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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Results day

We have between two and three weeks to go before the `A’ level results are published. To be a little more specific, on Thursday, 16 August 2007. At the time of writing this is just over one and a quarter of a million seconds away.

I can remember once seeing a letter from a school advising students not to be away when the results arrived in case they needed to go into `clearing’. I am not sure if there was a general letter to all students or one that was addressed to specific individuals.

In the old days (pre mobile phone and text messages) children were encouraged to lead healthy and fulfilling lives while they waited for results. It now seems almost obligatory for a group of students to go off for a week or two of fun and late nights.(And good luck to them!)

The days of anxious students and their parents hanging around the school gate are not over in all schools – but finding out results has started to move with the time. Some `A’ level youngsters are given their results through a text message. Other can go on line and look their scores up – and even see the marking done by the examiner.

The television stations also get in on the results act every year with photographs, interviews and careful scripts. It is amazing how the TV authorities always try to call on healthy and bonny folk to be selected.

Some eleven plus parents like to open the dreaded envelope themselves – others prefer their child to do open the envelope.

We have well over a hundred ex `A' youngsters who are working for us and are waiting for results. We wish them well and hope they do as well as they hoped.

Monday, July 30, 2007

11+ Speed, difficulty and interest.

When we encourage a child to `go off and do some reading’ we hope that they will be developing comprehension skills at the same time. After all if you can master the mechanics of being able to read a word you should be able to comprehend the word. Reading aloud or reading to one self is not quite the same thing as understanding or comprehending the words on the page.

So if your child is experiencing difficulty with comprehension then you need to try to work out what is holding your child up.

Sometime poor comprehension can be caused by reading too fast or too slowly. This could be on mathematics or verbal reasoning questions where the instructions are not read carefully enough. An able child may simply find the work rather easy and read too quickly and miss key words – or even the intent of the question.

Sometimes the content of the reading may be too difficult. We have all come across occasional exercises on eleven plus papers where the words are simply too hard for even a bright child to be able to read and understand.

The passage selected may be outside the vocabulary and experience of the eleven plus child. The comprehension passage could be drawn from a book written years ago with content and language that is far from words and ideas used today. The passages may not be related to the child’s age or interest levels. Naturally the passages can not be customised for every child but at times they could be topical.

So when you are working with your child on reading you can look at:

Speed of reading
The difficulty of the content
The interest level of the passage

So the child that started last weekend with the final Harry Potter saga will have been able to glide of these hurdles. There would have been little difficulty with speed, difficulty or interest – especially if the book has already been handed on.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Do Eleven Plus children need lucky charms?

In the early days in Europe most of the jewellery was most beautifully designed and executed – but there were few stones.

Northern Europe, however, had amber. Amber is fossilised tree resin. The amber was washed up on the beaches flanking the North Sea and the Baltic. Enterprising craftsmen began to incorporate the amber into designs. Sometimes the amber was set around its shape and pattern – and other jewellers cut and manipulated to amber to their design.

Now we all know about the metaphysical properties of gemstones minerals and crystals. It does seem important that as we work towards the eleven plus examinations we appreciate the qualities of amber – in that the stone is supposed to provide a calming influence yet it can develop an energising element when required.

So if you deck your child in amber as he or she walks into the eleven plus examination you know that calm feelings will be pulsing through the body. But when the examination starts the energy will flow.

There is a school of thought too that amber helps to stimulate wisdom.

Case proved?

Well, even if you don’t want to gamble your child’s future on the possession of a lucky talisman, you could always try one for yourself. It might just work!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Start On Time

Len Goodman was back in Gravesend today. He is the popular head judge of the hit T.V. show Strictly Come dancing. He has run dance studios in Gravesend and Dartford for many years.

He was up on a large stage set o the grass beside the River Thames. He was out to break the world record for the largest Salsa lesson. We understand that representatives from the Guinness Book of Records monitored the vent. A large television camera was certainly in evidence.

He started right on time. Let me repeat that he started right on time. He wanted over 600 people to beat the world record and landed up with 820.

His instructions were very simple.

“All the men face the river.

All the women face a man.

Men step forward with the left foot.

Women step back on the right.

The count is one to three.”
We rehearsed this a few times, He then told the men to step back with the right foot – to the rhythm four, five six.

By 7 minutes past six he had all 820 of us dancing to the beat. One last rehearsal and he was ready to set us in motion.

We had to repeat the steps and dance the Salsa for ten minutes to be able to create a record.

There were cheers and smiles as the even came to an end. We were world record holders for a moment in time.

So this gives us a very good eleven plus lesson.

Start with a well known and popular teacher.
Have an achievable goal.
Do a little teaching and then get on with. Don’t drag it out.

Oh yes, one more thing: Start on time!

Friday, July 27, 2007

I wish I had worked harder at school.

For many of us the second big thing in our lives will the first ever Eurovision Dance Contest. This will take place at the BBC Television centre, London, on the Saturday the first of September.

Much more important than this will be the first ever `Eleven Plus Experience’. The format of this will be quite simple. Representatives from all the counties involved in the eleven plus tests will come to the Albert Hall to undergo two days of tests. There will be prizes for the `Top 3 Verbal Reasoning’ and `The Non Verbal Champion’ along with the prestigious `Eleven Plus Mathematics Star’ award. The `Good Citizen Prize’ will be awarded to the family who, in the opinion of the judges, have worked together peacefully and purposefully.

Naturally there are some key rules to bring some order to the proceeding:

County Colours

Children must wear the colours of their county. (Failing that free tops with hand written name tags will be handed out.) Children can be entered through parents or tutors. There is a special entry form for children who want to take part.


Adults are allowed into the assessment area only if accompanied by a named guard. Airport style scanners will be used to screen all children and adults. Anyone wearing the pin of the Secret 11+ Society will be fast tracked through the site.

Types 0

Preparation is simple for the `Country Wide Eleven Plus. The questions are aimed at the top two or three percent in the country. The children will be set tests covering verbal and non verbal reasoning and mathematics.

