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Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Style Eleven Plus Examinations

We certainly need to think of new way of presenting eleven plus examinations. The idea of thousands of clever little ten year old sitting down to starchy papers in strict rows is no longer tenable.

We need every child to bring their wireless enabled lap top to a series of central points. The children then fire their computers up and down load the first set of questions. Naturally the children will have full access to all the facilities of the internet. If they are stuck on reflection all they need to do is type the key word `reflection’ into the search engine and up comes the answer.

Surely it is better for a ten year old to be able to find the answer than simply be able to remember a series of key facts or techniques?

Naturally the vast network of eleven plus tutors would be able to tap into this new system of examining children. They would be able to sponsor sites that could supply eleven plus answers. Parents would be queuing up to add credits to Pay Pal accounts to make sure that their child was able to get a fast track answer. No sure how to do analogies? No problem. If you press the `fast track’ logo you will be able to beat all the other children to find the answer.

Want to be able to talk to your own tutor on line while you are working through the examination paper? No problem. Slip your headphones on. Load Skype. Turn your video camera on and chat to your tutor who has been anxiously waiting for your call. (Like driving instructors tutors get paid extra while the test is taking place.)

Need a bit of love a reassurance from your parents? No problem. Build a conference call with your parents. Dad will help with the questions he is good at. Mum is naturally much better at maths – so go over the few problems that remain on your paper with her.

Want to see if your multiple choice answer is right? Load the `Answer Checker’ program. This program calculates the odds of the answer being right. The problem is that your child will only be able to use the program four times during the entire paper. (If you pay extra you can buy four more attempts!)

So let us now picture the eleven plus examination room. Groups of children will be wearing headphones balancing their computers on their knees. White coated technicians will be helping with connection problems. Children will be muttering to themselves: “Well I know that Yahoo is best for technical questions – but I really do prefer Google.”

Suddenly the power goes down.

The resilient children place their headphones on the computers and move to the adjacent room. Kindly, smiling teachers hand out papers with reassuring words. Children sit in silence doing their best. Rows of cars wait outside with confident parents smiling in anticipation.

The eleven plus organisers mutter to themselves. “Well I had an extra generator on standby. I just did not expect that sudden surge for information. Oh well, the children seemed to do O.K. We will see about next year.”


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Eleven Plus Thoughts

Wonder of wonders! I have met a truly happy child working towards the eleven plus. He smiled through the lesson, contributed to the discussion with his parents after the lesson and left with the words: “See you next week!”

I remember reading about Margaret Mead’s work as a young student. She went to Samoa to observe young people. She had noted that young adolescents in America were often full of anxiety and anger. She lived in Samoa so that she could study the youngsters as they progressed form childhood into adolescence. She found that there was remarkably little emotional distress or confusion. I wonder if it was because the children living in Samoa did not have to work towards the eleven plus examinations!

I see many parents with a positive attitude to their children. They are positive about school, the teachers the head teacher and the whole school environment. They are not concerned about the `ranking’ of the school. They simply really hope that their child will be happy at school. They accept that the teachers are doing the best they can. These parents would not dream of running the school down in front of their children.

There are people who do believe that everything they have done in their lives has made them the person that they are. They would like their children to grow up just the same way – if possible. These are mothers and fathers who try to put a positive spin on life and study. They accept their children for what they are – warts and all! These are parents who do not blame the school for everything that has gone wrong in their child’s life.

Some parents do make a point of trying to encourage their children to lighten up. They insist that their children do not take the eleven plus examinations too seriously. I heard a mother this morning say: “Even if he does not pass the eleven plus it does not matter. There are two or three other good schools around.”

It will help your children if you can find some happy positive friends for them. Every parent fears that their children will make friends with undesirables. It may mean that you will need to make a big effort to help your child cultivate new friends. But pleasant children should have pleasant parents – so who knows!

We all know how important it is to keep healthy with good food, exercise and a well balanced life. These elements give your ten year old an advantage over other children. It is essential too that children have good breaks and holidays.

This brings us back to Margaret Mead. The very next time your child looks peaky or run down why not book a trip to Samoa? There your child will be able to see other happy smiling children. A refreshing two weeks lying on the beach and sipping a succession of cool drinks may be good for you too.

The Samoans, and any visitors, drink Kava. I understand that it is vitally important for any visitors to drink vast quantities of Kava because it promotes cheery thoughts along with slightly a numb feeling. We all know that cheery thoughts and a numb feeling are essential ingredients of an eleven plus diet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Selective Listening

Occasionally we hear of children who wonder why they simply have to do so much work when they are preparing for the eleven plus. Sometimes a child may need to be reminded: “This is for your own good!”

Parents do not need to tolerate rudeness or apathy during a discussion over work. The child, however, may not be trying to be rude or apathetic – the lack of direction in the discussion may be due to other causes. Lack of sleep, feeling ill, bullying could all cause a normally pleasant child to react unfavourably when hearing the words `eleven plus’.

It is not worth trying to win every argument. If your child does not feel like work on one particular day it is simply not worth fighting over it.
Make a big effort to help your child know what is expected and planned during the `eleven plus study’ time. Write down the page number and the examples you want to be covered. Prepare a similar exercise for the next time that eleven plus work is scheduled. Spend a little extra time merging the two bits of work together. Your child may decide that in the end it is better to get the work out of the way.

Beware of unfulfilled promises. Ten year old children have extraordinary memories of promises and half promises. They may have difficulty in remembering that they promised to do the work – but will be able to recall every broken promise that you have made over the past ten years! It is much safer to use the standby of every parent: “We’ll see”.

Try to listen to your child. You may be hearing that they do are refusing to do any eleven plus work. They may actually be saying that they don’t mind doing eleven plus work – but they just do not want to do that particular piece of work on that particular day. Your child may have selective listening – but does not expect you to have a similar problem.

Monday, May 28, 2007

11+ Memories

The vogue for landscaped gardens did not start with the advent of televised make over programs – it started hundreds of years ago. The creation of market gardens also changed the appearance of the country side. The Industrial Revolution altered the look of the land with quarries, mines and large mountains of waste. Some of biggest changes occurred on the roads. Large Motorways have carved up the countryside sweeping through valleys and brushing hills aside. The small winding roads are still there – but they were not built to carry the vast volume of traffic that exists today.

These are all physical changes to the fabric of England. Equivalent changes have taken place in education. When the eleven plus was first mooted the country was just coming out of the austerity of the war. There was a great need for poor but able children to be given the opportunity of an academic education. The need for very bright children to be educated still exists – but in a rather different way.

