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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eleven Plus Costs

A few words on behalf of all the children who have been offered a bribe – and all those who are contemplating a bribe.

I have sat in on discussions between mothers and fathers and their children.

“I will do an Eleven Plus paper every night between now and the examinations if you give me £100.00 towards my iphone. I already have £50.00 but the phone costs £169.00.”

“Did you really say every night? Do you mean every night without an argument? I am not sure you will stick to your side of the bargain.”

“All right, all right. If you pay me £12.00 a week I will save the money. If I don’t do the paper you will not have to pay me.”

“I don’t know if that going to work. I can see you giving up.”

“Mum, I just want to be financially independent. “ I want to save for my phone and then buy the phone I want.”

“The last time you had any money, you spent it immediately. If I give you £12.00 a week, how do I know you won’t waste the money straight away?”

“I am going to cut down on unnecessary spending. The last time I spent money was when we were on holiday. I wanted to but presents for all the family. You always blame me for spending money but I was buying presents for Grandma and Grandpa.”

“Yes, but you had to borrow from your dad – and did you pay him back?”

“I am going to get rid of my addition. I have an idea. What about giving me £10.00 a week and then a pay rise after six weeks if I don’t spend any money?”

“I will have to ask your mother.”

“I will have to ask your father.”

“You always say that don’t you?”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eleven Plus Points of View

Some battles between Eleven Plus children and their parents bring to mind the forces that developed our world.

180 million years ago the fragmentation of a super continent began a rift between Africa and America.

65 million years ago South America had completely separated from Africa, India had drifted northwards and Australia was on its own.

Much more recently India collided with Asia – and the crash resulted in the Himalayas.

Millions of years ahead East Africa will separate from Africa and Australia will drift northwards.

A heated discussion between a mother and child about work could bring two immovable objects into collision.

Heated discussions between parents and children pass over. Family rifts heal. Children and parents hug and make up.

Work, in time gets done.

Child’s Point Of View

“It is unfair to blame me for not working when you want me to work.”

“You keep on trying to make me work – but I don’t like working from those books. They are boring.”

Parent’s Point Of View

“I have to keep repeating myself. We have gone over this ground again and again. You need to do your Eleven Plus work before you do anything else.”

“We have set days and times for you to work. You know what you have to do. Why do you argue so much?”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Etc and Investors in People

There are many facets to Investors in People.

Investors in people help us to communicate with our staff and for our staff to communicate with our customers.

We are pleased to recognise that our staff are people - and that our customers are people too. Some of our customers are parents. Some customers are the relations who pay the bills. It is possible, however, that our most important customer is each individual child.

If you have any comments to make about where you and your child fit into the circle, you are very welcome to telephone or email.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sweet Music of the Eleven Plus

It would take a very special kind of child who could walk out onto a stage and give a concert without doing a lot of practice.

Preparing for the Eleven Plus examinations is like learning to play a musical instrument.

Your child can attend master classes in musical theory and learn all about the length and pitch of a note. Your child could learn to distinguish the power of a semibreve – and be fully conversant with the fact that a semibreve is the longest note – and is twice as long as a minim.

You could sit night after night with an array of tuning forks – and try to develop your child’s perfect pitch.

You could conduct learned discussions on the range of notes in the piccolo and the tuba.

But your child could not walk out onto the stage and play a piano concerto if he or she had never heard or played one before. It takes considerable practice to be able to apply theory to practice. Your child could pass Grade 5 in theory but would still be unable to execute a trumpet fanfare with learning to play the trumpet.

So it is with the Eleven Plus. We all know and hear about some children who are so naturally gifted that they can pass an Eleven Plus examination with very little work. The rest of the children have to do some work.

Passing an examination is not about learning a few tips.

You are trying to help your child acquire the necessary study skills that will carry him or her through the SATs, GCSE and `A’ level examinations in the years ahead. Working towards the Eleven Plus does not’ however, need to rely on the drudgery of working through paper after paper.

You want your child to be able to appreciate and savour the journey. You want your child to be excited and interested in working towards the examinations.

At the end of all your hard work you want your child to be up there on the stage receiving the congratulations of the teachers and fellow pupils because he or she has passed the Eleven Plus. You want to feel good about yourself too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Dewey Decimal System and the Eleven Plus

Most libraries number books under the Dewey Decimal classification. Under this system, each book is given a class number from 000 to 999. Since this number indicates a class more than one book can have the same number.

All the 999 classes divide up into ten sections. Education is within Social Sciences.

`Social Sciences’ is numbered from 300 to 399.

Education falls within 370 and 379.

The number for information on schools is 371.

Anyone can walk into a library and head straight for 371. Schools and their activities come under 371. The number for Schools and the internet is 371. School Teaching is 371.

Some of your children will any way have some smattering of the Dewey Decimal system – because some school libraries do organise their books in this method,

The next time you take your child to the library take a few moments to share the excitement of rediscovering the Dewey Decimal system together.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eleven Plus Chance

Adam Smith is on the `other’ side of the Twenty Pounds bank note. Adam Smith (1723-1790) wrote about how wealth was created.