The children will also be expected to sit a `Good Citizen Eleven Plus Test’. Questions will be based around their own counties. The children could face questions on:

Good citizenship within the family. Not allowing hysteria to encompass all the family.
Background knowledge of the county.
Rights of children in relation to the amount of work needed before an examination.
Where children can find information about the tests and the examinations.
The changing role of people.

As the children finish their work will be scanned The work will be marked and graded within minutes Children from the top two counties will need to prepare for an eleven plus duel to see which county can be named the ” Eleven Plus County Champion”.
Parents and children can prepare for the test by downloading the study guide from the website: “” website.

You should attend if your answer is yes to any of the following?

Do you want to improve your performance and concentration?
Do you want to increase the level of your correct answers?
Do you want to have more understanding of examination technique?
Do you want to enter the examination feeling calm and confident?
Do you want to understand questions better?

Bookings and early payments can be made on the popular website:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Counting Blessings

Way back in Ancient Egypt a father would often provide the formal education of his son though verse. Naturally, I presume, some dads were better at verse than other. So some of the dads had to turn to verses written by others. The verses were recorded on papyrus.

Now we have to remember that that this all took place many years ago before the advent of downloadable Eleven Plus papers. In those days a father would have had to have gone to a friend or a teacher or a librarian to collect the fresh verses of the day. Today we simply log on, call up a favourite site, and download some more work.

Think of some of the problems that would happen if our eleven plus children had to learn parts of the eleven plus in verse.

`You will go to a school where the education is better,
If you remember which words need a capital letter.’

You will consigned to a life of dreaming of fairies,
If you forget how to do lots of numbers in series.

When you move one letter to make two new words,
You must keep more focused and not think about birds.

To complete an analogy you need a matching pair,
But the odd mistake in neither here or there.

Sometimes some sentences just won’t make much sense,
Be brave my son, you are really not that dense.

When you see my feeble efforts above you will realise just how advanced those Ancient Egyptians had to be to be able to cope, in verse, with topics covering respect for others, bravery, trust and religion.

So we can count our blessings today:

Mothers can be just as much involved in the education of their children as fathers. Fathers too are allowed to contribute to the education of their daughters.

When a child is preparing for an examination we have access to books (not papyrus), teachers, tutors, the internet, telephone, texting and emails. In today’s consumer society if your child does like one particular set of Eleven Plus books then you simply go out and buy another. (This would have been a bit more difficult with papyrus.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Solving Verbal Reasoning Problems.

There are a number of computer programs available that can play chess. Many of us who play chess will remember the battle between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov back in 1966. The organizers of the project then upgraded Deep Blue by throwing more computers at the problem and Deep Blue went on beat the reigning world champion.

Deep Blue could work out around two hundred million positions per second.

Now scientists have developed a system to play draughts against humans. The program can beat or draw with any human. It took, we understand, the equivalent of 50 computers nearly 20 years to look through five hundred billion possible draughts positions.

We have heard an unconfirmed rumour, from our sources, that a new computer, the size of a child’s watch, is being developed that will be able to find any answer to any verbal reasoning question quicker any very bright mother or father!

The watch is being developed in Switzerland – but the soft ware come from England! What clever people we are!

There is a character recognition device that is able to read questions on examination and test papers. The answer is flashed onto the screen.

Parents will be able to trial the watch and software on all known eleven plus sources over the next few weeks. The first VR Watches (Mark 3) will come on sale in Britain in mid October – just before any eleven plus examinations are held.

So in years to come eleven plus invigilators will need to watch out for strange hand movements and the subsequent flashing screen.

In the event that all the children in the room have access to the £249.00 then the speed of working through the paper will be taken into account.

The first one hundred customers to email me will be given an eleven plus VR Watch subscription for life. The problem is the Mark 3 solution is still being trialed and may never come out.

So the quickest way of solving a really difficult eleven plus questions is still to use the time honoured system of child plus mum and dad as well as older brother or sister sitting together to try to solve the problem. Looking at the answers is naturally banned until all other possible solutions have been investigated.

If the family do solve the problem quickly there will be time for a quick games of chess or draughts – against the computer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mothers and the Eleven Plus

When I was studying to be a teacher, many years ago, we were naturally encouraged to read as widely as possible. All second year students were given the `Child Care and the Growth of Love’ by Bowlby. Our lecturer was a Miss Northcroft. She was an extraordinary woman who influenced generations of teachers. Many of us found some of her observations rather hard to understand – but her name lives on when her past students happen to meet up.

Bowlby’s thesis was that there is a very special relationship between a mother and her child. Bowlby felt that a mother had to be very careful in the early years to have a close relationship with her child – otherwise her child would suffer emotional deprivation. The argument went that if a mother did not devote herself to her child then her child would emerge with personality problems.

I thought back to her lectures when I was listening to a mother agonizing about the amount of time she had to spend with her son doing the occasional full Eleven Plus reasoning papers. The most loved one wanted mum to sit beside him while he was doing the papers. This therefore pinned mum to his side for the entire duration of the paper and into the marking and the follow up.

I think that most mums must have better things to do that watch their child work through a paper. (Now Miss Northcroft, God rest her soul, would burn me for that statement.)

A mother has only so much time in the day to be able to devote to the trials and tribulations of the Eleven Plus. The examination can not take over family life – there must be a question of balance. The children have to demonstrate some considerable maturity and responsibility. At times a mother’s role must include love, warmth, attention, affection, support and encouragement. At other times she has to be a teacher, a task master and psychologist. She has to be hard and soft as the occasion demands.

But she is allowed to leave her child to work on his or her own at carefully selected times. She can’t always sit there and give the answer as soon as her child is starting to feel stuck. After all she won’t be there while the actual examination taking place.

I wonder what Bowlby and Miss Northcroft would have thought about mothers who enter their children for potentially stressful eleven plus examinations. I like to think that Miss Northcroft would give me a D- for even thinking such thoughts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Prize Day

I have just come from prize day at my Grandson’s school. He is just in the process of completing his nursery year.

