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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Good Luck Story

One of the reasons why non verbal reasoning tests were developed was to try to find a test that would differentiate, in a few minutes, between a person who was intellectual less able, of average ability and bright. Then there came a need to be able to find tests that would also find children and adults who were more than just `bright’.

Non verbal tests attempt to look at ability where the ability to think and reason is independent of educational attainment. Naturally if the element of time is added to the test then the test is looking for more than just the ability to think and reason.

Of course the more familiar a person is with a test the more likely they are to do well. If the eleven plus tests that were used in the actual selection process were published then people would be able to buy them. As the eleven plus tests are not published there is a demand for books and courses so that children can be coached.

The question that always passes through parents’ minds is the sheer unpredictability of the way in which their child will approach questions in the actual eleven plus tests. Naturally we hope that able children, who have been well prepared at home and at school, will do themselves justice. Children who have a long track record of achievement are likely to do well in the tests.

What is frustrating to all of us is when a child who does not sit on the top table at school in either mathematics or English achieves a surprising result in the eleven plus examinations. Last year we had a girl who was with us for about eight months. She never climbed any where near the level needed for entry to grammar school. In the lessons she was quiet and undemanding. She did not manage to complete the eleven plus course she was on with us – because she simply worked very slowly and carefully

Somehow she managed to rise to the occasion and pass the eleven plus examinations. She not only passed but did remarkably well. All the work she had done at school, at home and with us must have `gone in’. She was only on the second mathematics table at school. We have five levels of eleven plus mathematics courses – that range for work for the mathematically gifted to children who want to `try’ the eleven plus examinations. The girl we are talking about was only working through our middle mathematics course. So how did she pick up the knowledge to be able to reach the level that she did?

This is the unpredictable nature of children and the eleven plus examinations. We are working with the younger brother of another girl who was with us last year. One of us asked the sister how the girl was getting on at grammar school this year. Through conversation it had transpired that they were both in the same class at grammar school. The answer was, `Fine, she is doing well.”

So the eleven plus examination that our girl sat was able to work out not only this little eleven year old was `bright’ – and she was also `very bright’. Yet the tests she had done with us and at school, along with her performance at school and with us had never quite managed to pick her out as a strong candidate for grammar.

Did she deserve her place? Of course she did. Will she maintain her place in grammar school? We certainly hope so. A spare a moment for the feelings the girl in question. What a boost it must have been for her to have her ability recognised so publicly. Imagine the joy and pride of the family.

We hope there will be other wonderful stories like this over the next few days. Good luck to all concerned as parents and children wait anxiously for allocated places in the schools of their choice along with entry to grammar school.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Keeping Your Mind Off the Unfolding Events

Friday, for many of us, is an important day. The eleven plus results for many families will drop through the door. Careful preparation is required.

You have Wednesday and Thursday to tidy the house. Naturally part of that time will be spent in tidying the bedroom of the candidate. Clothes must be put away neatly and drawers reorganised. Don’t forget to clean the windows too!

Next you need a list. You need to plan for Friday afternoon and Friday evening. These are the key times for you and your child. You might decide to take the family for a swim to burn off all that pent up energy. You may try to bring as many members of the family round for a meal. The presence of so many loved and familiar ones will help you and your child to take your mind off the unfolding events of the day.

Now we come to Saturday. It is vital to plan an action packed day – with the proviso that it should not be an expensive day. There is simply no need to go over the top – whatever the results. You do not need to spend vast amounts of money to show your love and support for your child. Just think of familiar activities. Go for ideas that will make the day as memorable as possible. A visit to the cinema may help to keep everyone’s mind off what has just happened. If possible a long walk before bedtime will help all concerned to feel relaxed. Perhaps you can borrow a neighbour’s dog?

Sunday is the big day. You still have not had enough time for introspection and worry. You still don’t need to spend too much money. Having said that, perhaps a little retail therapy will help? A new CD or DVD could help? A new shirt or blouse may brighten up the day. Then embark on a planned drive to find some water.

Generations of people have found solace beside running water. It could be the sea, or a river or a dam. We hope that there will be some water of some kind reasonably close. You will then have time for a picnic lunch, a stroll by the water and a stretch in the fresh air.

You should be able to arrive home relaxed and pleasantly weary. A bit of T.V. and off to bed.

There can’t be much difference in your approach if your child has passed or failed. You still want to have a pleasant weekend – and not have enough time to think too much about the future. But if you plan for a weekend of family, food and exercise then you will feel much better.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Study Methods

Children are sometimes told to `study’. The words: “Go to your room and do some study now,” are used by parents on a regular basis. How will your child react to this? Is a ten year old expected to have good study techniques or do they need to be guided and helped?

First of all look at your child. There is no use sending him or her off to study if they look and feel tired. You will need to work out a routine where on study days your child is able to cope with some fierce mental agility.

Try to set up an environment where there are as few distractions as possible. It is very easy for the mind to wander when studying. For some children noise may distract them – other children could work through a hail storm and never look up.

Sometimes you and your child will agree that a particular topic needs to be learnt by heart. Rote learning is invaluable at times but try to make sure that there is real understanding. Good overall comprehension of the subject will lead to better retention of the material.

Some ten year olds will be able to make connections between what they are learning in different subjects. Others will need to have the connections pointed out to them.

So what you have to do is try to help your child to `get in the mood’ to study. Some children will thrive on starting with a clean and tidy desk or table. Other children will feel comforted by an apparent muddle of books and papers – but there may be some reason for their organisational skills.

Some children will try to pick a fight before settling down to work – on the grounds that this stimulates and excites their learning. Other children will drift off quietly without demur.

Many years ago I was a housemaster in a large boarding school. A large number of the boarders were taken out by family or friends. This left a number of children in the hostel. It was a tradition that children who stayed behind had to write a letter home. This took place after lunch on a Sunday. It was a miserable time for the children and the teachers on duty. The duty teacher had to read through the letters to make sure that the content represented a fair account of the previous week.

I had the bright idea of preparing ten different letters – one for each week of the term. The letters were pinned up around the prep room. The children ranged from seven to eleven years old. The sample letter provided the tools to be able to find something to say.

The system worked for a while. One Sunday morning a family arrived rather unexpectedly to pick up their son. The family lived miles away so the boy had to write frequent letters home. Dad had a pile of letters in his hand. Each letter, over the previous seven weeks, said exactly the same thing.

There were different staff on duty each Sunday to look after the children. The staff rota carried over five different teachers. What my bright idea had not taken into account was that this particular boy had selected the simplest letter and had laboriously copied the same letter out each week.

