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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just a thought. Perhaps even a `pre Eleven Plus’ thought. Sir Cyril Burt, some time ago, had a number of thoughts about parents and children. He tested the intelligence of parents and children – and tried to organise his results.

Professional Group IQ Parents IQ Children

1. Higher professional and administrative 153 120
2. Lower professional, technical and executive 132 115
3. Highly skilled, clerical 117 110
4. Skilled 109 105
5. Semi skilled 98 97
6. Unskilled 87 92
7. Casual 82 89

This table excited lots of different comments. The main one was that because they were average figures for all the groups, there must be considerable overlap between the members of one group and another. Eysenck, back in 1960, said: `The brightest dustman would undoubtedly score much higher than the dullest lawyer, brightest tramp higher than the dullest physician’. He went on to say `if you try to predict a person’s intelligence from knowing his job you would be right more frequently if you were guessing by chance’.

The relevance for the eleven plus is that there was a feeling back in the early 1960s that if you gave a grammar school education to one child, it assumes he or she will remain brighter for the rest of his or her life.

“If we make this assumption, which is clearly implied in such procedures as the 11+ examination, we must be able to show that the I.Q. remains relatively constant from year to year. We hope that the child who has an I.Q. of 120 when he or she goes for the 11+ does not turn out to have one of 80 when he or she leaves grammar school.”

Eysenck went on to say that those who condemn the 11+ on the grounds that a child’s education is not sufficiently settled down by the age of eleven are wrong because prediction does work. He asked for better tests to be evolved that would give better predictive accuracy than the present ones.

Today – nearly fifty years on from Eysenck’s plea for better tests - we find ourselves still involved in preparing children for tests that will contain very similar questions to those in use fifty years ago.

Here is a question from 50 years ago:

S + (piece of furniture) = (building)
S + Table = stable.

We all know of the old idiom `closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’. How many really bright children has the Eleven Plus failed? What has happened to the really bright children in the counties where there is no eleven plus?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eleven Plus Non Verbal Aids

At last some relief for parents and children engaged in struggling with certain types of non verbal reasoning questions.

We need to go back to Leonardo Da Vinci who listed the devices known to painters to show how far away objects are – called depth or distance. He commented on `Linear Perspective’ – where lines converge in the distance. He also talked about `Ariel Perspective’ where distant objects appear to be more hazy and blurred than near ones.

He noted that our two eye vision enables us to see behind a certain object – but did not understand that each eye receives a different image. (This is the reason why you will sometimes see one of the members of the family closing an eye when looking at an image.)

Back in 1838 a British physicist called Charles Whetstone invented an apparatus that he called a `stereoscope’. He used mirrors to present slightly different pictures to the right and the left eye. The pictures could be adjusted to give an impression of depth. (This is a bit like grand dad putting his glasses on when he is involved in helping to solve eleven plus problems.)

Buoyed by this information, the vast army of `Eleven Plus’ experts will soon be delivering their new non verbal reasoning books – along with custom made stereoscopes. We can see the emergence of new advertisements:

“The New Non Verbal Reasoning Book.

All new visual questions.

Your very own stereoscope.

Eye patches supplied as optional extras.

The Must Have Non Verbal Tool of 2009.

Remember you read it here first!"

By the way you can make your own home made stereoscope by using the time honoured Blue Peter props – two empty toilet rolls taped together. More affluent parents may prefer to use their opera glasses.

We can just see children walking into their lessons in the New Year. The tools of their trade will be attached to their heads. Some will be wearing diamond encrusted opera glasses while others eye patches made from the softest man made material. The more intelligent parents will simply have supplied a pair of grand father’s glasses. If your eleven plus child wears these glasses – any non verbal reasoning question would look a little hazy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Eleven Plus and the Colour Green

Very few of today’s Eleven Plus children will be able to go on to accomplish everything that Davy Crockett managed to get through in his life.

Verse one of `The Ballard of Davy Crockett’ presents us with a picture of a child who grew to become a king of all he surveyed.

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!

The great majority of our Eleven Plus children will grow up in good homes with loving and concerned parents. Our children will be offered every opportunity to do well academically at school and at home. (Davy ran away from school – and only returned home some years later when he was fifteen.)

Parents have the ability to learn about the eleven plus examination. They can then go out to the shops and buy books and teaching materials to help their children to prepare. The internet offers the ability to communicate with other parents in locations well outside of the school gate. Children and adults can download free papers with the minimum of fuss.

The Eleven Plus has become a growth industry – but may never grow to the extent that interest in Davy Crockett developed back in 1955. The Davy Crockett fad of 1955 grew to 300 products – and $300 000 000. In today’s terms three hundred million dollars would be worth a lot more! The craze suddenly died away and businessmen were left with warehouses full of raccoon tails and buckskin fringes.

Children `needed’ to have the Davy Crockett products. Parents `needed’ to buy everything to do with Davy Crockett.

The challenging task for the future of the eleven plus is to fan the desire of some parents to maintain the ethos of the grammar school. These parents then have the task to try to capture the imagination of the rest of the country.

So if after Christmas you see a new craze hit the playgrounds of England, you will know that a new eleven plus fad has started. Mothers will be wearing silky raccoon tails. Fathers will be swathed in best buckskin fringes. Parents will be carrying little brown parcels under their arms – and will be surreptitiously exchanging the secret offering in the playground. Grandparents will be wearing outer clothes in Tennessee Green – to represent their involvement in the eleven plus movement. Siblings will be smothered in little badges of bears and the number three – to recall the bear that Davy killed when he was only three.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eleven Plus Teachers

The British Medical Journal, back in 1936, reported on an organisation called the `Population Investigation Committee.’ The committee was set up to examine the problem of population and the circumstances that led to it.

A man called Douglas reported on more than five thousand children born during the first week of March 1946. He was concerned with the progress children made until they sat their Eleven Plus examination.

The theory was that admission to grammar school could be helped by the class of the children taking the tests, the geographical area the family lived in and key characteristics of the teachers.

It is difficult to work out how much has changed today. Class and proximity to the grammar school may still affect results. An outstanding Eleven Plus teacher must also make a difference.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eleven Plus Change

There was a Royal Commission on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration back in 1958.

"Medicine would lose immeasurably if the proportion of middle class students in the future were reduced in favour of precocious children who qualify for subsidies from local authorities and the Sate, purely on the basis of examination results."

The Eleven Plus was developed to try make grammar education available to children who needed a chance.

Schools are beginning to change radically.

As learning becomes more individualised and personalised the ethos behind the Eleven Plus examination should also change. There should be far more emphasis on embracing change - and the content of the examination should rely less on declaiming that there is just one way to test Eleven Plus children. A new look examination could take far more into account than a pass or fail score on an eleven plus paper.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eleven Plus in The News

A provocative article on the Eleven Plus engendered considerable debate.

The comments from the public describe the complexity of the subject.

Emotions run high because there are winners and losers.

It looks as if having a tutor helps a number of children

I hope so because we have been tutoring around 600 Eleven Plus children a year for some time!

There was an article about the content of the Eleven Plus a few days ago.

More information can be found here about coaching for the Eleven Plus.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eleven Plus Freedom

When we look at a bright child learning, happy, excited and involved we are often drawn to want to share in the whole experience. New information seems to be assimilated and absorbed – as if by osmosis.

Of course educationalists have a `proper’ term. (Osmosis is for biologists.) `Experiential learning’ was an education buzzword, at one time. In the one sense experiential learning is all about coming to understand and made sense of one’s own experiences. Of course this definition would upset many of our more erudite community; unless it was accompanied by the rider that we use experiential learning to try to develop the whole person. In Eleven Plus terms this means parents and tutors trying hard to provide the necessary emotional support. In other words – setting up a garden of opportunity where the little eleven plus flower will flourish and grow.

Another meaning of experiential learning is concerned with encouraging the child to learn. Here every effort would need to be made to try to motivate the eleven plus child to do well academically.

We are all trying to give the eleven plus child the opportunity to be totally immersed in a powerful experience – and we hope that this, in turn, will helps to activate cognitive understanding.

(The more `cogs’ turning in the Eleven Plus brain – the more likely the child will pass the eleven plus.)

An eleven plus tutor may be under pressure, at times, to deliver a typical form of an eleven plus lesson. This type of lesson would possibly contain strong elements of exposition and interpretation. This must work very well for some types of bright children.

We need, sometimes but not always, the eleven plus tutor to be a person of authority. Some teachers will still, however, try to develop in an eleven plus lesson, a climate where academic knowledge and understanding are of fundamental importance.

(You pay your money or you take your choice.) As a parent you are paying the money so you need to keep seeking for the `right’ kind of tutor. While you may prefer a perfectly eleven plus lesson, your child may enjoy, on some days, a little more freedom of thought and deed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Redemption

What would happen to the world if eleven plus children were allowed to go into `The Den of the Appeal’ to hear their parents talking and listening to the panel?

“Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. X. Hello P. I don’t want you to worry now; you will have your chance to speak a little later on.”

Presumably the child would only be allowed to speak when offered the opportunity.

“Now tell me, P., why did you score too few marks on the verbal reasoning test?” (Straight to the point?)