Each bank note has a serial number:

AH28 412833

BE69 010440

AE22 754912

AK64 482001

Pure and unworldly Eleven Plus child will possibly have never played the game, loved by so many gamblers, of guessing the next number. Adult Number 1 holds up a £20.00 bank note, with the number hidden. Relatives, friends and acquaintances have to guess whether the £20.00 note in their pocket will be higher, lower or remarkably similar. The winner, naturally, takes the pot.

Before this is condemned as an Eleven Plus activity we need to look at the advantages.

We need to look at odds. What are the odds that our note will be higher than the other note?

We need to pay our way. Once the roll of £20.00 notes has dried up we need to look at other activities. We can’t play if the money has run out.

We need to look at the personality of the person we are playing against. How likely is our opponent to keep a straight face?

We need to devise sets of rules. We can use the whole number. We can choose only the final two numbers. We can select only the first letter after the letters at the beginning of the series.

We can experience the excitement of winning.

We can feel the dread of losing.

All of these emotions are part of the Eleven Plus.

When parents start working with their child on a course of Eleven Plus lessons they are taking a bit of a gamble. Has their child the ability? Are the books they have chosen the right ones. Are their friends giving them the correct advice? Will a tutor be any good? Can the family co-operate? Is Dad really that good at mathematics?

I am sure the same thrill can be obtained by passing over five and ten pound notes. It is likely, however, that to take chance after chance with a twenty pound note in a game will help to focus the mind.

And this is fact what parents want to happen. They don’t want to tear up and throw away their money. Parents want their child to focus and concentrate fiercely – when the time is ripe.

So keep the money safe. Try to guide your child towards building excitement and interest. After all you really want to take away any aspect of chance in your child’s Eleven Plus preparations.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eleven Plus Choices

I met a girl today who has turned down the chance of attending her local grammar school so that she can follow a different range of subjects at her local academy.

The academy specialises in sport, business and technology.

Her grammar school has a special interest in science.

She explained that she didn’t mind science but she really wanted to do business studies.

Naturally I asked why – and she replied, very pragmatically, that she thought there was more money in business than in science.

Her local academy has a very bright and highly motivated girl arriving in September!

The grammar school has another place to offer.

Every one is a winner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eleven Plus Common Sense

A leaflet about the Chelsea Flower Show has appeared or emerged on the kitchen table. This year the show is between the 20 – 24th of May.

Few of us will actually manage to obtain a ticket but full reporting will, no doubt, be on television. We will share the show with earnest and worthy television announcers presenting us with a mixture of gossip, reporting and information. Well known growers from all around the world will be tempting us with an explosion of colours and fragrances.

We won’t, however, be bludgeoned with all that many Latin names. Plants are named first for their genus. This is essentially the surname of the plant. The species give a further subdivision. Of course there are sub species of species. So the radish, much loved by the Egyptians and Ancient Greeks is called: Raphanus sativus.

The radish is first of all a plant. It is then a vascular plant – which means that it has tissues which carry food around the plant. The radish then comes from a family of seed plants. Further down it is a flowering plant. The radish is one of the mustard family – and then – and only then - can it be named as a genus: Raphanus. Later on the word sativus is added – and this means cultivated.

If only we could teach some of our Eleven Plus children to tackle a question in a step by step manner.

Take the question:

Anna, who wanted to go to grammar school, will be eleven on Friday the 27th of June 2008. She would like to have a few friends to her party. Why was the party not set on a Friday?

To select the correct answer from a range of multiple choices our Eleven Plus child will need to read the question – at least twice. He or she should then eliminate the answers that are obviously wrong. The detective work will then need to start.

First of all the question is from the family of Verbal Reasoning. The question, however, does not easily make sense.

The Latin Name? Verbalosa Nonsensensica.

If you can’t find a radish at the Chelsea Flower Show you may possibly be able to meet an Eleven Plus expert who will be able to explain to you that there are some questions that simply need a smattering of common sense.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Your Family and the Eleven Plus

It could be interesting to try to follow the family tree of all who have attempted the Eleven Plus examination in your family.

Of course you would start with the rest of your children. Then look at both parents – and their siblings. Look too at their children. A form of a pattern should be emerging.

Now look at the parents of all the adults. This will add to the drama.

You need now to abandon any hope of serious Eleven Plus research and continue with tracing your ancestry. Try adding the collateral lines from a distant forebear by adding the whole of the rest of the family.

While you are doing this mammoth research ask for any details of education. Degrees? Awards? Professional Development?

You may need to look for clues in any family documents. Church and family gravestones are often sources of information.

Print out the whole tree. Use a highlighter to pick out key points. Explain to your child the research you have done. Explain why you did the research.

When your child turns to you to ask why, you have the evidence to say:

There has been no one with a degree in our side of the family. You are going to be the first.

Look – all of our side of the family have been to university. You can not break the line.

You will be the sixth one in our family to try the eleven plus. You can not let us down.

