Plus child could be variable – hence the remark:: “Oh, it just depends on how he is on the day!”

So what the Eleven Plus examiner has to do is try to devise a test where the marking of the test and the test itself is perfectly reliable. So then if your child did not do as well as expected then you could attribute any fluctuations to the performance of your child `on the day’.

So if a test is set for four thousand or even seven thousand children it is lot easier to prepare a multiple choice test. Your role, therefore, is to suggest to your child the advantages of doing multiple choice questions

Monday, November 26, 2007

Uniform Eleven Plus Progress

Parents have children who grow. Sometimes the growth is slow and steady. At other times the growth is phenomenally fast and your child can grow out a school uniform in a remarkably short time.

Parents do need to know:

Where the uniform comes from
Who makes the uniform?
The condition the uniforms are made in
The quality of the uniform
If large multinationals sell them at a loss

So as a parent you want to know that the uniform is affordable and widely available. You want some choice in the matter. After all if you have to replace the uniform after a growing spurt then you want to hope that the uniform lasts as long as possible.

Children learning specialist techniques towards Eleven Plus examinations also progress in a similar manner.

Some children will progress in a steady manner – lesson by lessons.
Other children will appear to making little progress – and then the `penny will drop’.
Other children will just sprint ahead after a few papers and will start showing their full potential at school and at home almost immediately.

The good thing is that most children will show a bit of all three of the above learning patterns at some time or another in the period of eleven plus preparation. There will be some steady progress, at times it will be slow going while at other times your child will be able to demonstrate his or her full potential.

For parents the trick is not to show too much concern at any of the stages.

After all you can not expect `uniform’ progress.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Eleven Plus Stress

It is extraordinary how the wheel turns a full circle in life. We have to think back to the ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen who believed that there were four personality types:

Sanguine or happy
Melancholic or sad
Choleric or angry
Phlegmatic or listless

Each personality type was though to be an excess of a particular humour or body fluid:

Black bile
Yellow bile

The humours were related to the four elements:

Fire or blood
Earth or black bile
Air or yellow bile
Water of phlegm

So as your Eleven Plus child approaches the examination you will experience each of the personality types. These days we don’t go much for blood letting to release the `humour’. We tend to use more positive methods.

Encourage your child to mentally rehearse conversations. Suggest to your child that he or she does not use language like: “You always make me do Eleven Plus papers. I am sick of them.”

You will need to explain to your child what language to use:

“Mother, I value my free time and would appreciate it if we could arrange to do the Eleven Plus paper at another time.”

Explain to your child the need to try to avoid apportioning blame. Give your child the language tools to be able to solve a problem without it becoming confrontation.

So as your child drifts from being happy to sad and angry to listless try to make sure that as little bile and confrontation as possible flows around the discussions.

You see in the Hippocratic Oath a doctor has to swear not to divulge anything a patient says to him or her. So if you child occasionally `blows his top’ and comes out with some rather vile and full of bile – then hold it in and don’t repeat the ensuing conversation to anyone. And to try to see if your child can walk away saying:

“Mother, that was a positive experience. Thank you for being so patient. I am sorry I used words like that. We really can work together towards the eleven plus.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Investors in People

We display the `Investors in People’ logo when ever possible.

The standard is simply a business improvement tool designed to advance the performance of an organisation through its people.

Before we embraced and committed to the Investors in People mantra we had our own systems for training and developing our people. Teachers and assistant teachers had teaching notes. Our administrative staff had guidelines on how to use the computer systems, the telephone and how to communicate with the public – our customers. We had a business plan and a vision of the future.

Investors in People enabled us to have a tool that allowed us to benchmark ourselves against other organisations – or all sizes and sectors. Like any living business organisation Etc needs to be profitable, we need to be able to develop and people who work with us and we need to be able to retain as many of our good teachers and assistants as possible.

Naturally our first consideration has to be customer satisfaction. We have to make sure that any changes that are made culminate in better lessons. We need to make sure that parents, who had to pay the bill, are pleased and feel that they are going to obtain value for money.

So what Investors in People has meant for us is an attempt to achieve a culture where we don’t try to criticize and blame but we encourage innovation and a positive outlook.

In all our dealing with our assistants and teachers we have tried to achieve that complex balance of trying to support and assist as well as empowering them to make decisions that will help the children in their care to improve their performance at school and at home.

