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Friday, February 29, 2008

Eleven Plus Adventures

One year we took a group of Eleven Plus children on a working holiday.

The children did their Eleven Plus work in the mornings.

They did climbing, swimming, canoeing and team work in the afternoons.

After the evening meal they did a little more work before watching a film. Lucky children.

Out in Zimbabwe, where I come from, some children would need to develop in a very different manner. Some very able children will need to survive and help the family. Their vocabulary would cover their own language as well as English. Key words and phrases would include:

-fudza mombe - herd the cattle

-bika sadza - cook stiff porridge

-chera mvura - draw water

Every parent, from what ever country, at some time or another, would like to have this said about their child:

iko kusadada ndiko kunoitisa kuti munhu adiwe - It is the lack of insolence which makes a person loved.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eleven Plus and the Hose Pipe Ban

Summer is approaching – after all we are in February.

As spring melds into summer comes the awareness that we need to be very conscious of the amount of water we use.

A hose pipe ban may be issued in different parts of the country – if the summer is arid and dry. In some parts we are allowed to fill watering cans with hoses. In other parts hoses are banned unconditionally.

So if we need to give our roses a gallon of water a week one of the easiest ways is to fill a two gallon can, then give each rose bush half a can.

While the one first can is being poured over the roses a second can will be filled by the hose. This allows the gardener to practice perpetual motion. This is a pretty fool proof system.

So if it takes about 50 seconds to fill a two galleon can it will take about 25 seconds to fill a one galleon can.

With the hose pipe ban we expect every rose grower to have an Eleven Plus child standing alongside.

The company will be entertaining. There is, however, a far more serious side to the question of how long it takes to water a rose bush.

If your Eleven Plus hero or heroine spends less than 25 seconds on a question then he or she is possibly going too quickly.

Longer than 50 seconds is too slow.

A weekly stint in the garden watering roses will be good for the soul – and good for the Eleven Plus examinations.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pre Eleven Plus Thoughts

About three years ago I had the privilege of testing a very bright little boy. He was almost six years old. We know that a Standardised Score of 100 is around average. A Standardised Score over 110 suggests good average ability. A Standardised Score of 140 is exceptional. Quite a few Eleven Plus examinations are set to look for children over a score of around 118.

His non verbal reasoning was 130. His oral vocabulary was 138 and his mathematics 140. As mentioned earlier he was around six years old. We thought then what lucky parents to have such a bright, alive and able boy. Naturally there was no need for our services.

A year ago his scores were around 115 on mathematics, English and verbal reasoning. Again we suggested there was no need for immediate concern.

We retested him recently. His mathematics was now 110. He reached 103 on a literacy paper. These papers, like the earlier ones, are not available to parents – and only qualified teachers can administer and interpret them. He achieved 104 on a non verbal reasoning test.

Somehow over the past three years this very bright and able boy has been reducing himself to an average level.

He attends a successful and well thought of school.

There have not been any undue upsets in his life.

He is still charming and remarkably mature in his manner and speech.

Recently at school he has been eased into the bottom English group. We looked at his story from a year ago. His writing was neat and well formed. He made no punctuation errors and used paragraphs correctly – but there were quite a few spelling mistakes. His spelling when he was six was around eighteen months ahead of his age. In this latest story his writing was remarkably untidy. He did not use paragraphs. He did misspell words – but mainly because he was using a proud range of words.

Bright children sometimes do tend hide their talents from their contemporaries.

As a teacher do we suggest to the parents that he needs extra help or is the problem that he does not want to shine at school?

We work with around six hundred Eleven Plus children a year in our lessons and on courses – so we see some of the most able children in Kent and South London. We are used to seeing bright children – and used to trying to extend and develop the academically able.

If anyone has any suggestions for these poor parents please let me know.

Even more important, what advice can we offer to the poor boy?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Eleven Plus and thoughts on the UFO.

I would how you would react if your child dashed into the kitchen one morning and announced that a UFO had landed beside the house. Imagine your surprise and despair if you were also told that an extra terrestrial being was now working through a recent verbal reasoning paper.

Key thoughts would flash through your mind. Did your much loved child eat large quantities of cheese the night before? (Was it really a double cheese burger?) Had you allowed your Eleven Plus candidate too much lee way by allowing Was the UFO real? Could the extra terrestrial being really work through an Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning paper?

Naturally you would not panic. I am sure you moved slowly towards your child to offer a much needed hug. You would then have whispered: “Did the ETB (Extra Terrestrial Being) solve question 34?” (Question 34 read: Mary is shorter that Jill but taller than Sylvia while Poppy is taller than Jill but shorter than Harry. Who is the shortest?)

If your child snaps at you and asks to concentrate on the actual problem then you would immediately realise the need to keep calm. After all if you started think about how you, and the rest of the family, could be abducted because of failing to answer an Eleven Plus question – then it is possible that you may feel a strong need to panic.

If the ETB (Extra Terrestrial Being) failed to solve the question you could immediately swing into action:

Have your child’s eyes tested.