I am very proud grandfather as he received the year prize for effort.

Thank you to his teacher and all the fantastic support staff at the school.

Thank you to the Headmistress and her team of senior staff.

Thank you to the Governors of the school for their input.

We are a very happy family.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Changing the Eleven Plus

An advert for the Austin A40 Somerset of over fifty years ago (from 380 Recipes In Aid of Santa) reads as follows:

Come for a ride in the new Austin A40 Somerset. You’ll like the Somerset’s graceful new styling. You’ll like the new refinements . . . the deep curved windscreen and rear window . . . push button door handles with safety locks at rear . . . external side lamps clearly visible to driver.

You’ll like the extra comfort . . . luxurious, foam rubber seating in leather . . . more room all round.

We need to compare this advert with one from Renault in today’s Sunday Times magazine:

The New Espace Team.
Everything you’d expect from an Espace.

ABS, ESP and Brake Assist
Front, Lateral and curtain airbags
Air Conditioning with separate driver and front seat controls
7 individual seats with slide and lock system
ISOFIX child seat mounting points on all rear seats

A different language used in the adverts. Yet they are both vehicles aimed at families.

Surely the world that existed when the eleven plus examinations were being trialled across England was very different from today. Yet we still use similar verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises.

If the same time and effort that went into the development of the Espace was put into the thinking about new forms of the Eleven Plus we would have a very different examination. Granted they are both cars to carry families – safety locks versus ISOFIX seat mounting points – but most of us would prefer the ABS, ESP and Brake Assist to the brakes used fifty years ago.

Education is changing. Children have changed. Surely the Eleven Plus should change too?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Luck and the Eleven PLus

I remember reading many years ago the myth of Coyote and the Giant. Coyote was a popular figure among the Native American Navajo tribe.

The story goes that many years ago the earth was ruled by giants. The giants loved eating and killing little children. Coyote was crossing a river one day when he saw a giant. Coyote decided to teach the giant a lesson.

He said that he would perform a miracle. He would break his leg and then mend it. The giant was astounded. They waited until night fell. Coyote picked up a rock and hit the leg of an unskinned deer. The leg broke with a crack. Coyote then asked the giant to feel his leg. The giant was astounded to feel Coyote’s leg whole again.

Coyote offered to repeat the miracle on the giant’s leg. The giant agreed and Coyote hit the giant’s leg again and again with a rock. The giant screamed with agony. Coyote kept on hitting the leg until it broke. Coyote slipped away in the night leaving the giant in agony.

Now there is a point behind this story. We all know that it is considered to bring bad luck to an actor or actress if you wish them good luck before they go out onto to stage. You never say the words: “Good luck.” What you do say is `break a leg’.

So when your child is about to write his or her eleven plus examination please do not wish them good luck. It would be much safer to suggest that they `break a leg’. In the world of the theatre the words `good luck’ can cause a thespian to forget their lines.

You certainly don’t want to wish your child any bad luck before an examination.

However, and there is always a `however’, if someone asks you to break a leg – please be very careful that you are not asking to have great pain inflicted on you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An Eleven Plus Surprise

I listened to two boys walking down the stairs after their lesson yesterday. One was rolling his bag down the stairs and the other was trying to hit the bag with his bag. Naturally there was noise and laughter. They glanced up at me at one stage but continued with their game.

One of the mothers was standing at the bottom of the stairs and asked: “What did you think of your lesson today?” Now 99% of mothers will ask a one or more of the following statements:

“Are you all right?
Did you work hard?
Did you learn anything?”

So hear a child being asked for an analysis of the lesson was a surprise.

We sometimes remind some of the children attending our lessons to thank their parents for sending them to tuition. A lesson is so easily taken for granted. So it was a real pleasure to hear a mother ask her child what he had thought about what he had learned.

So if you were the head teacher of a prestigious grammar school would you rather have a child that reached 130 on test or a child from a stimulating home who is expected to reflect feeling and ideas?

Perhaps we need to set up yet another think tank to research how to help children to respond innocent questions about feelings on education, teachers and parents. We associate the term `think tank’ with broad areas like `war’, `politics’, `economic depression’ and `poor housing’. So to develop a think tank involved in `feelings’, `adjusting’, `empathy’ and `conciliation’ seems to be a waste of the term. The thinking side of `think tank’ is easy to reconcile. It is the `tank’ part that we need to be wary of.

It is difficult to envisage a group of academics debating in their swimming costumes in a large water tank. It is must easier to visualise them draped over a large war machine deciding war policy.

So do we need to teach children to listen to what their parents are saying? If a child is asked about what he thinks about a lesson and has to be taught the answer then perhaps we need to try to build better communication skills between parents and children. If a child can answer honestly and is able to offer a considered reponse then we can be sure that there are a number of children who have been exposed to good parenting skills.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Games and the Eleven Plus

Wanted Games Player.

Our company is rather in a hurry. In order to satisfy the demands of our customers we need a games programmer.

We hope that over the years you have become used to playing games on your computer. You will therefore be aware of the need for games to be played over the internet, mobile phones, in arcades as well as on PCs and lap tops. With your background in playing games you will be able to satisfy the present insatiable demand for new and innovative products.

We hope that while you were working for your degree in computing, preferably a BSc., you will have been able to make time to keep up to date current changes in the industry. You must also be able to work as a team. Our young and exciting company is backed by the major players in the market.

It would also help if you had some working knowledge of games playing on the Mac – but more important will be some knowledge of the Mac’s operating system and memory requirements.

We will need to know something of your back ground too. It would be particularly interesting to us if you were involved in music. Our computer department has a need for a strong base player. A lead guitarist would also be a useful addition. You could bring your guitar to your interview.

Please tell us too about the breadth and depth of the activities you were able participate in while you were doing your Eleven Plus, the school examinations and then your degree course.