So the next time you utter the words: “Go to your room and settle down to some study,” try to make sure that you have done better preparation than I did.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Keeping relaxed.

“The results are due out very shortly. I am so worried for my son. He seemed to be so relaxed about the examinations.”

We know that a football team should not appear too relaxed before setting out on an important match. This would mean that they are not keyed up enough. If the team fail the manager is blamed.

We have heard about horses being `relaxed’ in the paddock before a big race. This would mean that the horse is not sweating unduly - and is enjoying the occasion. If the horse is relaxed the trainer is praised.

“The bride looked beautiful. She was calm and relaxed as she dreamed down the isle.” If a bride is calm and relaxed this may be down to the large shot her chief bridesmaid fed her a few minutes before.

“The F1 Driver was his usual calm and relaxed self before the start of the race.” Well he would have to be. It would be no use to anyone if his heartbeat went up too high at the start of a race.

Just because your heart is beating with fear and anticipation it does not necessary mean that your son is just as nervous. You may do well to recall that:

You have worked hard with your son over a sensible period of time.

He felt well prepared going into the examination.

You have told him that he was not to worry - and that he should do his best.

So good luck to the whole family!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A debating point.

We are often advised not to bury our heads in the sand. This can mean that we refuse to acknowledge a problem. Children at school are taught about ostriches running around sticking their heads in the sand when danger approaches. We can take this statement at face value or we can challenge it.

What possible reasons could there be for ostriches to appear to stick their heads in the sand?

It may be that the ostriches were simply laying their heads on the sand to listen to sounds.

If they were unfit ostriches they may even have been resting their heads on the ground because of the weight of their long necks.

Ostriches are also inclined to look into bushes to see what is there. They are inquisitive birds after all.

Every bright ten year old will be looking at a problem such as this a declaiming: “If an ostrich actually did stick its head into the sand it would most likely suffocate.”

If this is true does it also mean that if we refuse to acknowledge a problem it will go away? Try debating this point with your ten year old.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reasoning help

On our eleven plus courses we teach reasoning skills. We naturally use a wide range of different methods to try to help to stimulate the children. Reasoning is not just confined to verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises. We use reasoning in our every day life.

Sometimes we use the word `reason’ when we say: “Why can’t you reason with me? I did put the car away last night.” In this sense we want some form of justification.

A different type of reasoning that does come up when we want a logical response

In eleven plus terms, however, we are most often use the word reason because we want our children to be able to think clearly and coherently.

When a reasoning test is constructed the questions are designed to look at ability in different ways. Somewhere on the paper your child will be expected to justify an answer. On a different question your child will need to be able to think logically. Very often your child will need to be able to think clearly.

To draw these responses from your child a variety of techniques will be used. An examiner has different tools that can be employed. You will find, creeping into the questions, different types of reasoning skills including:

• Recognising objects from different angles
• Imagining movement and displacement
• Rotation/Reflection/Enlargement
PERCEPTION• Have to use all senses – Sight, Touch, Hearing
• The process of organising and using information received through the senses
• Understanding relationships
• Analysing patterns and structures
• Hypotheses, and planning a set of operations

It is easy to understand where some questions come from. For example looking at the list above it takes a very short time to recognise this type of question:

Amanda and Elizabeth Wilson were both born just before midnight on October 10, 1998. They had the same parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. Yet even though they had the same parents and were born at the same time, they were not twins! Can you explain this?

It is obvious this type of question is one of perception. You can’t look at it from a different angle and there isn’t much logic to it – so you have to organise the data in such a way that your mind accepts what is in front of you. You can, however, reason your way through to the solution.

Naturally you will be helping your child to try to develop a set of strategies to cope with solving reasoning problems. On some papers there could be some questions that even you will need to read twice! So preach:

• Re-Read the question.

• Read the question again – this time to look for clues.

• Use diagrams

• Guess and then check the answer.

Did any of this help in working out the puzzle about Amanda and Elizabeth Wilson? One our bright ten year olds on the last course did it about 15 seconds!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

In the Examination Room.

Some children will do the actual eleven plus test in their school – in familiar surroundings. Other children will do their practice tests, and then the proper test, in a less well known environment. All that parents can ask for is a level playing field.

Think for a moment about the role of the teachers and examiners administering the test. The teachers will want the children they are testing to do as well as possible. They know that some of the children will arrive upset and worried. They know too that others will take the new surroundings in their stride.

The teachers will hope that the children being tested will arrive ready for the experience as fully prepared as possible. Unfortunately for the teachers, however, the children will demonstrate a wide range of uncontrollable behaviour patterns. Being tested for an eleven plus examination is not quite the same as being tested on shoe size or having to decide which toothpaste is most suitable.

In the actual examination room the teachers will try to create an appropriate atmosphere at the beginning and the end of the assessment session. The teachers will try to be pleasant and friendly. You can be sure that they will use encouraging words and ideas. It is most unlikely that they will stop beside your child, shake their heads, and mutter: “This one won’t pass!”

The teachers are more than likely reiterate that no one is expected to get everything right. I am sure that your child will hear him or her say, “No one is expected to get everything right!”

The teachers will explain what is going to happen very clearly. The whole atmosphere will be one of sincere encouragement

I am sure that they will call your child by his or her Christian name. If your child does become a little distressed the teachers will chat about hobbies, interests and common events.

Some where along the way there should be some humour. Many children like humour. Very few children like teachers who are reserved or too solemn. You should be able to count on some smiles too!

The teachers will also be taking test fatigue into account. As teachers they will know that if children work through lots of tests with no time limits that children become tired. What they won’t know is if your child has also become a little bored. As parents, try to keep a little balance in the eleven plus preparations. Don’t let your child become too fatigued and bored before the examinations. You want your child to arrive happy, excited and pleased about being tested.

We know that the teachers will be trying to avoid distractions to upset their children. It is most unlikely that the teachers will walk around ceaselessly.

You should know too that the test instructions will be adhered to. There will be a procedure laid down in a handbook or a manual. Any eleven plus examiner will need to be fully conversant with the instructions. Be reassured that oral instructions will be followed carefully. Naturally timing will also be strictly controlled.

Finally you must know that while the teachers are being nice to your child they will not be coaching or teaching any children. Your child will be able to ask relevant questions – but will receive no help during the actual paper.

Grammar schools need bright and able children. The eleven plus examination, with all its faults and problems, tries to find bright and able children. I am sure that you too have a bright and able child. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ten Points to Confidence

We know that some children become anxious when they are faced by being tested. Preparation and practice will help to build your child’s confidence.