Meanwhile one of the panel is quietly filing in an observation sheet. There would be nothing new about a sheet like this because in a classroom situation, GCSE children are often assessed for the `Speaking and Listening’ section of GCSE English.

(Mrs. X does tend to repeat herself. She also keeps saying that P. deserves an opportunity to go to grammar.

Mr. X. does not say much. He has looked at all of us but he does not talk. If he is asked a question, Mrs. X usually answers for him.

P. keeps whispering to her mother. I think that she thinks that she is on a talent show. Any way, I think that dusted stocking are a little inappropriate for a grammar school interview.)

All this meticulous attention to detail could be wasted. After all an appeal board is only allowed to deal with marks that translate into pass or fail grades.

By the time that the family leave, the appeal board will have built up a considerable amount of valuable information about the child, the parents, the teachers at the school and the degree of support of the head teacher. (And what happened in the examination.)

It is a real pity that all the expertise of the appeal panel can not then be channelled into a small body of true eleven plus contenders and thus give `the children who have not passed’ a chance of redeeming themselves.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Eleven Plus Pass

The term `I.Q. has probably entered the conversation of a number of eleven plus mothers and fathers over the years. The term is not a new one. The journey to today started with Alfred Binet, a Frenchman, back in 1904 who published the first intelligence test. His work was taken further by Terman, an American, who translated Binet’s work and published The Measurement of Intelligence in 1916. A German, Stern, suggested in 1912 that the Intelligence Quotient could be calculated by dividing the child’s mental age by his chronological age.

Terman adopted the idea and the abbreviation I.Q. was accepted. A mental age of 8 years 3 months and a chronological age of 8 years three months suggested around average ability.

For those of us who left the eleven year old years behind some time ago, one early psychologist found that the greatest difference in mental ability between younger and older persons lies in speed rather than accuracy. “Don’t rush grand dad, he will get there in the end.”

The psychologist of yesteryear also found that children from better homes gained many points. No surprise there!

Today we see intelligence tests quite differently. Yet selection at the Eleven Plus stage is somewhat based on tests devised fifty years ago. A good score on a verbal reasoning test does measure some for of mental alertness. A good score on a verbal reasoning test does not take into account:

Special aptitudes
Social Adjustment

If a child does well on a verbal reasoning test does it mean that he or she will be a better doctor or a surgeon?

What about honesty or persistence?

We know that a good score on a verbal reasoning test is supposed to be able to predict future academic success – otherwise why would the good and learned in the grammar schools rely on verbal reasoning results?

Could we expect bright eleven plus children to?

Show an interest in solving problems
Enjoy lots of mental energy
Demonstrate a mature use of language.

Essentially we would all like our children to be healthy, physically able and socially adjusted.

The must be an argument, somewhere, that a pleasant, hardworking and attractive child, with a verbal reasoning score of 117 should be welcomed by a grammar school over a sulky, rude and bad tempered child with a score of 118?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eleven Plus Change of Rules

Three couples are competing for two places in the final.

A number of couples have been eliminated week by week by a combination of the public vote and the judges.

Earlier on in the series one couple had to drop out because they might have won. It seems that the public liked them very much but the judges thought that the male dancer was not a very good.

Last Saturday night the remaining three couple danced their hearts out. Their bodies twisted and gyrated. There were smiles and set faces. There were the usual hugs and kisses.

Two couples were given equal scores by the judges. One couple was clearly in third place.

The public were then given their chance to vote. The public paid good money to vote for their favourites.

Ten minutes before the end of the program there was a brief announcement. All three couples had passed on the final stage. All votes would be carried over until the next week. Everyone had passed.


It seems that because one couple’s marks were so low, there was no chance of them gaining enough marks to pass. The judges’ marks were:

B + L = 3
L + V = 3
T + C = 1

So even if the public had voted for T + C they still could not have earned enough points to go through to the final.

Just imagine how we would feel if our eleven plus children were subjected to the same rules. Two children pass the eleven plus. There are two places. Some one in authority thinks that it is not fair that the third child can not win a place. The rules are changed. All three children have to take the examination again. The appeal board sits to hear the cases.

The children do their best yet again. This time there could be a different outcome to the eleven plus results because the content of the examination could change. (The dancers, for example, may need change their routines.)

Child 1 Passes first time and passes second time

Child 2 Passes first time and fails second time

Child 3 fails first time but passes second time.

The appeal board add up all the marks from the two examinations. Child 1 and Child 3 are offered places. Child 2, who passed first time, is not offered a place.

The appeal board say an urgent review is necessary.

The public are allowed their say. (Look at the forums on the BBC Strictly web site.)

The candidate who was really popular early on (John S.) comes back to dance again – he wins all the votes.

He wins. Someone decides to change the rules gain. The producer resigns. The show is scrapped.

The eleven plus continues because it is so popular with a certain group of parents.

What happens to Child 2 who passed the first time? She is offered compensation from the BBC. The money for the compensation comes from the licence payers – who are the watching public.

Child 2 lands up at a top independent school. She goes on to gain top A level results and a first class honours degrees from Cambridge. In time she become a surgeon and operates on the producer of the program – who all those years ago changed the rules.

It is all a fantasy isn’t it?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eleven Plus Rules

We use the phrase the `goal posts were moved’ in a number of different ways.

A key use in Eleven Plus terms is that we change the rules to try to gain an advantage.

The Vigo Rugby Football Club is located between Maidstone and Gravesend. The club was named after the pub in which someone had a great idea one boozy Sunday lunchtime. The idea was to start a rugby club.

The founders had a major problem when they tried to find a set of goal posts.

The Vigeons sent out begging letters to as many people as possible. No posts were forth coming. The men decided to make their own posts. They used the wood from some diseased elms in the nearby woods. The posts were trimmed and erected on the field loaned by the landlady of the Vigo pub.

The rugby players washed using a free standing tap in the field – and some changed in a nearby chicken coop. The club moved premises and fields a few times over the years – and then found a benefactor who bequeathed a ground large enough to build a clubhouse and fields. I wonder if the goal posts moved too?

I heard a story of two girls who went before an appeal board. One girl came from a good solid family.

The other girl, who had the same marks, had an emotional case made for her. The family were going through upheaval as the parents were in the process of an acrimonious separation. There had been a major row on the morning of one of the tests. The case that was made to the appeal board was that it was likely that the girl would possibly have done better if the parents had not yelled and screamed at each other.

If the appeal board took the separation into account – were the goal posts moved?

Did one of the girls gain an unfair advantage? (It is not difficult to work out which girl was offered the place.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eleven Plus Praise

Years and years ago (in 1925!) Hurlock conducted an experiment on children in America. She took four groups of children and gave them a test of addition. Initially all four groups reached around the same score.

The first group were praised for performance.

The second group were reproved for the mistakes they had made.

The third group were ignored – even through they heard the praise and reproof meted out to the others.

The fourth group were taken out of the class room.

The children were retested after a period.

The praised group had a mean of 20.

The reproved group reached a mean of 14.

The ignored group stayed the same at 12.

The control group reached a mean of 11.

The children who were criticised had a decline in their test scores – until their marks dropped back.

Parents working with their children at home could consider these results. Children need praise when it is due. Praise is not necessarily saying: “Of course you will pass!”

If you help your child to be realistic about progress towards the eleven plus then it is likely that the level of aspiration will about equal the possibilities. If your child has experienced considerable failure – then he or she could develop a much lower level of aspiration. If the goals were too high then your child may aim much lower – as a form of self protection against failure.

The occasional failure can not be bad for your child. If the failure is part of a long chain of failures you may find that your child attitude to study and work will be affected.

“We have reached 85% and above on these papers over the last three weeks. 56% is simply not good enough.”

“Why can’t you achieve more than 56%? You know you can do it. Just try harder. I told you yesterday that you needed to do better today.”

There must be some support of the idea that a child needs to be mildly anxious at the eleven plus stage. Too much anxiety, however, could inhibit progress.

It does seem likely, but this has yet to be proven, that when a parent becomes too anxious about the eleven plus examinations, then his or her child may suffer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Eleven Plus Scores

When you chat to your class teacher about results you may be sometimes talking about tests designed by the teacher. The teacher would know the content of the material in the test, the raw score, the highest and the lowest scores and the average score. Your class teacher would also know about the past performance of your child.

The words “Oh yes, he is doing well,” will mean something to the teacher – and helpfully to you.

If, however, the teacher is commenting on standardised test results then the raw score is not as important. You would still, probably, like to know how many and were correct – but you would be more interested in the results following the norm tables provided by the publisher of the tests. A standardised score takes into account the age in years and months of the child.

The results on 11+ papers are less easy to comment on. If your child, for example, has completed the classroom test in half the allotted time it is likely that the teacher will remember this and comment on timing to you. It would be more difficult to talk about timing on a standardised test – because although the teacher would have administered the test – there is no provision for taking time into account when working out the standardised score.

If, however, your child sat with you and then achieved 85% on an 11+ paper – and reached this score in half the given time - you would then be in a position to comment in a number of different ways:

“You could have checked the paper over.”