The eleven plus today is not a simple make over of the eleven plus of yesteryear. The curriculum of the eleven plus remains basically the same – with challenging questions aimed at identifying bright children.

There can not be a return, however, to the questions that were put to children fifty years ago. Times, language and vocabulary have all moved on.

Today we phase the question using these a vocabulary similar to this: “Mandeep wants a stretchy alien toy that opens up to become a mobile phone costing £15.00. Becky needs a glow in the dark Yo-yo costing £2.50. Express the Yo-yo as a percentage of the alien. Fifty years ago we would have used different words – but the task would have been similar. We still have to solve an essential problem.

There will be men and women around today who will remember how the original eleven plus questions were phrased. Why not encourage your children to challenge their memories?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

11+ Preparation

I made a number of runs to the `dump’ today. The recycling effort of the council is to be commended. The team of men in smart clean looking yellow coats were helpful and pleasant. Every thing had to go in the right bin. It was a pleasure to be part of such a concerted effort.

Nearly every other car had parents and their ten year olds unloading well used furniture and throwing away boxes of accumulated `treasures’.

This is the weekend where the ten year old changes from being a child into a student. The eleven plus examinations are now reality. They are no longer a dream – but are just around the corner. Different cultures al over the world employ a wide variety of initiation practices, In England the initiation is marked by transformation of the bedroom.

Old beds, desks and book cases were thrown away.

The packaging of the replacement furniture was also being off loaded. Wood went into one bin, mattresses into another and carpets into a third. Cardboard went into a fourth container and plastic into a fifth. Every one worked happily through the rain.

So those families who have not quite finished the job still have one day of the holiday to go. Good luck. Happy recycling. Sweep out the old and bring in the new.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hot Eleven Plus Tips

“I heard of a really hot eleven plus tip today.”

The word `tip’ is said to originate from tipping waiters and waitresses in English 17th-century coffee houses. Boxes were provided for gratuities. The boxes were marked ‘To Insure Promptness’ hence TIP.

These are tips that parents could give to their children. There is no need to go through the whole list with your childIf ever you are offered an "Eleven Plus Grumble" ten you could just pick out one of these `hot’ tips to work on. I am quite sure that you will never need to remind your child of any of these tips.

TIP 1: Make sure that you bring your teacher or tutor an apple every day. If you forget to bring something you could always say thank you as you leave the lesson.

TIP2: Organise your work into a tuition bag. Keep a set of special pens and pencils along with your file of work. It is your responsibility to get your bag to your lesson. It not the `duty’ of your mother to pick your bag up and carry it for you. As a bright ten year old try to think for yourself.

TIP 3: If you want your teacher to be able to prepare some special work for you then ask your one of your parents to telephone with your request ahead of time. You only need to ask for `area’ or `analogies’. It only takes a moment to telephone but it does give your teacher or tutor time to prepare some work for you.

TIP 4: Enjoy the lesson. Be enthusiastic. Remember that you want to pass the examination – if you can. So just do your best in the lessons. It is no good grumbling that you do not like mathematics or story writing. Remember that it is: “For your own good!”

TIP 5: Before you ask for help try to read the question fist. It would be much better to tell your teacher or tutor what you have done to try to solve the problem rather than just grumble that you can’t do it.

TIP 6: Take the time to write down notes on topics you may need to remember how to do. You will be able to revise from an example you have written out for yourself. If you persist in simply writing answers with no working out then you have nothing to read over when you are trying to revise.

TIP 7: Speak up for yourself. Tell your parents about your hopes and dreams. Speak up about fears and worries. Tell them if you think that you have been unfairly treated – but always try to offer a solution. It is no good yelling, “It is not fair!” You have to say what is not fair and how you think that the wrong can be righted.

TIP 8: If someone has made an effort to get you to a lesson then just turn to them and say something nice. Try to avoid walking into your lesson without turning with a smile to say something pleasant.

TIP 9: Work neatly in the lesson. In an appeal situation a panel may look at your books and the work you have done in the lessons. You can not afford to be untidy.

TIP 10: All you are doing is your best. If you find something hard one day then you may find the same thing easier on another day. You can not expect to be able to learn all new topics immediately. Sometimes you will be learning things that are hard. Be prepared to be patient.

I doubt that any parent would ever have to say any of the above things to their children, so these “hot tips” are not offered to insure Promptness but to insure Politeness.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Eleven Plus Interview

As May draws to an end it is time for the Big Interview. Here we conduct an in depth interview with a celebrated ten year old.

Corine, a bright and zesty ten year old, agreed to the interview – and made time for us in her busy schedule. She reached fame in her school recently when she recited “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth. What drew attention her feat was that she was able to explain much of the poet’s imagery and use of language.

She explained why Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud. She was able to comment of the significance of words like “host” and “jocund”. When she came to the words: “the bliss of solitude” she was able to relate this to her busy day. Her teachers and head teacher were so bowled over by the depth of her understanding that they had no hesitation in awarding her the coveted “Pupil of the Year” award.

How do you mange to fit it all in?

I just love to be busy. One day I want to achieve 14 GCSE passes – with at least 6 at A* level. I like to find out new things. One day I want to learn Japanese. We went to a Japanese restaurant once and had tapinaki and I loved hearing the cook speak in Japanese. I would really like to be a cook one day.

What do you like about doing eleven plus work?

I like the challenge of being timed and trying to get as much right as possible. I always aim to complete the test papers in less than the time allowed so that I give myself time to go over the answers. I love to find mistakes in my work. The algebra is the best part. I know that very little complex algebra will come up in the eleven plus examinations but I really enjoyed learning about straight line graphs and solving simultaneous equations with graphs.

What do you do for exercise?

Well I dance four times a week. I have been doing that since I was three years old. My brother goes riding twice a week – and sometimes the riding teacher has a spare horse and allows me to ride. I love being so high off the ground. I have been rock climbing a number of times and that is wonderful. It is so scary but exhilarating.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has every happened to you?

I went to a party once and had to pay a forfeit. There were boys and girls at the party. We had to draw names out of a hat and then pair up to sing together. I drew a boy and he would not do what he was supposed to do. He kept laughing and messing up. I was so embarrassed. My friends keep reminding me – and every time I see the boy he is horrible to me.

What school do you want to go to?