Have the ears tested.

Have allergies to cheese tested.

Book an appointment for your child with a Neurological Psychologist. (At the same time why not cancel your appointment with your life coach?)

Check to see if the ETB has a current CRB check.

Ask to look at the ETB’s teaching qualifications.

Look out the references you were offered by the ETB.

As a final resort promise your self that you will keep off an form of stimulation inspired by a member of the grape family.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sleep and the Eleven Plus

Chatting about children often take us through wide ranging swathes of topics. Over the weekend a mother and I were talking about her son’s sleep habits. He is a very bright boy and does not appear to sleep enough. On some occasions he goes to sleep very late and is tired and grumpy in the morning. The mother was worried that he would not get enough sleep on the night before his Eleven Plus examination.

I went through the usual questions like: does he sleep using a pillow? Does he feel sleepy at school? We then started asking questioning him. I am not sure if all the questions are in the right order:

Do you feel sleepy during your lessons first thing on the morning?

Do you feel tired over the whole day?

Do you feel worse at the end of the school day?

Are wide awake in the classroom?

Do you feel sleepy when you are trying to do your homework?

Do you feel sleepy in during your lessons?

We know that Winston Churchill used to have cap naps during the day.

We know that Margaret Thatcher only slept for around four hours every day.

So it looks as if you want your child to be a potential prime minister you may find that you have to support long periods of wakefulness. The irritability may come with statesmanship – or simply because he or she did not get enough sleep.

So we worked out that if the boy did not have a sleep disorder he may simply need less sleep than others.

The boy took an active part in the inquisition – and in the follow up discussion. He explained that he thought it would be unwise to try to change his sleeping habits just before an examination.

He said too that his mum saying: “Go to bed and go to sleep” just made him feel upset.

Parents do have a hard time – don’t they?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eleven Plus Boys and Girls

Girls react in a different manner to boys about settling down to Eleven Plus work. Boys would be interested that their best friend is studying for an examination but the progress of his football team could be a far more absorbing and engrossing topic.

Eleven year old boys don’t seem to have the same territorial mechanism as many eleven year old girls. We know that the male animal of the species runs around marking out territory. A girl, however, will react immediately to the news that her best friend has been able to earn good marks on a wide range of eleven plus papers. The average eleven year old girl will mentally engage a new gear and immediately settle down to work.

The eleven year old boy will be happy that his best friend is doing well. He will wish him every success and return refreshed to his ‘game boy’ – secure in the knowledge that at least one of the fraternity is achieving academically.

This is not to say that the eleven year old boy does not recognise competition – but he will not react in the same way as a girl. Girls immediately swing into action. They call up every known wile to man – and even those known only to women.

A boy will break off in the middle of a paper for a discussion on any topic that could possible provide a break from the act of study. A girl will be irritated by any interruptions and call forcefully for quiet.

Boys need far more reassurance than girls. A boy needs to be told that he is able and has potential. A girl simply needs to know that she has done well – and is looking pretty!

A girl will allow an untidy desk for only so long before tidying up. A boy will simply walk round any clutter. He may re-arrange his mess but will not recognise that a problem exists.

A girl will check herself in the mirror before going out to a lesson. We often see little fashion models attending lessons – looking as if they are just off to a party. Boys – well boys will be boys!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Money and the Eleven Plus

Every Eleven Plus child should have a bank account. The bank account should be use for:

Monetary rewards
Bonus payments

The steps are easy:

Take two forms of identification to the bank.
Supply proof of your address
Have a minimum deposit. (Around £1.00 will do!)

Make sure your that child receives a monthly BACS payment. This is the wages – or packet money to some parents.)

Help your child set up a small standing order to transfer money to a separate savings account.

Develop an early Budget

Money In
Pocket Money
Occasional Income
Bonus payments

Money Out
Savings Account
Spending Money

Explain to your child that a Budget Account means:

Day 1 – The money comes in.

Day 2 – Savings money goes out

Day 3 – to the rest of the month – the money is his or hers.

If your are asked why you are educating your child to maintain an account and budget then you need to remind all concerned about the approach of university. Tuition Fees, living expenses and general expenses will add up to about £30 000 over the three years of university life. If your bright Eleven Plus candidate is able to budget then the amount owing cum graduation day should be significantly less.

You can only try …..

Friday, February 22, 2008

Eleven Plus Rights

Children and Parents, working towards the Eleven Plus, have a whole series of rights:

Children's Rights

The right to have a break from doing an Eleven Plus paper a day.

The right to appreciate mum’s point, at times, but continue to argue constantly.

The right to be able to express feelings about the rest of the family.

The right to appear to prefer grandparents.

Parents have rights too:

The right to encourage study.

The right to talk about the examination.

The right not to know all the answers.

The right to want their child to do as well as possible.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ten Reasons Why Children Like the Eleven Plus

The work is often harder than I get at school.

I like to see my dad and mum struggle with questions I can do quickly.

