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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Value of the Eleven Plus

Demitri Coryton, the Editor of the Education Journal, puts forward a strong case for comprehensives creating opportunities for children to do well academically.

The four comments which follow the article are equally telling – as they expose a wide range of opinion on the value of the grammar school.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Eleven Plus Balance

There must be a strong relationship between what your child has to learn for the Eleven Plus and your child’s self concept.

`Self Concept’ is to do with your child’s self image. Does your child feel that he or she is hard working and attentive during eleven plus work? As parents and teachers we have to try to build a realistic self image. If your child is feeling a little under pressure you are going to struggle to build a positive self image.

As well as trying to help your child build a positive self image you will also need to build your child’s self esteem. Esteem is to do with self evaluation.

If your child experiences failure, while working through eleven plus exercises, you will not be building a good self image. There is a real problem; however, that one child’s failure is possibly another child’s success. This is where parents have to be realistic in what they say while they are trying to motivate their child.

“I am so proud of you. You are trying so hard. We are making good progress.” Words like these could be music in the ears of one child – but serve to alienate another child.

Parents can possibly get caught up in hoping that a form of `self prophecy’ will catapult their child towards better marks in eleven plus preparation and, in time, towards passing the Eleven Plus. Your child may, however, make better strides towards examination success by working through a series of graded exercises than by a battery of exhortations. If expectations are too high, and demands too unrealistic, then you could be damaging your child’s self concept.

It must be easy for some children working towards a competitive examination to assimilate the anxiety of the parent. This in itself could inhibit learning.

It would also be easy for a minority of parents to use the `anxiety tool’ to try to motivate their child to want to study. After all fear of failure is a very strong emotion in most of us. Some children may feel fearful if they do not maintain consistently high marks on Eleven Plus papers. Other children may be fearful about the consequences of not passing the Eleven Plus.

Maintaining a balance between trying to build a child up and being realistic must be tricky for some parents. After all, no mother wants to labelled `pushy’. No father will want to fall into the category of being `an over anxious’ dad.

The mantra probably needs to be: “Just do the best you can, dear.”

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Eleven Plus Realism

There were a number of school fetes today – in our area – and more than likely round the country. The essential ingredients of a fete are:

• A small, but dedicated, group of parents who are willing to talk, and plan.

• A date set far in advance – but about to be overcome by a larger event somewhere else in town.

• A willingness of other parents to attend, participate and spend money!

• Good weather.

• Many stalls manned, and `womaned’, by enthusiastic parents who want to share in the excitement of the day.

• Lots of children who `need’ a myriad of discards from other families.

• A caretaker who wants everything to go well.

• A warm and caring Head Teacher and Staff who look forward to the event.

In terms of extra tuition it means that some teachers are happily willing to sacrifice their Saturday jobs to go to the fete. (This I how I landed up testing today.)

A mother and child came in. He was the first child we had seen who had passed through the Making Good Progress pilot scheme. The mother was highly complementary about the benefits to her son. He had had help with tables and division. He had really enjoyed the one to one contact with a different teacher from his school.

So this is a `good feeling’ account. Good weather, great children and a wonderful and realistic mother. Being a teacher is incredibly rewarding at times.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Eleven Plus News

Laura Clarke, in the Mail Online, reported on the number of children in Grammar School growing.

There is an Eleven Plus test in the Telegraph for interested parties to try.

The is also news about a book on the Eleven Plus in the Telegraph.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions

A Brief Survey on Parental Aspirations: (Where 0 is low and 5 is high)

Why do you want your child to go to grammar school?

The standard of teaching and learning would be better

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Children would learn more than at other schools.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools lead to better career prospects

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

The grammar school curriculum is `better’.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

The subjects a grammar school offers will interest the children.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools will stretch academic ability.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools will develop intellectual ability

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools will develop leaders.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

There are social advantages in going to grammar school.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

The traditions of grammar school are an advantage.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools develop character.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Grammar schools prepare children for life.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Parents feel that their children will mix with the `right type of child’.

0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4- 5

Some of these statements may stimulate discussion.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Adding a Challenge to Eleven Plus Tests

Back in 1926 Goodenough suggested a test of mental and perceptual ability.

The test is cheap and easy to administrate. The instructions are remarkably simple. Children were asked to draw three figures: a man, a woman and them selves.

Mental age is worked out by adding a selection of key targets.