My dad keeps saying he does not mind where I go as long as I do not talk while he is watching football. My mum wants me to go to grammar. She went there and she keeps showing me her old photographs. My older brother is at grammar, the same one my dad went to, and my younger brother, the one who likes riding, does not really care. I suppose I want grammar. I did hear about one of my cousins who went on exchange to America – but she is much older that me. May be one day I could get some education in Japan.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eleven Plus Relationships

I have always liked the idea of our ten year old children being able to appoint their own Relationship Managers (RM). The ever changing eleven plus world has created a need for children to be able to negotiate the complex issues surrounding the examination. Some children may feel that they need some support.

The Relationship Manger’s role is to enhance the co-ordination of the relationship between the key stakeholders. On the one side the ten year old is faced with understanding the needs of his or her parents. The other key stakeholder is naturally the actual 11+ examination. For the child the examination involves papers, peers, school, possibly tutors, and the actual content of the examination.

The Relationship Manager (RM) must be able to demonstrate the ability to acquire a deep understanding of the needs of the parents and of the child. The RM must be able to network extensively. Ideally the RM will have a sound knowledge or understanding of what it is like to be a parent and also some appreciation of the problems and difficulties faced by children.

Ideally the RM will have a Doctorate in Parent Management and a second qualification in Child Understanding. The RM must have experience in the eleven plus examination – or the ability to acquire knowledge quickly and effectively. Skills in Information Technology will be essential.

Above all the RM must be able to demonstrate exceptional relationship management skills, real leadership ability and proven acumen. Naturally this will be a post conforming to all known Equal Opportunities requirements – especially those set by Europe.

If all this sound very familiar to you – then so it should. After all you are a parent and with this you have had extensive on the job training. If the relationship between you and your child breaks down at times try to take it in your stride. Promoting even more extra lessons or work on timed examination papers will only serve a short term problem. If you come on too strong with your ten year old you are going to have to have very deep reserves when you try to deal with a rebellious seventeen year old facing the `A’ Level examinations. There is an old saying drawn from warfare and hunting: “Keep your powder dry.”

When you feel a strain on your relationship try to take a step back. Try to understand both points of view. If necessary why not ask for a mediator to help take the pressure off both parties.

If in the end you do decide to take on the role of Relationship Manager remember that the salary is within the range of £68000 - £83000. You may not be paid in cash – but if you do negotiate the whole experience successfully then you will certainly deserve a large bonus.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Eleven Plus Green Code

Some parents need some words of caution before starting on an eleven plus course of action. Some parents start off with good intentions and then allow the effort to tail off. The result of this is that there is a concerted effort by all parties just before the examinations along with tears, recriminations and “I told you so”.

To help avoid this problem why not adopt the “Green Cross Code for the Eleven Plus”.


Don’t go out to buy armfuls of eleven plus papers. Instead step back and discuss the whole affair. Make sure that the whole family will be able to co-operate in the eleven plus saga. You can not allow all the pressure to lie on your shoulders. Every single relevant person needs to be involved.

Your child is the one key person in the whole process. If he or she has never done much extra work at home then simply saying the words “Eleven Plus” is not going to excite the work and study juices. Help your child to understand just what is involved in the whole process.

If you are buying papers you must do it together. You can not expect a ten year old to sit meekly in front of a pile of papers if he or she has not been part of the buying process. By all means purchase every single paper that has been produced over the course of time – but do this when the additional work is needed.


There are a number of key questions that you need to answer:

1. Who is actually going to do the eleven plus work?
2. Does your child really have the ability to pass the examination?
3. Is a grammar school really the right place for your child?

If you have clear answers to these questions then you will be able to focus your decision making.


Look at all the different schools around. You child may be happier at the top of the local school rather than near the bottom of the grammar school.

Look at many different types of papers. It may be better to start at home with papers aimed at 9 – 10 year old rather than full blown eleven plus papers.

It may be better to build confidence by working through methods of approaching reasoning and mathematics papers rather than start on full papers from the start.


Listen to your child. If there are grumbles and moans there may be a reason.

Listen to the rest of the family. You can not make every single decision on your own. Others may have valid opinions.

Please listen to your teacher. You are not trying to prove your teacher is right or wrong – you simply want the best possible advice. If your teacher says that your child is border line accept that the remarks are made in good faith. Being boarder line should not stop you working with your child – but may help to take some of the pressure off.

Listen to your friends – and the other parents on the school gates.

It is quite simple. All you want is eleven plus results – but not at any price. Too much pressure on your child – and on your self – can not be good for the health of the family.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If you are asked at work to develop an action plan for the division you are working in you would be able to follow a reasonably straight forward and well tried path. You would probably start by finding a consultant. Or you would find and read books on current theories and you could naturally research your topic through the internet.

You would be urged to start with a SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for:


Using this tool you start to sketch out your Eleven Plus plan.


What are your strengths? (Patience, determination, clear vision, organised your own wedding with 580 guests.)
What are your child’s strengths? (Brains, beauty and a sharp tongue.)
What strengths exist in the family? (Granddad is a maths teacher!)
The strengths of the school (26 out of 30 children passed last year.)
A tutor’s strengths (helped a number of children to pass last year.)


What are your weaknesses? (Everything must be just right or you do tend to explode.)
Your child’s weaknesses? (Won’t read, won’t work at home for you, loves sport too much, and no longer thinks that you are always correct.)
Weaknesses in the family (Older sister passed last year and always lets everyone know, younger bother has a behaviour problem.)


Your child is able. Your child is capable.
The school have never let you down.
Your child loves work once he or she gets started.
Your partner is supportive and is very good at verbal reasoning.


Listening to other mothers and fathers who have every single thing organised in great detail.
Your child will only work if there is a big enough bribe.
Grandmother keeps saying: “Oh don’t keep pushing the little dear. You never did any work at school so why are you forcing your child.”
The big five: Sport, TV, Computers, Obstinacy and hatred of extra work outside of school.

Your ACTION Plan

Write down your ACTION plan.
Agree your ACTION plan with your child, the rest of the family and your teachers at school.
Take a deep breath.
Step back from the plan to see if it really is feasible.
Revise and rework the plan.
Adhere to the plan – when it is convenient to you.
Use the plan as a tool to whip your child and the rest of the family into shape.
Monitor and evaluate through observation, work sampling and reviews.
Revise your targets.
Allow for variation. (Especially when it suits you.)

It all dead easy. It is just what being a parent is all about anyway. There is no mystique about the eleven plus.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Early Selection

What would happen if top football managers were not allowed to purchase players capable of winning championships? I read some where that 500 million people would have watched the recent game between Chelsea and Manchester United in the New Wembley Stadium.

We all know that one side had some star players missing – but still went on to clinch the championship. Both sides had strength in depth.