“Use your watch and think about timing – there is no need to hurry through the paper.”

“Well done. A fantastic result! You do still have time to look over your work.”

Eleven plus papers from the book shops and the internet are not standardised. One test could be easier than another. How are you to know?

Your child may have a strong desire to perform well on the practice 11+ test – for a variety of reasons.

It could be that the paper in question was the first in a series – so it would be possible to build on the result. On the other hand your child may have completed four similar papers previously – so knew the format and the sequence of the questions.

If there were any mistakes you would hope that the errors were made on questions like this:

In a group of 12 students, 8 are wearing pullovers, 7 are wearing jackets and 6 are wearing scarves. Four are wearing pullovers and jackets, 3 jackets and scarves and 5 pullovers and scarves. Each student is wearing at least one of these garments. How many were wearing all three?

A number of eleven plus children would be delighted to feel challenged with a question like the one above. Achieving 85% on a paper made up of questions like this would be quite a feat! (Especially if you were able to work out why the answer is 3!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eleven Plus Books

There are some eternal questions that seem to be more eternal than others.

“What is the best Eleven Plus book to buy?”

Delia Smith in her 1978 `Complete Cookery Course’ started with the words:

“It would be quite unthinkable for a carpenter or a dressmaker or even an amateur gardener to attempt the create anything worthwhile without the right tools for the job.” (Delia managed 711 pages in this edition.)

Our 1942 edition of `Women’s Home Companion Cook Book’ starts Chapter 1 with the words: “The experienced friend who knows by the feel when the dough is right and advises you to put in about as much butter as you need has been the despair of the beginner.” (This leaves a further 950 pages to work through!)

Going a little further back, 1938, we have a copy of `Modern Cookery Illustrated’ by Lydia Chatterton. (This is a mere 640 pages.) This cook book starts with the words: `To the modern housewife the kitchen is the workshop of the home, compact, well arranged, efficient.”

Choosing an Eleven Plus book to pin your hopes on is therefore rather like choosing a recipe that will work for all occasions.

Delia reminded us that we have to have the right tools for the job.

The Women’s Home Companion mentions the `experienced friend’.

Lydia stresses the need to be organised and efficient.

In answer, therefore, to which is the right book we need to consider that you may need to buy a selection of books. By all means make shameless use of your friends who have been there before. And finally, don’t be afraid to organise your child for that crucial Eleven Plus year, to within an inch of his or her life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eleven Plus Cowboys

We have a rather romantic image of the cowboy. He lived on horseback.

He fought on horseback too – rather like the knights of old.

He fought with guns and had a strange sense of chivalry. He could often shoot with both hands.

He was gracious to ladies, reserved with strangers, generous to friends and brutal to his enemies.

He belonged to a certain time and place. His time has gone for ever. We can, however, remember him fondly.

It is likely that some of us have a fond recollection of the Eleven Plus. Some readers will remember passing the examination when they were young. Others will be grateful for the fact that they failed the examination – and still made something of themselves.

They will remember the verbal reasoning questions. (Dry is to wet and smooth is to ….)

They will still be able to do some of the more unfulfilled eleven plus questions – do you remember the one about a car leaving London and travelling at 60 mph, while different car left Birmingham travelling at 40 mph? (The question was what time did they cross.)

We can look back today at figures like John Wayne and James Stewart with affection. They epitomised the cowboy.

Perhaps one day our great grand children will look back at the Eleven Plus examination with the same affection and exasperation. One day the eleven plus examination will change. Change is inevitable. The rather self important eleven plus figures of today will fade into memory.

I can’t wait for a fresh look at the whole premise of the eleven plus. There should be new ideas on selection. A fresh approach to what type of pupils will benefit most from an academic education in the grammar schools. Instead of the self conscious images on the front of some of the eleven plus books we will have an image of John Wayne raising his hand and riding into the sunset. As the credits come up we will know that the next episode will manifest itself with elements of the new and fresh approach to eleven plus selection.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Eleven Plus Reasoning

We all know story of the chicken and the egg. Your bright Eleven Plus child probably asked you to explain the chicken and the egg story at least ten times before he or she was three. An off shoot of the tale was probably: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

This would no doubt have led to the old story about Nasrudin. He was sitting beside the road side watching chickens feeding furiously. A canal ran beside the road. A child, who was guarding the chickens, shouted to him from the opposite side of the canal: “How do I get to the other side?”

Nasrudin yelled back: “You are on the other side!”

This would lead another member of the family to come up with the story about Nasrudin who was looking for his house keys under a street light.

Two friends came on their home and asked him: “Where did you actually lose the keys?”
Nasrudin pointed an area some distance away where it was dark.

One of his friends said: “Why are you looking under the light? The keys are not here.”
Nasrudin replied: “Because it is much easier to see under the light.”

This story could lead in turn to the well known, but possibly apocryphal, Eleven Plus tale.

Nasrudin was sitting with some parents at the school end of year party. He was reading through a verbal reasoning book.

One of the parents asked him: “Nasrudin. Why are you reading through a verbal reasoning book at a party?”

“Because reasoning can be taught,” replied Nasrudin.

Almost everyone would agree that it is very difficult to teach the act of reasoning. It is, however, possible to teach the technique of answering different types of reasoning question.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eleven Plus Opportunities

Where and how does the influence of the Eleven Plus examinations enter the lives of our children?

We teach our children mathematics – and expect them to learn to be accurate and check their work.

We teach our children language skills – and hope that they will say what they mean.

We teach our children to be honest (and not look at the answers) – and hope that fair play and truthfulness will be part of their lives for ever.

We teach good manners – and hope that our children will show good manners to their peers.

We teach our children that sometimes being practical can lead to understanding.

We teach our children that sometimes we can learn at the same time as them.

Some children seem to have difficulty with aspects of the metric system. Some parents also express a degree of concern when faced with a problem containing metric units.

You need some apparatus for the lesson (Another word for a pre Christmas party.)

Sweets, canned and bottled drinks, cakes, whistles, sausage rolls and sandwiches will all contribute to the lesson.

Look at the `g’ label on the sweets and packets. Compare weights. See how it is possible to gather all the ingredients to build a Kilogram of sweets.

Encourage your children to estimate how much chocolate there is in the chocolate fountain.

Think carefully about the decibels emanating from the disco speakers – and ask you child to monitor the decibels.

Discuss carefully and wisely the amount of alcohol in a spirit measure.

Order a fleet of limos to carry any fellow inebriated Eleven Plus guests home.

With all this to think about parents will be able to see just how easy it is to throw a big pre Christmas party. Organising, holding and clearing up after the party will give a multitude of opportunities for parents to help their children with Eleven Plus problems.

At the very least the party will encompass mathematics, language skills, honesty, manners and the ability to share experiences. Instead of driving your child off to the study to work through an eleven plus paper on Christmas Eve, simply throw a wonderful party.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Eleven Plus Justice

In the very early days of rugby any dispute was in the hands of the captains. On the rare occasions that no agreement could be reached, the aggrieved one would march his team off the field.

Around 1866 umpires were appointed – one for each side. The captains were still the main arbiters of any arguments. In 1882 a neutral referee was appointed for an international match – and the umpires became linesmen.

It was not until 1885 that the referee was given a whistle. In the early days the referee could only blow the whistle if one of the linesmen had raised his flag. Gradually the power and authority of the referee was changed. Today the referee is supposed to be the man in charge.

Today, in the `bigger’ games, following the advent of T.V. and advanced technology, the referee can call upon a fourth official. This official has access to television replays and can allow a try. He can help the referee come to a decision.

The Eleven Plus examination is one of a very select collection of tests where a replay is not allowed. We know that there are events called the `12+’ and the `13+’ – but if a child fails the 11+ there is no second chance.

Some children must be unfairly penalised by the rigid Eleven Plus rule on `one chance only’. Perhaps one day a parent will be able to appeal to the European Court of Justice. The court is designed to make the law fair and consistent right across Europe. It does not matter that no other member of the community is engaged in Eleven Plus examinations. The European Court of Justice seems a logical place for an appeal to what is an obviously unfair situation.

Three years ago we worked with a girl from Sri Lanka. She arrived with us with fifteen months to the examination and with an oral vocabulary of around six years old. We worked on spoken English, vocabulary and comprehension – as well as usual eleven plus fare. In her 11+ examination she reached a score of 140 on the verbal reasoning test. In other words she was outstandingly bright. She failed by two marks on the mathematics test. She passed the non verbal reasoning test. The grammar school, however, would not admit her. She failed on appeal. There was no recourse to any other court of authority.

I should imagine that years ago the captains of the rugby teams would have sat down with a beer to sort the problems out. Surely the girl’s father should have been given the opportunity to sit down with the head of the grammar school and come to some compromise. At the very least the family should have been able to chat to someone from the grammar school outside of the formal appeal situation.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eleven Plus Culture

Before the industrial revolution teachers were concerned with `culture'. Children were taught a lot of classical language and literature. The teacher was often a clergyman - and the children were taught at home - or in the public and grammar schools.

Education was, in a sense, `vocational' because it prepared pupils to be `cultured'.