Head 1 point
Neck 1 point
Eyes 1 point
Nose 1 point
Mouth 1 point
Hair 1 point

Naturally the more points a child can `draw’ the higher the mental age. This may seem a crude type of test when we look at a one of today’s commercially available nfer tests – but the Goodenough test does demand attention to detail. Some of the present non verbal reasoning tests require children to count little lines and dots. This is like expecting a child to remember to include eyebrows and knobbly knees in a drawing.

If the Goodenough Draw a Man test was to be included in Eleven Plus examinations parents would need to recruit tutors and teachers with strength in drawing.

Pre Eleven Plus children would walk around with sketch books looking for `interesting’ faces to draw. Members of the public would walk around with horse collars – to show that they had the ability to `gurn’. After all no self respecting Eleven Plus child would want to draw a stylised baby face. An unlikely looking gurn would be far more attractive.

Grandparents would know what to give for birthdays and Christmas – a quality sketch book and a selection of suitable pencils. Stationers would welcome the increased sales.

Pictures formerly stuck on the fridge would be retained in folders – as evidence of early artistic ability. (Just in case artistic ability would become a factor in any appeal situation.)

Long neglected maiden aunts – with artistic ability – would be courted by the family. After all the mildly eccentric `Aunty’ would become a valuable commodity in the search for the perfect Eleven Plus Score.

Visits to the National Gallery by families with eleven year old children would double. Children would sit in front of paintings by the masters – looking for inspiration. Families would not visit Paris to go on Disneyland rides – but would sit on the banks of the Seine searching for the perfect face to draw.

Finally just think how an attentive mother could help her child to collect extra points. She could steal a march on other parents by directing her child’s attention to feet. After all the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments.

Eleven Plus examinations are supposed to challenge and stimulate children. The ability to execute a series of lightening sketches would certainly add another element.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eleven Plus Sampling

We often hear talk about how `experts' draw inferences from data taken in a sample.

If we could do a study on all children who gained places in grammar schools this year we would not be drawing on a normally distributed sample of children. We would be looking at bright and able children who had the ability to do well on tests. This would be a biased sample of all the children spread across England.

Another example of a biased sample would be if views on grammar schools were sought from all families who owned three cars. This would not be a representative sample of every one in the whole country.

To obtain a sample that avoids bias, use is made of random samples. This would involve writing every name of the parents of every Year Six child on a slip of paper. We would then need to put all the slips into a great big drum, and then draw out a number of names. If only three names were drawn then this could not be considered a truly unbiased sample. As the data can only from Year 6 parents, we would need to treat the Year 6 data as not being truly representative of the all the children in England.

When our children sit an Eleven Plus test they are working from a sample of questions held in a data base.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Reliability of Eleven Plus Tests

Some of our children will be sitting an Eleven Plus test set by the Local Authority. Some of same children could also be sitting an Eleven Plus test in a different Authority.

Some children will sit a Local Authority tests as well as an entrance test for a local school. (One year we had a very bright girl who passed two different Local Authority tests and three entrance examinations set by different schools. She passed all five examinations – and was offered a place by all five!)

When GL Assessments are asked to provide tests they are able to draw on a wide variety of questions that have been properly validated. GL Assessments is the new name for NferNelson.

To make sure that the tests are reliable, the items in the test, and the results, have to be able to demonstrate consistency. To do this the test scores have to be free from chance errors. After all you don’t want your child to be faced by an unfair question.

The test-retest method of working out reliability is to set the test – and repeat the test some time later. This would show just how stable the test is. There has to be a time element - otherwise children would remember the questions – and the answers.

The other method of validating results is to use an equivalent test. This test can be administered again almost immediately.

When some parents feel that one test is harder than another - it is highly likely that the tests continue to be reliable. The difference may come in the interpretation of results. One school may demand a higher `pass rate’ than another.

We use the Eleven Plus test scores to try to predict future academic success. To see how reliable the Eleven Plus tests are we need to look at GCSE and `A’ Level results. After all if a child earns a place in a grammar school – we do expect that child to do well academically.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eleven Plus Prayers

At one time or another we all need the patience of a saint to be able to deal with the vagaries of the Eleven Plus child.

An anonymous 17th Century nun may have words that can help us:

“LORD Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.”