I learn some maths long before we do the work at school.

My grandmother thinks that I am very clever.

If I get to grammar school there is a good chance that I will get a good job.

I want to go to university and grammar school children get offered places.

My sister / brother goes to grammar and I want to do the same.

My head teacher takes us out of class to do extra work.

My friends envy me.

I like doing reasoning papers and always try to beat the clock.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eleven Plus Poll

I wonder what the results would be if we were able to conduct on online poll of all the children engaged in the act of preparing for the Eleven Plus examination?

In order to conduct an experiment you have to submit a hypothesis. A proposed outcome would be that the majority of the children engaged in preparations for the Eleven plus examinations are enjoying the hypothesis.


We need to define key words - the first being `preparation’. What is preparation for one set of parents is not the same others. One child may be attempting a paper every second weekend. A different child may need help with comprehension and reading vocabulary – before being able to attempt a verbal reasoning paper confidently. Some children do a paper every day.

One child may need a carefully balanced program of study of his or her mathematics – covering fractions, decimals and the metric system while a different child may only need a little brushing up on algebra and proportion.

One child may be attending weekly lessons on a one to one basis. Other children will be attending with a group of children following a similar syllabus.

We know of parents who swear that their child can pass a competitive examination with no other preparation than the practice papers supplied by the school. We have a very able child of seven attending one of our centres and it is evident that he could probably pass a mathematics eleven plus examination today – if he had to.


Some children will enjoy the challenge of the work and remained engaged and committed up to the date of the examination while others will need to be coerced and cajoled from the beginning.

Eleven Plus Examination

The Eleven Plus examinations appear in every shape and pattern. Some just Verbal Reasoning, others with verbal and non verbal reasoning, some have mathematics and others English.

Eleven Plus examinations vary from county to county, town to town and school to school. It is very difficult for parents to be able to carry a full picture of the whole Eleven Plus scenario.

And now to the questions:

Do your parents encourage and sustain you while you are working through papers?

Are you sometimes subjected to pressure to improve your marks?

Do you enjoy working through papers?

Do you enjoy the idea of working towards the Eleven Plus examination?

We then need to collate, interpret and publish the results.

It would take a brave person to publish the results.

We all remember, however, the Duke of Wellington suggesting “Publish and be damned!” Perhaps I will leave this experiment for a braver person.

The Story of the Eleven PLus

When you walk out into the large square in Marrakesh in the evening you see large crowds gathered around a wide range of story tellers.

These are men who tell stories in a manner quite different to the stories told on CBeebies. I watched one gifted man for ages. Naturally the language was difficult to follow but it was evident, or so I interpreted, that he was telling a story about crossing a river, toiling up a sand dune and finding an abandoned child. Now the story may have taken an entirely different slant if I had been able to understand the words but the gestures and use of props painted a picture that was largely irresistible.

Every now and then the story teller would pull a child, usually aged around ten years old, from the crowd. I don’t know if the child was a stooge or simply a willing participant. One boy, at a crucial part of the story, was made to stand with his arms outstretched at shoulder height. His head was snapped to one side and he was made to stand motionless for a least five minutes. I am not sure if he was in a catatonic state or just caught up in the grandeur of the occasion. I must admit I lost the plot at this point as I shifted my position to try to gain a glimpse of the child’s face.

To illustrate the next point a different boy was pulled from between the legs of the watching crowd. He too did not have a speaking part – but I suppose that you have to start at the bottom in any profession.

I grew up as I child around fires on my grandfather’s farm so I know full well how oral history is passed down from generation to generation. Many people have felt fully education by being an audience to graphic and well told stories of endeavour, romance, adventure as well as trials and tribulations.

The ability to capture an audience is an advanced skill.

Would the Eleven Plus experience not be a whole lot easier if our children had to be able to stand up and deliver a story? This would involve remembering a script, presentation skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure as well as demonstrate a gift for capturing people’s attention.

Surely these skills will be more important in years to come than the ability to find the next number in a series? Just because some consultant said many years ago that finding the next number in a series was evidence of future success in school, university and life then we need to be able to challenge this supposition or even statement.

Whole generations of children would grow to be confident at public speaking with good interview skills and have earned the ability to tell a good story. A head teacher of a grammar school needs to have a blend of pupils in his Year 7 groups. He or she need egg heads for good academic results but they also need children who are good at games, heads thrive on children who are prepared to work hard to achieve worth while results.

A new family of Eleven Plus sites will emerge:

The list is endless. The opportunities are immense. After all who wouldn’t prefer to stand under the stars on a warm African life and hold an audience in the palm of their hand? It could be your child!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Eleven PLus Loss

A handbag was stolen last night while a group of fifteen of us were eating out. We all know the extent of a woman’s hand bag. The whole of life is encapsulated within the confines of a capacious handbag.

I would not presume to understand the intimate details of a woman’s handbag but a preliminary list must include keys of various descriptions. It is likely that there will be as many as ten different keys on a key ring. There must be house keys, car keys – and various unknown others.