If you pass the Eleven Plus – well and good. If not we won’t mind and will do our best to try to find a place for you in a good school.

It will depend on your aspirations and your background to determine which answer you think will be most appropriate for your child.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eleven Plus Bribes

What is a worthwhile bribe for doing well on an Eleven Plus paper?

Should parents opt for lots of little bribes that add up to the same value as one big bribe?

Do children need to be bribed at all?

I am not sure if Edmund Clerihew Bentley was talking about Eleven Plus bribes when he wrote:

When their lordships asked Bacon
How many bribes he had taken
He had at least the grace
To get very red in the face.

The problem with a bribe and its influence on the behaviour of a bright Eleven Plus child is that if you offer the bribe you have to deliver.

“If you tidy your room you can have the last ice cream.”

“If you reach 25% on this very hard paper we will go to the cinema.”

If you offer a bribe, and then renegade, then you will never ever be forgiven. This will haunt you for ever – even if it was something really small. But think of the consequences of offering a trip to Disney for a good examination result.

Does your child actually have the ability to carry out the task?

Is your child likely to become defeated if a successful outcome can’t be achieved?

If your child does hold a grudge for an `unfair bribe’ the think how he or she will explain to the whole world just how unfair the whole `deal’ was. Who would have the red face then?

Eleven Plus Codes

A POMEGRANATE, BLUEBERRY & CRANBERRY SMOOTHIE has the following ingredients:

Pomegranate juice 23%, apple, banana, blueberry 10%, cranberry puree 7%. As Eleven Plus contenders we need to count the percentages. If we count the 23%, the 10% and the 7% the percentages add up to 40%. A percent adds up to 100 – so something is clearly missing.

If we count 23%, 10%, 10%, 10% and 7% we reach 60%. To repeat - a percent adds up to 100 – so something is clearly missing.

There was another figure of 30% on the label – but this referred to the 30% of RECYCLED MATERIAL. Even if we add the 60% and the 30% we still do not arrive at 100%.

All our Eleven Plus children need their five a day – and this smoothie can count towards Five A Day.

Children don’t need to rely on working through tedious Eleven Plus papers. Real life mathematics is all around them. Encourage discussion on `Energy kcal’, fibre and sodium.

Talk about time. How long does it take to complete a question? How long can be spent on all the different types of papers? Why does a smoothie have to be consumed within two days? How long does it take to read all the small print on a `super berry smoothie’?

Talk about reading the question. What ingredient could be used in a smoothie to `make it up’ to 100%? Explain why a `Five a Day’ can be in a bottle as well as being a tasty fresh apple.

Ask your child to explain why purchasing 3 for £5 is an attractive proposition for a retailer. Is 6 for £9 still a viable selling price for the manufacturer and the retailer? How much could one single `super berry smoothie’ be sold for?

And finally – on the lid of the bottle are the magic numbers and letters:

DU 18th Apr

UB 18th Apr

Does your bright and able Eleven Plus child treat these symbols as a type of code? Are they an anagram? Would wider reading help to solve the puzzle? Do Verbal Reasoning papers actually contain examples like these? Is this a fair test of intelligence? Should a child win a place in grammar school if he or she can decode:

DU 18th Apr

UB 18th Apr

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Eleven Plus Safety

I read some basic safety suggestions today. They were connected to that most valuable Eleven Plus device - the mobile phone.

The Mobile Phone

Always treat your device and its accessories with care and keep it in a clean and dust free place.

The Eleven Plus Mantra

Always keep your room and desk as tidy as possible and keep everything in a clean and dust free environment.

The Mobile Phone

Do not drop, throw or try to bend your device or its accessories.

The Eleven Plus Mantra

Do not throw your books, papers and pencil case to the floor if you suddenly flip.

The Mobile Phone

Do not carry your device in your back pocket as it could break when you sit down.

The Eleven Plus Mantra

Carry your Eleven Plus dreams in your head and your heart. Do not sit on your dreams.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ten Eleven Plus Points.

Every good Eleven Plus child needs make two little prayers to Thomas Edison.

The first prayer could be about his light bulb – as he was the first recorded inventor of light bulb. The light bulb allows Eleven Plus children to work into the night.

The second prayer could be about Edison’s invention of the phonograph. Surely this was the forerunner of the MP3 player, the Ipod and all music on mobile phones.

Serious Eleven Plus children could possibly try to remember one of his most famous statements.

“I never allow myself to be discouraged under any circumstances. The three great essentials to achieve anything while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

1. Your child can be helped to understand the need to study and `see the light’.

2. The importance of being able to study without the TV on – and with the aid of music.

3. The need for hard work.

4. The importance of being able to stick to a task.

5. The application of common sense to work and play.

6. Understanding why questions have to be read at least twice.

7. The reason why work should be set out neatly.

8. Why even a tired child should work against a time limit.

9. Being prepared to admit that a mistake has been made.

10. The total comprehension of the statement that he or she is not expected to get every thing right.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions

I am very fortunate to have a copy of the 1958 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Volume 1 No 1.