Suppose that all the mangers had to pick players who had not passed through a selection process. In football players are identified early and given every opportunity to develop and expand their skills. They are given special diets and the best possible training. The very young gifted players are not allowed to play football matches all the time – they are nurtured and cosseted. Some young players are drafted into top squads at an early age. Very few players seem to make it to the very top of playing in a championship team if they have had to work their way through various teams at all the different levels of football.

So how does a top manager select his players he wants in his squads? Information is passed to him about emerging players all over the world. Sometimes he will want to buy an established international star to add a new dimension to his existing squad. At other times the talent scouts recommend a youngster to add value to the team.

A number of children who are trying to reach the grammar schools will have been identified well before time. To add to the grammar school selection process we are just lacking the system of talent scouts. A talented footballer would be seen by a talent scout in some form of a local game. To help the eleven plus selection process the talent scouts would need to able to go into a school and pick out the children they feel are worthy of a place in a grammar school.

Imagine how the children would feel if the word went round the classroom: “The scouts are here!” Think how hard teachers would try to present the sort of lesson that would allow the talents of their bright children to shine through. The School Governors would be anxiously waiting by the school gate for little hints of reflected glory.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Grammar Schools

There is a big debate on at the moment about grammar schools.

We are continually reminded that one of the main reasons for grammar schools was the need for bright children from impoverished backgrounds to be able to receive an academic education.

Education has long been a political weapon in the hands of political parties. New words like `Personalised Education’ have crept into our working language. New initiatives like “Every Child Matters” have come to mean different things to different people.

Jargon will always be mixed up with honest sentiment. Of course every child should matter. Naturally all children need a personalised education. It is still essential that able children from impoverished backgrounds are given every possible opportunity.

The children who we are preparing for the eleven plus will need an education that will help to prepare them for a number of different occupations. These children will meet a wide range of obstacles in their lives. They will be part of changing attitudes to democracy and swings in political opinion.

As teachers and parents we would all like every single child to receive a worthwhile education. A dictionary definition of the word `grammar’ suggests grammar is to do with the rules of a language. Some dictionary definitions of the words `grammar schools’ include the words `a secondary school for children of high academic ability’.

That is exactly what we want for our children. We want them to be able to go to schools that cater for children of high academic ability.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

11+ Technology

We went to a swimming gala today. The six districts were drawn from a radius of about fifteen miles. In this particular league there are eight teams competing in six galas. Because there are only six lanes two teams drop out of each gala. The age range spread from U9 and U10 boys and girls to Open swimmers.

I was struck by considerable difference in sizes of the swimmers. At around the U10 stage most of the boys and girls appeared to be around the same size. By the time the age groups had climbed to U14 the difference in height was marked.

All the boys and girls seemed to have the hall mark of swimmers – broad shoulders and narrow hips.

All the coaches seemed to smile and exhort their swimmers to do well. Some of the coaches made some of the U10 swimmers rehearse their strokes on dry land. The children all nodded obediently as they listened carefully to their teachers.

The great thing about competitive swimming is that the results are immediate. Dive into the water. Swim like mad. Hear and see the results. Climb out of the water. Get dry.

There were remarkably few false starts because there was hardly any delay between `Ready’ and the bang of the gun.

There were only tiny pauses between the events. It all went off very smoothly.

So that is what you would like for your eleven plus child. Lots of hard work. Lots of exercise for the brain. Lots of revision. A good challenging test. Immediate results.

If we can use technology to pay parking charges by mobile phone, and vote on line surely we can lessen the delay between the test and the results?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Improving Lessons

We became involved in Investors in People some five years ago. The whole ethos of Investors in People is encouraging staff to feel they have ownership and that they are empowered to make a valuable contribution.

We felt horror at the idea of an outside team coming into inspect our teachers. We wanted our teachers to feel that they were valued professionals and knew how to do their jobs.

We did need to try to make sure that the whole team tried to put the needs of the children attending the lessons first of all. Our program called ACTION produces the lesson plans and gives direction. The teacher is there to teach. Our teachers do not have to be involved preparation of lessons Our teachers are encouraged to offer comprehensive marking while the lesson is taking place. There is certainly no need for the teachers to be involved in follow up administration.

The role of Investors in People in Etc is to try to help the teachers and the assistants to understand that there is a strong business element to the lessons. If the children are property taught and are given good lessons the children will continue to attend lessons.

Parents are not going to want their children to have lessons if their children are not happy and are not learning. Parents are certainly not going to pay good money for a substandard service. To achieve this we use self assessment.

We are currently working on trying to develop a system where our parents can assess each lesson too. We want our parents to be able to say if they feel they have had value for money. We want them to be able to comment on marking and the amount of work done. Most important of all we want to be told if their children are happy with the lessons. If the lesson went wrong – where can we change or improve.

If any one has any suggestions please email me on

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fitting Every Thing In

One of the problems we have as teachers and parents is that children who are well developed in some abilities are likely to be well developed in others as well.

It is likely that an intelligent child will have spoken early, read early and is emotionally well adjusted. Perhaps most important of all, the able child is likely to be popular with his or her peers. Naturally all these attributes can not be true all of the time. The intelligent child may, at times, become less popular with certain class mates.

The popularity may ebb or flow through performance on the football field or even gaining a part in a West End show.

We had a very bright Eleven Plus candidate some time ago who attended lessons on a weekly basis because she had a part in a West End musical. The rehearsals and performances were manageable - even though the girl continued with full time education. The problem was the travelling time. It was not just the child’s travelling time but her parents had to put time into going into London by train, waiting for the performance and then travelling home. Eventually some of the girls at school began to make remarks. The Head Teacher warned the parents how they were possibly jeopardising potential eleven plus examination results.

This was a case where the parents wanted extra lessons because they wanted some form of continuity in the progression of the lessons. Rehearsal times changed in the early days. The days that the girl was able to attend classes changed too because of performance times. She needed a personalised plan that could follow her changes of circumstance.

The girl and her parents made it a pact never to talk about the eleven plus on their way to London, in the theatre and when travelling back. This was very sensible because it gave the ten year old the ability to concentrate on the task in hand. She had about eight songs to sing and dance, but she only had one speaking line.

There is time for an able child approaching the eleven plus examination to be able to play sport and take part in other activities. There will be time for Grade 2 piano lessons and being a member of a cricket team.

Children who are able to reach the heights in activities outside of the eleven plus preparation are probably more likely to be able to `fit it all in”.

I met a dad last Saturday who was in the process of `fitting in’ a dance lesson, eleven plus work and then a visit to grandparents. All in one morning. We need to congratulate the dad on his stamina – never mind his daughter!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"He has a good Eleven Plus chance."