We then need to come to cards. These will include debit cards, credit cards, store cards, gym cards, bank cards and at least another five types of largely forgotten but intensely important cards. The loss of the driving licence will remain a great inconvenience.

Then comes a collection of personal items – probably up to as many as fifty different items ranging from tissues to spare lipsticks and combs.

Naturally there will be various communication devices - from telephones to ipods to stick it notes.

Every self respecting woman will be able to recall not only the contents of her bag but the actual pockets everything resides in. When we realise that an average handbag has at least seven different significant places where items of varying importance can lie we can understand the relevance categorising and organising – and possessing instant recall.

I am sure if you laid out, in random order, every item on a large table – and then covered the table with a large white sheet any female over the age of six would be able to demonstrate total recall.

It is possible that this deep inherited trait is one of the most important distinguishing characteristics dividing men and women. Ancient cave women must have been able to lay their hands on every item they possessed as the cave became darker and darker and day light faded.

This why no mere male would presume to play Kim’s game for money with any female of his acquaintance.

This is also why some eleven year old girls are able to solve incredibly complex reasoning exercises. They can retain information. Most will display an advanced short term memory. They will be able to recall everything they wish to remember. They will be able to play the card game `Cheat’ with total conviction.

The Eleven Plus examination for many girls is no more than a passing rite of passage. They will enjoy the challenge of the examination. They will be able to appear calm and unstressed.

After all failing an Eleven Plus examination can not be as catastrophic as losing a handbag. My heart goes out to all women who have suffered such loss. The have lost their past, their present and their future. An Eleven Plus examination can not be as important as that.

Exceeding Eleven Plus Expectations (16/02)

I watched, with interest, different sets of children around the age of eleven today. Some of the children were obviously at a good state or even possibly a private school while a different group appeared to be fending for themselves.

It is likely that both groups of children were carrying the same amount of money. The one group was looking to buy and the other trying very hard to sell. The technique of both sets was remarkably similar. There was no petulance, no tears, and no histrionics – just persistence.

Group A were attempting to buy matching garb. The tops, pants and shoes had to match. This was the cult of the sisterhood in full sway. The fathers, looked at with reproachful eyes, were no match. The girls reached their objectives in a remarkably short time.

We never saw the parents of the other group. They looked clean and well dressed. They were carrying very little and were determined to sell their goods. The children were selling little wooden snakes, small inlaid boxes and sweetmeats. There was nothing complicated in the price negotiations because the price they asked for their good was so small. They also achieved their objective in a remarkably short time. Their technique was to take refusal in good heart and then circle round and reappear some ten minutes later. They had already made contact, established a form of relationship, picked their mark and were determined on a sale. There were the same children that Charles Dickens had described so well many years ago.

Bothe sets of children had developed a form of awareness of a situation – and had the tools to be able to bring a situation to a conclusion. The one set would never do an Eleven Plus examination – and would grow up to because self sufficient adults. The other group of children will go on to pass examinations and sail through university .

In years to come their lives may come together – some selling and some buying. Both sets capable of exceeding expectations.

Eleven Plus Materials (15/02)

Every single person in the whole world has seen one of these before me – but I saw an innovative and exciting product today at our local airport. We are all used to seeing refrigerator cabinets dispensing soft drinks – in all shapes sizes and forms. The cabinets brother is the machine that dispenses all the goodies that children desire but are not allowed. This has the sweets, chocolates and crisps. One of our local leisure centres has a smaller cousin which offers remarkably tasty popcorn for a mere pound.

Standing a little away from the forbidden `fast food’ family was a bright and shining new addition. The items were all seemed to be priced at less than ten pounds – which has a relief. The case seemed to be almost twice as wide as a traditional refrigerated dispenser. I saw too that the product had won the award for the most innovative award presented to BAA in 2007.

By now every reader will know what I am taking about (which in itself must be an unusual event).

Quite simply if you offered the machine a sum of money – and then selected a title you could buy a book without talking to a human being.

One of the major features of chain like Waterstones is that the company seem to employ university students. Some one on the staff will have read a book that you want to but – and you can discuss the book with a fellow human being. This must be good a feature of good recruitment ambitions and training program that recognises the value of repeat customers. As you stand behind the counter in a Waterstones you smile and talk to the customer and listen – and have the time to engage in a dialogue.

All I could do was to take a photograph of the machine. Now the book dispenser did not smile or preen. It did not turn its head slingthly to present the `best’ side. It just wanted my money.

The choice of around thirty books was varied and catholic in taste. I am sorry to say that I did not find one book devoted to the Eleven Plus and Eleven Plus examinations. How on earth are we going to educate and enrich our children if they do not have access to the proper facilities?

I know that Etc has its own online book shop – but we do try to show our telephone number so that customers can contact us and discuss the content of books. After all some parents want a nook of formal tests. Other parents will want a little explanation.

In the lessons we offer our children choice of books and learning materials. Some children choose the `demanding’ books and exercises. Other children seem to prefer to work through exercises that are accompanied by diagrams and explanations.