Educational Research was published for the National Foundation for Education Research by Newnes Educational Publishing Co. Ltd., once a term in November, February and June. The price, post free throughout the world, was 5/6.

The idea of Educational Research was to try to bridge the gap between the worlds or research and the schools.

The first article was by Professor Philip E. Vernon who was Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of London, Institute of Education. The title was:


He wrote – and here I quote – “One other practical point to emphasise is that non verbal or pictorial group tests, and individual performance tests, are much inferior to verbal ones in predicting educability (except, possibly, in predicting ability for science and technical courses among older pupils).

Thus, their use for scholastic purposes should be avoided.

They may appear to give a fairer chance to very young children, or to older readers who are poor readers.”

In the same article he wrote: “General thinking skills, as well as attainment in junior school subjects, are highly relevant to grammar school success.”

We work with lots of children in Bexley where the Local Authority used to test children in Mathematics, English as well as Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning. Bexley now tests, for the first time this year, in Verbal Reasoning and Mathematics.

Bexley, therefore, is no longer relying on non verbal reasoning and English – but is using verbal reasoning where `General thinking skills’ are required.

I brought my copy of `Educational Research’ with me when I left Zimbabwe all those years ago. I have subsequently worked with thousands of Eleven Plus children over the years. I still wish that I knew at least some of the answers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Google Sky

I was introduced today to Google Sky. Google Earth helps us look at the earth. Google Sky looks at the sky.

From time immemorial man has looked at the sky. The Ancients worshiped different constellations. In more recent times we believe that the Incas used the sun and the position of the planets to develop a remarkably sophisticated calendar. The Ancient Greeks also used the moon’s path around the sun to create a calendar.

I looked first for the Southern Cross – which can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere – but points to the North South, East and West. The cross is a beautiful sight when the sky is clear.

Google Sky will transport the family to the heavens. It will stimulate speculation and wonder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eleven Plus Mentality

If your child gains entry into a grammar school then you and your child will have beaten other parents and children for a place.

In the Eleven Plus examinations some child will come first. Some children will pass and will immediately be offered a place. All the children who pass will do better than the children who do not `win a place’. Thus the Eleven Plus examinations, to a degree, are about winning and losing. The winners will gain the benefit of a grammar school education.

To come first in a county wide examination your child would have to display a multitude of attributes including ability, perseverance, desire and sheer hard work.

Matthew Webb covered himself in porpoise grease and swam from Dover to Cap Griz Nez in France – and became the first to swim the English Channel. This 21 hour swim showed great physical and mental strength.

The Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space. She orbited the earth 48 times. Valentina was the pilot of the space craft. She must have demonstrated leadership and bravery.

We also need to remember Christian Barnard who performed the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. He was dedicated and a pioneer.

William Webb Ellis also needs to be remembered because he picked up the ball and ran with it under his arm – and this is the distinctive feature of `The Rugby Game’. He must be commended for disregarding the rules.

It looks as if are going to be able to identify some characteristics that our Eleven Plus children will need to take into the examination:

Winning mentality
Good attributes of ability, perseverance, desire and hard work
Great physical and mental strength
Able to demonstrate leadership and bravery
Dedication and a pioneering spirit
A disregard for the rules

Monday, April 14, 2008

Verbal Reasoning

These Eleven Plus questions come from a 1963 book: “Essentials of Verbal Reasoning” by O.B. Gregory.

Use the letters of the word in capitals to make words which match the definitions below:


The hair covering certain animals
A bird of the gull family
A melody
To move quickly on the legs
False, incorrect or unfaithful.

Each of the following pairs of definitions refers to the same word Write down what the words are:

The underneath of a part of a shoe
A flat fish

A slap
A small fishing vessel

A black substance made from tar
A piece of ground on which a game is played

A natural, flying animal
A piece of wood used for hitting a ball.

Write down the words which would complete the following analogies:

Britain is to British as Holland is to
Kilometre is to length as kilogram is to
Day is to daybreak and night is to

Arrange the following words in pairs, putting a harder word next to an easier word of a similar meaning:

Difficult, diminutive, incorrect, ancient, circular, generous, contented, intoxicated, colossal, courageous.

Old, happy, brave, round, hard, drunk, huge, small, kind, wrong.

It looks as if the thought behind verbal reasoning questions has not moved on all that much in the years between 1963 and 2008. I know that if it works don’t try to change it – but surely we have made great strides in the education and assessment over the last fifty years that there could be a case for a re-think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Eleven Plus Choice

I am sorry to say that at one time or another, during the course of their lives, our Eleven Plus children will need to be introduced to that very odd man called `Caesar Tiberius’. Some children may even be lucky enough to escape finding out about the horrors instigated by this strange man.

He did, however, do one good thing for our Eleven Plus children. Caesar Tiberius was told by his Doctor that he needed to eat a cucumber a day to cure an illness. He told his Head Gardner to produce a cucumber a day or else!

