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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eleven Plus Blame

Parents find it easy to accept their child failing the Eleven Plus examination if it is the marks in Mathematics and English that are not high enough. It is possible to blame the school, the national Curriculum, lack of preparation, poor teaching, lack of direction from the Eleven Plus tutor - in fact almost any thing.

The term `intelligence tests', that used to be part of the Eleven Plus examinations, has been replaced with words like: `Verbal Reasoning' and `Non Verbal Reasoning'. Reasoning is, however, one type of investigation of ability.

It is much easier for a parent to be able to rationalise failure if the examination has teachable elements. Parents, naturally, don't like to be told that their child does not have the ability for a grammar school education.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eleven Plus Day Dreams

Every time we see the high jump at the Olympic or World games we see a tall long legged athlete perform a form of visualisation.

The legs twitch. The body curves. The athlete starts talking aloud.

Suddenly the arms are raised over the head, the hands are clapped and the athlete bursts into a whirl of action.
The athlete has built a mental picture of a task executed and completed with the desired successful outcome. (He or she jumped over the bar!)
If the high jumper fails then there is a small rueful smile, a slight wave to the watching faithful, followed by a brisk walk back to the tracksuit.

We know that some children day dream – and this comes out in stories over and over again.

Applause for a daring or brilliant performance.

Saving someone, through a rescue or a brave act.

Living happily ever after.

It looks as if we need to add variations of around a fourth type of day dream:

The Child’s Eleven Plus Day Dream

This is where the Eleven Plus child learns to visualise the examination room, builds a picture of reading the instructions carefully, answers a raft of questions correctly, passes the examination and earns the undying love and gratitude of the parents.

The Day Dream of Eleven Plus Parents

A child runs out of school, throws arms around the parent, sobs: “Thank you for everything you have done. Now that I have passed my Eleven Plus I promise that I will love you for ever, never argue with you again, tidy my room and only text my friends on weekends - after I have done my homework.”

If parents see their child staring into space – apparently day dreaming and doing nothing at all – it may be that they are simply trying, like the high jumper mentioned earlier, to visualise success.

If you suddenly see your child dashing over to the nearest rose bush and begin sniffing loudly, you may be simply seeing the seeds of a deeper investigation into the: “Sweet smell of success.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eleven Plus Pressure

Before 1900 Normal Triplett, who was an experimental psychologist, tested how children were stimulated by competition.

He had them compete by winding reels that moved a flag towards a goal.

20 out of 40 worked faster when competing.

10 out of 40 did worse in competition.

10 out of 40 did about the same.

We don’t know if the ratio would still be true if we told our Eleven Plus children that they are entering a competition for places in a grammar school.

Presumably a number of Eleven Plus children would rise to the challenge.

Equally there may be some who would abhor the idea that they were entering into a competition with other children.

Parents are obviously aware that their children are entering a competition – but what percentage put their children under pressure as the examinations approach?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eleven Plus Latin and Greek

There used to be many more grammar schools some years ago.

A Royal Commission in 1819 looked at why Latin and Greek were the preferred languages of the grammar school. The commission did a long term study over twenty years.

Think of the impact on Eleven Plus preparation if Eleven Plus children were expected to have more than a smattering of Latin and Greek in the entrance tests.

This would return tutoring for the Eleven Plus to a select few.

“My son has his Eleven Plus examinations in October of 2009. I have a number of questions, please, that I would like answered:

Do you do mathematics and verbal reasoning together in the same lesson – or do I have to have more than one tutor?

Is your Latin and Greek tutor able to communicate a love of learning as well as impart the basic elements of grammar?”

An Act of Parliament in 1840 allowed governors and trustees of grammar schools to be able to apply discretion in the matter of compulsory Latin and Greek.

It would probably take more than an Act of Parliament in today’s world to secure Latin and Greek as part of the selection process.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions

The Hadlow report into `The Primary School’ in 1931 said:

“the curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored”.

What a pity that the early proponents of the Eleven Plus chose to ignore this approach to education – and set about creating vast batteries of tests.

Just think of how some of the very brightest children in the country would react if their parents, teachers and tutors all worked on trying to develop activity and experience.

Some Eleven Plus questions rely very heavily on acquired knowledge and facts.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eleven Plus Teaching Methods

Teachers and parents, working with Eleven Plus children, use a variety of teaching methods.

As well as monitoring the intellectual side, they have to take into account the physical and emotional side or learning.