Children should also do better when they practice and understand the skills and strategies needed to take tests.

• Go over the directions and the sample exercises with your child. The more careful and painstaking you are, the more likely that your child will apply these same skills in the examination. On the day of the examination you want your child to read every word in the instruction sections. So practice what you preach! Don’t rush it!

• Reassure your child that the practice tests are not the real tests. One of the definitions of practice is that practice means to acquire or polish a skill. If your child is learning a new skill then he or she will need your support. If you are polishing a skill then you are trying to help your child get ready for the actual examination – and you certainly don’t want any stress then! So no stress in your communication during polishing sessions.

• It is essential that you go over the answers together. You want to be able to discuss any improvements as well as problems. If you only focus on areas of difficulty it is hard to be able to comment when actual progress is made.

• Your child must feel that you are enjoying working together. There is no problem with not knowing an answer or how to approach an unfamiliar topic. What you definitely want to avoid is the, `I told you so!’ or, `We have done this – so why can’t you remember?’

• What you are trying to achieve are conditions that are as similar as possible to those your child will meet on the day of the examination. You want your child to achieve his or her full potential. The examination room will be quiet and earnest. Your work with your child should be the same.

• A key goal is helping your child to feel that he or she can approach a wide variety of questions - and cope. Naturally you also want your child to use time wisely.

• Remind your child that for some answers he or she will have to try to organise the facts and information given in the question – in order to be able to come up with a solution. Reading and re-reading the question should help.

• Explain too about `gut instinct’. This is when you know the answer – but you are not sure. You could still be wrong – but one answer must be right. Just go for it!

• Talk too about an `inference’. This is when you are not told the answer directly – but the question has pointed you in the right direction. You want to help your child to be able to make judgments and generalisations.

• Finally you want to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. Explain that an opinion will state a point of view – and you often find descriptive words in opinions. The Eleven Plus is an examination. The Eleven Plus is a hard examination. There is a difference!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Investing, Shareholders and Dividends

We often think of the word `investing’ when we think of our children’s future. To some of us if there is an `investment’ we also think of shareholders and then dividends. If you put a lot of time, money and effort into your child’s education you expect a return.

We tell our children that the only way to get on in life to is have an education. We explain to them, very carefully, that passing the 11+ and then GCSE and `A’ levels is the way forward. We use words like: “You need to make the most of this opportunity.” If the words `Eleven Plus’ are mentioned, in the same breath as `opportunity’ we are often thinking about some form of profession.

I chatted to a family recently. The Dad said: “I am only a plumber.” He went on to explain that he had left school with very few qualifications and had had to study at night school. He wanted something different for his child. But what he did have was a lovely family, a nice car and a good address.

Do you think that it was just because he had had a restricted education he wanted something more for his children? I had the feeling that he did not want to be fobbed off with `second best’ for his child. He spoke well about the school his child attended. He was more than happy with the teacher and remarked that the school had a good head. But most important of all, this Dad had a respect for education.

As parents we are allowed to have aspirations. We thrive on dreams for our children. We also know how to be realistic about what can be achieved.

I met another father a few weeks ago and he wanted his extremely bright child to have the opportunity of doing well in the eleven plus examination – and in entrance tests for a local private school. He thought that his child would do just as well at both schools – but that the independent school would open more doors in the future.

So this father wanted more than good GCSE and `A’ Level passes. He was looking for different outcomes from the education system.

Both sets of parents were investing in the way they thought best for their child. Both parents were shareholders in their children’s education. And each father wanted a dividend from the time, money and effort.

This places a heavy burden of expectation on us as teachers and educators. When we work with a child for an hour a week we are not only trying to give the child the tools to pass an examination, we are also trying to fulfil the aspirations of the parents.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Academic Ability and Applied Ability

The manner in which children are tested for the eleven plus varies from region to region and school to school. It will always be impossible for there to be one eleven plus examination for the whole country because different schools want different types of candidates. Naturally the composition and makeup of the tests will also need to change periodically.

There will always be some children who will be able to take what ever is thrown at them in their stride. These lucky children will not be phased by strange looking questions or unfamiliar formats.

For many children there will be remarkably little distinction between academic ability and applied ability. These will be bright children who work hard and love challenge.

So what is it that some parents most fear about the eleven plus examinations? Some children will be tutored and other children will not. Some schools will take pride in the number of eleven plus passes and others won’t. Some children will prepare for two years and other children will simply do one or two papers. Some school will send out practice packs – and others will recommend commercially produced materials.

One of the fears that parents have is how their child will react in the actual examination room. Parents will be aware of their own child’s personality and motivation.

We once had a remarkably bright girl who had done wonderfully well in all her tests at school and with us. She was quite simply a one of the most able girls we had worked with. Quite inexplicably, when she was given her first set of eleven plus results, she was pleased that everything was well below average. She passed the other eleven plus examination she sat with flying colours because she did not want to go to the same school as her brother. She wanted to go to an all girls school. Her parents had always made the point how easy it would be for transport if both children could go to the same school. If both children were at the same school the mother would be able to return to a full time job.

In the end both children were at grammar school – but at different schools. What happened to the poor mother and her job? Well we hope she did the best she could for herself and the family.

Some parents will always have the `cup half full’ attitude to the eleven plus examinations. They will acknowledge that they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. They will accept their child’s strengths and weaknesses. They will simply fit the examinations into the busy family schedule.

Other parents will react in a different way. They will be concerned that they may have missed an opportunity in terms of papers or tuition or tutors.

Now these approaches probably represent two extremes. Yet one concern parents have is shared by almost all parents. They don’t know what the `on the day’ attitude of their child to the examination will be. So what ever the questions or the preparations, all parents can do, as they wait for the results, is just hope that their child has done h

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Waiting for Results

We are waiting, just like so many other parents, teachers and tutors for the approaching 11+ results. We know for some there will be great joy. A number of parents will be quite extraordinarily excited. Some, however, will feel faint and need some form of stimulation.

We know that no right minded parent will turn to anything so vulgar and debilitating as alcohol to help the waiting. In fact some parents will have already made a vow to give up wine and chocolates if their loved one does pass the examination. I can not think of any thing more extreme - but who am I to judge?

Other parents will naturally be increasing their consumption of tea and coffee. Both are very well known stimulants. Both beverages have amazing recuperative powers. Spare a thought however, for any descendants of Gustav III of Sweden. He was murdered in 1792. (It is possible that some of his line may be involved in writing the eleven plus examinations.)