It is vital that we attract good teachers and assistant and give them the tools and the backup to allow them to interact with parents and children. We will get better Eleven Plus results if we teach better than other teachers.

We test children before they start lessons so that parents know where their child is starting. Lessons are prepared by etcACTION – our bespoke computer system. We provide Eleven Plus courses for children. For some parents we are able to provide an almost complete package. To achieve this we need people. So many thanks to all the teachers and assistants that have worked for us, are working for us now and will work for us in the future. We owe you so much.

Please email me on or call me on 01474 321658 if you would like to comment.

Look too at the for further information.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wise Eleven Plus Choices

I was watching a very able girl today work through some multiple choice verbal reasoning exercises.

She not only answered the question but justified her answers to herself as she went a long. She worked with humour and was totally absorbed in her studies.

She reached a section on analogies and while she contemplated the right answer I was reminded of Solomon. He was a very wise man. His wisdom was known all over the known world.

People came from all over to enjoy his wisdom. He was not averse to making challenging judgements.

Two women both claimed to be the mother of a certain child. They asked Solomon to decide which the real mother was.

Solomon ordered the child to be cut into two halves, each mother keeping one.

One woman agreed to the plan.

The other woman did not – she announced that she was not the real mother so that the child would live.

Solomon awarded her the child

So the next time you despair of your child every getting over 95% on a Verbal Reasoning paper think back to Solomon and the wise mother.

Surely you would rather have a pleasant and unstressed child than one under pressure to do well academically?

The girl I referred to earlier revelled in the complexity of the verbal reasoning questions. She was bright and able. She enjoyed being challenged; I knew that when she came to choosing a school she would make a wise and reasoned decision.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Eleven Plus Examinations

I chatted on the telephone today with a mother who was entering her son into five different Eleven Plus examinations. The five included two big county wide tests, an entrance test to a fine grammar school and two entrance tests for independent schools. I really got the feeling that she wanted her son to go to a top school!

Steve Redgrave proved himself to be a supreme Olympian by becoming the first person in modern times to win gold medals in five consecutive Olympics. He won the fifth by a whisker but it was still gold!

The ancient Olympian wrestling competition was won five times by Milon of Kroton.

We know of names of these two because while winning gold shows unusual ability – winning five golds shows almost super natural ability.

So how will our ten year old cope?

How will his parents choose the right school if he passes all five?

Will they give him five presents for passing all five examinations? I hope so!

All we can say is: “Good Luck!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Concern for Mothers and Fathers

We all trust in the integrity of the Eleven Plus examinations. After all the majority of the tests are multiple choice in nature. The marking of the tests is done by a machine.

The results are interpreted by humans.

We remember Napoleon who said:

Four hostile editors are more to be dreaded than a hundred thousand bayonets!

Now that there are these missing discs with so much information about children and parents there must be many of the people concerned who must have Napoleon’s words running through their minds.

Some parents will have put their child allowance into a separate bank account – so the money into the account is the only transaction. Any movement on this account would be easy to track. We must all feel for the mothers and fathers who are concerned about the integrity of their joint accounts.

We expect integrity at Government level. We expect integrity at Local Authority level.

We have gone through all our systems at Etc with Gerry our popular administrator today.

In Extra Tuition Centre terms four hostile mums are more to be dreaded than a hundred thousand bayonets!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Extended Eleven Plus Preparation

I was looking through a Verbal Reasoning Assessment Paper for 6 – 7 Year olds.

I was particularly taken by a code question:

If DAD is written in code as 717

ADD written in code is ……..

The next question was:

If a = 1, b = 2, c = 3, d = 4, what is the sum of these words?

b + a + d.

So our bright and able children aged between six and seven years old would enjoy the challenge of questions like these. Some six year old children would struggle with questions like these – whereas the same children may enjoy a similar challenge when they reach the tender age of ten.

Some children learn to read properly, other mature at different rates – in fact there are many factors why a pre eleven plus test at six years old may not be a reliable tool. Yet surely the very bright would be able to cope with challenging questions at six years old?

Good luck to the parents who buy the books dealing with verbal and non verbal reasoning questions for six year olds. At least the child will have been able to prepare in a leisurely and fun filled manner.

Just think – weekly verbal and non verbal sessions over four years! This would give over two hundred exercises in preparation. Poor children – poor parents!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Post Eleven Plus

How do you know if your child is going to be a high flyer? If your ten year old child works hard will he or she automatically enjoy university and an academic few years of study and work?