The Eleven Plus, however, is aimed at entry to a grammar school. Every grammar school teacher must hope that their pupils are `cultured'.

In Eleven Plus terms it is possible that culture has something to do with etiquette. A cultured person would have a traditional form of etiquette – and that must have something to do with traditional values.

Selection has to do with guiding children along academic pathways. Future success in potential occupational status becomes important. The whole trend of tests, examinations, tutors, and other selective devices is designed to establish a body of children who have the potential to do well at school.

In the old days teachers were esteemed because they were learned and revered, largely, as wise men and women. The teachers tried to pass on values and attitudes.

If a child leaves a lesson without saying `Thank You’ – this could be simply because the child has come from a strata of society where `Please and Thank You’ are not part of the daily conversation.

Just as a teacher should be able to say thank you to a child after a lesson, so a child should be able to say thank you to the teacher. Is, however, the ability to say please and thank you the mark of a cultured person? As the child grows older, only time will tell.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eleven Plus Opportunities

Back in the nineteenth century Her Majesties Inspectors visited schools and examined children under pre-specified `standards’. A government grant was paid to the school board according to the children’s performance.

“My dear Miss Winters. Your children can all manipulate numbers. Congratulations. We will raise your stipend by two shillings a month.”

“Oh thank you. George has gone to work for Lord Miles. He is the best one at number work. We will miss him.”

`Her Majesties Inspectors’, formerly the `HMI’ now ply their trade under the guise of OFSTEAD – the Office for Standards in Education.

“Good morning Miss Rabbis. Good morning children. I am going to sit at the back of the class. Please do not mind me.”

“Oh, Mrs Watson. Here are my schemes of work. They are all ready as you can see in this folder. My C.V. has also been included. We are working today on an important strand. Please take a seat at the back of the class. Can I bring you anything?”

Parents may feel it unnecessary in these stringent times to pay a weekly levy on each lesson to pay for Eleven Plus tutors to be subjected to a mini OFSTEAD visit. Some parents, however, may find it very reassuring to know that their tutor was going to be inspected.

“Mr. Hobson. I have brought Harry, my oldest to you. You now have Rosina. I am not going to pay you any extra. If you want to be inspected – you pay the fees to the inspectors. I am satisfied with what you are doing.”

It seems, however, to be very unlikely that mere inspections will offer a systematic solution to the problems that appear to exist within the world of the Eleven Plus.

“Mrs. Head Teacher. We have been paying for a tutor for my child. His teacher here, at school, feels that he is improving. She says his marks are now around average. Do you think he will pass the Eleven Plus?”

The Eleven Plus examination, however, is not only to do with performance in an examination. There must be many indirect gains from working towards a competitive examination.

“My son is much happier now. He feels he can concentrate. He loves working on a one to one basis. He really wants to go to grammar.”

The Eleven Plus examination is trying to predict future success – rather than present performance.
“The better the results on a verbal reasoning test, the more likely your child is to do at the `A’ level examinations.”

Efforts to try to measure the competence of experienced and successful eleven plus tutors may occasion fierce resistance. If, however, the Eleven Plus syllabus is to change – then the some input will have to come from the vast and experienced bank of eleven plus tutors.

“You have tutored many children towards the Eleven Plus. What do you think should be in the new examination? Where can we make changes?”

Parents pay the tutors. Parents too will need to be consulted.

“What do you and your child think should be in the examination?”

(It would be wonderful to have the opportunity!)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Eleven Plus and Christmas

One of the problems some Eleven Plus children face is learning to spread their wings and think laterally. For years the bright child may have been writing imaginative essays. Praise and encouragement, quite rightly, would have flowed. The Eleven Plus child may think that this is the only type of essay to be written.

The child has to be aware that there are many different types of essays. An essay entitled `Sleep’ could be considered from a number of viewpoints.

A descriptive essay on sleep would need to draw a picture in words. The reader would expect lots of adjectives and adverbs. There could be a number of similies (the clouds, disappearing like vampires) or metaphors or even some personification. (The shadow stood over us with long fingers ….)

A narrative essay about sleep would need to tell a story – where the child could relate an incident, or a story set in chronological order. The story would need to build to a climax and have elements of descriptive writing but should not rely too much on long winded descriptions.

The discussion on sleep would need to contain ideas and opinions. The point of the essay would be to arrive at a conclusion. You would want your child to try to give reasons – and write impersonally. This is where you could help your child the need to try to avoid sweeping statements. Why we need sleep, how much sleep children need and when children should go to bed!

A different type of essay on `Sleep’ could be attractive to a child with good knowledge on the subject. Suppose a member of the family had some form of sleep disorder – and that this in turn affected all the family. Your child could write authortively – and give some insight into the impact of a problem with sleeping on the rest of the family.

Then there could be a stimulus story – where your child could be shown a picture of someone asleep in a bed or beside a river. They could be told NOT to write a story.

Some parents may enjoy the challenge of working with their children to develop different styles of writing. Their children could even consider writing thank you letters for Christmas presents in different styles. This could surprise key members of the family!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Future

At some stage, and it must have already happened, your Eleven Plus child is going to be asked about the job he or she would like to do.

We know that Jamie Oliver took a City and Guilds course at Westminster Catering College before starting on his restaurant career. He did well in the restaurant trade – and went on to achieve success with his program `The Naked Chef’. He has recently been in the news because of his campaign for better school meals.

You may care to discuss various entry levels with your Eleven Plus child. You could then go on to discuss the qualification that would develop.

Entry Level – Little prior experience, lack of confidence

Level One – Routine Tasks and basic knowledge
GCSE D – G grades

Level Two – Some knowledge or experience
GCSE A – C grades

Level Three – More complex work, supervisory skills
A Levels

Level 4 – A specialist
HND – Foundation Degree

Level 5 – Management Experience
Honours Degree

Level 6 – Senior managers
Masters Degree

Level 7 – The sky is the limit

You could discuss the different levels with your child. Some of you may find that he or she wants to start at the top! You could make the point that no two jobs are the same.

There is a site called that has information for children over the age of thirteen – but may be useful for information and discussion points.

Try to arrange for your child to be able to talk to someone who actually does the job every day.

Remind your child that if he or she does make a wrong choice – there is no need to panic. Lots of people have started off on one career and then moved into something else.

Above all – try to help your child to think forward. (Good Eleven Plus Results could equal a good grammar school place and then entry to university – and this could lead to a good job – with lots of security and lots of money!)

The Eleven Plus and Progress at School 02/12/08

All concerned in the Eleven Plus must sincerely hope that all the hard work that is done in preparation for the examination has some effect on school work. Theoretically it would be possible to set up an experiment to examine academic success, as measured by the KS2 SATs tests.

We would need two sets of children – constituted as an experimental and a control group. We would need to try to make the two groups as nearly identical as possible. The experiment could have as many variables as was thought to be necessary.

There could be, for example, a total of fifty children chosen from a cohort of around three thousand. Twenty five children would take the Eleven Plus and twenty five would simply attend school. (Selecting fifty children from a group as large as three thousand would be very expensive!)

The groups could be matched on present academic success in mathematics and English. There could be a case for verbal and non verbal reasoning to be included. Age and sex could also be matched. Different types of match could be obtained by reading age – and even the numbers of books that are read in a preset period of time.

As we can imagine it would be very difficult to disentangle all the variables. The idea that working on Eleven Plus topics will help a child to do well in KS2 SATs test is a rather abstract concept. In any event we would need to start with the hypothesis that doing additional Eleven Plus work would make no difference what so ever.

All we can do is ask the question. We may not be sure of the answer

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions 01/12/08

Some Eleven Plus children will have travelled extensively this year with their families on holiday. A number will have reached Pisa. I am sure their parents, or even one of the recognised guides, would have recounted to them the story of Galileo dropping round objects of the same material, but with a different mass, to demonstrate that the time of descent was independent of mass.

There is also the tale of two Eleven Plus boys who climbed part way up the tower and started discussing its height. A possible conversation may have been:

“This looks very high. How high are we?”

“I would guess at about twenty five metres.”

“That is rubbish. How do you know?”

“Well look at that house over there. The roof is about ten metres high – and we must be at least twice as high as that.”

“I know. Let us drop a Euro and time it.”

“Well give me the Euro.”

“No, it was your idea. You supply the Euro.”

The Euro was duly dropped and took around two and a half seconds before it landed.”

“How do we work it out?”

“I don’t know. Let’s ask my sister. She does `A’ Level mathematics.”

“Silly, if it takes two and a half seconds then you must have been around thirty metres off the ground.”

“How did you work that out?”

“Don’t you know any thing? Ask Mum and Dad. They will explain it to you. You won’t pass your Eleven Plus until you start speeding up your problems solving.”

(Just a thought … How will the much loved and highly esteemed eleven plus tutor avoid explaining how a coin dropping for two and a half seconds equates to a height of around thirty metres? After all in some areas Speed, Time and Distance are not officially part of the Eleven Plus syllabus.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eleven Plus Emotions

It must appear to an outsider that, at times, emotions run high as the family work together towards the Eleven Plus. Today we need to explore the need to develop an adaptation of a ninety year old test – which we can call the `Eleven Plus Emotional’ test. Each relevant member of the family works on lists of words. The origins of the Eleven Plus Emotional test go back to 1919 (Plessey X-O tests). (This must have been around the time that authors of the first Eleven Plus tests must have been born.)