If you are ready for a unique challenge in a fast-paced environment you can find out more at

We are an equal opportunities and equal pay employer, EC nationals, and other nationals with eligibility to work in the UK, are welcome to apply.

P.S. In the interview you will be asked which games you played while you were doing your eleven plus examinations. Please have your answers ready.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Road to Eleven Plus

I had a sudden thought today. Trying to help your child achieve good eleven plus results can be as stressful as working your way through the procedure to develop a new trunk road.

Let’s look at this proposition step by step:

Step 1 – The Proposed Program.

DfT: Includes a proposed new road into the National Road Program.

Parents: Start thinking that they would like a child. (A new one, another one etc.)

Step 2 – Proposed Routes

DfT: Engineers look at possible routes

Parents: Start thinking about possible schools.

Step 3 – Public Participation

DfT: Publishes alternative routes and invites public’s comments

Parents: Discuss with family, friends and school.

Step 4 – Preferred Route

DfT: Announces preferred route

Parents: Announce preferred schools.

Step 5 – Objections

DfT: All affected by the road can write in and ask that their views are taken into account.

Parents: School say border line, relations ask you why you want to push your child.

Step 6 – Public Inquiry

DfT: Independent inspector hears both sides and sends a report to the Secretary of State

Parents: Listen to and seek advice, find eleven plus books and papers.

Step 7 – The Decision

DfT: Secretary of State makes the decision about roads, objections etc. The program begins.

Parents: Make final decisions about timetable, lessons, rest of family, school, tutors etc. The program begins.

So you can see that making the decision to start a child on an eleven plus course is not an easy and quick task. There should be much discussion, talking and actual listening to the opinion of other people. You decision to commit yourself, your family and your child will have far reaching effects. Things d become easier once the decision is made.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Doing our best!

I have not been to all that many grand public homes – and those that I have visited have been as a paying guest.

The one element that all the grand houses seem to have is a pleasant view. It does not matter how many chimneys there are or even the size of the ball room. What does seem to matter is that you look out over a pleasant view.

Today we went to Farming world. The sun was shining and there was no rain. There were lots of animals and a number of groups of climbing frames. When we went on the tractor ride we could look back and see the grand house. We counted at least forty chimneys. We passed near the foot of the house and the view across the valley was spectacular.

Our group was made up of about twenty four year olds on their end of year outing. The noise on the coach travelling down at 9.30 in the morning was deafening. The trip back was much quieter. Some children – and even some adults – dropped off.

There were two other coach loads of pre-school children – plus a sprinkling of mothers and fathers with their children.

As I watched these three to four years I wondered how many of them would be writing the eleven plus.

The children all seemed to be of similar height. It is only later on that some of the ten to eleven year olds seem to grow and grow.

Looking at those four year olds you could not tell who would pass the eleven plus by their bright smiling faces. Neither could you tell by their beautifully regular and white teeth. Some of the little four year old girls, however, were coming out with rather complex statements.

So you would not get a straight reply from the teacher of a four year old if you asked the question: “Will he or she pass the eleven plus? What will help to determine that answer? Naturally input from the parents.

A determination on the part of the child will help too. To pass an eleven plus examination the child will need to display fortitude and desire to do well academically.

And then the child will need access to the right facilities. The best possible eleven plus papers along with steady guidance must help to prepare the child.

So if you want your child to live one day in a big house with many chimneys then all you can do is your best. You can’t force drive, determination and strength of will. All too soon the four year old will be writing eleven plus examinations. As parents and teachers we can only do our best as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Peace of Mind

When pupils and students enter examinations today the routine question asked of every candidate is: “Are you carrying you mobile phone?” This is usually shortened to: “Mobile phone?”

The reply is occasionally given in the form of shortened grunt.

The next must have accessory for candidates for the eleven plus examination is going to be the money belt. We carry all sorts of things in our money belts – money, passports, documents and other valuables. To stop the notes getting mixed up with other paper work many money bags also contain a money clip.

Money clips are sometimes made out of a metal like silver and gold – or even titanium. It is possible to be the proud possessor of a set of matching money clips – one for notes and the other for credit cards.

The whole point of a money belt and a money clip is safety of mind. As you slip your belt on you attain a wonderful state of consciousness. You know your money and your valuables are going to be safe. You feel good.

So to help your child feel powerful and strong when they enter the eleven examination make sure they too are wearing a money belt and that they are carrying a money clip. You never know. This could make all the difference in the examination.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Speed and the Eleven Plus

We went to watch drag racing today at the North Weald Aerodrome. Signing on to race looked relaxed and informal. Men and women parked their cars and then went to the signing on area to pay a small fee and register their names.

Each car was then driven or pushed to the scruitineers for a basic safety check. Cars were given a race number. The drivers then drove their cars into the race queue.

There was an extraordinary range of cars. Some were very obviously prepared for the race with huge fast engines. There were a number of women in family saloons – and one or two in really hot cars. I am not sure how many cars were actually involved in the drag racing – but certainly around one hundred and fifty.

The cars were not allocated any particular competitors to race against. This format allowed a Porsche to be up against a souped up VW or a family saloon against a sports car. The drag racing takes place over a quarter of a mile. There is a set of lights, when the green shows the competitors simply accelerate as fast a possible.

Some vehicles reached around 65 miles per hour in the quarter mile – while one or two sped up to over 120 miles per hour.

Two cars raced each other. The cars then went to the back of the queue. The drivers paired up with a different competitor and some twenty minutes later the drivers raced again.

There was certainly no opportunity for ten year old to be sitting quietly and be working through eleven plus papers. But what the eleven plus candidate may have learnt is that even ordinary people can strive for excellence.

The eleven plus child may have learnt that to do well in drag racing did not really mean beating your opponent – because some of the competitors were clearly mismatched.

What drag racing did bring out is the knowledge that you were racing against yourself. As a driver you were trying to better your previous time. If your drove your car over the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds, the next time you would try to beat 15.5 seconds. The driver would sit quietly in their cars at the start of the next attempt. They would work out when to change gear and how to get away as fast as possible – without making a mistake.