A town in America needed a new network manager. Naturally the job had to be advertised and available to everyone who worked on the council.

The staff in the computer section commissioned an `on line’ aptitude cum intelligence test – to try to eliminate chancers and time wasters.

The results started coming in hour by hour and day by day.

The person who achieved the best results was one of the town’s cleaners. Following interviews and further assessment the cleaner was promoted to `Head of Network Services’.

So remind your ten year old children that if you have brains and ability you will be able to make something of yourself even if you do not pass the eleven plus.

I chatted to a girl today who left with good `A’ level grades – but she did not want to go to university. She wanted to be trained so that she could run her own hair dressing salon. She joined busy hair dressers in Gravesend. She is less keen now, however, on being a hair dresser after a few months in the job. She is contemplating applying for a university place for next September.

No one argued with her when she said that she did not want to go to university. No one told her not to be a hairdresser. No one has advised her to return to university. She is simply very bright person who is doing it `her way’.

So one day - when you look at the web site of a town in America – wonder to yourself if the website was created by an ex street cleaner.

One day when you see a young woman with brightly coloured hair advising you on your personal finances – wonder to yourself if she was once a hair dresser’s assistant.

There many opportunities in life for a parent to be able to offer careers guidance. You never know what they will do once they have left school.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Eleven Plus Images

It would be so easy to change the presentation of Eleven Plus tests. Suppose that on section of a paper the children have to cope with interpretation.

Each of the following group of questions is worth 3 marks. You are expected to explain your answers.

56 What is the evidence that the tap is new?

57 Why is the spigot pouring water into the sink?

58 Is it likely that this photograph was taken in England?

59 Do you think that the kettle was turned on to make hot water?

60 Write a short account of your mother and father co-operating over a major DIY operation. You are encouraged to include the dialogue that was used when the tap DID NOT leak. This answer is worth 10 marks. Extra marks are offered for a short plan and the use of paragraphs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nailing the Eleven Plus

In all DIY jobs preparation is the key. There are many of us who believe that there is no substitute for natural materials. Traditionalists enjoy the beauty, texture and warmth of a wooden floor. To prepare the floor takes time. There is a lot of vacuum and dust. Protective clothing, a nose mask and goggles are all used during the `little five minute’ job.

There is something really special in hiring an industrial sanding machine and using it to change a scratched and discoloured floor into a warm, smooth and golden colour. Thank goodness too for quick drying varnish.

One of the most enjoyable jobs is dealing with the nails that are holding the boards down. The nails have to be punched to about 3 mm below the surface. This takes lots of tapping and noise. It is a job where you start and go to the end.

In just the same way watching a child working systematically through eleven plus papers is a highly satisfying experience.

I watched a girl who `nailed’ a section of a non verbal reasoning paper. She brushed aside the explanation. She put her head down with a little twist. She mumbled a `thank you’ and went to work.

Three and a half minutes later her hand was in the air. She only smiled when the work had been marked – and everything was correct.

I don’t think that our eleven plus children will be able to take a powered nail gun into the examinations. Some of the highly able children that we work with, however, have the ability to power their way through a test. They don’t just master the work – they demolish it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eleven Plus Chances

Tom Brown's Schooldays is about a boy who goes to Public School, makes friends with a rather wild character and the two of them go on to defeat a bully called Flashman.

Later on in the book Tom is encouraged to look after George Arthur. George joined Rugby School as a weakling. Tom acted in the role of a `mentor’ and helped George. In the process Tom helped himself.

Arthur becomes worried about Tom – who has shown great qualities of manliness and honesty.

"Dear Tom, I ain't going to pitch into you," said Arthur piteously; "and it seems so cocky in me to be advising you, who've been my backbone ever since I've been at Rugby, and have made the school a paradise to me. Ah, I see I shall never do it, unless I go head over heels at once, as you said when you taught me to swim. Tom, I want you to give up using vulgus- books and cribs."

The `vulgus - book’ refers to a book where the boys had to translate Greek and Latin. Some boys copied from each other. Arthur wanted Tom to stop cheating. The `crib’ was the sheet that children used when they were trying to cheat in examinations.