Gustav III believed that coffee was poison. (We hope that none of his family have or had shares in Starbucks.) To prove his theory he sentenced a murderer to drink coffee every day until he died.

At the same time he pardoned another murderer on the condition that he drank tea every day.

He then appointed two doctors to supervise the experiment - and then to see who died first. Well you will have guessed by now.

The doctors died first.

Then the King, as mentioned earlier, was murdered.

The first murderer to die was the tea drinker.

The whole point of recalling those anxious days is to highlight the anxiety and concern of our present eleven plus parents. All of those who only drink tea - be very careful over the next few weeks. No late nights, no shouting at the children - and lots of smiling at your child’s school teacher.

For those who are only coffee drinkers be even more careful. In fact a pertinent piece of eleven plus advice would be have equal parts of tea and coffee - but neither in excess.

While you wait for the results you will be working everything out in your brain. The reasons for success. Where you may have gone wrong. (Did the family really need to take the long school holidays off to fly to Australia to see Aunt Mary?) How you will reward you child for passing. What you can give as a consolation prize for trying hard. Should you give the same prize for failing as you would for passing?

The really hard question will be trying to work out is what detox method you will need to adopt to get rid of all the stimulants in your body. Taking the discussion just that little bit further - what about booking yourself in a weekend break? Massages, facials, lettuce leaves, Jacuzzi - the full works. No one else will give you a prize for all the hard work you have done.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Keeping Education in Perspective

Our Geography teacher at school was Mr J.B. Clarke. J.B. loved three things – rugby, athletics and his wife. We were never sure of the order.

Naturally J.B. took the Ist 15 Rugby team. He was also in charge of the athletics coaching in the school. His wife had taken part in the Olympics as a hurdler. They were a talented and hard working family. The type of family team that is the backbone of every school.

In the year preceding our `O’ Level examinations a new Athletic track was carved out of the side of the hill. The grass was planted and as usual we waited for the rains. Then came the collision. The examinations took place just after sports day. The field was covered with little rocks and stones. J.B. wanted his field to be perfect. Where could he find the labour? Naturally his thoughts turned to his classes.

Period after period boys walked down to the field. Little piles of stones grew. The school tractor collected the stones and deposited them in a small ravine at the foot of the track. Naturally there were some grumbles about this forced labour from some of the boys – and we understood that one or two parents queried the amount of time their boys were out of the classroom.

Our Geography class missed nearly the whole term before the examination out on the field. The rains came rather late. The weeds thrived. Piles of screw drivers arrived. We then worked our way down the field digging out weeds. Our last Geography class before the examinations arrived. J.B. asked us if we wanted to go over any of the syllabus. The sun was shining. The class asked to go outside.

Very few of us passed the Geography examination. The field, however, looked magnificent. The hills were in the background. The grass was green. The rows of chairs were marshalled uniformly. Most of the women wore hats. There were fine and stirring words from all concerned. There was no mention of the time the boys had spent on the field.

Now every parent involved in the eleven plus will hope that their children do as well as possible. Children, as examinations grow closer, need gifted and involved teachers. Why would I remember Mr. J.B. Clarke’s name? Quite simply he loved his job. I am sure that academic success was important to J.B. – but he felt that there was a time and place for everything.

Taking time off every now and again from the pressures of study and school work can not be bad in the long run. It is simply a matter of trying to keep it all in perspective.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fish, Food and the Brain

We have to be very thankful for the Swiss naturalist Jean Louis Agassiz. He lived between 1807 and 1873. He absorbed the idea of the German philosopher and physician, Bulchner, (1824-99) who learnt that the brain contained phosphorus. He said: “Without phosphorus there is no thought.” It was left to the French chemist, Dumas, (1800-84) who confirmed that fish are a natural source of phosphorus.

So generations of children have had to eat fish because it is: “Good for the brain.”

If your eleven plus child does not like fish then it would be very unwise to tell him or her that phosphorus occurs in many rocks and minerals of the earth. It would also be unwise to go into detail about the amount of phosphorus in other fruit, meat and vegetables. You may never ever be able to force a plate of fish down the throat of your child.

Naturally there has been a multitude of studies about fish and brain power. This has gone on for around a hundred years. It is a sobering thought too that parents and educators will be promoting the eating of fish for the next hundred years.

What happens when children and adults live on fish for much of the family’s life? Some children could be eating between ten and twelve fish meals a week. This diet is not selected by anxious parents promoting the eleven plus examinations but by families living on a island or beside a river.

We know that a lack of some types of food can lead to a deficiency - but a balanced diet should satisfy all the requirements of the body. It looks as if children need to eat fish about twice a week. It seems that the best fish to eat are the oily fish like:

fresh tuna (not tinned)

So it took a Swiss naturalist to understand the point that a German philosopher was making. The investigation of a French chemist consigned all our poor children to eating fish. The Eleven Plus examination is uniquely English. This is real European collaboration!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Improving The Odds

We would all like our children to have a house like this one day. We know in our hearts that we need to spend time and effort in helping our children to pass eleven plus examinations. What we don’t know is if we will be altering the odds. We hope that a child who works hard at grammar school and goes to a good university will have an increased chance of owning a lovely home.

• 6 Bedrooms
• 6 Bathrooms
• 4 Receptions
An exceptional family house lavishly appointed with extremely spacious accommodation, wonderful entertaining rooms and a superb indoor swimming pool complex including 5 reception rooms, playroom, games room, pool room with sauna, gym and 6 bedrooms (5 suites). There is a substantial south facing sun terrace. Parkland grounds of approximately 3.5 acres.
If you have other questions about this property …..

We are all extremely thankful that girls now have as good a chance of as boys of doing well at school and university. So we know that it is not the gender of the child or the opportunity of finding enriching and stimulating work that stops all of us from owning a house like this. Inheriting the money too is also not the only route. The lottery? Well that gives us a chance – but quite poor odds.

There must be some dynamic that tips the odds in favour of one person or another. When we are working with our eleven plus children we can not control the odds – all we can do is try to provide a rich and fertile foundation.

We want our children to work hard. We want success. We want drive and desire. There must also be an element of dreaming in the whole equation.

So you will have done your best as a parent. You can not quite come up with the full amount of money to be able to gift the entire property to your child. You are going to have to be content with your lot. So one Sunday afternoon look on the internet for homes worth more than a million pounds. Plot a little map. Pile the family into the car. Take a little drive. Spend a few minutes at the gates doing a little dreaming of your own. Offer up a little prayer that your child will have better odds than you had.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Give Yourself a Chance

I am always amazed by the amount of effort that goes into helping children to learn to swim. Parents naturally start off with the dilemma of: to arm band or not to arm band.