So if you do get the chance take your ten or eleven year old to watch at least an hour of drag racing. They will see men and women approaching a race against the clock. They will smell the sweet scent of tyres burning up the concrete. They hear the roar of engines. They will be able to share the laughter of the crowd.

What you must really hope, however, is that your child is stimulated and wants more. Mr Louis Hamilton, of F1 fame, has demonstrated to all of us what can be achieved by a single minded approach.

So when your child walks into the eleven plus room to start the battery of eleven plus tests, all you can do is hope that your child will accelerate away against any competition.

By the way if you wonder why some cars were pushed to the start then I hope it was to pay homage to global warming. It must be a bit hard to pat tribute to green when you are driving as fast as possible in a super charged car!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Eleven Plus Epiphany

When Archimedes realised that he knew how to estimate the volume of a given mass by sitting in his bath, he shouted, "Eureka!" or "I have found it!” The story goes that he ran without waiting for any clothes.

This moment of realisation is called an epiphany. It is that sweet moment when you realise that you have solved a problem.

We can think of children working through eleven plus papers today. As each major problem is solved the children have thrown their hands in the air. The words `I have found it’ will have rung throughout the land.

The word `epiphany’ will be forced from the mouths of anxious parents. Their hopes for the future will hang in the balance. And as the parents wend their ways to bed, slightly relaxed after a good red wine, they will whisper to each other: “That was a good epiphany today.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Strikes and the Eleven Plus

If we were to interview a sample of all the eleven plus children working towards the examination this year, I wonder how many of the children would be happy with the position they are in.

Some children will be happy because of blissful ignorance. They don’t know any better. They expect that the amount and range of work that is demanded of them as the norm. They believe what they are told by their parents and teachers. In other words they are perfectly normal, happy ten year olds.

There must be some, however, who are unhappy with their lot. There must be a wide range of reasons for an eleven plus child felling unhappy covering the family, the school, the syllabus and life in general.

“You never made Yvonne do all this work. She was allowed to do eleven plus papers when she felt like it. You just want to make me feel miserable and make me work when you want me to work, not when I want to work.”

“My teacher at school says that I am border line for the examination. Why do I have to do this extra work? You know I am on the top table for maths at school. I can do most of the verbal and non verbal reasoning questions. Any way you said that if I did some work every week you would let me go to the cinema – and you never have.”

“I can do all the exercises in that book (pointing to the table) but I hate that book. You always make me do the work I hate. I would really rather not do any extra work because I don’t think that I am going to pass and I want to go to the same school as my friends. None of my friends are trying for grammar school – and I want to be with them.”

“You never went to grammar school. You and Dad got degrees. Dad did not go to grammar either. I would much rather try to build robots. The mathematics we do is boring. We just do the same thing over and over. Paper after paper. You know I can do papers. Why do I have to do more and more?”

We know that children rely on their parents’ support while they are doing eleven plus examinations. We once had a father who was an inter-continental lorry driver. His wife did not drive. Their son was certainly grammar school material. You could not wish for a nicer and uncomplaining boy.

We all know that occasionally there are strikes involved with ferry crossings. This dad was caught on two occasions as he hurried back to take his son to lessons. The dad’s whole working life revolved around loading his lorry on the day after the lesson. He then drove off to Europe, delivered his load and then rushed back in time to pick his son up for his one hour lesson.

On one Thursday morning, during a long strike, he left his lorry in France. He crossed the ferry as a foot passenger, and hitched a lift to just outside Maidstone in Kent. He collected his car, gathered up his son from school, took him to the lesson, waited outside in the car, and they then went home together. The dad then set off on foot, in the darkness, to return to France to bring his lorry back. He would not accept a lift back to the ferry with me.

I was at the centre that day and so was caught up in the excitement and tension of the unfolding events.

So parents are prepared to go to enormous lengths to transport their children to activities. Parents do sometimes have to accept unjustified criticism of their actions. They are sometimes `dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t’. Most parents, very sensibly, simply keep their heads down, listen to their children, and then do what they want to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Practice, Drill and Learn for the Eleven Plus

If you work with your child every evening on eleven plus work, and you child then goes on to pass the eleven plus, is it your child’s eleven plus pass or a combination of your child’s work and yours? We hear of parents who pour every effort into helping their child do as well as possible in the eleven plus. Help, support and encouragement are essential because this is an important moment in their children’s lives.

Somehow, however, you are going to have to let your child know that it is his or her responsibility to do the work. We particularly see this on eleven plus courses where we meet child who have not been tutored by us. Naturally a number of children feel challenged as they struggle to cope with the demands of time and the complexity of some of the exercises. If work on a course is not finished then some of the children take the work home to do with their parents or with their personal tutor.

On the first day of the course the child will have attended an intensive workout lasting four hours. Mother or Father then go over the work and sometimes even complete the work before the next day. We know of one child last year who took her course file home. The mother looked at what had been accomplished. She then telephoned her daughter’s tutor – who then spent two and a half hours going over the contents of the course. By the end of the day the poor girl had had a course, a mother on the war path and an understanding tutor.

On the same course we had a wonder boy. We had never met him before. He arrived unsmiling and did not look around. He simply sat down, opened the file and started work – without any prompting or instruction.

He completed the contents of the three day course on the first day. We then gave him course two on the second morning. He whizzed though that and finished the work with about ten minutes to spare. We then saw his first smile. Day three witnessed him flying through a third course. Course Three is a demanding and intensive exercise – based around definitions and rules. The majority of the children do not mange to complete this exercise in the three days allowed. We tested this bright boy before he went home and he had learnt most of the definitions words for word.

He asked his mother if could please come for another course!

Once the children were in the examination both of children discussed above will have had an equal opportunity of passing. If parents, however, have spent all their time showing children how to do the work, they will have denied their children the opportunity making mistakes and building their own methods of approaching problems.
Three areas where parents really can make a difference are through Practice, drill, retention.