The gardener dug pits and then filled the pits with fermenting dung. He then covered the pits with frames or sheets of mica. Tiberius was able to survive on his `cucumber a day’

As our Eleven Plus children approach their examinations we know that they need to eat their `Five a Day’.

To help our children towards deciding that they want to `buy in to’ the concept of `Five a Day’ we need to educate them. We are lucky, however, because many of our Eleven Plus children are profoundly conscious about the need to preserve the world. Many of our children worry about the way the world works – and they like to think that one day they will be able to `Save the World’. (It is possible that some children will be a little less ambitious and simply want to be able to be a good influence.)

To give our children the ability to make reasoned choices we need to be able to give them the tools of the job. If we only offer five different types of greens and vegetables then we are restricting their choice. Some children will only want to eat locally produced `eco friendly’ food. Other children may want to be able to grow their own.

There must be some parents, however, who would want to draw the line at supplying their children with the raw material of fermenting dung. It may be easier to follow the many other Eleven Plus mothers who simply pop into a supermarket, on a daily basis, to buy a fresh daily cucumber.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Choosing a Grammar School

If we try to look into the mind of a ten year old – and then exhort them to strive to reach a grammar school – we may need a little help. Just as children look at adults with a sense of disbelief (at times) so adults sometimes fail to understand children.

Take the choice of grammar school. Some children may enjoy the atmosphere of an old traditional building. Others will prefer the glass and solar power look. The music room in the older type school could be in the crypt of the old church. The `modern’ music room could have feeds for the school radio, recording facilities for video and the school’s podcasts.

Look now at the lunch time food. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit the school around lunch time then your child will be able to look ahead to years of school lunches. In the one canteen you could walk into the sliding smell of boiled cabbage. Your child may also comment on a pervading smell of bleach – used to try to kill the smells of cabbage and odorous mince and stale potatoes. Your much loved grammar school candidate may want to see rows of fresh green vegetables and healthy fruit smoothies. It is just a matter of choice.

Now for thoughts on after school activities. Your child may prefer the idea of the debating society and the art club. A different child would want a fifty metre swimming pool and a membership of the fencing club. Watch your child’s reactions to the different clubs on offer. After all you would prefer your child to socialise in the relative safety of the school grounds – rather than down at the local.

Finally your daughter may have her own ideas on the uniforms of the grammar school. She may like the idea of a lime green skirt and a tasty looking purple blouse. Other girls: `WOULD NOT BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT!” Quite simply the length of skirt above the knee may be enough to turn your eleven year old away from one school and into the arms of another.

Even eleven plus children are allowed to be a little irrational at times.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Eleven Plus Advice

It is always useful for your precious `Eleven Plus’ child to be given the opportunity of being able to learn from a real role model. A role model is not necessarily Uncle Bill who passed his Eleven Plus many years ago and then went on to become a successful tree surgeon. Uncle Bill may or may not tell your much loved child about how he spent a summer on the beach with the beautiful blond Summer. (A story not fit for the ears of an eleven year old.)

A more credible role model could be a Year 8 family friend. If you put your Year 5 together with a Year 8 grammar school genius you must be fully prepared for the consequences.

“What are the exams like?”

“Oh don’t worry about them. I never do any work for the exams. I didn’t do any work either for the Eleven Plus. No, just don’t think about them.”

“Do you have much homework?”

“Never – any way I do it all at school in class. I don’t have to bring homework home. None of my friends do any homework either. School is much easier than people say.”

“How you learn your French and Spanish?”

“The French teacher is never there. She is always away sick. She says that she does not like our class because we are so noisy. We don’t get any homework because she does not like marking. The Spanish teacher never talks in English. She just talks and talks we don’t know what she is talking about half the time.”

“I heard you went on a cool school trip last term.”

“Yes, but the food was terrible. It was a geography exchange. We were supposed to share with some French kids but all they did was talk to them selves. We had to eat plain croissants – and they were stale. There were no chocolate croissants, just old hard ones with horrible jam. We had no eggs and no bacon. We didn’t even have a Mac Donald the whole time because we were stuck in these little huts. They were mouldy.”

“We went on one to The Isle of Mann and had to write silly stories about the trip. Did you have to do that too?”

“Worse than that we had to write to one of the French kids – and make them a pen pal. How can you have a pen pal if you can’t even write the language? I never talked to my pen pal when I was on holiday – so I had nothing to say in my letters.”

“My dad always says that he did Latin at school – and he loved it. You do Latin don’t you?”

“The only thing I know about Latin is: “Latin is a dead language, as dead as dead can be; it killed the ancient Romans and now it’s killing me.”

“Come along dear, it is time to go. Say thank you to Trevor for telling you all about grammar school.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What do Eleven Plus Children Need?

It is very hard for some parents to understand the NEED some children have to be in possession of their own computers. The shared, rather elderly, family computer can not be considered as truly viable learning tool. In order to make the best possible use of the digital age, any richly deserving child has to have newest and most powerful computer possible.