In the first list the family cross out words that are unpleasant.

Homework, extra study, depression, anxiety, concern, failure

Anger, yelling, co-operation, not listening, turbulence, passing

After crossing out the words each family member then circles the most unpleasant word of all.

In the second test the family will be asked to cross out words which are connected to the first word. The family then circle the word that is closest in meaning to the first words. (This is very close to some verbal reasoning questions!)

ELEVEN PLUS passing, good job, success, misery, lazy, successful

GRAMMAR SCHOOL traditional, friends, university, homework, GCSE, pressure

In the third test the family cross out words which they think are wrong. They then circle the word which describes the worst wrong of all.

Communication, joy, failure, grasping, pushy, permissive

Control, sadness, driving, lies, indulgence

The fourth test deals with the things that worry the family. Again the words are crossed out – and then a circle is put around the most worrisome word or words.

Comprehensive, university, falling house prices, unhappiness, torture

Why me?, too much sport, not enough reading, talking back, ungrateful.

The words that remain will count towards the Eleven Plus Emotional score. A comparison of the circled words could be used to illustrate differences between the attitude of different members of the family to emotional highs and lows.

Over the course of eleven plus preparation there will be some emotional ups and downs. It is likely that a number of parents will be able to add materially to each of the four sections described above. It will be impossible for any of us to be able to separate emotion from the situation. We must just hope that we keep our cool when emotions run high.

Eleven Plus Food Saturday 29/11/08

What do you offer your child on the morning of the Eleven Plus examination? You could offer organic cereal, a fry up or fish. Each food could have some attractive elements to your child on the day of the examination:

The `Nature Path’ organic `Mesa Sunrise’ Gluten Free, Omega 3, containing Flax, Corn and Amaranth cereal may help. There are no Trans Fats, it is low in saturates and is packaged in an `Enviro Box’. This is a Canadian product so has a rather tenuous link with the Eleven Plus examination.

The instructions to prepare read:

Empty two handfuls of cereal into a bowl. Add milk and sugar to taste. Enjoy.

On the other hand your child may prefer a good old fashioned fry up of bacon and eggs.
For those parents who never offer their children anything but `good and wholesome’ food here is a little reminder:

Heat the frying pan with a spoonful of good, wholesome Spanish olive oil. Carefully place the strips of lean smokey bacon in the pan and cook until crispy. The smell of cooking bacon will lift the spirits of your child as he anticipates a full ‘fry up’! Black pudding and tomato are a good addition at this stage. The black pudding particularly has a beneficial effect as it ‘feeds the brain’ …. according to the Scots who are experts in this field. (It also promotes a sense of well being). Finally the eggs must be fried ensuring that the ‘white’ is not runny and the ‘yellow’ is! Your child will be delighted with this treat for breakfast and it will help store up the energy he or she needs to work through the examination effectively all day.

Perhaps you could combine the two?

Many parents may prefer to give their child fish food. Not the flaky bits you offer to your goldfish – but a dish of sardines perhaps.

Take a tin of sardines and warm them up in a saucepan.
A slice of bread, toasted and buttered
Place aforementioned sardines on aforementioned toast
Sit down and enjoy.

Excellent brain food or not as the case may be.

The sustaining food you offer on the day of the examination could make the difference between a pass or a fail.

Eleven Plus Jargon Friday 28/11/08

It seems likely that much of the current `on line’ Eleven Plus materials have been developed by teachers. These authors will have attempted to produce materials that are relevant to the children they are teaching. The internet allows the teachers to become `instant’ publishers. Parents then have a choice of deciding what is relevant to the needs of their children.

In the early days of the Eleven Plus there must have been far fewer published materials for children, parents and teachers to work through. It must have easier for parents to look at a limited collection of Eleven Plus materials – and select the one that they thought would best suit their needs. When a mother or a father walks into a large book shop today, in one of the Eleven Plus areas, then he or she will be faced by an extraordinary selection of books and materials.

Determining what to buy will be aided by a variety of factors including price, availability and recommendation.

Mum and dad will need to develop a new Eleven Plus jargon or argot.

The term argot is used to describe the secret language used by French beggars and criminals during the seventeenth century. At times some parents must feel that they are falling into a secret Eleven Plus minefield. Some parents will happily pass on the name of the favoured tutor. Other parents, recognising the competitive nature of the examination, will only utter guarded responses to direct questions like: “Who do you send your son to?” (To whom do you send your son?)

Jargon, however, is often used as a label for a vocabulary peculiar to a field. Thus when a group of mothers discuss the eleven plus, they could, at times, communicate with each other in ways that would be utterly confusing to the uninitiated.

Cyberspace, forums, the internet, Face Book and Twitter all allow rich opportunities for parents to employ secret messaging. Some jargon could be deliberate and implicit – while others less implied.

This blog, therefore, given me the ability to develop a new eleven plus word. Perhaps one day the word will find its way into an online dictionary.

The `Elevenpluser’. An `Elevenpluser’ is a parent on the eleven plus journey. Confused at times, focused on success and willing to do almost anything to win a place in a grammar school. I have added the word `Elevenpluser’ to my dictionary. I hope it become part of your eleven plus jargon.

Eleven Plus Listening Thursday 27/11/08

During the pre Eleven Plus year parents learn to communicate with each in new and varied ways. Children have to accept that, at times, `mum knows best’. Children also need to learn that they have to talk to their parents – and during the conversation offer opinions and ideas. Both parties will need richer and more complex language skills.

Most of us will have watched animal programs on T.V. and will have seen powerful relationships developing between mothers of some animals and their young. We have seen, for example, apes communicating with each other. However close the links between animal parents and their offspring, an animal can not pass the Eleven Plus because an animal does not have the ability to develop language.

In humans some language is located in the left hemisphere of the brain. There are, as we know, sex differences between girls and boys. Girls appear to have better verbal ability than boys. Boys appear to better than some girls at mathematical and spatial tasks.

“Go and ask your father,” will work for some eleven plus exercises.

It is likely, however, that the mother of the family will appear to answer some eleven plus questions using a greater range of words and employ much longer sentences. There could possibly be an element of truth in the assertion made by some eleven plus children that dad will be more likely to interrupt while mum will allow their child to finish sentences. I wonder too if a mother will allow more time to listen? (Only a thought!)

During eleven plus exercises some parents and children may have to learn to take turns in listening to each other. When parents are looking at an eleven plus question with their child their joint attention is focused on one topic. As all the parties talk through the problem or process, all concerned may have to use richer and more complex language than in normally used in a typical family setting. Clearly all the family can not talk at the some time. Clearly too the eleven plus child will need to pay attention when spoken to. The child has to co-operate.

As the examinations grow closer parents and their children will have developed new and varied ways of solving problems and talking to each other. It does seem likely that new boundaries of social interaction will develop. A possible benefit of Eleven Plus preparation is a close and supportive family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eleven Plus Joy

We are coming up this weekend to an event almost as important as the Eleven Plus examination. England have just been soundly thrashed by the current world champions, South Africa. On Saturday England take on the might of the All Blacks at rugby. The All Backs are currently Number One in the world. England are a more lowly fifth.

We know that rugby owes a lot to Rugby School. The Doctor, who was the head in the days of Tom Brown, offered the following sermon:

`The meaning of life – that it was no fool’s or sluggards paradise into which he had wandered by chance, but a battlefield ordained from old, where there were no spectators, but the youngest must take his side, and the stakes are life and death….’

To pass the Eleven Plus your child can not be:

A sluggard or a fool.

It would be a very difficult examination to take by chance.

The Eleven Plus is not a physical battlefield – but can be a mental battle field. There are, however, winners and losers.

There can be no spectators in the actual examination. The child is on his or her own.

There is, however, one vital difference. The Eleven Plus is not a matter of life and death. It is an examination which some children find easy to pass and other children find extremely challenging.

But if your child does pass the Eleven Plus there is no doubt of the pleasure you will feel. Think of the pleasure that you would have if you could kick the winning goal for England against the All Backs. Think of reaction of the 80 000 strong crowd. Think of the millions watching.

We need to return to Tom Brown:

`There it flies, straight between the two posts, some five feet above the crossbar, an unquestioned goal …’

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eleven Plus Pass

A mother explained in great detail to her daughter, and to me, that her much loved daughter would land up in boarding school if a top Eleven Plus pass was not achieved.

“If you do not pass you will go to boarding school.”

You will no doubt remember reading about boarding schools in Nicholas Nickleby:

A Mr. Wackford Speers Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire,

Youth are boarded,



furnished with pocket money,

provided with all necessaries,

instructed in all languages living and dead.


twenty guineas per annum. No extra, no vacations and diet unparalleled.

I just hope that the mum can afford today’s boarding fees.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eleven PLus Learning

Parents sometimes seem to have difficulty in following the thought processes of their children. To try to throw some light on this statement we could take a topic that is unlikely to be taught in the Eleven Plus. If we looked at Quadratic Equations with your child, for example, it is likely that you would be covering ground not yet taught at school, or covered in any detail by your child’s conscientious tutor.