We are extremely fortunate that children no longer have to be able translate Greek and Latin. Yet we select children for Grammar School using tests that require similar skills like the ability to interpret and translate. (What about those code noon = 5885.)

Thankfully too our children do not have any need for crib sheets – because there is certainly no place for them in competitive examinations.

One of our girls was chatting about the eleven plus arrangements in her school. The twenty odd children taking the examination were in the hall – with widely separated desks. The rest of the school had the morning off so that the Eleven Plus children had the best possible opportunity – with no noise or possible interruption. The Head Teacher, along with two of his staff supervised the tests.

Lucky children. Enlightened school!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is there an easy approach to Eleven Plus work?

We sometime meet very able boys and girls who do very well on a test one day and then appear to struggle on similar material on another day.

Naturally thoughts turn to:

Diet – too many `incorrect’ foods

Fatigue – we should not have gone to that concert last night

Boredom – I did a paper that last week and scored over 90%. Do I really have to do the next paper as well? The last one was just too easy.

Argument – perhaps today was the day for a well planned and full scale argument

Motivation – “I just could not be bothered. I really tried my best but I did not feel like working today. I will do it tomorrow.”

Physical Problem – “You know you said I could go to play with my friends. Now you made me stay. Tuesday is my only day free to play with my friends.”

On Going Problem – “I really don’t’ want to go to that school. I want to go to all boys school. I know that it will be difficult to reach on a bus.”

Bribery – “You said we could go the cinema if I finished the paper yesterday. Well we have not gone yet. It is not fair.”

Ask someone from the family to record some of the pre Eleven Plus discussions. Type them up. Look at the dialogue. Think what it would be like to act the scene out before family and friends at Christmas.

Who said having children was easy?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Making Eleven Plus Waves

What is a hard mathematics question for an Eleven Plus child? Well it would be a lot easier to answer if parts of the mathematics papers were set by physics teachers.

At school we all did `Wave Theory’. An example of wave theory is when sound vibrates on a frequency. The pitch stays the same but the volume grows quieter and quieter. A tuning fork is lightly damped because the sound persists for a long time. A bottle, when blown across the top, only emits the sound for a short time because the bottle is heavily damped so the vibrations die away quickly.

We get water waves when we throw a stone into water.

We can get ultrasonic waves when the pitch of the sound wave is too high for the human ear.

So when a parent calls a child to do an Eleven Plus paper, and the child does not appear to hear, we can only question:

Is the lack of hearing due to damping?

Was our message too quiet so that it did not cause even a ripple of consciousness?

Was the tone of voice a little too high and forced?

So now onto the mathematics question. Is this too hard for a bright Eleven Plus candidate?

England were playing a crucial football match, one fifth of the spectators left ten minutes before the end and one quarter of the remainder left in the last five minutes.

Question 1
If 60 000 spectators were left in the ground when the final whistle sounded, how many spectators watched the game?

Question 2
If the game was at Wembley, was England winning or losing?

Now a mathematician would work out the answer.

A physicist would tell us not to make waves!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keeping Focused

I have never actually read one of her books but I have always admired her. She has provided so much pleasure to women over the years that she should have a statue to her outside Parliament.

I know that she dressed in the most appalling pink colours. I know too that she had some rather revolting little dogs.

I admire her because she was one of the hardest working women in the world. She wrote over 600 hundred books and sold over a billion copies.

I read once that she employed two secretaries. She dictated her books to one of the secretaries until the poor secretary began to tire. She then switched to secretary number two – and the words kept pouring out.

What a wonderful work ethic. What a desire to be loved and recognised.

So when your little one begins to waver and feels a little hard done by just remind her of a woman (Barbara Cartland) who gave a billion good reads to women.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Eleven Plus Mentors

Often when I am talking with parents and children about life, exams and `stuff’ in general we reach a point in the conversation where we need to find someone who can deliver the required message. Naturally thoughts turn to successful members of the family – an aunt who has done well academically – an uncle who is a `star’ or a grandparent who has continued to strive and develop.

“Why not arrange for your child and Aunt Alicia to have a little chat? See if Aunt Alicia can make the point that study needs to be disciplined. She may be able to suggest ways of working together – she may possible even take an interest and ask to have some regular contact.

Perhaps Uncle Kurt may be prepared to take your most loved offspring off to stock cars and then share his philosophy of life over a hot dog and a coke? (Better than a beer at the local!) Uncle Kurt may be able to expound the need to have a plan and strive for success. He may then even suggest ways to help your child develop a different type of relationship with you. (All your secrets exposed!)