So when you go to a major bookshop to buy new Eleven Plus materials it is essential that you take your child to allow the candidate to make a selection. We have a remarkably bright Eleven year old who loves to whip through half an exercise from one of the Bond 9 – 10 verbal reasoning exercises before settling down to do her work. When she gets sot the Eleven Plus level book she always looks for the hardest sections. The reason for this is that she loves to stretch her teacher and the loyal assistants. She takes pleasure in watching someone try to solve a problem.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Respect

I had a chat today with a very pleasant man while he cleaned my shoes. We had stopped to look a rather strange looking tricycle.

The tricycle was built out of three quarter inch iron pipe. The welding was crude but effective.

A feature of the bike was the high handlebars supporting two hand pedals connected by a heavy continuous chain to sprockets on the front wheel. The chain quite simply drove the front wheels. It looked as if it took some power to drive the tricycle on a flat surface – much less up a slight incline.

The twin real wheels were driven by a small petrol motor. The plug looked as if it was years old. The porcelain end was a grey orange colour. When the plug had left the factory it would have been white and pristine in appearance.

The seat was as broad as the two wheels – and was covered by cushions.

The wheels were the old wheels of a small motor bike. Our immediate first thought was the designer of this three wheeled carriage had cut the front off a small motor bike and then welded the frame to make the body.

The shoe shine driver explained to us in French that he had had polio when he was nine years old and had lost the use of his legs. He showed us the callipers supporting both legs – much like the one I had to wear for just over a year as a first year student. He also demonstrated that he had no control over the fingers in his left hand. The fingers simply flopped loosely as he moved his hand.

Our shoe shiner explained that the pedals on the steering wheel were for when he had not made enough money to be able to fill his minuscule petrol tank. The tank was around the size of a large mug - about the size of large Starbucks mug.

He explained that shining shoes was rather a precarious career. He earned a basic living and had to hope for tips to top up his income. His clothes were clean – but his tricycle was dusty and dirty.

So I naturally thought about our Eleven Plus children. We enjoy the fact that our children are bright, alive, physically able and remarkably articulate. Yet here was a man who no doubt had had to suffer incredible privation as he struggled to come to terms with his newly enforced disability. I thought too of the worry that his parents must have had as he grew up – not only concern for him as a child but real anxiety about what the world would hold for him when he became an adult.

So when our fine young children stride into school confidently and feeling secure it is natural that we feel considerable pride that we have been able to offer so much to our children. We must have also have had a little concern that our children have made the best of the opportunities that have been offered to them.

The Eleven Plus examinations are demanding. They are competitive. They are draining on parents and children – but there must be a sense of perspective when we remember the struggles of this determined shoe shiner. He did not appear to be sorry for himself. He was not whining about his unfair lot. (“Oh mum, do I really have to?)

We must offer every opportunity that we are capable of towards any disabled child and their parents. We do not need to feel sorry – but we do need to feel respect.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Surviving the Eleven Plus

I have never been ship wrecked on a deserted island. I am sure we would all react in different ways. We have all seen the reality programs like `I’m a Celebrity – get me out of here.’ Some elements of some of the programs were vastly entertaining.

The first thing to think about would need to be water. I think this would come before personal safety. How would we collect and store the water?

Collect water in as many containers as possible. The receptacles would need to range from a hat to a bowl.

In very dry environments condensation forms over night on different surfaces.

If you are very thirsty then tie rags around your ankles – the dew gathers on the cloth. Simply wring the cloth out -and there is water!

Catch fish –as fish contain moisture. Squeeze the raw fish in a cloth to extract the water.

It is clear that when survival is uppermost in our minds that it is unlikely that we will meekly accept our lots, we will fight – and fight hard.

So as new parents enter the Eleven Plus arena – and wonder how they are going to survive they should take heart – because working on the Eleven Plus can not be as hard as the first few days on a deserted island.

Your Eleven Plus Survival Guide needs to include:

Talking to everyone about what is involved.

Being realistic about your child’s chances.

Collecting books and commercially available resources

Listening to your child’s thoughts.

Anything must be better than drinking from a cloth tied to the ankles.

Good luck to all concerned.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Eleven Plus Directions

This weekend just gone we bought a Weber gas barbeque.

It has 2 stainless steel burners with a Crossover ignition system.

There are Porcelain-enamelled Flavourizer bars and a lid with a thermometer.

The thermoset work surface is removable and there are two condiment baskets.

So we enter the world of a new vocabulary.

“Crossover ignition system’ – easy because there are two burners.

A Flavourizer bar is a little more difficult to comprehend. A bar that makes the meat taste good? Who knows?

A thermoset work surface – this must be something to do with the thermostat controlling heat.

So when your Eleven Plus child is struggling with a verbal reasoning question and makes a new word up – please don’t laugh. The ability to make a new word could lead to a wonderful career as an advertising executive.