Go over topics to revise and re-explain. (Practice)

Test children on what they have learnt. (Drill)

Help your child to retain and understand key material. (Learn)

So as you work peacefully together towards the eleven plus try to remember that you have time. You do not need to rush everything.

What you can do together is:




Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ready for the Eleven Plus'

A topic that engages the interest of mothers and fathers alike is how to present your child `Ready for the Eleven Plus’.

This is a much more important time for parents than mere GCSE and `A’ Level results – after all with GCSE and `A’ level examinations your child can be given a second chance. If the grade isn’t high enough just help your child to do the examination again.

When a boxer goes into the ring for a title fight you know that the best possible preparation will have offered and accepted. A lot of hard work will have gone in from the trainer and the boxer.

When a child is accepted for a ballet scholarship you know that parents have had to put in many hours of sitting around waiting to pick a sweaty little body.

So many of you will now be deep into your long run up to the examinations. You have had to manage change. You are in a position where you could stand up in front of one hundred parents to give a talk on `How the Eleven Plus has Changed My Life.’

I am sure that the talk would have been so successful that you would be invited back to follow up the talk the flowing week. This topic would be: `How You Develop High Performance’. This would be about how you have had to develop a team of professionals around your child.

Your doctor would be monitoring health and stress levels.

You bank manager would have helped you to sort out how to pay for fees for lessons and courses.

This topic would be of great interest to all parents. The content would cover how you hold your tongue, how you keep calm – and how you make the world think that you are calm and focused.

All parents will need refresher courses on how to manage and resolve conflict. Parents will also need reminding on how to negotiate for success>

This weekend you need to buy a large clock that has the ability to count down.

Set the clock up in a prominent position in the house. Key in the date of the first eleven plus examinations. Set the clock running. This will tell you how many hours there are left before the eleven plus examinations. After all you do really want to be as ready as possible.

The first time your child looks at you in a `funny way’ bring all the techniques of the `Power of Positive Eleven Plus’ thinking to bear. Smile sweetly. Count to ten. Start an eleven plus conversation with the words:

“In my day ……. .”

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Parents and The Eleven Plus

There was another fascinating story into today’s Telegraph by the Education Editor, Liz Lightfoot. She was discussing research by Mr. Gilleard who heads a Graduate Recruitment firm.

The argument goes that some employers use psychometric tests to assess a candidate's ability or personality.

It seems that some companies recruiting graduates are also interested in the elements that make up a current 11+ Selection test – a bit of mathematics as well as verbal and non verbal reasoning.

Results of An Interview for a job as `London Olympics Transport Manager’
Parents of children writing their eleven plus examinations will be able to do extremely well when they try to change jobs because they will have had a wonderful refresher course in the basics of numerical and abstract reasoning – and with some verbal and non verbal work.

“I see from your C.V. that you have worked as a senior engineer on the London Underground. All very interesting. More important you state that you are working with your child on a full blown eleven plus course. Is this true?

Which type of eleven plus questions do you have most difficulty with?

On which questions is your child faster and more accurate?

Do you ever have to ask your spouse for help with any particular types of even plus questions?

What time of day do you and your child sit down to work on eleven plus papers?

Have you ever found that working towards the eleven plus has caused you, or your family, any stress?

Do you feel complacent about your child’s chances of success in the examinations?

By the way, do you know the name of a good tutor?

New courses will spring up all over the country when parents and children can work together. Parents and children will be coached in eleven plus interview type questions.

As you leave for your interview your eleven year old will shout after you:

“Remember to keep calm. When you come to talk about non verbal reasoning don’t forget to tell your interviewer what you are good at. Don’t only mention that you can not do `series'. Good luck. Do your best. That is all we can ask for as a family. Just do your best – we will love you if you get the job and will love you if you are rejected for the Olympics job."

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Face of the Eleven PLus

Many years ago, as a young schoolmaster, I went on a MCC cricket coaching course. We were taught that the bat had to be as near to the pads as possible. It was to try to make sure that it was difficult as possible to present a catch to the slips.

Generations of schoolchildren all over the world must have been given the same advice from well meaning coaches.

“Adopt a careful back lift to your bat.

Reach your foot out to where you think the ball will bounce.

Play the ball with a straight face.”

The idea was that in a test match at Lords against the Australians, with a fast bowler hurtling down towards you, you would be able to avoid a ball arching towards the slips.

I am sure the MCC course did all of us young teachers lots of good. I am not so sure now of the effect of this coaching on the poor school boys I went on to coach.

Cricket has moved on. Today the West Indian batsmen seem to try to hit every ball that is moving. The West Indians do not try to grind the opposition down – they simply want to annihilate every single ball. The hot blood of the islands pulses through their cricket.

With the introduction of different forms cricket (20/20 Cricket) we do see English batsmen trying an extraordinary wide range of strokes. This has brought big crowds and vibrancy to the game. A target of one hundred runs off fifty balls is achieved in some forms of cricket. No one will score one hundred runs if the face of the bat has to stay beside the pad for all the strokes.

Some of the content of our eleven plus examinations is based to a large degree on what was judged to be suitable many years ago. A few of the type of questions set in those early eleven plus papers are still used today. (Apple is to orchard as horse is ……… .)

Time has, however, moved on. Surely we need new and exciting selection material. The ability to `upload’ a file to You Tube may be a far more relevant tool. The ability to use the advanced search facilities on Google may demonstrate ability and language development in a more relevant manner. These tools were not available to the early constructors of test materials – but they are there today.

Children in today’s school are taught to embrace technology – and change. A far reaching eleven plus test could incorporate elements of the breathtaking rush we are all experiencing as technology moves remorselessly on.

I will see around six hundred eleven plus children this year in our different centres on lessons and courses.

I am very aware that we need to challenge the bright children. We need to stretch their imaginations and encourage them to think. Surely we need thinkers and achievers in our Grammar School. I do realise that the ability to find 10% of a number is as relevant as it was fifty years ago. But at times I would prefer innovative and stimulating questions. (And innovative and stimulating cricket!)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Eleven Plus Tour

We went to watch the Tour de France today.