It is important for parents to remember that playing games on a computer is really a sound and proven method of improving the mind. This of the skill involved in manipulating a mouse and the keyboard. Think too of the stimulation inherent in solving an adventure game. Parents need to realise that it is perfectly possible for a child to switch from an exercise involving communication with other children to getting help in solving a homework problem.

Parents only NEED to spend money to satisfy one of their child’s very real needs.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Eco Friendly Eleven Plus

There must be a way to make the Eleven Plus examination a little more eco friendly.

On the day of the examination the `CANDIDATE’ has to be transported to school. This could mean a car, a bus, a tram or train. Let us keep it simple. A car needs steel, aluminium, rubber, plastics and many other chemicals. A car is going to need petrol or diesel to power it. A few parents will be able to allow their child to cycle or walk to the examination.

Even fewer parents will be able transport their child to the examination in a Toyota Prius – which is the hybrid vehicle using electricity or petrol. We have had children picked up from our lessons in cars, small buses, taxis and lorries. There has been a range of vehicles from a restored VW campervan to a brand new Bentley. I can not recall, however, ever seeing a Prius.

To obtain the petrol or diesel we need oil wells and refineries. To drive the car we need roads, land, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and a mass of signs. When the car is old we need to crush it and then recycle as much as possible.

Bright children who have passed through good grammar schools sometimes take between eleven and thirteen GCSE examinations. A child taking eleven GCSE subjects would need to spend at least two hours on each examination. If the child did not walk to school then there would need to be eleven trips in a car to school and eleven back. It could be argued that all this driving around contributes towards ecological damage.

Thousands of children writing Eleven Plus examinations must also contribute towards any eco damage. Think of the trips in the car to ferry the candidate to extra lessons or to buy Eleven Plus books.

There is a heart warming story, however, behind all this depressing reading.

My car developed a knocking noise in the engine as we drove into today’s leisure centre to do some teaching and assessments. The AA responded with fifteen minutes. There followed a brief period of consultation and diagnosis. Thirty five minutes after my initial phone call I was delivered, by the AA, to a local car hire centre because the AA provided a three day replacement car. Within fifty minutes I was back at my car transferring `stuff’ from my car to the new car.

The new temporary car is a Ford Focus – a manual gearbox, good speakers and remarkably easy to park. This `little’ car used around half the amount of petrol that my car would have used over the homeward journey.

So thank you to the AA.
Thank you to Ford as well.

I arrived back feeling virtuous that I had helped to save the planet.

It looks as if the problem is not the children who are writing examinations but the teachers who are teaching the children who are writing the examinations. All teachers and tutors involved with the Eleven Plus may need to drive smaller cars and thus reduce their carbon foot print.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

There would be no need for an outcry if a parent took his or her Eleven Plus child to the Science Museum to stand and look at this exhibit. It would be easy to initiate a discussion on how and when the skull was cracked open. The family could openly discuss if the injury to the head was caused by an accident, a crime or in battle. A full debate could take place on the type of weapon used and how hard the blow was struck.

If the same material was used in an Eleven Plus teaching aid then there could be `letters to the Editor’, complaints to the publishers and downright condemnation of the author and the Eleven Plus tutor.

The grisly image may, however, remain in the mind much longer, and make a more sustained impact, than a verbal reasoning question along the lines of:

FINGER is to H____ as T___ is to FOOT.

An Eleven Plus child should be stimulated, encouraged and enriched. Working on a boring eleven plus exercise will help your child to pass the examination. Surely your child deserves more? Perhaps as parents and teachers we need to demand that a fresh look is taken at the content of the examination.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stimulating Eleven Plus Children

It had to happen.

It looks as if some children had some hard homework set to them over the holidays.

One question was:

In an old fashioned cuckoo clock, the bird cuckoos once at 1 o’clock, twice at 2 o’clock, 3 times at three o’clock and so on.

Jamie, who is at home sick, wakes just before 7 a.m. and goes to sleep at 8.15 p.m. How many times has the bird called during this period?

We worked out:

7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8.

This adds up to 93 times.

Our `bright spark’ immediately starting trying to work out how many times the cuckoo would cuckoo if it cuckooed twice during the half hour. (Apparently some cuckoos do pop out on the half hour.)

She then asked if we could add on the fact that the clock cuckooed once every quarter to and once every quarter past. The next question was: “If Jamie goes to sleep at 8.15 would she hear the clock or would she be asleep? Do we count the 8.15 cuckoo or do we leave it?”

This shows a typically divergent approach to work. Her questions were not inconsequential – she was genuinely involved. She was simply trying to take the problem to the next level.

Perhaps one day there will be more genuinely stimulating questions in the Eleven Plus examinations. Well done to the teacher at school for setting the work. We had a few minutes of pleasure in the lesson. We also were able to try to keep up with an able mind working at the speed of light!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Eleven Plus Story

We know just how important it is to keep our Eleven Plus children fit and healthy as the examinations approach.

I took this photograph on a main road – just a few miles from the proposed Olympic Stadium.