Solve the equation:

X2 – 7x = 60.

You would then explain it something like this:

X2 – 7x - 60. = 0

(x-12)(x = 5) = 0

X = 12
X = 5

Since this is a new equation your child can not solve this from memory. As you explained the process there would be some new and some familiar elements. You could explain the processes in such a way that your child could learn the steps by heart.

Your child may see fairly easily that x times x = X2.

You may or may not need to point out that 12 times 5 = 60.

If you have working with your child using a problem solving approach then you child may arrive at an understanding – and may be able to apply the method the two of you worked out on other problems.

If you simply recite the lines – and then expect your child to know what to do when faced by a similar problem – you, and you child, may or may not achieve the desired result.

Why did you expect your child to see that 12 times 5 = 60 or that 12 and 5 both go into 60?

How do you expect your child to remember that x times x = X2. and not 2x? After all x plus x = 2x and 60 + 7 = 67!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eleven Plus Exam Technique

Parents could gain considerable insight into the eleven plus performance of their children if they tried to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary acts.

A voluntary act is a fully conscious act. We saw young Tom Daly, and other divers, at the last Olympics (2008) rehearsing their dives. The divers stood, almost without exception, poised for moments – obviously running through the complex moves. Sometimes a diver would seem to make a little movement – as if he or she were about to launch into space. The diver had probably reached the spot in the sequence when he or she had reached the end of the spring board.

There can’t be much time to think while the body is in the air performing a complex routine of twists, summersaults and turns. Once the diver is standing on the side of the pool he or she should be able to review the stages of the dive. The score is usually presented within seconds – giving immediate feedback.

There was a lot of rugby played over the weekend with selected northern hemisphere countries playing `friendlies’ against southern hemisphere teams. It was very evident that many of the kickers at goal were running over the steps to scoring points. Once the kicker has started on his run towards ball, he then needs to be able to visualise the ball soaring between the posts. If points are scored the smile could be either voluntary or involuntary. In the same way, if the ball misses there could be an involuntary grimace.

When the kicker rejoins his team, and his team mates praise his prowess, it is likely that his response would be involuntary. He would hardly have to stop to think to smile and say `thank you’.

Our top football teams are now largely international. Some of the coaches are coaching in a foreign tongue. If one of the players scores a goal – and is congratulated a united nations of language- then the goal scorer may need to have to hesitate before he says thank you in the requisite tongue. A possible hesitation could be involuntary as the goal scorer searches for the right word or words.

Parents need to help their child to realise that reading a question a second time should be an involuntary act – and not one forced by choice. If every time a parent helped their child with a question and the parent then read the question twice, the child would realise the need to react accordingly.

In multiple choice questions we want the child to look at the four or five options and then automatically reject the answers that can not be right. In the examination, therefore we want the child to react automatically to reading questions in prescribed and sensible ways. This then is where the distinction between an automatic and a voluntary act become virtually inseparable.

Parents can then hope that all their endeavours towards helping their children do well in Eleven Plus examinations result in conscious habits developing into automatics action.

Watch the time.
Read the Question
Re-read the question.
Eliminate answers than can not be right.
Read the question and the selected answer again, before moving on, to make sure that the answer makes sense.

There must be many more `drills’ that teachers, tutors and parents try to inculcate. This is where the true value of the Eleven Plus examination can be demonstrated. Surely it is easier to help a ten year old acquire good examinations techniques than let the child learn then painfully at the `A’ level stage?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eleven Plus Calculation

A bright and cheerful nine year old explained in consummate detail, yesterday, how she learnt her tables. She is attending a dyslexic teacher – and coming to us for Eleven Plus enrichment. (The girl is dyslexic – not the teacher!)

We know she still has some problems with sequencing – and remembering her tables - but her teacher had suggested a solution to her problem. She explained it to me. I did not quite grasp the method immediately – but the girl’s mother reiterated the following steps in almost identical words. I wrote down a summary. If there are gaps please let me know and I will fill them in.

Hold your hands out with the palms towards you. (This is where the girl laughed: “Make sure your hands are clean.”)

The thumb on your left hand, and on your right hand, is the number six.

Your index finger is the number seven.

Your middle finger is the number eight.

Then the fourth finger is the number nine.

While the fifth finger, the little finger, is the number ten.

If the sum is 8 x 7, the third finger of one hand is the number 8. Place this against the index finger of the other hand. This finger represents the number 7.

The figure for the tens column is given by counting the number of fingers – including the two fingers that are touching. In this case it is the number 5.

The units column is obtained by multiplying the remaining fingers on one hand by the remaining fingers on the other hand. This gives 2 times 3 which is 6.

The answer is 56.

A very large proportion of Eleven Plus children will be able to remember their tables fairly easily.

7 times 8 = 56
8 times 7 = 56
56 divided by 7 = 8
56 divided by 8 = 7

I did not like to ask how the little nine year old mentioned earlier would cope with the division facts when she used her finger method. Difficulties with calculation must, at times, make life complicated for a dyslexic child.

The rest of us need to be thankful for small mercies!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Eleven Plus Co-operation

How do you know if you are putting too much pressure on your Eleven Plus child?

You may be given an oblique message that your child no longer enjoys school. This could be a message to you to examine how you work with your child. Lessons and Eleven Plus work should contain elements of fun and happiness.

If your child occasionally appears to be cranky and tired – then it may be time to take a little pressure off. Equally there could be a number of reasons for signs of fatigue – staying up too late, for example, could be a more potent force than a parent nagging over an eleven plus paper.

If you child suddenly loses interest in the creative side of his or her life then he or she may feel that these aspects are not being valued as much. There may not be enough time in the day to engage in music lessons and practice, dance, and ice skating. Introducing a little time table may pay dividends.

If your child stops reading for fun, he or she may have grown out of the present series of books. After all if your child, as a bright, literate 9 year old, read all of the Harry Potter series, then it may be time to try to introduce a new set of literary challenges.

If you start each session with your child feeling ill prepared and unready for the challenge, then you may have a case for being able to share at least part of the burden with another member of the family or even a relative. Some grand parents, for example, still can `do it’ if challenged!

It is probably a little too early to contemplate taking your child out of school for intensive one to one home schooling. You may, however, be able to build an immense store of Eleven Plus information and contacts. You could consider sharing your expertise with other parents.

We are continually reminded that the easiest way out of stress is exercise. It is a pity that it is so difficult to be able to hire a `Eleven Plus Dog’. After all if you and your child could take your eleven plus dog for a walk on a regular basis, all concerned may feel more amenable and a lot more co-operative.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eleven Plus Algebra

We were doing a little algebra yesterday with one of our year five girls. She had been set some homework from school where she was asked to find the length of one of the sides of a square. The given area was 64 centimetres squared. There were a number of ways of approaching the problem. One to write down the formula:

A = b x h.

If the shape was a square, one side needed to be the square root of the area.

The girl picked it up very quickly. Naturally the temptation was to help the girl to do all her homework. I was reminded of Fran Lebowitz’s remark:

Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during algebra. In real life there is no such thing as algebra.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Managing Eleven Plus Time

You may sometimes need to admonish, or even remind, your child to watch the time. You will, naturally, have provided a watch with a large minute hand. You will have done a variety of eleven plus exercises where timing was an important element. What you may not understand is why your child, sometimes, does not seem to understand the words: “Time flies!”

Look at the minute hand of the `Eleven Plus’ watch from ten centimetres away. Now look at the minute hand from two metres away. Yes, you are right, the minute hand does seem to go faster if it is further away. Experiment with your child so that when he or she sits down to take the examination, and places the `Eleven Plus’ watch on the table, you know the watch will be in the right position.

You are on the M road. A car comes up behind you travelling very fast. (This could feel like sixty miles an hour faster than you are driving.) The offending car will seem to be travelling very fast as it goes past you – but less quickly when it is far away.

A ship on the horizon seems to be stationary – but place yourself in the rowing boat in the path of the self same ship – and it is likely that your heart will beat a little faster.

Approach a large roundabout in Paris. The one at the Champs Elysees springs to mind. As you drive through this in the rush hour you may be aware of the movement of the cars before you are actually able to focus on a particular car.

You simply want your eleven plus child to receive a physiological charge when time seems to be slipping away in the examination. You want the already charged eleven plus brain to feel stimulated and excited. You want your child to manage time. Can someone in the family please give a special Eleven Plus watch for Christmas?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Taste

It is a pity that taste does not play a big part in the Eleven Plus examinations. We know that examination preparation demands good sight and hearing – but there does not seem to be much of a place for taste. Taste and smell are thought to be tied together.

We know that taste buds are scattered irregularly over the tongue, epiglottis, the larynx and parts of the throat. Children are supposed to have more taste buds than adults. Our taste buds can distinguish between different types of taste:


But life is a bit more complex than that, sweet chocolate can be a combination of sweet and bitter. A salad can have a whole variety of tastes. Years ago we all enjoyed a sweet that exploded in the mouth – with a cascade of tastes and sensations.