We took our flagpole and flags with us.

We set up in a village called Wateringbury. This is a village on the A26 between Maidstone and Tonbridge. To reach the village we walked down a little lane past Broomsdown – the family home of the Fremlins – the brewers.

The flag pole took a few minutes to set up – and the flags waved bravely in the slight breeze.

The noise and the tension built up over the morning. The cavalcade of cars carrying spare bicycles and floats depicting animals – amid sheer advertising – was noisy and entertaining.

The five cyclists in the breakaway group were about five minutes ahead of the pack. It seemed forever before the flood of cyclists burst past us. A kaleidoscope of movement. Breathtaking – well worth the wait.

If your child had passed the eleven plus what part would he or she have played in the Tour de France?

Would he or she have raised the money for the event?

The multilingual marketing manager of one of the teams?

Driven a float?

One of the thousands of policemen?

A doctor riding in a special `Doctor’ car?

A famous brewer – having developed a new beer?

A cyclist?

It very hard to say isn’t it? All that you can really hope for is that your child is happy and contented.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Parents and the 11+.

I have just read Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph writing in his column `On Saturday’. He came up with the remarkable statistic that seven of the new cabinet have degrees in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford.

This has immense ramifications for us in the eleven plus world. Parents will need to enrol in one or more of the newly formed eleven plus courses:

Politics and the Eleven Plus
Philosophy and the Eleven Plus
Economics and the Eleven Plus.

The politics course would need to include a wide variety of important topics like American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Politics and Political Theory. We need to put American Politics first as this is the usual prize offered by parents to their children for passing the Eleven Plus. (A week in Disney World.). We all know that political theory covers topics like liberty (How late can I stay up?), freedom and rights (“You said I could.”)

The philosophic side will be a cinch for most parents. As you know a philosophic theory is governed by a system of beliefs. “I believe you can do it” is not much use if the child has difficulty reading the question. “We all believe in you” is also a pointless statement if your child has never been helped through questions on Direct Proportion.

The Economics and the Eleven Plus course will also be an easy option for most parents. “If you complete this paper by 17.55 today I will give you £2.50. If you score over 87% I will add an extra £4.50.” For some children this economic inducement would be very attractive.

Parents would naturally need to sit examinations. The questions would be drawn from a bank. Here are two examples:

“With reference to the political situation in England today, discusses the future evolution of the Grammar School.

“Should parents be banned from bribing children for passing examinations? Discuss..

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why we may need new Eleven Plus regulations.

I have a copy of the `Laws of Cricket 1788’. The Laws cover the basics, as we know, of cricket.


Are the sole judges of fair and unfair play, and all disputes shall be determined by them; each at his own wicket.

They are not to order a player out unless appealed to by the adversaries.

If the strikers run a short notch the umpire must call NO NOTCH.


If the notches of one player are laid against another, the bets depend on the first innings, unless otherwise specified.

Sorting out gambling was a priority in those days. Players were especially open to bribery when there was big money riding on the result.

There were bets on individual innings – even on one stroke.

Suppose parents start betting on scores their children will achieve in the eleven plus examinations.

Parents would rush into bookmakers and place bets. Play ground conversations will change.

“We took odds of 5:1 that our daughter would achieve over 120 in her Verbal Reasoning tests.”

“What was your stake?”

“Well we put £1000.00 down on the Verbal Reasoning, but only £50.00 down on Non Verbal Reasoning as the bookmakers would only offer 5:4 on scores over 120. The bookies had heard a rumour that the non verbal reasoning paper was going to be easy.”

“That is interesting. I wonder what odds they are giving for mathematics. As you know my son is very good at maths – he loves the subject. If they are giving good odds I could always borrow from my sister. I know she has some money to spare.”

So here we are in 2007. Bets on performance could be coming back. In 1788 the laws were established to even out disputes between players and spectators. I wonder what form new laws would be needed to cover the eleven plus? We would need regulation to cover a spread bet that mathematics would be below 115 but above 105, verbal reasoning over 112, and non verbal reasoning under 125.

Think of the pressure that you would put on your child if you had 500:1 on a mathematics score over 115. If you had £300.00 with a bookmaker at those odds I think the intensity of your discussion with your child would rise.

If anyone is interested please contact me and I will approach the Office of Fair Trading to develop the first `Eleven Plus Book Making Outfit”. We could place all the bets over the internet. All transactions would be through Pay Pal. EBay auctions would also be allowed. Books on Eleven Plus Betting would appear on Amazon.

By the way: A notch is a run. Ask your child why a run was called a notch.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


If you would like you child to become a florist you would naturally expose your child to an environment of flowers, gardens, growing, premises, business plans, marketing plans and general finance.

If you wanted you child to be a farmer then it would help if you owned a farm or had the money to buy a farm. It would also help if you took your child on farming holidays – to see a wide range of farming activities. Your child would also need to learn about European Community grants as well as loans from agricultural banks.

If you want you child to be able to look after money then it could be an idea to introduce the idea of saving. In the beginning there is money in the piggy bank and money taken out. These calculations sort out addition and subtraction.

Later on concepts of percentages and more complex mathematics problems can be introduced.

If you need to be able to teach your child about motivation then having to save for a period of time can be a great motivator. Saving for a bicycle or new clothes can provide a great incentive. After all working out how long it will take to save for a desired item could involve multiplication and division.

Every now and then you may feel you have to loosen the reins and encourage your child have a splurge. After all this is what you hope you can do every now and then.

To encourage saving you may consider matching your child’s saving. You could match pound for pound or even match a percentage. For every pound your child saves you add 50%. You could even add 150% for special items and circumstances.

And then you can to the part that every parent really enjoys – because of the power it gives you. You act as the banker. You can advance money for good propositions. You can reject what ever you like – you have the purse strings. You can set an interest rate or even offer a loan interest free. You can offer payment windows – or even interest relief. To some parents these negotiations must be better than monopoly because the effects of the negotiations last much longer.