There is an Eleven Plus story about a father who offered everything to his son if he passed the Eleven Plus. The father was a demolition contractor who specialised in pulling down old buildings. A few weeks before his firm was to blow up the old building he took his family, friends and key employees into the pool. Naturally all the family were wearing safety helmets.

The assembled guests saw dozens of alligators swimming in the pool. The guests surmised that some alligators must have escaped some years ago and made their home in the old pool.

The dad turned opened his arms and told the gathering that if anyone jumped into the water they could have anything they wanted. Everyone laughed and moved on.

Suddenly they heard a loud splash and looked around. There was the much loved son swimming for his life through the water. He swam round some alligators and dived under others. It was a magnificent feat of bravery. Some would even call it foolish.

The boy’s dad ran round to the other side of the pool and hauled his son out of the water. He threw his arms around his son, and said, with tears of relief running down his face: “Why? Why did you do that?”

His boy, with water steaming off his face, said: “Dad, please now can you give me the verbal reasoning answer book? I would do anything to work out the answer to Number 32 of Test 2 in Verbal Reasoning Book 1.”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Eleven Plus Stars - The Week Ahead

Aries Mar 21-April 20

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Romantic Venus is in the sign and unexpected changes are due.

(Your child may fall in love with the idea of doing Eleven Plus papers.)

Taurus April 21-May21

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

A new friendship may enhance your life.

Work together on Eleven Plus papers.

Verbal Reasoning will be in the ascendancy.

Gemini May 22-June21

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

The new moon brings exciting changes in your social life.

Join the newly formed `Mothers for the Eleven Plus’ group.

Cancer June22-July23

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Mars is travelling through Cancer.

Use the energy to encourage your child to work as hard as possible. Concentrate on timing and reading over completed work.

Leo July24-Aug23

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

You must be confident and stand your ground.

There is some possibility that the answer book is wrong – and that you are right.

If all else fails stamp your foot and say: “I suppose you are right.”

Virgo Aug24-Sept23

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Put your personal plans on hold and concentrate on the Eleven Plus.

This is a particularly good month for Non Verbal Reasoning exercises.

Libra Sept24-Oct23

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Use your Libran charm to convince your child of the need to work hard.

Use words like: “You could be right, well done.”

“You are so able. I am enjoying this work with you.”

“I can see that you have a point. I am listening to you.”

Scorpio Oct24-Nov22

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Once again don’t listen to advice from friends, colleagues or other parents,

Select the answer that you think is right and stick to it.

Take the heat out of discussion with ice cream - and start again another day.

Sagittarius Nov23-Dec21

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

It is all to do with the New Moon and being creative.

A very good week to work on creative problem solving.

Capricorn Dec22-Jan20

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

You should meet a new friend who will grow into an Eleven Plus partner.

Try to have lots of communication, listening and talking about feelings.

Aquarius Jan21-Feb19

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

Forget about worries with money and the mortgage. Don’t worry if your credit cards are `maxed’. Just go for it!

Keep buying Eleven Plus papers.

Failing that down load as many free Eleven Plus papers as you can.

Pisces Feb20-Mar20

A good week to consider Eleven Plus Work.

This is YOUR month for a career move.

Help your children to understand their positions in life – and you go out to enjoy yourself. The New Moon will help.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bullying and the Eleven Plus

I was buying a pint of milk today.

There was a boy and his grandmother ahead of me in the queue. The boy was between thirteen and fourteen years old. The boy wanted a particular brand of cigarettes and the grandmother was not being quick enough. His three friends were standing a few feet away mocking him for taking so long. At one stage one of the `friends’ shouted: “Hurry up grandma!”

The shop keeper was patient. She understood that the boy could not make a direct purchase. She listened to the grandmother. She took the cigarettes off the shelf at the boy’s behest. Grandmother paid – but the boy pocketed the cigarettes. His friends left with him laughing and joking. The group went off in a different direction to the grandmother.

My grandparents had a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe. They grew a tobacco called `Virginia’ because it had a light colour. The leaves were picked in the fields and taken to the barns for curing. The tobacco was `flue cured’ – meaning that it was stored in a barn and heat was gradually added. The temperature in the barn had to be kept constant for days on end as the leaf slowly turned from green to gold.

The barn was allowed to cool and the tobacco was then taken to a grading shed where the leaves were sorted into different sizes and quality.

As the tobacco leaves rubbed against each other tiny flecks of tobacco fell to the floor.

Children dived under the table sweeping up and collecting. Naturally small bits of leaf also fell to the floor at times. These were hurriedly crushed and added to the dust.

Some tobacco was passed onto the adults – but some children kept little bags of crushed leaf. I suppose that only a person who has smoked a cigarette without a filter can imagine what a cigarette rolled in newspaper could possibly taste like.

I simply can not imagine any grammar school boy or girl bullying their grandparents in such a blatant manner. For this reason alone I hope your children do pass the Eleven Plus. At least you know that they won’t want to treat their grandparents badly.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Tests

It is very difficult to be able to measure just how much a child has learnt. What a test can do is provide information in the form of a snap shot. “This is what this child ha been able to do at this moment in time.”