What does it mean if you have a child who has been identified as having `a good chance of gaining a grammar school place’.

We should think that your child is above average. You child may also have qualities that set him or her apart from their peers. You may sometimes hear the statement: “Oh he is a bright one!” Does this mean that he is a bright one intellectually, or is he good with words or even just a charming cheeky chappie?

The word `bright’ must apply to many different situations. Sadly, however, in terms of passing the eleven plus the word `bright’ only relates to obtaining a certain score on a certain day.

Your child may only be bright in terms of taking a certain type of test on a certain day. For example his intelligence may shine through on the verbal reasoning test – but he may come up with an unexpected score on the non verbal reasoning test. He may have completed the non verbal reasoning test in a third of the expected time – but at the same time missed two pages. You child may never have done anything like that in all papers you have done together. Does missing a couple of pages on the day of a vital test make your son less bright?

We had this happen to us very recently. A very able boy did a retest after six months of tuition. He did very well on the mathematics and verbal reasoning tests. He missed the third and fourth page of the non verbal reasoning test. He only made one mistake on the paper – but left out seventeen questions. His mother asked him why and he simply shook his head. I think that this demanding test was just a bit too easy for him and he lost concentration.

His non verbal reasoning score still came out above average – but no one would be able to call him `bright’ on the basis of that score. So how did his intelligence `fly away’? He just made one mistake of turning over two pages – not seventeen mistakes. That one error could cost him a place in grammar school.

So you can’t call a bright boy `average’ on the basis of one test result. The `Eleven Plus System’ in his area can easily call him `non selective’. The appeal panel can also reject him on the grounds that he did not fulfil the selection criteria.

It all seems illogical and very unfair. In eleven plus terms a bright child is intellectually able. He may also be bright, charming and articulate. On the day of the examination he has to prove his `bright’ side. Please remind him to read the instructions at the beginning of the test, check he has completed all the pages and look back over his paper. Above all remind him not to `switch off’ while he is being told what to do at the start of the test.

He will remain as having `a good chance of a place in grammar school’ if he keeps `bright and alert’.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Keeping Fit

We all know that we have to keep our children healthy while they are involved in preparations for the eleven plus. We know the children need to have regular exercise. Good bracing walks, running on the sand at the sea side and long swims should all be part of sound eleven plus preparation.

Naturally no parent with a child preparing for the eleven plus race would want to take their child every where by car. “Yes dear, it is only two miles to your ballet lesson. Keep warm and keep pointing those toes.”

Parents have become involved in a frantic `physical activity gravy train’ because a rumour sweeping web sites, tutors and playgrounds. There is to be an additional eleven plus test this year called the “Eleven Plus Test of Athletic Ability”.

The Eleven Plus Test of Athletic Ability is made up of five sub tests.

The first sub test consists of walking backwards, in the darkness, up the stairs of the local cinema. The child will need to balance a large packet of popcorn, two drinks and some yummy chocolates. Your child will get extra points for pushing a sibling without spilling a drink.

The next test is one of timing and precision. The tools are a large bag pipe and a very small caber. Your child will need to walk round the school field dragging the caber while playing the bag pipes. To prepare for this you will need your child to build a large lung capacity.

The third test is very different. Every eleven plus child will need to attend the National Canoe Centre for a half day. There your child will be taught to barrel roll as well as learn to paddle up stream.

The fourth test in the Eleven Plus Test of Athletic Ability is made up of tiddlywinks. This test in included to help promote eye – hand co-ordination. Children who are able to attain 87% are awarded the title: “Speedy Flippers”.

The final sub test is one that most children may need to practice daily. In this test children are issued with ipods and headphones. They score one point for every time their name is called and they do not respond.

To assemble the scores and work out grading marks there is a rather complicated system we do not need to go into. We have, however, heard of some tutors who offer special one to one sessions with parents where they provide counselling as well as individualised tuition.

We understand there is a web site where parents can purchase the entire eleven plus pack. The pack has books, papers, pop corn packets, drinks, chocolates, tiddlywinks, cabers and ipods. Counselling for parents is an optional extra. If any one would like the web site address please do not hesitate to call us. If we published the web site we would take so many hits that our site would probably crash. We have, however, taken on additional receptionists to assist Gerry, Tracy, Becky and Leah. (By the way Pinar also helps out at times.)

Good luck – and we hope you enjoy working out with your child.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Eleven Plus Scores

Modern Intelligence Testing was developed by a Frenchman, Alfred Binet. He worked on intelligence late in the nineteenth century. His work was revised and developed by Lewis Terman and his associates at Stamford University. They introduced the term `I.Q.’ to education and psychology.

The term `I.Q.’ has several different meanings. If we put full stops after the letters I and Q then we are discussing `Intelligence Quotient’.

The Stanford-Binet test describes ability in the form of mental age. If a child had a mental age the same as his or her chronological age then by definition we say the child is of `average intelligence’. A child with a higher mental age that his or actual age would then be above average in ability.

In 1960 the Stanford-Binet test was revised and brought up to date. The scoring system was also changed to become the `deviation I.Q. method’. The `deviation’ suggests that scores are distributed normally with a mean of 100.

Another set of intelligence tests came along called the `Wechsler Intelligence Scale’. This was also designed to be administered by an experienced and trained examiner to one person at a time.

When our children do verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning tests – we are given st6andardised scores based on the work done to develop a scoring system for the Wechsler tests.

Verbal Reasoning tests rely on linguistic elements. Arithmetic skills can be tested along with logic.

Non Verbal tests look at spatial relationships, manipulation of blocks or other tasks requiring dexterity and visualisation.

So then you are discussing your child in terms of scores of 125 and 105 think back to that Frenchman called Binet and the Americans at Stanford. Think too of the Wechsler family and the way they have developed and refined testing.

We hope that your child achieves scores over 120 in the eleven plus tests. Good luck!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thank You.

We went to the Imperial War Museum today. As well as the expected tanks and antiaircraft guns there were several exhibitions.

The one called `The Children’s War’ is a most interesting area to visit. There were photographs on a number of screens of children being evacuated. The photos then faded into a montage to show the child growing into an adult.

One fact stood out: In 1939 95% of children left school at 14. The1944 Education Act provided free secondary school education to all children up to the age of 15.

If teachers were in the 5% of children who stayed on for further education no wonder that teachers were revered, honoured and looked up to by the general population. How times have changed!

During the war children read books and comics about heroic efforts. Many librarians during the war found it difficult to get hold of books aimed at children.