Just think of describing your child as a `verbgenist’ – a genius at verbal reasoning questions. Perfectly legitimate – and very descriptive.

Try too `grumpnonverb’ – this is a child who is grumpy over non verbal reasoning questions.

And finally a `Ohmumnotnow’ – a child who is not in the mood.

So if you hear of any new words or feel like composing some new type of verbal reasoning question please let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Spirit of the Eleven Plus

I chatted to a mother over the weekend who was clearly `into’ the spirit world.

Her clothes were a bit of a give away. She wore a long skirt with groups of butterflies, A long skirt in itself dos not make a medium – but the presence of a shawl cast over the shoulders and held by some ancient Celtic clasp seemed to complete the attire.

She also employed that other well known spiritualist technique which was to stare into space. I have known for a long time that my conversation is bleak and unworldly but since we were chatting socially and not professionally, I thought it was a little odd. She seemed to be a little preoccupied. In reflection I think that she was possibly communicating with someone. On the other hand I may just have been boring her to death.

I know that in some environments tables can be made to move – along with pencils and pens. I have read too that mediums sometimes choose to communicate with animals mainly, I suppose, because a dog or a cat can’t talk back.

So here we have the ideal mother of a child taking an Eleven Plus examination. There may be, however, some unexpected outcomes.

Suppose the examination answer paper, with fifteen minutes left to go, floats out one window only to appear seconds later in a window some fifteen feet away. (You would need to train your child not to give a start when he or she recognised that some answers had been changed and the remainder of the questions were now complete.) This would give your child a head start.

Suppose too that you were the truth seer and it was your child, who could manipulate a pencil to pick the correct answer, you too would be might proud, I’m sure!

The third help that may be offered to your child would be for the table and chair to lift slowly from the floor and float out the window. This would allow you to give that little bit of extra help to your child.

These were the thoughts that floated through my mind as I watched the mother move away in a dignified and loving manner.

In any event we will never know just how big an influence can be generated by a mother who calls on spirits for extra help. It can’t be illegal – can it? After all in an examination a table can move can’t it? Some wind could cause a paper to float out the window. An answer paper could drop to the floor and be picked up by another child. There could be perfectly normal reasons for what appears to be visits from the spirit world. But we do need to wonder – don’t we?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Year of the Rat

We went to London yesterday to join the celebrations around the `Year of the Rat’. It was a joyous and very nosy occasion. There was lots of movement, colour and noise. It was a real paradise foe all concerned.

We watched this minute Chinese girl playing Mozart. Few of us are privileged to see and hear such talent at such a young age. I bet she could pass the Eleven Plus.

We also walked through Green Park on our way to Buckingham Palace. I bet these three little girls can also pass the Eleven Plus.

We saw that the Queen was in because her flag was flying. We knocked on the gate but there was no reply. I bet all her grandchildren can pass the Eleven Plus.

Parents of bright and privileged children have just the same dreams and desires for their children as the rest of us do.

It would be a very different examination if all concerned could pass!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ten Eleven Plus Questions

J. Pierpoint Morgan used to say that a man always has two reasons for everything that he does: a good reason and the real reason. The same, by all accounts, must be true for women.

So now we come to the nub of the question: What is a good reason for your child passing the Eleven Plus and is it different to the true reason?

The object of the following assessment is tried to bring truth to the surface. A low score does not mean that there is a problem and equally a high score does not mean that all is well.

1. Do you realise that your child is a separate individual and may not have the same attitude towards the Eleven Plus as you have?

2. Are you quite certain that you really listen to your child?

3. Do you exercise control over your bright eleven year old child or do you allow dialogue?

4. Do you allow your child a full and free opportunity to be able to offer an opinion – or are you most often correct?

5. Have you recently praised anything your child has done?

6. Do you refrain from criticising your child in front of others?

7. Are you deeply concerned that your child should have a good opinion of you?

8. Can you talk frankly with your child or do you do you pass over the opportunity?

9. Do you try to have some form of recreation that you and your child enjoy?

10. Are you willing to allow your child some freedom?

Give yourself a score from 0 to 10 on each question.

If you reach 100 then you may need to think again.

If you only reach 10 you may be too hard on yourself.

When you have completed your sums ask your Eleven Plus child to give you a score on the questions.

Be kind to each other!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Profile of the Eleven Plus

I am sure we are all following the American Elections with great interest. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are locked in a fierce battle for the potential presidency of the United States of America. It is likely that the outcome will be undecided until Democratic convention in Denver in August.

We know that the candidates have to raise a phenomenal amount of money to support their drive for leadership of America.

The pictures of voters canvassing for their candidates are compelling.

The sums of money involved appear to be enough to be able to solve a good many of the problems faced by all of us in Britain today.

I wonder if we could adopt American tactics to raise the profile of the Eleven Plus examinations.

Parents – even prospective parents – could join great organized rallies to promote the efficacy of the Eleven Plus.

The National Association of Grammar Schools could take on a new lease of life.

The Government could be encouraged to build grammar school rather than Academies.