This is called `mentoring’. Mentoring to your child can mean having someone he or she can trust and talk to informally. A mentor can offer dispassionate advice – but also warmth and interest.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

After the Eleven Plus

Post examination days are sometimes filled with noise and general disruption. Parents whose children have just finished the Eleven Plus examination will understand these sentiments. Indeed the noise of amplified ipods may reverberate around the house – and in the car and in other uncalled for situations or circumstances. Parents will repeat again and again: `Too many decibels. Tone it down.”

But think of the parents of young blue whales. We know that blue whales are the largest creatures ever to have lived on earth. A lesser known fact is that blue whales make the largest noises too. Its bass call sounds through the water for thirty seconds or more. The sound carries over vast distances.

One whale was recorded giving an output of 180 decibels. This would be deafening to our ears. We don’t really know what these loud noises mean. They are probably used for courtship, pairing and communication. Our ten year olds are probably using loud noise for these three reasons as well as a desire to irritate. Some of our ten year olds are also probably using loud noise for calling other like minded children to a frenzy of social gathering and talking nonsense.

Now why is it that if we put our ear to water and hear the sound of a great whale we weep with joy – but if we hear the sound generated by a liberated ten year old we feel anguished and full of anger?

A whale can project a sound that will travel fifteen miles through water. Pop your child into a wetsuit and encourage him or her to turn the ipod on to full blast.

The whale is the winner.

So if your child comes out of the examination and says excitedly: “Mum, I had a whale of a time!” Be happy.

If your child comes out and says: “Mum I blew it!” Be happy because even noisy little whales need to be loved.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eleven Plus Causes and Symptoms

I have just cut the grass. It is Saturday afternoon – a time for all good gardeners to cut the grass. Sunday morning is also a traditional grass cutting time but I don’t like to disturb the neighbours.

The edges of the lawn have developed moss. This is highly disturbing. Moss is a tiny non-flowering plant and what the problem with moss is that it is a symptom not the cause. Every good gardener will immediately point to moss as being a by product of too little fertiliser. We have, however, had a highly unusual year in that many days have been damp. Moss just loves dampness. So it is not just compacted soil or poor drainage but too much rain.

The solution? Well, there are many. Probably first of all we have to scarify and aerate the lawn. Lots of heavy duty spiking will help drainage. We then need to feed the lawn with an autumn lawn food – that has a moss killer. Top dressing also helps.

So as you return from mowing the lawn to your poor child who has spent the last hour bent over an eleven plus paper try to analyse the situation. When you respond to the work your child has done think of the symptom not the cause.

Your child appears to answer back. Symptom or cause? Simply your child may be tired or hungry or bored. You can treat all of these quite easily – rest, food or a change of work.

You question: “Is that all you have done?” Symptom or cause? Simply the work may have been too hard, too easy or just plain boring. You can say: “Well done for trying so hard. What can I do to help? Do you want to talk about it?

So, just as you have used a combination of science, alchemy and theory to treat your grass you need to use a similar combination of thought and instinct to help your child. Pause for a second and ask yourself: “Am I trying to cope with the symptom or the cause?”

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ten Things to Think About after the Examinations

Ten Things to do After the Eleven Plus Examinations

1. You may feel a little backlash after the Eleven Plus examinations. You will have been building your child up towards the examination so expect a period of relaxation and relief.

2. Deliver a little prayer of thanks to the Government for inventing the SATs tests. At least some of the energy will go into Level 5 work.

3. Be very grateful too for the Year 6 `week away’ where the children disappear into an adventure camp. It gives you and them a break from each other.

4. You may be offered the opportunity of being able to involve your child in an orgy of physical activity. This will help to relieve all that pent up energy.

5. Be prepared for some really major `discussions’ on all sorts of topics. Remember that your role has changed from mum or dad the Eleven Plus supporter to just an ordinary mum or dad.

6. Be aware that T.V. viewing habits may change very quickly. Careful monitoring may help.

7. There will certainly be more time available for MSN and other forms of communication over the computer.

8. The Eleven Plus examinations serve a form of `rite of passage’. The actual examination is like an initiation.

9. Back chat is not part of growing up.

10. Try to avoid talking about the examination too often. What is done is done.