Sometimes, for example, it may be deemed to be necessary to use a straightforward drill. A fact needs to be learnt. This is how you learn it. Now learn it. The problem is that the dullness of constant repetition tends to destroy interest. Teachers and parents will therefore use a variety of methods to try to help their child learn new facts.

It is very difficult, however, to be able to describe a single method that could be used to inculcate values or attitudes towards Eleven Plus work.

The school, for example, could have a positive attitude towards the Eleven Plus. A different school would be less enthusiastic. One Year 6 teacher could work hard with the class to prepare as many children as possible for the examination – while another teacher in the same school could, perfectly rightly, disagree with the whole idea of selective education. After all personal choice is at the heart of education.

Within a family there could be different attitudes towards the Eleven Plus. One parent could be highly focused – while another could murmur: “What will be, will be.”

An older brother or sister, or close relation, could have had a positive Eleven Plus outcome – while another could regard any discussion on the Eleven Plus as heresy. (Punishable by ostracism!)

All the new teaching aids exposed by the internet could lead to the assumption that new methods of teaching are being developed. In reality, among the most valuable methods of teaching Eleven Plus children, are probably those of warmth, interest and subject expertise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eleven Plus Spelling

We need to spare a thought for the first spelling reformer – a monk called `Orm’.

Orm lived about 1200 AD. He tried to introduce a reform to spelling.

It would not help the writers of Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning papers if spellings had not been reformed and free for all still existed.

In spite of a wide variety of reformers, spelling remained an essential element of the curriculum until the Education Act of 1870. It was then thought that spelling took up too much time in the curriculum.

If a spelling free for all existed it is unlikely that writers of Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning papers would be able to get away with:

“Write down the two letters which occur in each word in each of the following lines.

Secret, plaster, storage, terrace, turnip.”

We know that the English language has some 40 sounds – and around 2 000 ways of writing the sounds.

Just think of the combinations that bright Eleven Plus children could invent if they were not tied down by conventions and rules.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eleven Plus Free Writing

Many children will enter grammar school today thanks to Miss Dora Pym. Miss Pym was a lecturer in the Department of Education at Bristol University. She found that giving students an essay title caused the students to become inhibited in their writing.

She presented her students with a collection of objects – for example a carrot, an ebony elephant and a safety pin – and then asked them to write. The students touched the elephant, smelt the carrot and, presumably, pricked themselves with the safety pin. The ideas then flowed in a different manner to the ideas that came from a given title.

Eleven Plus children would need to be offered the tools of the trade –awareness of the need for careful planning, paragraphs, punctuation, spelling and neat presentation.

This method of stimulating ideas was used as part of the Eleven Plus test in Wiltshire between the years 1947 and 1951.

I bet some of the children who had to write on the topics offered in the recent Kent Eleven Plus tests wished that whoever set the examination had heard of Mrs Dora Pym.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Eleven Plus Stress

Parents of Eleven Plus children, almost by definition, want high quality education. The parents will hope that the schools are making sure that their children will have a well balanced education. A high quality education, and a well balanced education, is one where parents hope that there are no gaps in key areas, and also an education where their children are stimulated and involved.

Most parents are reasonably confident that they can provide a quality education outside of school for their Eleven Plus children. This does not necessary mean that there is a need to engage a top quality tutor – quality education can simply be an environment where a child feels secure and accepted.

The Eleven Plus examinations are a challenge for the whole family. After all the Eleven Plus examination is essentially looking at aspects of cognitive development. The intellectual skills of children are measured. Contrasts between boys and girls can be highlighted – not only in sex roles but in the ability and desire to assimilate information.

Relationships between mothers and fathers may alter as the examination grows close. For parents to be effective in their `Guidance Role’ they also need to be very aware of the changes that will take place in their children during the Eleven Plus year. Some families will find the whole experience stressful – while others will take it all in their stride.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Passing the Eleven Plus

The challenge of the Eleven Plus examination starts in many different ways. Some children learn about the Eleven Plus through their friends at school. Others will know about the examination from older siblings. Some children will have been offered the: “Eleven Plus Talk.”

Children will be shown eleven plus materials in a variety of ways. First glimpses may be offered as the family walk purposely past Eleven Plus papers in local book shops. Other children will be handed down books and papers from friends, relations and friends of friends. (“If they were good enough for your sister, they will be good enough for you.” Sometimes an unsuspecting child will see a pile of books placed prominently on the table. (“Aren’t you lucky dear? Just look at all those lovely books. We are going to have fun.”)

There could be preliminary visits to tutors who have previously worked with family and friends. (“I know you will just love Mrs. H. Your sister thought she was wonderful.”) Some families will be looking for a new tutor or a fresh start. Other children will start with an assessment and then lessons.