J.K. Rowling writes books for children – but is read by children and adults alike. It is amazing to think of those children who will have their imagination captured by the one of her books. How those war time children would have loved the escapism that Harry Potter represents!

Three hours went by in a flash.

The children walking around the exhibition need to offer up a little prayer of thanks to their grand parents – and indeed to their great grand parents.

The school leaving age is could soon possibly be eighteen. Many more of our bright ten year olds will enjoy educational opportunities denied to the children who lived through the war. For that we are all very grateful. The eleven plus came in after the war.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Settling Nerves

To build your child’s speed in mental manipulation you need to install a family darts board. When you are playing darts you will sometimes need a certain number of points to be able to complete the game. (And you do want your child to learn to be a winner.)

I am not a darts player at all – but it the scoring was recently explained to me by an enthusiastic ten year old.

A dart board has twenty sectors numbered from 1 to 20. The board has doubles, trebles, an outer ring and a bulls-eye. The bull-eye scores 50 points and the outer ring 25 points. The double is twice the score of the sector it is in and the treble is three times the score.

A double sixteen would score 32 points and a treble sixteen 48 points.

So if you need a two to finish a game you need to throw a double one.

If you have three darts then you have three chances of finishing the game. Likewise two darts gives you two chances.

So to get 19 you need to throw a three and a double eight.

To get 51 you need an eleven and a double twenty.

To get 52 you need sixteen and double eighteen.

If however you need 58 and you only have two darts you need a treble fourteen and a double eight.

So the next time your ten year old hounds you for a dart board think of the value of the game. We will take one more example. To reach 70 you need to throw a twenty then a double 25 (the outer ring). You can also throw seventy with triple eighteen and double eight.

Quick manipulation of numbers would be invaluable eleven plus preparation. Learning to concentrate would also help.

A final word of warning for parents. Traditionally, I understand, darts players often have two or three beers before they start playing to `settle their nerves’. You would become a questionable role model for your children if you had two or three beers before you start on an eleven plus paper to `settle your nerves’.

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Eleven Plus Appeal

I’m off in a moment to go to an appeal.

We deal with around five hundred eleven plus children every year. This is only the third time in all the years we have been preparing children towards the eleven plus that I have wanted to speak as well as stand by the veracity of our reports and lesson histories.

We test children before they start work with us.

Last year we saw a ten year old with a listening comprehension of around six years old. Her non verbal reasoning was 121. Her English and comprehension were well below average. Her mathematics was also below average. English is a second language.

In the eleven plus tests she reached 141 on the verbal reasoning test. This is an extraordinary score. We had worked with her on a program of comprehension, vocabulary and grammar along with some mathematics. We added verbal and non verbal reasoning to her lessons when she was more confident.

Her mathematics only reached 110 in the eleven plus tests – so she was not deemed to be strong enough to earn a place. She has scored 121 on the nonverbal reasoning test.

She has, however, continued lessons with us towards the SATs where we have worked on her mathematics and written work.

The first time I attended an appeal was for a girl who had her first period on the day of the examination. We took along the verbal reasoning tests she had done with us to show the panel what a verbal reasoning paper looked like and confirm that she had achieved very good results in the past. She deserved a place.

The second time was to represent a refugee who did very well on the mathematics and non verbal reasoning tests but was a few marks down on his verbal reasoning. He had worked very hard and really deserved a place. His English was not strong but he had a burning desire for education. He was offered a place conditional on him improving his English before he entered secondary school.

We wish her and her family every success.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We think you can do better!

Most of us know a little bit about St Jerome because he translated much of the Bible from Greek into Latin.

He, like many great men, made a number of statements and sayings. But it is still strange to think that a man who lived and worked over one and a half thousand years ago was the author of the current eleven plus song.

Parents use a variety of styles of singing and presentation when they are delivering the same old message:

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.”

Think of the millions of children over the years who have had to listen to their parents exhorting them to `do their best’. Thank of all those parents urging their children on with vastly different emotions in their hearts.

Parent One to child standing beside the high diving board at the swimming pool. “The first time will be the worst. After you have done it once you will really enjoy diving in. Just do your best.”

“There I told you that you would enjoy yourself. Now this time try to keep your arms together, straighten your legs and tuck your head in a little more. You can do better if you just try hard.”

Parent Two to child sitting on a horse for the first time. “It really is easy. Just hold on with your legs, lean forward a little. Are you ready now? Just do your best.”

“There I told you that you could do it. Now concentrate on your posture, try a little canter, no, don’t fiddle with your hat. Just listen to what I say. You will do better this time.”

Some poor children in the build up to the eleven plus examinations are given so much advice and exhortation from their parents. The children feel that they can never really please their parents. What ever they have done well they are urged on to do that little extra. The children feel sometimes that they are under pressure to get better and better.

To relieve the pressure we now need some famous song writers to provide the tune for our `Eleven Plus Song.”

Try singing this to one of John Lennon’s songs:

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.”

Think of how Beyonce and Shakira would combine to sing the words:

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.”

I bet Dolly Parton could belt out a really good version of:

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.”

So we can see now that preparing for the eleven plus is: “Not what you do, but the way that you do it.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Snow and the Eleven Plus

We usually expect good weather on the day the eleven plus tests take place. The children who are tested in October can expect reasonably settled weather. The November eleven plus children will also have reasonably predictable weather.

What happens if there is a fierce snow storm in one particular area on the day of the eleven plus tests? We are thinking here about the children who take the test in January. Would some children be more affected than others?

In theory the more reliable the test is the less likely that the results should be affected by any unusual circumstances. So if some parents decided that the snowstorm had affected their child’s results then the authorities should be able to counter there should be no real difference in the scores of the children who were writing in unusual circumstances.

Some parents may argue, however, that the snow storm would tend to detract from the reliability of the test results because the circumstances favoured those eleven plus children who had a strong ability to be able to concentrate. Sitting in an examination with wet shoes may, however, put off some children.

So what can the authorities do? Should they allow those children who may have been affected by the snow to take the test again? Would that be fair on the other children?

Should all the children across the county be offered the opportunity of taking the test again on a calm and peaceful day?

What happens if one child does really well on the tests on the day of the snow storm but fails miserably on the day of the second test?

Lots of questions. This shows just how difficult it would be to try to please all of the people all of the time!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Who deserves the eleven plus place?

Suppose two children have reached remarkably similar scores – and there is only one more place left in the grammar school.

In the eyes of the decision makers both girls are equally bright, they are talented, studious and outgoing. Both girls are highly recommended by their schools – and the head teachers have told both sets of parents that their girls deserve a place in the local grammar school.