It would be wonderful if your eleven year old stopped being moody and became thoughtful. At times you would love your eleven year old to be helpful but not bossy. Above all just think what it would be like if your eleven year old did not think that it was essential to say something on every subject.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Cream of the Eleven Plus

My grandparents farmed in Zimbabwe for many years. My grandfather, Mr W.G. Hamman, believed in diversification. The farm had horses, cattle, maize, tobacco, vegetables, fruit orchards and a wide variety of pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, geese and chickens.

I was a small boy when a large covered truck arrived on the farm. Planks were carefully attached to the rear and a massive bull strode majestically onto the African soil. It was the first Friesland bull to be introduced into the district. Rhodesian cattle were traditionally small boned – and remarkably mobile. The bull was there to build a dairy herd.

Farmers and their families came from all over to see the bull arrive. It had travelled from England, on a boat and then by train. Government vets also came to wonder at the size of the bull.

A two hundred strong party took place in the tobacco barns and outside under the trees. My grandparents supplied pig, sheep and a young bullock for food. The rest of the produce came from the farm. Naturally every family brought food and drink. I have an idea that most people seemed to go home the next morning.

The milk yield grew year after year. The farm supplied fresh milk to the local town and made cream and butter. The cream was rich and plentiful. The first batch was usually `creamed’ off for use by the family.

`Creaming’ is a term usually supplied to highly selective schools. These are the schools that attract the most able pupils – leaving the other children to be shared among the rest of the schools in the vicinity.

The phrase the `cream will rise to the top’ can be defended, by some, on the grounds that the country needs bright, well taught children.

Much more attention should be given to children who just fail the Eleven Plus. Over and over we hear of children who could have benefited from a grammar education but failed for the want of one or two marks. Thank goodness for the `grammar’ stream in so many non selective schools.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Second Chance at the Eleven Plus

In 1938 the Spens Report looked at the organisation and interrelation of schools. The report rejected the idea of multilateral schools and felt that grammar school and modern schools should be separate institutions.

The essence of the forward looking plan was that there should be three types of schools:


It was felt then that because there could possibly be mistakes at the age of 11, the same work should be taught to grammar school children as that taught to children in the modern schools. This gave children another chance for grammar school at the age of 13.

Some parents on hearing that their child did not pass the Eleven Plus will need to dream again.

Dream about an education system where children are given a second chance. Think how hard your child would have to work, however, in Years 7 and 8 if he or she had to write another entrance test at 13.

Think of how many times you would have remind your child the need to keep focused.

Think of all the arguments and heated discussions that you would need to with-stand over the two years.

But think of the deep pleasure you would feel if it actually happened. You have to dream about a second chance, don’t you?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eleven Plus Conversations

One of the planks of selection and the Eleven Plus examination must be that there is a degree of correlation between the Eleven Plus and future academic success.

Correlation between two sets of marks is the extent to which they are similar – or the extent to which they agree. The precise extent of agreement is measured by means of a coefficient of correlation. A Coefficient of Correlation is shown in a range between -1 and +1. The extreme of +1 is perfect correlation while -1 is the opposite. If there is 0 correlation then there is a complete absence of either positive or negative correlation.

We could try to establish a degree of correlation between girls who pass the eleven plus and girls who take science at university. Are girls who pass the Eleven Plus more likely to go on to university to read science?

A different approach could try to establish the correlation between children who read widely and scores on verbal reasoning tests. Does lots of reading really have an impact on good scores in tests? We would need to investigate if good readers are able to cope with verbal reasoning papers.

To obtain a result of `0’ we would to investigate the correlation between two different events. We could look at height and the passing the Eleven Plus. We would need to hope that the height of a child is completely unrelated ability in competitive examinations. We would need to think that most children are fairly near to average in height. We would also need to think most children are fairly near to average in height. We can not predict that only tall children will pass the eleven plus.

Key playground conversations:

“I was looking into correlation last night. We think that there is a good chance of our child passing.”

“Look at those Year 5 children. They are so tall. I wonder how many will pass the Eleven Plus?”

“Every year our school gets 23 around out of 26 into grammar. My boy is in the top group. I think that it is likely that he will pass.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Understanding the Eleven Plus Child

We would need a strong and powerful leader to have the presence and power to change the nature and content of the Eleven Plus examinations. We have had leaders in the past who were ahead of their time and had the ability to embrace the future.

Many of us will have a great respect for Boudica. She was a war leader who fought the Romans. She was against the laws, taxes and slavery. She would have been a person who would have carried all before her and would have been able to talk to the `Eleven Plus Test Writers’ and demanded that they change much more than the style of Eleven Plus questions. She would have forced the `experts’ to rethink the nature and the content of the Eleven Plus examinations.