“Why not try this little test on the computer? It does not matter if you make any mistakes. We are just going to try it out.”

“Mum, you know I hate the computer. I don’t like having to do all the working out in my head. You know I like to write my tables down when I am doing multiplication and division.”

“Oh mum, these C.D.s are fantastic. They are so helpful. I like the way they tell me if where I am going wrong.”

Some children will ease into regular lessons gracefully and thankfully. There will always be a few who resist any advice and help. There will be some children entering lessons smiling, happy and confident. There have also been the children who will walk in with downcast eyes, and never seem to attempt to engage the tutor. (Often these are the children who fail to say thank you.)

Some families will prefer to work at home on their own with their children. There will be some adults and children who will be privileged enough to be able to share the journey. These families will experience many ups and downs – but it will be a personal experience.

Naturally there will be some factors that parents feel they have no control over. Some children will be ready to become involved in regular study. Other children may be very able – but emerge with no desire to be competitive. There will also be the also be the children who will need to work very hard and will be prepared to do that `little bit extra”.

Finally there are the parents who will be talking in the play ground:

“Last year twenty nine children out of sixty in our school passed the Eleven Plus.”

“We managed five passes in the whole of our school. I am not sure if it is going to be any better this year.”

“What do you mean that your child goes to two different tutors? Why do you think that is really necessary?”

“Oh well, we will just do the best we can. After a pass is a pass.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eleven Plus Luck

A mother and daughter came to see us today.

The girl is at grammar school in Year 10.

“My daughter has come to see you to see if she can have a job with you.”

“Good morning. Please take a seat. My name is Shaun Drury.”

“Yes, you tested my daughter some years ago and said that she should be able to pass her Eleven Plus with out the benefit of extra lessons.”

“And how did go?”

“I am enjoying grammar school now. There is lots of work but the school is very good to us.”

“What will you be studying during `A’ levels?”

“Mainly the sciences. I am starting to do some `A’ level subjects all ready. How do I get a job here?”

“It is done through a covering letter and a C.V. The application is a formal process. We have Investors in People status. You will be contacted as soon as we have a vacancy. We then send you an on line Induction Park. The pack covers details of the post and information about how and when you will be trained.

You will then be invited to join our on line staff room where you will meet the other members of staff in all our centres. Your training will be given by your teacher in charge – and through our on line training suite.”

With this background we will soon have a valuable member of our team. We have a family that trusted us when we said that the work the family doing at home was enough – and that extra lessons were not needed. This is a major benefit of doing standardised tests with children before any lessons are offered.

The parents saved hundred of pounds of extra lessons fees.

The daughter was told that she was bright enough to be able to pass if she kept working hard at school and at home.

We will have the opportunity of working with an extremely bright young woman – who, if we can capture her imagination, will be a bright and loyal member of the team. We feel sure she will pass her enthusiasm and dedication on to the children she works with. What a role model for our young Eleven Plus candidates.

Does this sound like a lucky organisation?

You are not granted luck at the Eleven Plus stage – you earn it.

Comparing Eleven Plus Children.

Many Eleven Plus parents want to know how their child compares with other children.

It should be able to offer parents information about their children based on marks their child has achieved on tests. We could then discuss a child based on performance versus ability.

A normal and happy child should have normal and happy parents.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eleven Plus Parents

Parents approach the Eleven Plus examinations in a variety of ways. This discussion, therefore, needs to be more theoretical than an attempt to place parents into categories.

The Rule Follower

This is the Eleven Plus mother who thinks that she has to follow rules to help her child.

She wants the best books, the best tutor, the best information and the best possible chance for her child.

She thinks that if she surrounds herself with expert advice from other parents, a wide range of websites and every possible source of information, then her child will have a better chance.

The Loving and Accepting Parent

These are the parents who believe that their child can do no wrong.

They do the best they can.

Other parents may think they are quite soft.

Parents who understand the system

These could be second timers. They are both informed and laid back.

They have been there before. They are confident of their child’s ability.

Parents who understand how their behaviour affects their children

There are mums and dads who understand that if they are too intense they may place pressure on their children.

They understand that if they never read then they can not expect their children to read.

They know if they speak about school, the teachers and the tutors in uncomplimentary terms it is possible that their children who react accordingly.

At different times parents will feel the need to follow rules, at other times the same parents will be accepting and understanding. They will also realise that they can not run the institution down before their children. The different roles will merge and flow during the course of week in the life of an Eleven Plus child.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What can the Eleven Plus predict?