We know too that the tip of the tongue is often used to `test’ a taste.

The learned and often highly vocal `experts’ we see smelling and tasting wine teach us that it is possible for the palate to be able to make fine distinctions between similar flavours.

The Eleven Plus suggestion of today is to introduce cookery into the Eleven Plus syllabus. Learning to cook and taste `good’ food could be more useful in the long run that studying how to do analogies and codes.

On the day of the examination each child could be offered 60 different dishes. Each child would be offered a disposable spoon at each tasting point. The children would need to grade and categorise the sixty different flavours.

There would be massive benefits to society – and to you - from an examination of this nature:

We would know which flavours eleven plus children enjoy. (This would make the task of the school canteen a lot easier. The cooks would know what type of food to offer the Year 7 children.)

The child could also become wine connoisseurs – and this must help socially in later life. (You enter a restaurant. A bottle of wine is £28.50. Your sommelier hands you a glass for you to taste. You pass the glass to your Eleven Year old – who advises: “We can keep this one. 1978 was a good year.” The Eleven Plus candidate may also advise: “Rather corked. Not up to your usual standard.”

A further benefit of the Eleven Plus examination having a taste element is that you may never be forced to cook again. After all if you have a bright expert cook in the family then it could be easy for you to relegate yourself to `bottle washer and dishwasher filler’.

Finally if your child appears to wander around sticking his or her tongue out at the world you will know that he or she is merely adding to sensations and experience.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eleven Plus Focus

It is Sunday morning. The washing up is done. The house is tidy. The dog has been walked. The pre Eleven Plus candidate bounds up to you and says: “Oh Good. It is time for our eleven plus fun. I did enjoy our work together last week.”

You look at your child with just a degree of reservation. Is this the same child that announced last night that university was for boffins? Then comes a little glimmer of light in your brain. Your much loved child is in a good mood. It is time to play!

Start by giving your child a problem that has to be solved mentally. After completing the task ask your child to try to describe to you the thought processes involved. Try to avoid building a concrete visual aid. We want the whole exercise done in the head – if possible.

Imagine a 3 cm cube pointed on all sides. If this cube were divided into smaller cubes of 1 cm each, how many would have:

Paint on three sides

Paint on two sides

Paint on one side

Paint on none of the sides?

It must help to have a clear visual image of the large cube. Being able to work out the nature of the sub divisions is also essential. Some parents and children tackling the task will use a form of motor imagery where they will be able to almost `pick up’ the cubes and turn them over looking at all the sides.

The problem can also be solved by mathematical means – where the solution is talked through.

Some children (and some parents) may it difficult to solve the problem by any means – as they become distracted. “Focus, dear. Focus!”

Talking through the solution to the problem will help you understand the imagery involved in solving the problem.

Just think how you will feel if questions 57 to 61 on the actual Eleven Plus reasoning paper are to do with calculating the number of painted surfaces in a 4 cm cube.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eleven Plus Extremes

“Thank you for bringing me to the lesson. It was fab. I really enjoyed the verbal reasoning.”

“It is a pleasure. I like the way you are interacting with the teachers and assistants. Do you mange to go over those questions we worked on together on Thursday?”

“Oh yes, thank you. I often seem to get confused when doing the codes questions. I was shown a different way of doing the questions. You know we usually draw lines along the alphabet to show the connection between the letters and the numbers, well today we wrote the letters on one line and the numbers on the next. On the third line we wrote down the difference. This really seemed to help.”

“We will look at together when we get home. I can’t look now because I am driving but I look forward to seeing your work. What else did you do?

“I met something new today in mathematics. I know how to work out area – that is easy. It is volume that I struggle with – but as soon as I copied out the example everything seemed to become clearer. Then I tried to do the volume of a pyramid. Fitting the numbers to the formula is fun. I was told we would not see a question like that in the actual examination – but it was good fun to do something new.”

“Is that all you did? I sat here in the car waiting for you and you only did three exercises. What a waste of my time.”

“We tried to go over codes and I was shown a new ….. “

“If I have told you one I have told you ten times. You need to do more in the lessons. Concentrate. Work faster and ask for more help.”

“The maths was easy. We did volume.”

“I hope you learnt it. That means you won’t have to waste time and do it again. It costs a lot of money to send you to lessons.”

“Sorry mum. I will try harder next lesson. Where are we going now?”


These encounters between parents and children are important. The truth is somewhere between these two extremes. The Eleven Plus syllabus is necessarily narrow – but occasionally parents need to understand what happens in a lesson from the child’s point of view. After the Eleven Plus examination is to do with the total education of the child – rather than with marks and attempting to appease parents.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Eleven Plus Dream

Along with reminding your child hope to cope with analogies and series you could also, occasionally, remind your child of Thomas Edison. Back in 1893 Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope, which was a wooden cabinet through which light was projected onto a screen.

It was left to the opening of the first nickelodeon to make an invention into a commercial success. The price of admission was 5c (thus explaining the name). The price was kept down by stripping the theatre venue to bare essentials. He opened from eight in the morning until 12 at night. By 1914 the nickelodeon had seven million daily admissions.

By the mid 1980s the spread of videocassettes and satellite and cable television had reduced movie attendance. The introduction of megaplexes helped to raise attendance.

We now have the internet and wide screens – so that our aspiring Eleven Plus children can live the Eleven Plus dream 24 hours a day. Our eleven plus children can watch explanations of mathematics problems, have their verbal reasoning questions explained and learn when and where they are in the mood.

Parents can look up answers to the more complex questions – and share their problems and concerns about the Eleven Plus with other parents. The cost of communicating on an online forum must be much less than a telephone call or a postcard.

A day must be coming soon when more children can have access to the new world of communication. (At this stage you must feel an Eleven Plus mathematics question emerging.)

The dollar has fallen to a new low - $1.48 to the £1.00. The nickel is the five cent coin of the United States. The nickel is one-twentieth, or five hundredths, of a dollar.

How many nickels to the pound?

How many nickels will it cost to buy house with a pool in Florida?

How many nickels will it cost to live, in full, the Eleven Plus dream?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eleven Plus Pressure

I wonder if any parents have ever used the words: “You will need to box clever if you are going to pass the Eleven Plus!”

Boxing used to be regarded as a valuable sport for youngsters. I remember years ago back in Zimbabwe watching inter-schools boxing. It was the tradition that if a heavy blow had been landed then hands would be raised above the head accompanied by a little dance. One teacher trained all his fighters that if an opponent raised hands and started `showing off’ to the crowd, there was an opportunity to swoop forward and punch an unprotected jaw. Needless to say one school emerged as the winners – to the jeers of almost all the crowd.

If your child questions you about the efficacy of boxing you may feel that you are in a position to list a few points and thus open up a discussion:

No-one is forced to box
No-one is forced to watch boxing
Young men and women can achieve fame and fortune
It promotes sportsmanship, courage and dignity
It teaches the need for law and order
It can be regulated with medical safeguards.

You will also need to discuss the `other’ side:

The terrible potential damage done to the brain

I thought of this analogy while a vital and successful Eleven Plus girl was describing her Eleven Plus route. She has recently passed the Bexley and the Kent Eleven Plus tests. She will be writing the Newstead Wood tests on Saturday. Newstead Wood is a popular and highly academic grammar school in Orpington. There is tremendous pressure for places in the school.

She explained that during one of the tests a child had been caught cheating. She commented that an invigilator had moved between the desks of two children to stop one of the girls looking at the paper of another girl.

I feel sorry for the girl who was caught cheating. She must have put herself under tremendous pressure to pass the examination. Her parents too must have played a part in adding to the child’s anxiety. I was relieved too to hear that the school had `sorted’ the problem sympathetically.

All we can pray is that her parents did not advise her to `box clever’ during the Eleven Plus examination.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eleven Plus Time

When children complain to their parents that they have no time to play, mothers are perfectly at liberty to retell a little story their children.

There were some fish in a stream adjacent to a railway line. The fish assembled at the times scheduled for the arrival of the trains - when they were fed by passengers. If the train arrived late, (leaves on the line?) then the fish ignored the train. If a train arrived early – and had to wait at the station – then the fish, once again took no notice of the train. The fish made no response to trains arriving at any but the regular time.

It is not only fish that need to think about time – think of a busy mother with children at three different schools, juggling transport, attention and interest. Think too of a mum at home all day with three under school age children. Think of the work she has to do with her commitments to her children – and the family in general. Many mums must, at time, wish they were back at work!

Think too of the mother who has been at work all day – and arrives home to the chorus that the Eleven Plus exercise was not done because there was no time.

Some mothers feel at one time or another, that when there are competing demands, it is easy for the mums to get into a rut and put their own needs last of all.

Lists could hold the key.

List all the things that you, as a mother or father, like doing – but can’t do because of lack of time. Once the list is reasonably complete, organise the list into some order of priority.

Now list the things you do not like doing.

This `NO!’ list could include watching programs on TV that you don’t really like. Changing bed clothes or helping with `hard’ Eleven Plus mathematics questions.

Now swop around some of the `good activities – and leave the rest for a spell.