The case for arm bands

Arms bands make parents feel safer about their child in the water.

The case against arm bands

In the long run, learning to swim without arms bands makes children feel safer in the water.

The next big hurdle is trying to decide if you are going to teach your child yourself or leave the teaching to a professional.

The case for teaching swimming yourself.

This is rather like teaching your spouse to drive. Enough said!

The case against you teaching your child to swim.

The professional will tell your child to put his or her face into the water. The child will obey. Your loved one won’t always do the same for you.

Then you come to the after lesson activities.

The case for the parents after a lesson.

“Come along dear. Let’s go and have some lovely chips. You must be so tired now.”

The case for the professional after the lesson.

“Well done. Drink your water and do your exercises. See you next week.”

Where then is the parallel of these observations with the eleven plus?

Your child will accept the teacher or tutor’s advice and professionalism. If you explain something you may be confronted by your child declaring to you there is a different method - that may be more difficult to understand - but infinitely preferable to what you have just said.

Getting outside help for the eleven plus examinations is rather like keeping your powder dry. You remember that years ago a soldier had to be very careful crossing a river because the powder could become wet. The professional swimming teacher will ask your child, very quietly, to swim a final length faster and with more enthusiasm. You, as a parent, will ask for a final push - and could be greeted by: “Do I really have to?”

However, and there is always a however, if you decide to coach your child yourself you will have your good times and your bad times. You will also build an incredibly strong bond with your child. You will have moments of great pleasure and joy. Just think of the excitement of being able to solve a complex problem together. Think of the companionship of working together and enjoying each other’s company.

It does not matter that you may not be as professional as the eleven plus teacher or tutor. You, as a parent, will demonstrate a fierce determination and will to succeed. You will also be incredibly understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Go for it. I urge you. You will never get the same chance again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eleven Plus Jargon

One day our eleven plus children will be leaders of industry, management gurus – and rich and famous. They will be speaking a different kind of language to us common people. Our children will be using new jargon and employing different ways of thinking.

As parents and educators we have a responsibility to start giving our children the tools of the trade. When you are talking about eleven plus work – and working through papers together - you will need to start using the right words.

Blue Sky Thinking

This is when your child starts thinking: `Why am I locked into this room with these papers? Why can’t I get outside and play like other children. That sky looks so blue outside of the bars of my room.’

You say: “You can do the blue sky thinking when you have done your work.”

Get your Ducks in a Row

This is when your ten year old has a mini crisis of confidence and asks to have all the family’s toy ducks returned to their proper place in the bath tub. Little yellow ducks are then launched in rows across the foam filled bath.

You say: “We can get the ducks out again if you promise to wipe the bathroom floor.”

Think Outside of the Box.

This is pretty self explanatory. When the new 60” flat screen arrives it comes in a rather big box. Every cat in the house will naturally gravitate to the box to explore. Sulky and miserable eleven plus children will naturally follow the cats into the box – only to emerge happy and smiling saying: “That was fun. Please can we do it again?”

You say: “Why can’t you think and behave like that when you are outside of the box?”

The Helicopter View

This is when you quite simply have had enough. You collect up all the papers, exercise books and notes you and your child have gathered and book a flight in a local helicopter. You climb into the seat, buckle up, and clutch the papers to your chest. You turn to your child, who is now sitting miserably on the ground.

You say: “Last chance. If you want to work – work. If you don’t want to work I’m off to scatter these books and papers over the sea. Make up your mind.”

Joined up Thinking

Joined up thinking is very much like joined up writing. When you can do joined up writing you win a pen licence. When your child can talk enthusiastically and personably about work and life – then you can award the joined up thinking prize.

You say: “We are awarding this family joined up prize because of the effort you have made to be nice to everyone in the family. Now that you have stopped your sulks we are a proper joined up family.”

We can see that we can not be complacent. We have to move with the times. We have to get on the runway. Please give all of us a total `Brain Dump’ and help us to embrace the new eleven plus jargon. If you have heard of any new Eleven Plus Jargon please share it with the rest of us.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Right Environment

How can you provide support to your child? How can you provide the optimum learning environment to help your child to do as well as possible in the eleven plus examinations?

I don’t think that it is wrong for your child to understand that to pass the eleven plus examinations your child is taking part in a competition. This is a competition for places in a school - not a running race or a darts competition – but your child still has the opportunity of beating other children for a place. Equally, your child could be beaten by others.

The Olympics is a `big’ competition, beating your next door neighbour for the best roses in the street is no less important. To win a competition you have to demonstrate that you are better than others. In eleven plus terms to win a place at grammar school your child may come against other children who are as able but possibly not as well motivated.

There has to be a will to succeed. To succeed you will have engineer a desire to be a winner.

About five years ago we had a very able ten year old girl who was having lesson with us when it transpired that she was also going to two other tutors for eleven plus work. We had tested her before she started lessons and had suggested that as she was doing so well that she didn’t really need to have lessons – but that all she needed to do was one or two papers a week at home. Her father, however, was certain that he wanted her to have lesson with us.

Her father had sat in on all the lessons – and we had not minded that. Naturally we had tried to give her appropriate work for a child of her intellect and motivation. Her father withdrew her angrily one week when we went over a topic we had covered the previous week. She had understood what was expected of her – but had asked us if she could do more of the same in her next lesson.

Her father over heard this – and told her that she could go over the same topic with one of her other tutors. He told her, and us, that as she was going to three tutors she should be expected to pick something up immediately. He closing argument was that if we were not good enough to explain a topic in such a way that a child could pick it up immediately, it was not worth his child attending lesson with us.

So how is that girl going to learn to be a winner? I can understand a parent wanting their child to win at all costs. That is not cheating it is simply called a drive to win. But if this very able girl was not given the opportunity to think for herself, and have some degree of control over her learning, how would she learn test her own will to succeed?

We have heard stories about children leaning to dance with bleeding feet. We have heard of almost impossible swimming regimes for young children. We know about children being expected to do two or three hours of extra homework every night. The problem is that while their parents and coaches or teachers may feel that they are insisting on driving their children for the best possible reasons – they may not be acting in the best interests of the child.

So what we want is a well balanced approach to the whole eleven plus event. We want the right learning environment. We want an unstressed but motivated child. We want parents who are balanced and `normal’. We want teachers and tutors who do their best – but not at any cost.