We assume that because children have passed their Eleven Plus and have `Gone to Grammar’, that they will do well academically. There are, however, bright children who pass the examination, win a place in a grammar school, and then do not enjoy the nature of the school.

There also must be some unspoken assumption, from parents and teachers, that just because a child has attended a grammar school, that he or she will move on to a successful career. One measure of success could be the big house or the big car. A different measure could be job happiness.

There is a pretty general idea that strength on verbal reasoning papers can be used to try to predict strong general ability. If this is true, then a good mark on a verbal reasoning paper could be likely to result in a good `A’ Level pass in key subjects.

It would be interesting to find out just how good the Eleven Plus examination is at predicting future occupational success. Different types of tests look to measure different skills. Different jobs use different abilities. Some kinds of tests may turn out to be better predictors of ability.

Is a boy who goes to grammar school, reads American Politics at Warwick University, and lands up with a job as editor on a large New York news paper, likely to have a higher verbal reasoning score than a girl who also goes to grammar, avoids reading and T.V., likes mountain bikes and reads Astrophysics at Cambridge?

Verbal reasoning tests are built around testing the strength of a vocabulary along with comprehension and the ability to think and reason. The girl reading Astrophysics may never have read a full book in her life. She could, however, have lost her place at grammar school because she did not know the answer to a rather specious verbal reasoning question.

It is clear that combinations of tests will have the best predictive strength. A single test can measure only some of the abilities and success in a particular job. Too many tests may cloud the issue – and fail to be effective in predicting future occupational success.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Eleven Plus Laughter

We know from watching Television that producers expect us to laugh at a show if they expose us to canned laughter. A canned laugh used to be a laugh reproduced from some previous show. It is likely that some canned laughs are produced digitally.

"No one likes to laugh alone."

Perhaps, if there is enough groundswell, we can have the Eleven Plus canned laugh. This is the laugh that parents give when their child says, "Fine." It is sometimes better to laugh than to cry.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fuzzy Eleven Plus Questions

A few last minute thoughts as many of our Eleven Plus children enter the Eleven Plus examinations this week.

“Read the instructions at the front of the paper very carefully.”

“Work out when the examination will end. Watch the time as you are working.”

“Answer the questions you can first, then, go back if you have time.”

“If there are calculations with hours and minutes then remember that there are 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute if you are doing any addition or subtraction?”

Remind your child that if he or she gets a question like this to keep calm:

You have just been on holiday in France where your family meet a wine grower. The French man convinced your father to purchase part of the vineyard. The farmer suggested mixing Chardonnay with Pinot Noir. He had an excess of Chardonnay while a fellow farmer, a few farms away, had excess Pinot Noir. (Possibly caused by the down turn in the markets?) The idea was to produce a tasty `Vin de Table’. This would save the wine being turned into industrial alcohol.

The experiment begins:

One 12 litre container is half filled with Chardonnay, and half filled with Pinot Noir.

Another 12 litre container is one third filled with Chardonnay and two thirds filled with oil.

Both these containers are then emptied into a 24 litre container that will in time become the `Vin de Table’.

In the larger container what fraction is filled with Chardonnay, and what fraction is filled with Pinot Noir?

If you have been working with your children through a sensible Eleven Plus syllabus you will no doubt work out well within thirty seconds that there was seven twelfths Chardonnay and five twelfths Pinot Noir.

The night before an Eleven Plus examination is not the time to start explaining an example of this nature. By all means chat about wine and where it comes from, how to distinguish different flavours and why a few glasses can give a `Pre Eleven Plus’ buzz.

Leave the fractions part out of it all together. After all just before an examination you, and your child, need reassurance – not a protracted struggle with an unfortunate example.

A sudden thought:

Suppose the blog had advocated a few glasses of wine before tacking the question …. Would it still be possible to answer a question like the one above in around thirty seconds?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eleven Plus Reading

“What can I read? I am so bored of all the books we have at home. I know you say we have a library but I don’t want to read any of them. They are so boring.”

This is a familiar tale to many parents.

Your child feels frustrated because it is apparent that you just won’t listen,

You feel frustrated because you have bought all those lovely books and they simply sit on the shelf unread and unwanted.

There is a lot to be said for parents continuing to read aloud. This is one way that you and your child can share all the books you have bought. Reading aloud gives you the opportunity to be able to discuss the books – and it allows you to have a valuable time together as you go on an adventure through words. Books allow children and adults to experience and share thoughts and ideas. Books can also offer common ground for Eleven Plus children and their parents where the learning side can be covert rather than overt. (A bit sneaky but could be highly effective.)