More girls could be called Hilary and more boys Barack.

Friday, February 08, 2008

An Eleven Plus Simulator

I drive past the nose cone of an aeroplane on most days. The cone takes over the majority of the front garden. I often wonder if he has a full blown simulator in his cone. Does he fly missions all over Europe? Does he have a favourite route that takes him to Perth and then on to Las Vegas?

We know that Lewis Hamilton has access to a sixty million pound simulator that allows him to prepare for different race circuits. This must be a `state of the art simulator’ – because of the price and the use to which it is put.

There are other kinds of simulations –like role playing and business games. “Pretend that you are the head of your school. Would you allow examinations?”

So a simulator is more than the equipment itself – it is the operation or tasks that have to be accomplished.

So what kind of simulator do we need for our eleven plus children?

It has to move. (Preferably upwards, sideways, forwards and backwards and round and round.)

It has to have light. (Some children would refer bright, flashing and invasive lighting.)

It has to keep a constant temperature. (Shut that door.)

It must give detailed and comprehensive answers. (Just like any parent.)

It can not criticise or cause offence.

It must be able to simulate the Eleven Plus examination.

Why can’t we all get together to develop a valuable Eleven Plus simulator? It would need to develop into a warm, friendly, knowledgeable, goal orientated and strong machine. I can’t help thinking that even the most sophisticated piece of educational equipment is not as valuable as a hug and a kiss from mum.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Wonder of the Eleven Plus

I wonder how many children who have been encouraged to spend a year of their lives working through Eleven Plus verbal reasoning papers ever land up reading and writing poetry?

Take for example Sir John Betjeman 1906 – 84 who wrote:

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,

Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot’s sun,

What strenuous singles we played after tea,

We in the tournament – you against me.

One way and another I am sure that all of us will remember the last verse:

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,

And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.

We sat in the car park till twenty to one

And now I am engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

A cautionary tale to every young man! An easily understandable story to every bright eleven year old girl! I doubt that he worked through any eleven plus papers when he was eleven.

So if some eleven year old brains can easily abstract verbal and literary concepts I wonder why all eleven plus children have to be able to cope with questions like these:

Fill in the missing number or sign:

4 ____ 3 ____ 9 ____ = 16.

The two types of thinking are completely different. If one form is acceptable in an Eleven Plus examination I wonder why the other isn’t?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Eleven Plus Opposites

`In a certain code the words DAB is written as BAD. And the word PART is written as TRAP. How would the word GNAT be written?’

Well as a young child I remember reading about `The Contraries’. These were the Red Indians who always did the opposite of what was expected.

If you said to a Contrary that white was white he would argue that white was black.

So good was evil, work was play and light was dark.

It must have been very difficult to argue with a Contrary. What every you said was right would be wrong.

This is a bit like arguing with a very bright eleven year old who wants to test your limits.

Scene One

“I think it is time to go to work.”

“Well you said that I did not have to go to work until much later on.”

Scene Two

“I think the answer is 64.”

“No it is 46. 23 + 23 makes 46.”

Scene Three

“If DAB is BAD, how would GNAT be written?”


So this is where a Contrary becomes a little less wearing and actually gives you the right answer! You are the winner! (For Once.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The DNA of the Eleven Plus

At one time fingerprints appear to provide the answer to tracking down criminals. After some time criminals began to wear gloves. Or they wiped every surface they touched very carefully.

Every living person has a unique pattern of ridges and depressions at the tips of their fingers. Fingerprints were used in China over three thousand years ago as part of legal contracts. Computers are used today to look at the digital images of finger prints and can search large files very quickly.

But DNA has now come along and seems to offer a much wider and different method of tracking down criminals. Because every person’s genetic make is unique so a DNA match is able to give almost reliable information. DNA chains can have up to one hundred million base pairs.

Now each newborn child inherits half its chromosomes, together with their DNA, from each of the parents. The genetic fingerprint must correspond in every detail with that of one or the other parent.

So when we say that a child takes after one or another of the parents we are certainly correct. The DNA will prove the relationship. If your Eleven Plus child is described as a `Chip off the old block’ you will certainly be very proud. You will naturally claim that the characteristics of hard work, ambition, ability and brains all come from you. It would very hard to disprove.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Eleven Plus Learning

It has been `put around’ for many years that a great percentage of older people learn more readily if they `discover’ things for themselves.

I understand that now that I have reached the delicate stage of being an `older person’ that I will potentially react badly to following spoken or written instructions. Apparently older people are not all that good at either listening to instructions or reading books to learn.

So with an older person it is essential that their work is structured in such a way that there is no need for some key attributes.

The older person won’t be able to rely on memory as comfortably as when they were young people.

Some older people do not like to be subjected to too many interruptions – in case the flow is disrupted.

And the third, and possibly the most important point, is that it is essential that older persons are successful as often as possible. In other words the older person wants to feel a winner.

So no mother or father of an Eleven Year old would class themselves as an `older person’. (Young in years and young in heart!)