The next person we would need would have to be Piaget. He was concerned with the way a child’s mind worked – both as a means of understanding and educating the child. He used two main methods in his research. In the first he recorded everything that was said by the child over a period of time. The other method was a series of standard questions or tasks. He was not concerned with age levels but with how the brain and intellect of a human unfolded.

There is another group of people that we would need to bring to the party. The Hadlow Report of 1926 stated:

“There is a tide which begins to rise in the veins of youth at the age of 11 or 12. It is called by the name of adolescence. If that tide can be taken at the flood, and a new voyage began in the strength and along the flow of its current, we think that it will move on to fortunate.” These words did so much to convince educators and administrators that transfer should take place at the age of eleven. At that time the school leaving age was fourteen so eleven was selected because it gave enough time for a form of senior education.

To make changes in the Eleven Plus we need people who can take up a cause, understand how children develop and have the authority to be able to force change.

There is no doubt that some parents will do their best to help their child towards the Eleven Plus examinations – but at the same time will offer a little prayer to Boudica, Piaget and the authors of the Hadlow Report. The reason for the prayers is that many parents will have experienced that `tide’ which just seems to rise in eleven year olds at time.

When the inevitable tide rises in their child, mothers and fathers will need to show the leadership of Boudica, the understanding of Piaget and the ability of Hadlow to recognise that if we go with the flow all will `move on to fortunate’.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Maths

We needed extra milk in Stratford over the weekend. There was a very small parade of shops – made up of a news agent, hairdresser and a small general store. When we approached the counter the very obviously Italian owner offered us a slice of cheese called “Flowers of the milk.”

We complimented him on his initiative – and paid for a good hunk of cheese.

He went on to explain that he was really a chef – not a grocer. We learnt that he had cooked in a small hotel which had changed hands. His new ambition was to develop the off licence side of the store by offering fresh pizza. To do this he needed an Electric Pizza Oven. After a full and impassioned discussion we decided that we liked this one as it cooked 4 x 241mm. diameter pizzas:

FED high output electric pizza ovens offer proven reliability and a classic smooth firebrick hearth design. A variable working temperature of 50-500 degrees centigrade makes these ovens useful for a variety of other applications.”

If we had had an Eleven Plus child with us we would have asked:

The oven cost £899 plus VAT. The delivery charge was £15.00 plus VAT.

How much did he have to pay for the oven to be delivered?

If he made a profit of £2.00 on each pizza, how many sets of four did he have to sell before he had earned enough to pay for the oven?

I hope he does open his dream pizza outlet. We all have to dream don’t we?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Changing the Eleven Plus

Vincent Van Gogh once worked at a small school in Ramsgate. He applied to become an evangelist among the miners. His application was rejected. He went back home for a spell and then went to join the miners. He slept on the floor, attended the sick - but was not all that successful.

He decided to try to paint so went back to school to study. After he left school he started on the studies of the poor - the weavers and the peasants.

He went on to paint pictures that were not only outstanding - but were painted with perfect simplicity and harmony.

If we could bring some of the bright colours and the vibrancy of his paintings into the Eleven Plus syllabus. Ideally we would like children writing Eleven Plus examinations to be stimulated and feel involved in what they are learning. The whole examination needs a radical rethink. Clever children all studying “If VXUDS STANDS FOR strap, what word would you choose for SDUXV?

A question like that may have thought to be of value 50 years ago - but for today’s children? We really do need a significant change for the better.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Eleven Plus Comment

Parents are always going to have difficulty in convincing their child that they will grow up one day. Parents can look back and say: "If only!" Adults can draw on experiences and reflect on decisions. Children can make decisions - but need to rely on their parents.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eleven Plus Thoughts

We are in Stratford today.

I wonder what Shakespere would have thought about the Eleven Plus?

To talk and think about Shakespeare some of us may need to return to school days and the different works we were expected to study, learn and comment on.

Few of us will have difficulty in working out which play the following words come from:

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightening or in rain?

We know that this comes from one of the witches in Macbeth. If one of the Eleven Plus question writers was allowed to dabble with Shakespeare wile writing an Eleven Plus question, the final question would probably look like:

Fill in the missing word:

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightening or in rain?

a. heat b. rain c. depth d. funny

From Hamlet we could get a question:

Good night sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

The Eleven Plus question would be:

If the code for GOOD is hppe what is the code for REST?