Both girls score the same score on the mathematics paper. There is only one mark difference on the reasoning papers.

The grammar school the girls are applying for specialises in mathematics and is rated highly in the county. Good numbers of pupils reach the top universities. The staff at the school are stable and the Head Teacher has been at the school for some years.

The girl who scored one mark less is very good at science. She loves anything to do with experiments and reads books about science for pleasure. She has a wide range of kits for conducting experiments. She once set out to learn the periodic table for fun.

The other girl is outstanding at dance and music. Her whole life is made up of attending dance and music classes. She sings in the local church choir and has already achieved Grade 5 on her piano. She took part in the two previous pantomimes at the local theatre where she demonstrated her talents in singing and dancing.

What can we use as a basis for making the decision about which girl deserves a place? Surely both girls have such strengths and abilities that the decision should not rest on the difference of just one mark. Would it not be fairer to simply toss a coin?

What we are looking at is probably no more than one mistake on one of the papers. If we flipped coin we would have a 50% chance of making the correct choice and a 50% chance of denying the other girl a place.

This scenario does seem to point for the need for test scores to be part of the selection process – and not the sole criterion.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Luck and The Eleven Plus

We all think that we need an element of luck when we are involved with tests and examinations. It is not enough to be well prepared and ready for the examination we need that `something extra’.

We have watched world champions indulge in small but significant rituals. We know of footballers who only put their shirts on as they leave the dressing room. We have seen ranking tennis players bounce the ball in certain rhythmic patterns. We have seen mothers holding their hands together in attitudes of prayer as they watch their child walk into school on examination day.

How do you build luck? We know it was Arnold Palmer, the American Golfer, who said: “The funny thing is, the more I practice the luckier I get.” We presume that the same must be true for the eleven plus examinations. But as parents you can supply one final lucky charm. You can help your child make a customised pencil case.

It is easy.

You need two 23cm by 15 cm pieces of fabric. A 20 cm zip. Matching thread.

* Press a 1.5 cm hem on one long side of each piece of fabric.

* Pin the fabric to the zip.

* Tack the fabric to the zip.

* Stitch along the tacking line.

* Embroider your good luck message.

* Open the zip, place the case together and machine the sides.

Supply six freshly sharpened pencils and two soft rubbers.

On the day of the examination make sure your child has the magic pencil case. Give your child an extra hug.

Whisper, “Good Luck.”

Place your hands together and offer a little prayer. It could work!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Does Nagging Help?

A few years ago we met a boy who explained to us quite seriously that he wanted to come first in mathematics in the eleven plus examinations. Some children want to pass the eleven plus. Other children want to do well. Very few children set out to be first.

Can we take a ten year old seriously if the avowed intention is to win an Olympic medal? To win an Olympic medal takes talent and ability, hard work, good coaching and lots of support from the family. Having access to money also must also help.

We need to go back to 550BC to King Croesus of Lydia (now Eastern Turkey) who issued the first coins with fixed values. But was Emperor Yung Hue of China who issued the first paper money in around 650AD. He used paper money because there was a shortage of coins.

So while cash in the form of money is now more than two and a half thousand years old our ten year old striving for the Olympics will probably rely on credit cards and electronic transfers.

So would we take a ten year old more seriously if he or she said: “One day I want to be an International Banker.” To achieve this goal it would also take talent and ability, hard work, good teaching and lots of support from the family.

We once had a wonderful `A’ level girl working for us who set out to become an international lawyer specialising in Arabic property law. No one else in her family was in law or property. She simply had her sights set on a field where she hoped to be able to make a good living. We can’t help wondering if her life now is dominated by paper money or by electronic transfers.

We took the ten year old boy, mentioned in the first paragraph, through a GCSE mathematics course as he already could do all the mathematics covered in the selection papers. Over the course of the summer holidays he worked through the most challenging GCSE chapters from a range of text books. He wrote notes, copied down examples, revised and worked steadily.

This is the drive and determination that is needed to become a champion. Winning a medal is hard work. Nagging may help a child to keep focused – but it is very unlikely that nagging on its own will make a world beater.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Eleven Plus Changes

Election fever has swept through the eleven plus world. Campaigners have been knocking on doors trying to change people’s minds and educate parents and children. Smartly dressed experts have appeared on T.V. extolling the virtues of a new eleven plus system. The children, who are actually writing the papers, can only sit back and watch the proceedings with awe and wonder.

The problem?

Well for years some counties have been adopting a multiple choice system of selecting answers. As you well know your child simply has to read the question and then select A B C D or E. The test papers are then scanned and converted into scores.

This year the children are expected to complete two papers at the same time. They will be given one paper where they have to grade the A B C D E into 1 2 3 4 5 order. This will help with some form of proportional representation. The other paper will be simply the old fashioned multiple choice. The two sets of papers will be laid out on the table and every child will be expected to do one question from one paper and the next question from the other paper. One paper will have thirty questions and the other no more than twelve questions.

There may be some spoilt papers as children struggle to come to terms with the new arrangements. But don’t forget we are dealing with bright children who will have been well prepared. The children, we hope, will take it in their stride. Did any think about what the children had to do when they had completed the paper with twelve questions? After all they still had another eighteen questions to do on the other paper.


It is the sanity of the experts we have to worry about. It does seem likely that an expert would need to be paid a lot of money to be able to come up with such an unworkable solution.

We don’t need to worry, however, too much about the parents. If their child wins a place in a grammar school then the end will justify the means. If their child fails the test then a cascade of fury and anger will erupt.

Poor, poor experts.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Test Items and Success

One of the problems we have when we look at test results is to believe that it is unlikely that intelligence will change. If a child has been at the same school with the same teacher and the same set of friends then the school environment will have been relatively stable. And if the child has been in the same home with the same parents and the same siblings then this too would suggest a degree of stability in intelligence.

Another problem we have is with the purpose of the test. If the tests are supposed to predict intellectual ability, and how well children will do at school in their GCSE and `A’ level examinations, we may also presume that the content of the test will not change too much.

So if the home and the school environments have not changed too much – and if the actual test has not altered too radically - then we have to consider just how likely it is that the eleven plus tests will actually predict future academic success.

If grammar schools were going to broaden their range of `A’ level subjects to cope with less academic subjects like woodwork and needlework then it would be fair to want to include items in the eleven plus tests where a child could be expected to shine. In many countries in the world, however, we hear of academic children who are separated from other children as the `big’ examinations approach.