So if we need to sensitive and understanding when dealing with older people – we can but hope that we also treat or your Eleven Plus candidates with the same sensitivity and understanding.

We would not say to an older person: “Go to your room and study.” It is legitimate to say that to an eleven year old?

We would not say to an older person struggling to learn a new concept: “If you don’t complete that paper you can’t watch T.V. any more.”

Enough said?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

New Eleven Plus Examinations

If our children could be offered a different type of Eleven Plus examination then naturally the content would need to change.

We could try limericks. Look at this anonymous effort.

There was an old man from Blackheath

Who sat on his set of false teeth.

Said he with a start,

“O, Lord, bless my heart!

I have bitten myself underneath!”

Think of the pleasure that composing a few lines in this vein would give to some eleven year olds.

“Write the missing number 5, 14, 23 ….. 41” does not have the same resonance.

Suppose that one of our eleven plus children landed up writing a timeless classic like:

Doctor Foster


Doctor Foster went to Gloucester

In a shower of rain;

He stepped in a puddle,

Right up to his middle,

And never went there again.

We would be proud of that child for time immemorial.

Some Eleven Plus questions do have an element of challenge – for example:

A certain class has twice as many boys as girls. All the boys have dark hair, but only half the girls have dark hair. Five girls have fair hair. How many pupils are there in the class?

So please, we are working with children. Let us give them Eleven Plus exercises that might make them smile. If you are working with your own child would you rather smile and laugh together or try to put a few words into the right order?

My Dog


I’ve got a dog as thin as a rail,

He’s got fleas all over his tail.

Every time his tail goes flop,

The fleas on the bottom all hop to the top.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

How to Pass the Eleven Plus

It is very important that children play and work by rules.

Take for example the rules of Snakes and Ladders.

Players are trying to reach the square numbered 100.

Each player rolls the dice and who ever rolls the highest number goes first.

Play goes in a clockwise direction.

On your turn to play, roll the dice and move your counter forward the same number of squares.

If the counter lands at the foot of the ladder, move it up the ladder. If it lands at the head of the snake then move it down to the tail.

Now what happens when a child tries to change the rules? The adult, or the other children, say: “No, that is not in the rules. If you keep doing that I won’t play any more.”

That is all very well, Rules are rules.

But if the child who wanted to change the rules was merely experimenting with a different version of the game? Should everyone complain bitterly and walk away?

When the first bag-less vacuum cleaner arrived some people embraced it immediately. Others preferred to wait and see.

Many years ago people had to walk in front of a car with a red flag to denote danger. Now cars are perceived as dangerous when the driver is texting or adjusting the sat nav.

So if a child tries to change the rules in an Eleven Plus examination then the answer must be wrong. Incorrect answers could stop the child the chance of passing an eleven plus examination. The eleven year old could be gifted with an unusually bright mind and then denied a place just because his or her mind did not work the same way as that of the examiners.

I watched a nine year old quite recently trying to explain the rules of a three dimensional noughts and crosses game – with four across, four down and four along. He said that this was his invention and he drew model out and then started explaining the game. He had just successfully written a mathematics paper where he coped easily with a number of Level 5 questions. If this boy is held back by the rigours of the Eleven Plus examination then we may be stifling his creativity and imagination. Do we want a grammar school full of conforming children or do we need some with a thirst for adventure?

Why not pull out the snakes and ladders you last played with your child when he or she was four or five years old? See if the family can come up with an acceptable set of rules. Think of the fun. Think of the endeavour. Think of the feeling of accomplishment. Banish any dissenters to the new Snakes and Ladders rules to the T.V.

Surely there must be a place for an examination pass where an eleven year old can show that he or she can think?

After all we must wonder if a grammar school really does need a whole year group of children who are good at answering `best endings of sentences’.

A river always has (trees, rocks, a waterfall, water, a bridge)

What a boring exercise!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Choosing an Eleven Plus Tutor

Today I would like to talk about Firewalls. There are as many different firewalls as there are Eleven Plus papers. With firewalls we need to be able to compromise between ease of use and security. Without a firewall your connection to the internet becomes a source of concern.

The firewall defines what information is allowed onto your computer. If you define a small area then you reduce the area you need to protect from the Internet.

So you can set your firewall up to refuse anything that you have not already selected.

The other way is to allow everything and then block the services you do not want.

So the first method is rather restrictive and the second gives far more freedom but does allow gaps where your computer can be attacked.

So some teachers working towards the Eleven Plus will want to teach only what they think will come up on the perceived syllabus. Other teachers will want to maintain a broad curriculum that allows them to prepare their children in a much freer manner. Most teachers will be somewhere between the two extremes.

All this is to suggest that when parents interview prospective Eleven Plus tutors they need to pose the question: “How do you configure your firewall.”

If you want narrow but effective tuition you choose Option A. Option B gives far wider latitude to your child’s preparation.

Your choice of the tutor will be as much about you as about your child’s preferences. Anyway if anything goes wrong you can always blame the firewall.