If thousands of children writing Eleven Plus examinations across England were encouraged to learn Shakespeare in order to write the examinations, there would need to be a change of attitude towards Shakespeare.

Parents would buy books, CDs, DVDs and question papers. Mothers and fathers would discuss Shakespeare in the playground. Eleven Plus teachers would need to revisit Shakespeare and broaden their teaching. Children would be encouraged to learn quotes and passages. There would be a genuine air of excitement. It would all be spoiled, however, by the question writers who would not be able to resist setting some irrelevant questions.

Some of our youngsters may enjoy what Cornwall had to say to his servants in King Lear:

Turn out that eyeless villain. Throw this slave
Upon the dunghill.

Some may also tremble when they read about Cornwall pulling out Gloucester’s other eye:

Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Normal Eleven Plus Work

The words of advice you pass on to your child as the examination approaches may need to be repeated. Start dripping the advice now – and hope that some it sinks in!

Explain why there is no substitute for sleep – and why you need sleep before an examination (SBE). Some of the family may not feel all that involved in the Eleven Plus examinations and may want to begin a new `agenda’. Somehow you will need to explain that peace and quiet – along with a normal routine – is an essential part of Eleven Plus preparation.

Some of the family also may want to be drinking fizzy drinks and eating junk food. Try to keep the peace – but try to ensure that what the candidate consumes is `legal and appropriate’. You will want your `much loved candidate’ (MLC), to eat pasta, rice or potatoes. There should, however, be no pizza and no treats. Make the point that the Eleven Plus preparation will have gone on for months before the real examination and there is no need to spoil everything by poor last minute eating and drinking habits. (NJF means no junk food!) Hamburgers, some nuggets, spicy foods and large servings are all to be avoided if possible. Some children may need to be very careful with dairy products.

Breakfast on the morning of the examination may be the most difficult meal. Naturally you want your child to eat a reasonably substantial meal – so that there are no hunger and fear pangs. Porridge, toast, cereal and juice are all good options.

Sitting the actual Eleven Plus examination may generate a fear and adrenalin so some parents may need to try to make sure that they have supplied an `after examination’ snack and drink.

And then that `Night Before Walk’ (KBW) needs to remembered. This is the gentle family walk where all concerned go for a little walk together. Only allow a simple family chat. If possible, there should be no discussion of the outcomes of the examination or the possible contents of papers. Where possible, apart from shouting at the dog, the discussion should be quiet and contemplative.

If you can maintain an interest in food and sleep you will be able to offer your child what he or she needs without any radical deviation from the `normal’.

Parents, therefore, need to remember MLC, NJF and KBW.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ten Pre Eleven Plus Points

You want your child to work through a paper. You want to see “Where he is up to!”

To achieve an outcome you will need to try to replicate the day of the actual examination. You won’t always be able to create a similar examination environment if you expect your child to sit down to a full paper after school.

You will need to build up to your test. Warn your child three or four days ahead that he or she is going to be tested. After all you will let your child be aware of what is going on a few days ahead of the Eleven Plus examination.

Make sure that your child goes to bed at a reasonable time the night before.

Encourage a healthy breakfast on the day of the test.

Plan something fun to do after your test.

Talk about `not being nervous’ and `doing one’s best’.

Thirty minutes before the examination give the final `Ten Point Pep Talk’.

1. All you can do is your best.
2. Keep calm – even if you feel nervous sit up straight and take deep breaths.
3. Read the questions carefully. Read each question at least twice.
4. Keep looking at the clock. You don’t want to work too quickly and too slowly.
5. If you are doing multiple choice work cross out the answers that can not be correct. That makes your choice easier.
6. Be very careful with your answer – read your answer over when you have written it down to make sure that you have actually answered the question.
7. If the paper is not multiple choice then you will be able to show your working. Work neatly and logically.
8. If you get stuck then move on. You can always come back to the question if you leave enough time at the end of the paper.
9. Leave time at the end of the paper – so that you can check work over.
10. Enjoy the test as best you can. Be happy and cheerful to all concerned.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eleven Plus Opportunities

Years ago the very wealthy used to employ a tutor to prepare their children. The tutor taught the necessary mathematics and English – along with Latin and Greek. Entry to the top private schools was through Common Entrance – which exists today.