So we are back with the problem of how reliable are the actual test items. How can we find out if the eleven plus tests are going to be reliable? The easy way is to give the same test twice. If the children score reasonably similar results then we can presume that the test is a reliable indicator. To achieve this, the identical test would need to be given to identical children under identical conditions. The same person would need to give the same instructions in the same tone of voice. The test would also need to be at the same time of day. If the second test was given much later on in the day then fatigue may have crept into the equation.

Suppose the first test was given early on a school morning – and the repeat test was offered just before home time – at the end of the day then it is likely that some children would behave differently. One child may be happy to do the test early in the morning but may have an afternoon activity in the early afternoon. This could cause lack of attention and effort.

Many years ago we can recall a wonderfully bright girl who did not do at all well on a reasoning paper. The night before the parents had argued. There had been blows and the police had been called. Father had been taken away by the police. Our engaging little girl simply did not do very well.

The architects of an eleven plus test could not have built a argument of this nature into the parameters of the test.

So at times the elements of the eleven plus tests that are looking at intelligence may be unreliable – and the tests may not actually find the true level of ability.

We therefore hope that school and the home environments remain as stable and supportive as possible. There is not much we can do about the actual questions on the test paper. We can only presume that they have not altered too radically. We hope too that the children have not had any catastrophic events that have altered their intelligence.

All we can do as parents and teachers is to try to help our children to be as ready as possible for the eleven plus examinations.

Words like: `The honour and the future of the family lie in your hands’ may be a little too strong for a child to try to deal with as he or she walks into the examination room. Some children may prefer to hear: “Do your best, and go in peace.”

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Raw Scores

A little girl called Mary is sitting in the car on the way home from school. She calls across to her mother who is driving and tells her excitedly that she scored 18 on a mathematics test. Mary’s mother reacts accordingly and screams in delight – and promises great rewards as soon as the car pulls into the drive at home.

But there is a little problem here. Mary may have answered 18 questions correctly but was the test made up of a number of questions where one mark was awarded for each question – or was there a series of four part questions where Mary was only able to answer two parts of all the questions?

She may have missed a large number of questions so eighteen was not a good mark. In a similar manner she may have answered 18 questions correctly out of one hundred so eighteen was not a good mark.

If, however, the one hundred question test was aimed at sixteen year olds then the nine year old Mary may have done very well. So the eighteen correct answers depends on a range of factors.

The age of the child.

The average score of the test. (If the average score for the whole class was 4 out of 20 then 18 out of 20 is clearly outstanding. Equally if the average for the test was 50 then 18 shows that Mary continues to need help.)

Another factor to take into account is the highest possible score. If nine year old Mary achieved 18 out of 18 then she may have done very well. If the test, however, was aimed at six year olds then 18 out of 18 would still be a cause for celebration – but the praise would need to be rather more muted.

So now we need to look at the subject matter of the test. The test could have been a tables test – and the whole class, including Mary, may have been working on their tables for a week. So 18 out of 20 on a tables test could be a wonderful score for Mary. She may never before have scored over nine out of 20. To double her score would then be a real cause for celebration.

So when you listen to other parents talking about scores of 75% slow down and ask your self. Was this 75 right out of 100 questions in 55 minutes or did the test take place over two days?

The quickest way of deflating your child, and taking the magic of the moment away, is to say: “Good, now next time I want 20.” So if your child thinks that he or she has done well please just savour the moment. Give praise and reward accordingly. Select another moment to pile on pressure.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eleven Plus Tests

Who makes the final decisions on what kind of test there should be and what use should be made of test results?

Working through the steps involved it probably first of all takes some experts in tests and measurements to work out what sort of tests are needed. Then our political leaders make decisions based on information provided by experts. Finally it is the, the public at large, who vote the politicians into power. The actual people who take eleven plus tests, the children, are not involved in any decision making.

We are often told that standardising test scores makes it fair for everyone. But this is not necessarily so. A child could be `zoned’ for one set of grammar schools and thus gain entry with one set of entrance criteria but another child, in a different area, could be faced with different tests and different entrance standards.

This means that an able child could pass an entrance or selection test and gain entry into one grammar school but fail the entrance examination to another school because the contents of the two tests are different. So it is not `same for everyone’.

If you have a driving test on one day in one town – and then take the test on another day in a different town - you would hope that the driving test examiners would look for broadly similar strengths and weaknesses. You could be just as good a driver on both days but yet fail one of the tests for reasons beyond your control. A long articulated lorry could break down on an intersection and cause a traffic condition that could upset the balance of your test. If you failed for one reason or another you could simply come back again and retake the test. Not so with the eleven plus.

The only way to make a completely fair `level playing field’ would be for every school in the country to be as good academically as our present grammar schools.

This is where our children may be able to influence the future of tests, education, and grammar schools. In years to come the children who are writing the eleven plus examinations now will be voting for the politicians. It is these children who will have the power to force change. This is a very strong reason why we want our children to have the best possible education.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pressure! Pressure!

Suppose you wanted to try to help your child to become a world famous sports person. You would need to go through certain checks.

You would need to find out if your child was bright enough to be able to cope with a range of verbal instructions. (You probably have a very good idea yourself!)

You may choose to ask your child to try some preliminary checks.

One check could be to lift some weights. These would need to be child friendly weights – but some children would be able to lift heavier weights than others.

Another check could be to ask your child to hold his or her breath for a long time.

A different check would be to run a hundred yard dash.

So now we have four different measurements that we can evaluate. The test score could be the combination of all four scores.

It would not help to have a high or a low score unless you could compare the results with those of other children across the county. You may decide to try to help your child to prepare for the tests.

You could feed your child on fish and carrots to help the brain. You could purchase a set of weights and establish them up in the living room. You could ensure that your child takes three baths a day and holds his or her under the water for longer and longer periods. Finally you could encourage your child to run round and round the house to build speed and stamina.

You then hear on the news that all children in the whole county are to be given extra help with breathing. You go out and buy a bigger bath and a larger underwater stop watch. After all you want your child to be able to see and feel what is happening under water.

Eighty five parents protest because the water has overflowed the edge of the bath. The breathing test is suspended by the county pending a review. You continue because you are sure that your child is good at holding his or her breath – and anyway while he or she is under water there is no `talk back’.

You hear of a special high altitude athletic camp to be held over the summer holidays. This will help breathing, running and weights. Sadly the camp does not cater for intelligence. You wish there was another way of measuring intelligence.

Your child’s school teacher will not say if your child will pass the county wide test. The school does not do extra breathing exercises. Your best friend says that your child is sure to pass.

You just wish it was all over.