One thing you are going to have to do is to keep records. Tie it all down in writing – especially if one sibling is borrowing from another. Maintaining written documents or even spreadsheets will help your child’s preparation for life.

Suppose an eleven plus question came up:

William borrowed £10.00 from his sister. He had to pay 10% interest if the loan was not paid in time. How much did he have to pay his sister if he made an initial late payment?

Being able to answer this question correctly could avert a family fight and could also give an answer a question on an eleven plus paper.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Letting Parents off the Hook.

We have a large computer system. We wrote the software to run our tuition centres over a period of years. The software is continually being brought up to date by Brian and Sally. We are grateful to them. etcACTION takes results from tests and converts the results into lesson plans. etcACTION is a perfectly logical tool for a teacher to use.

In the learning environment of an Extra Tuition Centre we naturally hope that one child is as equal as another. So why is it that one child develops so much faster than another? The children will all have supportive parents; they have the same teacher and the same assistants. The lessons are developed by computer – but administered and interpreted by the teaching staff.

So what is it that creates a high level of personal satisfaction in one child – and less in another? Some children grow up with a very positive idea about his or her ability. Other children seem to need a lot more of stimulation and praise.

Why would one child develop quicker than another? Some parents would be more inclined to praise their children than others. A mother and a father will naturally look at their child differently. One or the other may be far more ambitious for their child – and have larger dreams. So the attitude of the parents must help some children develop faster than others. However:

Parents can only do the best they can.

Parents can not write the examination for their children.

If a child does not pass the eleven plus it is not necessarily the fault of the parents.

Parents may not have made the wrong choice of a school.

Parents may not have chosen the wrong tutor.

Parents may not have chosen the wrong papers.

All parents can be is as supportive and realistic as possible.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

`Scratch' will help your bright children.

We have included information about `Scratch’. A link to the site is included in our new `Parents’ section on our web site.

Scratch is a new programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.
Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. There are learning cards and tutorials to help your child get started.

The site is a fascinating look into minds of children in this age group and the language they use.

Many years ago the flower people thought they were `radical’ because they used words like `Hip’ and `Groovy’. The words used in the forum are fascinating. The spelling is also extraordinary.

Users of Scratch have several pages of commands that they can call on to manipulate objects and create a wide variety of games.

The site is well documented with a variety of fascinating research papers that parents will enjoy reading.

If anyone does create a project please let us know.

As an organisation many years ago we used to teach programming. In fact a father told me a few weeks ago that he had computer lessons from us as a ten year old. He had been given a course of lessons for Christmas. He heads a computer agency today!

We hope you enjoy the `Scratch’ ride.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Super Eleven Plus (For the very bright.)

We listened to a father over the weekend. He told us how his little daughter had read before school and loved doing simple sums. She was able to write her name and could even construct simple sentences.

He was concerned because the school year was coming to an end and his daughter could not read any more and had forgotten how to do simple sums. She could now only write her name if she had it written out before her. Her father pointed out that she was popular with her friends at school and that her teacher liked her very much.

He made the point that he thought that his daughter now felt that it was more important to be quiet and conventional rather than demonstrate originality and creativity.

We have much the same problem with our bright children when they are working towards the eleven plus. We try to encourage lessons that allow a child to work quickly and complete tasks before moving on. With our able children we try to do at lest five different activities in the hour. This allows only about twelve minutes per subject or topic. Even so the content of the eleven plus syllabus is remarkably confining to some able children.

When bright children, who are engaged in preparing for the eleven plus, underachieve it is far too easy to blame the child. Perhaps it is a problem with the actual eleven plus examination.

We have children coming to us for lessons who are going to pass the eleven plus with full marks. These are exceptionally bright and able children. We have tested the children and they have achieved extraordinary scores. They do not need to have lessons. Some children then attend lessons for various reasons. Some parents want their children to attend for a wide range of reasons. We have the responsibility of keeping this bright and able children involved.

As teachers we demand and expect neat and tidy work. After all if a child can finish the work well ahead of time then there must be time for neat writing and careful drawings. So if a child draws fantasy pictures in the margins and creates a world far from the classroom we may feel we have to re-channel his or her energy.

The eleven plus examinations look to the acquisition of facts. The examination does not, however, try to encourage children and teachers to develop the ability to manipulate the facts in original and insightful ways.

So now we need a super 11+ examination. Your child can only enter this examination if he or she has passed the traditional eleven plus examination. (Poor children!)

The new eleven plus examination will need to encourage children to study independently. The children must be exposed to various workplaces so that they can see scientists and geologists at work. They must be given the opportunity to spend time in a factory seeing how goods are produced and cars are made. The children should be able to spend time with creative architects and authors – so that they can see how gifted adults spend their daily lives.

The new eleven plus examination will need to set questions where the ability to think and create is examined. This might save some of our brightest feeling bored and unfulfilled.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Happy Eleven Plus Story

Mrs. J. walked up to the stand we were running at the Danson Show in Bexleyheath.

Her son did some eleven plus work with us some years ago.

Mrs. J. thanked us for the work we did with him. He is the final year of his studies and so is very nearly qualified as a Doctor.

We hope he goes on to have a happy and successful career as a Doctor.

Dr. J. must have demonstrated great drive and dedication to reach this point. His ability too must have paid a very big part in the long journey.

His parents too will have offered him so many opportunities. This would include far more than the lessons but also unconditional help and support over the years.

His grandparents may also have been given the chance to make a massive contribution to his education and well being. Their pride and joy will have eased his path on many occasions.

We must look too other relatives. The values of the family will have helped to condition and train him – and help him to understand the importance of a good education.

We know too that on his journey through school he will have met gifted and involved teachers and head teachers.

When he finally arrived at university and started his medical studies his lecturers and medical school must have given him support and encouragement.

The eleven plus just marks a starting point for rest of his education.