As time marched by parents wanted their young children to attend preparatory schools. The children could mix with others of similar backgrounds – as well as have their horizons broadened by meeting children from all over the world.

Hill House School in London has a page with the results of entrance examinations and success in helping children reach the school of their choice.

On the results page we see children winning places at St Pauls, Cheltenham College, Eton and Harrow.

Another fascinating page is the Diary for the year. The things these fortunate children get up to!

The pages of this school’s website paint a picture of extremely well taught children.

All of us would love to have the same for our children and grand children.

The children who pass the Eleven Plus examinations, along with bright children at other schools, will, however, have the opportunity of rubbing shoulders at university. There is hope yet!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eleven Plus Assumptions

Many years ago Freud published the book “Psychopathology of Everyday Life”. He gave examples of how the mind makes connections that on the surface appear to be unrelated and highly superficial.

His idea was that certain operations in the mind produce a chain of associations.

Suppose your child is faced with an Eleven Plus question which asks:

Use the letters of the word in capital letters to make words which match the definition:


A person who attends to teeth.

One kind of brain will read the definition fleetingly and then look hurriedly at the word in capital letters. For this child Grand Dad will whisper, “Tell him to slow down. He is always rushing.”

A different child could look carefully at the definition. The words person and teeth will stand out. The word dentist may spring to mind – because of the definition. The child will, we hope, then check the chosen solution against the word ADVERTISMENT.

A third group may employ yet another method. Once again the word dentist may spring to mind. The child will then test the hypothesis against other definitions of a person who attends to teeth. He or she may then try dental (as in dental surgeon) or horse-doctor.

We could be faced again with the word ADVERTISMENT.

The definition this time could be: To give helpful information.

The word ADVERT may spring to mind immediately. If the definition was, however, changed: `To give helpful and truthful information’, then some minds may immediately reject the word ADVERT, and look for a different word.

Some alternative associations could be:

`Notice, letter, mention and explain’.

Each of these would need to be tested against ADVERTISMENT.

If your child does not arrive at the answer in the same way that you did, then it could be that the two of you have developed different ways of forming associations.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Eleven Plus and Listening to Your Child

If your child wants to become a plumber – then you will naturally applaud the intentions and try to make sure that he or she is the best possible plumber around.

A plumber has lots of learn – First Fix, Second Fix, soldering, measuring, bending pipes and dealing with `customers’. The First Fix is laying the pipes and preparing the site. The Second Fix is joining the pipes to the appliances and checking for leaks. Making sure that everything is on site at the right time is a major exercise. Very few plumbers today are going to be able to have a career in plumbing without superb Information Technology skills.

We all know of plumbers who carry a little computer with them and tap into the computer when parts are needed for a particular location. The next day the parts are there – delivered and on time. A different location will have posted an invoice which a third will have despatched the goods. If there any delays the plumber will have been informed – allowing him or her to make the necessary apologies and excuses. This would be information technology working to make life easier for all concerned.

An ambitious plumber will go on to try to win contracts – possibly even working for himself or herself. Skills like quoting and managing a work force will need to be honed and developed. The business could grow and grow and one day the plumber could be the head of a quoted company – rich beyond the widest dreams.

Who is to say that the route of 6th Form and University is better than becoming apprenticed and going to college on day release?

Some children, capable of passing the Eleven Plus, may decide very early on that study and university is not for them. It is possible, however, that they may land up with an employer who argues that all a plumber needs is the ability to solder and bend pipes. Other employers will recognise their ability and understand the role that Information Technology will play in the development of both the individual and the business.

A bright and ambitious young plumber will soon see through a reactionary and backward looking employer. What we hope is that the young plumber will join a concern where there a true circle of opportunity. Older people helping the young, and in time, the young helping the even younger. A young plumber can be happy and creative. A university student on the wrong course can be depressed and disillusioned. Listening skills are essential for parents and teachers alike.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eleven Plus Logic

Parents some times have to adopt a rather philosophical approach to their child’s Eleven Plus chances.

We know that philosophy is a technique of thinking. It is to do with examining assumptions. Logic plays a big part in philosophy - because we use logic as a tool. The problem is a mother’s logic can be very different from a father’s. The assumptions made by an eleven year old may not always follow perceived logic. A child talking nonsense may possibly be thinking logically.

“I just don’t know what you are thinking about.”

“No, I am not judging you, I just feel that that you are not thinking logically. Listen to me.”