Some mothers will no doubt pray that at a given moment some unseen physiological element comes into play. As soon as 4.15 strikes your child will immediately’ pick up a previously sharpened pencil and starts on a complex verbal reasoning exercise. This brings us to the well known Eleven Plus Law.

`”Eleven Plus work is most often executed when there has been a structured elimination of environmental cues.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Eleven Plus Walk

Today’s paper carried a story of how obese parents were going to be paid to walk their children to school. These mothers and fathers will be faced with a new set of images. We must imagine that they will naturally feel conflicting emotions. A flood of images will no doubt pour through them as they walk to school with their children.

When they start of their walk they will need to store images of the route. They will need to remember where to stop and rest, where they need to cross a road and how they feel about the sight of cars rolling smoothly past.

When they have covered the route a number of times – and the roads have become familiar – then bit by bit the need for gathering fresh images will diminish. The parents will be able to walk towards intersections and will be able to turn left or right without much conscious effort.

It is possible that these mothers and fathers will build images of themselves being slim and athletic. They may start day dreams of being picked up and swept off to school in a limousine. They may dream of riches or being able to solve problems at work and at home with superlative ease. They could day dream of having their every word listened to by teachers and other parents. They would become authorities on television on how to walk themselves into good health. Fame would instant.

The parents would also be able to forge new relationships with their children. After all they will be spending time together – and will be able to chat about `stuff’. They may start talking about school and homework. They may discuss work and relationships with teachers.

The walk to school would become much more an exercise in exercise – it could become the catalyst for change.

Here, therefore, is a proposal for a new Eleven Plus feature – called `The Eleven Plus Walk’. This is not to be confused with the Lambeth Walk – the Eleven Plus Walk is a far more cerebral experience.

The walk can take place with the dog as company.

It can be meandering through a busy shopping centre – without buying anything – just chatting and walking slowly.

For the hardy, the walk can take place with back packs and full orienteering maps.

The Eleven Plus Walk could even be around the block.

Parents and children could chat about life in general, the eleven plus in particular, and form a different relationship. There must be many parents who are already enjoying walking with their children – and we would be grateful for any advice they can pass on to others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We all know what `Hedonic Tone’ is – we usually use a different name. Hedonic Tone has a lot to do with judgements. Hedonic tone varies in a single continuous scale from Very Unpleasant through to Indifference and then on to Very Pleasant.

Judgement Hedonic Tone

Very Unpleasant -3
Unpleasant -2
Moderately unpleasant -1
Indifferent 0
Moderately pleasant +1
Pleasant +2
Very Pleasant +3

With this basic information it must be relatively easily for a parent to establish a current `Eleven Plus Hedonic Tone’. A range of scores can be established. Discuss some of the following with your child. Develop a table. Write down the score for each item. Add the scores at the end to establish your own `Eleven Plus Hedonic Tone’.

Working on Verbal Reasoning Papers

Reading `good’ books

Learning mathematics rules and definitions

Starting on Eleven Plus Work

Attitude of siblings

Listening to parents talk about the Eleven Plus

Receiving rewards for doing good Eleven Plus work.

Keeping the work area tidy

This is not an exclusive list – because so much will depend on your own child. Once you have all the scores together you are in a position to analyse and discuss the results. We imagine, for example, that it must be easier to read a pleasant book than an unpleasant one.

What you are really trying to find out is if it is possible for you to help your child to turn into a mathematician if you offer lots of rewards. Many parents find out that praise acts as a strong reward to an Eleven Plus child!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pre Eleven Plus Attitudes

Back in 1969 an eminent lecturer called King wrote a study called the “Values and Involvement in a Grammar School”. His work naturally stimulated considerable discussion and interest.

Among his many findings he provided a list of pupil’s interest and activities ordered according to the extent to which they receive teachers’ overall approval and disapproval.

1 Reading worthwhile books
2 Camping
3 Debating
4 Theatre visits
6 Amateur dramatics
Painting and drawing
9 Playing an Instrument
10 Listening to Classical Music
Natural History

The final numbers included:

50 Visiting Jazz Clubs
51 Paper round
52 Wearing teenage fashions
53 Hitch-hiking
54 Ten pin bowling
55 Seeing X certificate films
56 Billiards and Snooker
57 Visiting public houses (legally)
58 Motor Bikes
59 Reading Novel emphasising sex and violence
60 Smoking

We are now in 2009. This is some forty years after King’s work. It would be very interesting take a similar survey of pupils’ interests and attitudes. Books and the theatre back in 1969 were numbers 1 and 4. There was no mention T.V. Classical Music was number 10 – but visiting Jazz Clubs number 50.

Today’s list would probably need to include television, computer games and the internet.

Parents may care to develop a list of interests held dear by their pre Eleven Plus children – and we would be delighted to summarise the results. Please email your findings.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Which Eleven Plus Paper? Sat 8th

Inherent in any discussion on the efficacy of Eleven Plus tests must be a realisation that a degree of moderation is necessary. The purpose of moderation, at the Eleven Plus stage, is to determine to what extent the examination has been able to select the children who would benefit from a grammar school education.

Questions in an Eleven Plus examination are drawn from a data base of proved and tested questions. If the pass mark in an examination is found to be too easy, for example, it is simply a matter of the computer being given a statistical formula – and the pass rate can be adjusted. Year by year pass marks are adjusted up and down. There is no need for any great swings because the questions come from a reliable source – and the selection criteria does not change all that much.

A problem could possibly arise when there are big changes in selection criteria. In Bexley, where large numbers of children sit the Eleven Plus tests, children were only tested on Mathematics and Verbal Reasoning. In previous years English and Non Verbal Reasoning were also tested.

Tests like mathematics and verbal reasoning can be designed to be `content free’. In Eleven Plus terms this can mean that just because NFER sets the test it does not necessarily mean that sitting at home and gaining 100% on an NFER paper will guarantee a pass at the eleven plus. The same must apply for any other paper. Thus the NFER statement that it is useful to buy the NFER papers because NFER sets the examination is suspect. It could help to use the papers – but the items in the examination may not be the items found on papers.

Eleven Plus Children Fri 7th

A generation of adults thought that the introduction of National Service was the `making’ of many young people. Sergeant Majors were charged with transforming young adults. The methods that were adopted are no longer acceptable – largely because of social changes.

So when an Eleven Plus child becomes, for a brief moment in time, rebellious, sullen or apathetic, it is likely that parents have to confront the situation in a thoughtful and practical manner.

It is extremely unlikely that a bright Eleven Plus child will be hostile and threatening for longer than a few seconds. Most Eleven Plus children will be able to face the pressures of examination preparation with considerable equanimity and fortitude.

When a parent sees manifestations of worrying changes in their child’s behaviour they need to be very aware of the need for thoughtful monitoring of the situation. Trying to establish a dialogue may be difficult at the time – but listening without commenting may help to speed the process of communication.

If there are problems at school or with factors other than Eleven Plus preparation, then the child needs to be treated with respect and dignity. Challenging behaviour, however, still needs to be confronted.

The bright Eleven Plus child may also want you to be able to accept a set of changing circumstances without feeling that judgement is being passed.

An Eleven Plus Code Thr 6th

What does an Eleven Plus child demand from parents? Is there any room for an Eleven Plus Code? What could be in the code? Do parents also need a code – or just the children? Some suggestions:

When doing Eleven Plus work parents need to be approachable and friendly – but not friends.

Children must expect parents to be strict at times – but they can also demand fairness and consistency.

Children need to understand just what it is that they have done wrong and must be given the opportunity argue their case.

Children must understand that parents do have a right to be able operate sanctions.

Children must also realise that parents can alter their minds without it being seen as a sign of weakness.

Eleven Plus children must realise that they are responsible for their actions. They have to work within the confines of the family.

Children must be allowed to inform parents if a lesson or a session is boring and uninteresting.

No Eleven Plus child wants to be embarrassed by the bright younger sibling who knows the answer.

An Eleven Plus child is old enough to realise that they will work better for a smile than a frown.

Parents must realise that an Eleven Plus child may want to use humour to diffuse a tense situation. Equally the same child will probably react strongly against sarcasm.

Investing in the Eleven Plus Wed 5th

Why do parents want their children to do well in the Eleven Plus? For many parents the whole Eleven Plus round is an investment in terms of time, money and effort. Because of this massive investment parents, and some children, will no doubt want a return.

Some parents take their children to Eleven Plus lessons. Some will wait in the car while others go shopping.

Some parents will happily sit with their children working though Eleven Plus papers – when they have time.

There is naturally a cost in terms of books, papers, time, fees (for some) and emotional strain.

So what dividend can parents expect?

A pass at the Eleven Plus offers the opportunity, to some, to obtain good GCSE and A level grades. A good education could lead, if desired, to some form of professional training.

We know of parents who attended a grammar school and left without going on to university. These same parents are now likely to argue vociferously if their grammar school children do not wish to take up the benefits of a university education.

Years ago it was worked out that a young person could catch up relatively quickly on the missed earnings lost through attending university. Many of today’s university students will also end up leaving university owing large sums of money.

The loving parent who sits in a car waiting for a lesson to end is a true investor in education.