We can set a child objectives – and then we can try to measure to see if the child has reached the objective.

We can work out what has not been achieved – and then try to give the necessary help.

If we are teaching a child towards an Eleven Plus examination we can see just how effective our teaching is.

When parents are working from commercially available Eleven Plus papers they are pleased when their child reaches a predetermined level.

"Yes, my son, we did want you to reach 55% on this paper. Well done."

"Oh, no! You have only obtained 93%. Last time you reached 96%. You have to keep concentrating. I have told you about this before."

"If you don't reach 75% on this paper I will take your ipod, computer and your drums away. You need to try much harder this time."

Parents are setting objectives all the time. There could, however, be material in the papers that have not been covered in lessons or at school.

Thankfully very few parents set unrealistic goals for their children.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Eleven Plus Problem Solving

Parents working on Eleven Plus papers are often faced with the problem of how to help their child to decide on the right answer – and hence to solve problems.

At one level it is easy to explain the problem in a form of continuous prose and then encourage your child to find the right solution. In other words you talk and talk – and hope your child is listening.

Using words will not always give the easy way of helping your child to solve a problem – for example:

Steven had new pair of football boots. He did not like the colour of the laces so he exchanged his new boots with William for a game boy. William and Henry had exchanged the game boy for Henry’s new trainers. Henry had obtained the new trainers from Arthur.

A different method of helping our Eleven Plus child to solve problems is to encourage trial and error or discovery. This is where you set your child an Eleven Plus problem and expect (or hope) that your child will work out the answer by `discovering’ the correct answer.

Here your Eleven Plus child may have to come up with a vast number of solutions before finding one to suit the problem. Boredom, frustration and an `unhelpful attitude’ may creep in.

There is also the risk that at incorrect solution may be presented as the correct answer simply to be able to move on. Children need to be aware of this when tying to look at the alternatives in multiple choice answers.

A third way is to set present a series of recipe type solutions. If your child follows certain steps then you a reasonably confident that he or she will solve the problem.

The great advantage here is that your child may not need to work through every single step of the recipe to be able to emerge with the correct answer.

What is the best ending?

A party always has (ice cream, paper hats, jelly, fancy dress, and people)

Does every party have ice cream? Yes / No.

Does every party have paper hats? Yes / No.

A fourth way is set up a decision table – where you ask a series of questions and then guide your child towards a solution.

Which two letters occur least often in the word DISINTERESTED?

Look at the first letter of the word. Is it in the word again?

Now look at the second letter – the letter `I’. Is there another `I’ in the word?

We move now to the letter `S’. Are there any more `S’s in the word?

Neither you nor your child can hope to solve all Eleven Plus problems by following rules. The easier the problem the more likely that words alone will help. More complex problems may have to use a combination of methods.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Questions in the Eleven Plus

We have a copy of Modern Cookery Illustrated by Lydia Chatterton. There is no date on the book but it was probably produced in the 1950s. The book is a hardback – but bound in cloth. We think that the book belonged to my wife, Susan’s mother. The book traveled out to Zimbabwe, and was then brought back when our family entered England some years ago.

There is a section on electricity. Page 15: “Today the majority of housewives obtain current for cooking and other domestic tasks for three farthings and in many cases a halfpenny a unit. Under such conditions electricity ceases to be an expensive method of cooking.”

It was in these long ago days that the Eleven Plus was introduced. Today’s children would struggle to understand a halfpenny much less three farthings. Today’s families would not be able to buy electricity at such a unit price.

Electricity has moved on. So have our families. We have access to a wide selection of kitchen gadgets. Page 18: goes on to talk about refrigerators. “Refrigerators, once only heard of in mansions and hotels – are now installed as a fitment in many of the new flats and housewives who have purchased their own on the hire purchase system declare that they save more the weekly sum they cost to buy. (1s. 8d. per week, or 2s. 6d. for the larger size is more than paid for by the serving in food.)”

If we feel the need to smile at the two sections taken from the 1950s cookery book I wonder why we still allow some Eleven Plus questions that date from that era.

Today’s Eleven Plus children are computer literate. They are internet literate. They will have seen more films by the time they are eleven than some eleven year olds from the fifties will have seen in their lifetime. Some of the Eleven year olds writing this year will have traveled to Europe, America and Asia. They will have eaten meals under the mantle of an African night time. Today’s child will have more tunes on their ipods than the eleven year olds from the 50s will have been able to collect as 78 singles.

If today’s children have had so many opportunities to learn in new and exciting ways, I wonder why Eleven Plus papers still have questions like:

Beatrice was born in 1998. She has sister exactly three years older. In what year was she born?

I think we need to ask the children what they think they should be tested on. After all today’s child will have a wide variety of experiences to draw on. So we need to `turn the light out’ on the team of `experts’ who are fashioning Eleven Plus examination papers and look for `flashes of insight’ from our able ten and eleven year olds.