We never did hear what happened to the girl. We hope she passed and got into the right school. She will be started her `A’ Levels in September of this year. I wonder how she has coped. I wonder if she still thinks that she is a winner.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Eleven Plus for Dummies

Sounds good doesn’t it? First of all we need a `Contents at a Glance”.


Part 1 - the Who, Why, Where and What of the Eleven Plus

Chapter 1 - Understanding the Eleven Plus
Chapter 2 - Eleven Plus Options
Chapter 3 - Living the Eleven Plus Lifestyle

Part 2 - Starting an Eleven Plus Course

Chapter 4 - The Materials
Chapter 5 - Creating a Timetable
Chapter 6 - The Family

Part 3 - The Work

Chapter 7 - Mathematics
Chapter 8 - Verbal Reasoning
Chapter 9 - Non Verbal Reasoning

Part 4 - The Technique
Chapter 10 - The Examination
Chapter 11 - Before the Examination
Chapter 12 - After The Examinations


Chapter 13 - The Results
Chapter 14 - Post Results

This makes it all look rather easy - doesn’t it?

All you have to do now is fill in the blanks.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

10 Points to Think About

How are you going to build your child’s confidence? It is easy for a parent to keep saying, “ We know you are able. We know that you are doing well at school. We have faith in you.” On some occasions these uplifting words may wear a little thin. You may find that you need to build a new line of `confidence building’ words.

“You know that you are creative and that are you capable of thinking. Try looking at the problem from a number of different views.”

“If you feel that you are blocked, and you don’t know what to do, why don’t you consider that you may have to learn new techniques? Think!”

“When you are talking about the examinations, don’t be afraid to express your thoughts to us as your parents or to your teachers and tutors. If you do not speak up we do not know what you are thinking about.”

“If you can’t find the solution to a question, of if the question seems to be a real puzzle, why don’t you leave the question and come back to it later on?”


“If you not in the mood, and it seems that you are feeling unhappy about working, than you have remember why you are doing this work. Obviously you want to please us - but it is more important that you want to please yourself.”

“Take a look at yourself. Try to create all the right conditions for work. Make sure that you keep your working area tidy. Keep your desk uncluttered. Collect all the books and materials you will need for your work before you start work. You may find it hard to concentrate if you are jumping up and down.”

“Decide if you want to work alone, or if you want some one in the room with you. If you do want a change please talk about it - and don’t leave it for us to try to guess what is in your mind.”

“Think about when you would like to do this extra work. Would you prefer to get up early and do the extra work before you go to school? Do you find it easier to get every thing done as soon as you get back from school? Is after the evening meal the best time for you?”

“Does it really make a difference if you have music on?”

“Even though you have struggled with this type of question before, you do need to be positive and try to think of other possible solutions. Just keep an open mind and think of something new.”

Friday, February 09, 2007

Changing the System

We all know about the eleven plus tests that look at achievement. After all the verbal and non verbal reasoning tests, along with mathematics and English, are used in eleven plus examinations. Parents are presented with signs or achievement like good reading skills and the ability to argue from an early age.

We also, however, all pray for bright children with well balanced personalities. If the eleven plus examinations had to include personality tests then this would open up tremendous opportunities. Some schools do encourage children to have to an interview. In the interview you hope that your child will smile, appear confidant and enjoy the chance to `show off’ to interested parties. An interview, however, does not quite test the same skill as a personality test.

Does it really matter if a child attending grammar school is introverted? Will it really affect their education if they can not bring themselves to make eye contact with their teachers and peers? Should we mind if a Year 7 child at grammar school does not want to take part in games and other social activities? There must be very few grammar schools that would be able to claim that the ethos and social environment in the school suited every single child.

Imagine the eleven plus questions your child would need to answer in the personality test:

Do you prefer to:

Sit by yourself in the classroom
Work in a group

I like friends who are:

Chatty and noisy
Quiet and reserved

I like to wear:

Bright and cheerful clothes
Reserved and `ordinary’ clothes

I don’t think that I:

Spend enough time worrying about problems
Spend too much time worrying about problems.

Poor parents. How on earth are they going to be able to coach their children to be able to select the right answers? One year school may be looking for bright and happy children who don’t worry too much. In another year the school may want serious hardworking children. It will drive some parents mad as they try to second guess the system.

Suppose a family has two children. The elder one is very bright. She is hard working and very serious. She loves school and work. Even better she always keeps her bed room tidy. But – this is the year of the `HAPPY’ eleven plus child. She could miss her rightful place.

Her brother however is an original. He is one year younger. He plays sport for his county. He never makes time to read. He loves parties and big social occasions. He has the sweetest little girl friend. BUT – he always does really well at school. Unfortunately his potential grammar school is not much interested in sporting ability. The school just wants quiet reserved boys who work hard and never answer back.

Both children could miss out on their rightful places in grammar schools. There would be no blame on the Junior school. The parents have done nothing wrong. The children are bright enough. It is just that the eleven plus examination was looking for something more than good scores on mathematics and reasoning tests. Do we dare to argue for a change?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Make Over

When do children take the plunge and initiate change in their lives? With eleven plus examinations approaching it is time for a make over of the `Eleven Plus Working Area’. What is involved? A truly basic list covers:

New desk
Book case
Repainting and refurbishing.

This time of year is a bit early for a spring clean – but you do need to help your child to feel organised and purposeful.

The farmer burning his old grape cuttings in Tuscany is clearing away and making the vines ready for new growth. From now on he will walk though his vineyard every day looking for new growth and green shoots. If he does not clear away his crop will suffer.

We may not have the wonderful view and the feeling of purpose enjoyed by this farmer but we can make the eleven plus working area as attractive as possible. I sometimes hear parents saying: `We have the papers we used two years ago for her older sister. We can just reuse those papers.’

Why not supply new a brand new set of eleven plus papers? Give your second or third child the very best. There is something exciting about breaking open a brand new set of papers and being the first to read and work though the exercises.

Why do you need a new desk if there is already a perfectly serviceable desk or table? The answer is of course you don’t need to indulge your child if you don’t want to. Children are such creatures of habit that it is unlikely that they will come up to and ask for a `pre eleven plus makeover’. This is your chance to create the right climate for learning.

Just think of your child turning to you when the results are out and saying: “You know, I think the turning point came when you gave me that makeover. I suddenly realised that you were serious about me doing as well as possible. Thank you once again. It is funny how the different surroundings made me feel proud to be working. Thank you.”