“We have to try to take emotion out of this discussion. We need to examine the facts.”

With these statements as a background what are some assumptions that could be examined?

Assumption 1

Any child who prepares for the Eleven Plus must automatically pass.

Assumption 2

A child’s dream of winning a place in grammar school is as powerful as the dream of the parents.

Assumption 3

Eleven year old children are ready to take on the responsibility of passing a competitive examination.

Assumption 4

Passing the Eleven Plus is an essential destination in a child’s education.

When your child shrugs his or her shoulders and walks away this may be attempt to be mature and philosophical.

When your partner shrugs his or her shoulders and avoids full blooded confrontation then he or she may be examining and acting on different assumptions.

“Oh yes, he is likely to make the grade,” is the very moment that parents have to accept that reason does not always play a logical part in the Eleven Plus journey.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Eleven Plus Ratios

The Ancient Greeks still have an influence over Eleven Plus mathematics today.

There is a legend that the Athenians sent a deputation to the oracle at Delos to inquire how they might save themselves from a plague that was ravaging the city. They were instructed to double the size of the altar of Apollo.

The altar, as you will recall from your studies of the Ancient Greeks at school, was cubical in shape. (A cube!)

So the Athenians built a new altar twice as large in each direction. The new altar was eight times the volume of the original.

The gods were un-amused. The plague continued.

Some good Eleven Plus candidates will be able to solve this problem.

A different sort of question could be put to an equally able Eleven Plus child:

“Which fits better, a round peg in a square hole or a square peg in a round hole?

Your bright Eleven Plus child will look forward to the `hard’ questions towards the end of the paper. You will have covered ratio, area of a circle, and possibly used the word `circumscribed’ at some stage.

Your bright and highly motivated child may be able to work out that the problem is actually asking the question:

Which is larger, the ratio of the area of a circle to a circumscribed square, or the area of a square to a circumscribed circle?

If you are working in two dimensions the ratio is π/4 and 2/ π.

Thus a round peg fits better into a square hole than a square peg fits into round hole.

I am not sure if questions on ratio will be expressed in terms of altars or round pegs – but surely it is better to be safe than sorry.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Eleven Plus and the Apprentice

You want your child to be offered some specialised coaching just before the Eleven Plus examination.

You want to brief the final four candidates – and then select one of them to spend a few hours talking to your child about life, study and the universe. You want a motivated and interesting person to excite your child’s imagination.

Sadly the psychologist, Lucinda Ledgerwood, has gone. Sir Alan thought that she was too zany. It is possible, however, that your child would have benefited from her advice.

That leaves us with the final four:

Claire Young would talk and talk – and your child would need to listen carefully. There would be a lot of good sense.

Lee McQueen would amuse your child with his famous reverse pterodactyl impression. The time together would be light hearted and far ranging. You would, however, need to check his spelling and qualifications.

Alex Wotherspoon may be a little too young. After all he is only 24 and may not have the necessary experience to be able to offer rounded help to your child. He has, however, been at private school for fourteen years – if you think that would help.

Helene Speight would not try to sell anything to your child – but would be able to say what it like to work for an American owned multinational.

Invite the four round for a `nice little chat’. Let your child interview them – and then make his or her choice. After all this is rather like selecting a tutor to work with your child towards the Eleven Plus. You never quite know if your child is going to prefer one approach to another.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Eleven Plus English

What kind of questions could provoke an eleven year old to write a thoughtful answer to a written paper? Some authorities still use a written response as a method of selecting children – while others use the essay or story in the event of a difficult decision.

What about:

Discuss the effect of seasons on mankind.

Your child would need to be taught to recognise the need to define the word `mankind’. He or she would also need to establish that there are four seasons. The third element is to do with what the word `effect’ means in relation to the question. Finally the word `discuss’ needs to be looked at carefully.

There are three places left in a popular grammar school. Five children all have the same final scores. Only three children can be awarded a coveted place. All eyes turn to the Head of English.

The essays are marked carefully. Strengths and weaknesses are analysed and commented on. A table is drawn up with the children listed in order of merit.

The first account is well planned, carefully written with thoughtful paragraphs. There is a clear attempt at a discussion on how people react to the four seasons. The child brings in a surprising point that she has lived in another country where the seasons are not so well defined as in England.

The last essay is a spirited and imaginative description of how cave dwellers lived thousands of years ago. Changes in vegetation and food are examined. The role of hunting through the seasons is explored. The value of fire is discussed.