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Making Time to Talk

We like to think that the majority of our children are bright and talented. The problem we have is that not all of us agree as to what being bright and talented means. We can all agree that a nine year old heard playing the piano to a high standard is talented.

The same nine year old singing a Rock Dixie tune may not thought to be talented if the audience is expecting a Christmas carol. Being talented must, however, be more than individual taste. In the very early sixties the Beetles were talented and gifted musicians to some people – but not all. We recognise their talent now because they have been around for many years.

We all know stories of artists who were not recognised until well after their death. So is being gifted and talented a matter of style? A very wealthy banker with the ability to make lots of money is certainly talented in making money. We can naturally admire those talents – and the style in the way they live. But this is a very different type of talent to that extolled in the scriptures. The Holy Books – what ever the religion – talk about wise men and learned men. So is someone who is talented also wise and learned?

For many years schools have struggled to provide classroom experiences that encourage bright and able children. We want our children to be enriched in more that just academic ways. We want our children to be developed socially and emotionally. We want too some form of vocational guidance.

So we hope that a child with high intellectual ability has the opportunity to show talent and ability in fields far beyond attainment in mathematics and literacy. Not all children are good at music. Music can be taught but a child may not show signs of giftedness. In the same way areas like sport and other arts can be promoted and we can but hope that talent will shine through.

The problem with eleven plus examinations is that we feel we need to examine a child in great depth in relatively narrow fields. If we identify a child who can demonstrate the ability to move to higher grades and levels – then why can’t we allow some children to advance without undergoing special examinations?

If only the eleven plus examinations could also take into account wisdom and learning. How could you coach wisdom and learning? How would you test wisdom and learning? We all would like our children to be able to perform on a large stage, we also all want our children to be able to demonstrate good taste, compassion and indulgence.

If only we could follow the advice of the old Chinese proverb: “A single conversation across a table with a wise man is worth a month's study of books.” Surely we want our children to be taught and nurtured by wise and talented teachers and tutors. If only we could throw away some of the topics in eleven plus examinations and replace the content with discussion time. This would gift our children the opportunity to be able to access a wise person. I wonder if ten minutes a week of conversation with a wise person would not be of more use than being able to complete a verbal reasoning paper in 50 minutes - with a score of 96%?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Making Choices

One of the problems in coping with your bright child is that you want your child to be able to make choices. In some situations it is essential that you lay down rules and arrive at prompt or authoritative decisions. At other times you want your child to feel the freedom of being able to make a choice.

Ideally you want your child, at times, to be able to build up a series of arguments or even debatable points – and then make decisions based on reason and logic. The problem comes when you feel that your reason and your logic are being challenged.

Every mother and father will be made to feel, at times, that they are acting as tyrannical despots. A despot is a ruler with absolute power. There is not much room for building a case for counselling and allowing choices when a despot is in power. Despots also seem develop a climate where rebellion ferments and develops. In a ten year old it may be no more than a cheeky comment or a mutinous sulk. It is very unlikely that a ten year old coming from a favourable social environment will break out into open rebellion just because they have been thwarted.

Children may need to feel rebellious if they come into daily contact with a benevolent dictator. A dictator is also an absolute ruler – and can be a tyrant too. When we add the word `benevolent’ we seem to think of a friendly smiling ruler – who thinks that he or she are acting in the best interests of all concerned. The benevolent dictator, however, still thinks that their way is the only way.

So do mums and dads need to be democratic? The word democratic has a variety of meanings – but is does suggest that there is a degree of social equality. In the setting of a family a democracy can be thought of as being a situation where parents have the right to `rule’ and `govern’. Equally the child then has the opportunity for choice and discussion - and the power of the vote.

I come into contact with a large number of children in a year. I am always touched by the gentleness and concern of parents as they talk to their child about lessons and work. Naturally there are some situations where I will see all out warfare about the extent and nature of work done in a lesson. Generally, however, there is friendly and gentle discussion and engagement.

Mums and dads will need to be despots and dictators at times. It is their right. A ten year old can not try to trample over key areas like personal safety and the good of the family. If a ten ton lorry is bearing down on your child you will not have much time to be able to initiate a wide ranging discussion. `Get out of the way!” works for me. You are not being a despot if you insist on sensible ground rules.

Any suggestions?

Initiate discussions about the types of topic where choices can be made:

Family Relations
Tidiness of bedrooms
Letters or emails to grandparents

Good luck. Keep a diary or note of your discussions. These can be called `Minutes of our Meetings’. If in doubt read the minutes. Review the content. And remember that your reasoned argument may not be a reasoned argument to your child. If you can solve that problem you will have solved one of the main mysteries of being a parent. Please let me know.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Asking for More

When your eleven plus child sits down with you to work through eleven plus papers – they may initially feel spontaneous and eager. The last thing that you want is for the experience to become boring or disappointing. You just do not want your child to be disillusioned. The work you do with your child has to have a meaning and a purpose.

Suppose you have a very bright child. It is likely that their mental ability will be well beyond their chronological or actual age. Years ago we used to have to worry about children at school becoming bored of waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. This is much less likely to happen now in schools.

If your lessons or time with your child is too full of drill and repetition you may find that you are given to understand that some of the work is unrewarding. “Do we really have to do that again? I did it last week and got it all right. I really hate this book. Please let us do something else?”

We all know of adults who did very well in later life and did remarkably well at school too. We also hear stories about bright children who become rather disenfranchised and don’t want to work at what we want them to work at.

We rely on ability tests to try to predict future success as an adult. I suppose that once a child has been accepted in grammar school we would naturally assume a path of good GCSE and `A’ level grades followed by a good university education.

Bright children are usually very versatile. They are often creative and can use a wide range of words and ideas. Because they are creative they can be penalised on a standardised test when a `best possible’ response is called for.

Exactly the same breadth of thinking can be shown when you are working with your child through a paper. He or she may come up with an answer that appears to bear no relation to the question. This will give you the opportunity to go beyond the strictures of the paper the two of you are working on. This is your chance to make the lesson come alive.

You are really hoping that you will hear the words: “Oh please can we do more of these? I really do like this work. When can we do it again?”

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Keeping Control

People who run airlines know a thing or two. A pretty clever technique is to always have enough fuel on board to allow you not only to make your planned destination with a good margin but also to be able to divert to an alternative route. This way you can keep your options open and also be able to keep control of the situation.

Pilots also have to plan for worst-case scenarios. They, and all their crew, have to be trained to cope with a wide variety of events.