The Head of English has a clear mandate. The best possible candidate must be selected. The child who answered the question must win a place. The child who understood the question but chose to interpret how to answer the question in a different manner has to be penalised.

Is this fair?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Eleven Plus Games

“I try to make every session with my child into a game. I don’t want it to get all too serious. I know that I would really like my son to get in grammar – but I don’t want to push him. If he gets there he gets there. It is up to him.”

We can just visualise an Eleven Plus session in that house. Mum and her son mark out two lines on the carpet. Two verbal reasoning books are open behind one line while two separate sets of Eleven Plus mathematics questions are behind the other line.

Mum and son get down on their knees. Each has a large onion. The rules are simple. Push the onion with your nose over the line. Answer the question and turn around. This time push a cucumber back. Answer the mathematics question. The first person to complete the task wins.

A different type of Eleven Plus game could be `Woof Woof’. Sit the family and any friends in a big circle on the floor. The first player says: “One dog, two eyes, four legs, goes woof on a roof in Dulwich.”

The next player has to add another dog. “Two dogs, four eyes, eight legs, goes woof on a roof in Dulwich.”

Another dog is added: “Three dogs, six eyes, twelve legs, goes woof on a roof in Dulwich.” Anyone throwing scorn on this activity as an Eleven Plus game will need to play it to understand the value of the exercise.”

I am not sure what the mother had in mind when she talked about, “Making the Eleven Plus a game.”

I would, however, be grateful for any suggestions.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Tests

A mother and I had a little chat today about how a test was standardised. She was concerned to know just how an organisation like NFER went about constructing a standardised test. After all, the tests that are commercially available to parents are not standardised.

Let us take the scenario of a Local Authority wanting to have a new verbal reasoning test to investigate the ability of the children within the borough. (This could be for selection purposes!) An authority like NFER is approached. NFER stands for National Foundation of Educational Research.

The test is written and a draft test is produced.

The draft test is then tested in schools. The length of the test would need to be about the same length as the test used in the final version. When the results come in, NFER would then be able to see how well children coped with the layout of the pages. A `final’ test is then developed.

The test is standardised. Table are drawn up which allow the test results to be compared with other tests within the same family.

There has been a rigorous and exacting examination of the questions within the test and the final scores. The results are either hands scored or machine marked. The results are fed into age-standardisation tables. It is these tables that are used for the Eleven Plus tests.

Try to help your children to understand where the test came from – and why the test was developed.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Eleven Plus and the National Curriculum

We sometimes meet children who have been given the `4C' label. All that is needed, in Eleven Plus Terms, is to try to help the child to reach `Level 5'.

For some children this is a hard and tortuous journey. Other children relish the opportunity. How then can the magic wand be waved?

Support from the whole family.
A positive learning environment.
Strong self belief.
Good teaching at school.
Good teaching at home.
Access to the right materials.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Eleven Plus Fairy Tale

When you start worrying about the amount of work that needs to be done between now and the Eleven Plus examinations, just think back to the days when you were reading those `5 Minute Tales’. These were stories about giants, ogres and fairy tale castles. You will remember how you had to tell some of the same stories over and over.

Eager ears were listening. “Read it again, please. I’m not ready for bed. Please read it again.

With these words ringing in our ears we need to try to recreate the same mood and attitude towards Eleven Plus papers.

The Ugly Duckling

Five Minute Story: All about an ugly little duck with no confidence.

Eleven Plus Story: A child with no chance of passing the Eleven Plus, but hard work and dedication worked!

Jack and The Beanstalk

Five Minute Story: A boy who climbed a great big bean, too on a giant and won the gold.

Eleven Plus Story: A boy who was not very good at Verbal Reasoning, but did lots of reading and learnt many new words – and went on to pass!

Sleeping Beauty

Five Minute Story: A dreadful countess who placed a spell on a beautiful girl – who went to sleep – only to be wakened by the kiss of a prince!

Eleven Plus Story: A child who had never done much work at school. Started working through demanding mathematics and challenging non verbal reasoning exercises. Saw the light, worked hard, and passed with flying colours.

Five Minute Ending: The prince asked for the princess’s hand in marriage and they both lived happily ever after.

Eleven Plus Ending: Passed the examination and went to grammar school. Did well at university. Found a wonderful job, made lots of money and bought a fabulous house for parents (you!).