Passengers are also instructed how to prepare for the worst. We all know, for example, that the safest possible space is the window nearest to the emergency-exit row.

Every time we fly we are reminded how to brace – and to make sure the seatbelt is tightly fastened.

A sweep of the hand reminds us to follow the white floor lights until we reach exit row lights.

Can we apply any of these basic safety rules to our eleven plus situation?

We have to be ready for an appeal situation. Your child must do exercises very carefully. If you are a parent working with your child then take time to follow a pattern of underlining dates and ruling off exercises. It is essential too that you date every bit of work. Suppose, for example, that you want to be able to prove to an appeal panel that an unexpected and unplanned event has caused your child to lose confidence and become distracted. If you have put a date on the work then anyone can see when the problems started.

Mark your child’s work carefully. If your child is used neat marking at school, or in any lessons, than you too must play a part by setting working out carefully.

Try to avoid sweeping crossing out. You would be upset with your teacher or tutor if your child returned home with pages crossed out. Remember that in an appeal situation the panel may sometimes want to look at the preparation that your child has done for the examination. Your marking and comments may play a part.

Remember though – that an appeal board is not there to punish you and your child. The board is there to try to make sure that you have an opportunity of presenting your case to interested parties. The appeal board will be hearing petitions from other worried and distraught parents. It is the board’s role to try to cut through all the emotion and anguish and try to select the best possible candidates.

Words like: “If you just give Jamie a chance he will not let you down!” will possibly not be as effective as a carefully thought out and well prepared case.

As we have mentioned earlier the pilot (and for the word pilot read YOU) and crew (this is all concerned at school and at home) just want you and your child to survive and do as well as possible.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sympathy and Understanding

Some years ago I went to a scrap yard to buy a long tube of aluminium. Metal scrap yards are fascinating places. I enjoy looking at how the owner or manager organised the yard. I suppose we all envy the owners who have big crushers that swallow up a car and spit it out in a square blob.

I paid for the aluminium with cash. He needed to give some change. He went on to pull an enormous roll of notes out of his coat. I remarked on the size and the amount of cash that he was carrying. He informed me, very patiently, that when a foreign ship arrived, carrying various types of metal, he needed to be able to pay cash.

He had obviously been educated before the advent of the eleven plus examinations. Yet he had skills and talents to be envied.

I wonder just how easy it is to climb into the hold of a ship. Look over a pile of metal, offer a price - and then `pay the man’.

I wonder too what it is like to sit in the captain’s cabin and peel large numbers of notes off a roll.

The scrap yard owner spoke softly and gently at all times. His throat was not damaged by smoke. There were no lines or any indication on his face that he had lived anything but a healthy and blameless life. He mentioned his grand children twice in the brief conversation. A proper family man. A very proud man.

Naturally we dream that the grandchildren mentioned above find their way to sixth form and then onto university. We hope that with their enriched academic education they too land up being wealthy and happy.

The skills of passing a rather abstract examination are very different, however, from the skills involved in the barter of tons of scrap. I just hope that somewhere along the line some parent will say: `Enough of all that work. Let us get on with acquiring practical life skills. I really want you to be happy. Be like your granddad. Be a proud man.”

Friday, February 02, 2007

Working to Deadlines

How are you going to convince your ten year old of the need to be able to work backwards from deadlines? You know that eleven plus examinations are coming closer. You, as an adult, are aware too that time passes very quickly.

Think back over your life and try to remember all your deadlines. Reports, letters, tax returns, arriving at the church on time, moving house, passing examinations, bringing up children, looking after elderly relatives – the list is endless.

How are you going to be able to bring a sense of urgency to your ten year old? The last ting you want to do is to add a sense of fear or doom. You certainly don’t want to add stress or concern into the equation. But you do sometimes need to make the point that the clock is ticking.

You would only be thinking about eleven plus examinations if your child was bright and able anyway. You would have listened to the teachers at school and taken on what they think about your child.

I think that the idea of the calendar stuck to the fridge with a large circle around the dates of the examination is rather crude. It might be effective but rather a blunt weapon. Your task is somewhat different. You have to give your child the necessary tools to be able to work backwards from the deadline of the eleven plus examinations – but not at any price.

You will need to build the eleven plus deadline into the family’s daily routine. You do not need to mention examinations every day. The words: “There are only three months to the examination,” will hardly excite a tired and over worked child. The rest of the family do not need to hear: “Quiet now, it is time for eleven plus work,” every day. If the routine is established than all concerned will know the approximate times for work, study and play.

As parents you will need to gather as much information as possible about the examination. In YOUR Eleven Plus folder you will need to organise and assemble information. We started taking enquiries last year from parents who wanted to book their summer holidays around the dates of eleven plus courses.

If you, your `candidate’, and the rest of your family feel organised and confident then you should find that you are not rushing towards a deadline.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Importance of The Eleven Plus

Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning tests look at aspects of ability, intelligence and performance. The very next time you begin to question your intelligence - and that of your child - try to remember the words of the great philosopher John Dewey.

Mr. Dewey (1859 - 1952) was a pragmatist. In our eleven plus terms this means that he looked at intelligence as a practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing a situation or of solving a problem. He said, some years ago:

“This intelligence testing business reminds me of the way they used to weigh hogs in Texas. They would get a long plank, put it over a cross bar, and somehow tie the hog on one end of the plank. They’d search all around till they found a stone that would balance the weight of the hog and they’d put that on the other end of the plank. Then they’d guess the weight of the stone.”

We are going to be rather hard pressed to find Texas hogs in England - unless some rare breed pig farmer has imported a number. Perhaps we can find local farmers who can rent us a pig for a morning.

Picture the scene. A car arrives at the pig farm. Father and mother climb out holding rope. Children climb out holding verbal and non verbal reasoning books. Dad takes the plank off the roof rack. Mum takes the cross bar out of the boot. Both parents lift the collection of heavy stones out of the boot.

The pig arrives. Dad says: “I am not picking that pig up!”

Mum says: “Just do it. No more talk - just get on with it.”

Children giggle.

While the pig is lying trussed to the plank the children read verbal and non verbal reasoning questions to the pig. (The farmer has already taught the pig to grunt once for A, twice for B, three times for C and four times for D.)

Parents carefully load the other end of the plank with stones. At last the pig and the stones balance themselves out.

Great cheers from the family. The farmer beams happily. The pig sighs contentedly. The stones stay silent. The reasoning questions are answered.

The family are in balance. For a few moments the importance of the eleven plus examinations in reduced to a pig lying on a plank. Bliss!