You could do worse than to start with school books. These will give you the opportunity to be able to reminisce about your school days. Even better it could offer the grandparents a chance to tell about school in the `olden days’. The Gillian Cross books are a good example of books about school. There is a series about a Demon Headmaster who wants and demands power. The pupils are given the opportunity to be able to try to outwit the head teacher. This type of book offers good material for an “I remember” outburst.

Some families may enjoy fantasy stories. Books like these offer real escapism. It is true that Eleven Plus children need to read `important’ books to develop their vocabulary and broaden their thinking – but they do all need, at times, to be able to transported away.

I am asked on a fairly regular basis by mothers about suitable books for Eleven Plus children to read. A typical conversation could be:

“What is a good book for an Eleven Plus child to read?”

“Before we look at what may interest your child, what are you reading at the moment?”

“I never have time to read. I only read on holiday.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Eleven Plus and Co-Education

Parents of our present Eleven Plus children will have started thinking about the relative merits of co-educational and single sex grammar schools.

The word co-educational was used around 1927 to describe a school where boys and girls were admitted on equal terms – usually in the same classes and studying the same work. The co-educational school was different from the dual school where boys and girls shared the same building but were taught separately.

The Education Act of 1876 made the attendance of girls at school compulsorily. In village school girls usually attended the same school as their brothers – but in urban communities boys and girls were often taught in separate schools.

It did not take long for the girls to prove that they could learn as quickly as the boys. Many girls proved that they were able to learn even quicker than the boys. (Not much change here!)

The early arguments about co-education were focused around a fear that to educate boys and girls together would cause some form of emotional disturbance – and work would suffer. Those for co-education felt that it was essential that boys and girls worked together so that both sexes could grow and develop together.

Some single sex grammar schools use the same Eleven Plus examination for boys and girls. Other single sex grammar schools rely on setting their own entrance tests.

Parents will want to discuss the relative merits of both systems with their child – if there is a choice in their area between a co-educational and single sex school.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reading Eleven Plus Questions

Literally hundreds of our Eleven Plus children will be writing their practice tests for the Eleven Plus tomorrow.

Some children may not read some of the questions carefully enough. After the practice examination, possibly even waiting until Monday, read through some questions with your child.

Errors that may hold up answering questions carefully include:

Using a finger or pencil to read a question on a word by word basis – as this tends to focus the eyes on the words in the question rather than on the content of the question.

Vocalising the words – or even sub vocalising the question as this tends, sometimes, to slow the reading of the question down so much that your child may have to keep reading a question over and over.

Regressing along a line of the question – this is where the eye goes back to look at a word. This can develop into a poor examination habit as the mind can then lose what the question is asking.

What advice can be offered to Eleven Plus parents and their children?

Read the questions at a measured pace.

Reread the question.

Look for spurious and unlikely multiple choice answers. This will help to eliminate answers that can not possibly be right.

Practice with your child the art of reading a sentence.

Work on the technique of answering questions rather than encouraging your child to complete yet another paper. Too many papers in the final week will do very little good what so ever.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Post Eleven Plus Blues

As the Eleven Plus examinations, for some children at least, grow closer some parents may need to be aware of a reaction that may come about after the last paper has been written.

The Comanche Indians used to live on a plateau for part of the year. This was a time of great hardship, where the tribe struggled for their existence – and the views of the elders were respected.

Later on in the year the tribe moved down to the plains – and the young men became the dominant force as they brought home the food.

In the whole society the son admired the father because of his ability to hunt and fight.

The father praised the son and took good care of him – because he knew that one day he too would be old and would need his son to look after him.

As the child moved towards being an adult –and indeed an `older’ man – there were periods when he was a vital part of the tribe. He needed to be a fierce warrior – and good a bringing home the food. Every one ran around him and looked after him.

It is a bit like this to some children after the Eleven Plus. In the days leading up the examination parents tip toe around their son – avoiding confrontation and lavishing lots of praise. (Building him up!)

During the examinations some parents may have to turn a blind eye to some behaviour as the stress of the tests may affect their child.

After the examination? Well anything can happen.

Some children will be `cool’ and move on.

Other children may worry.

Some children may react to the pressure being taken off.

Some may even find it difficult to find a balance in their lives without the concentrated work from papers.

Some parents may feel the need to sit down and have some `serious’ talks about the present and the future. Some parents will be well prepared – and others will have a more philosophical approach. There are no rules for parents to follow other than common sense.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eleven Plus Calm

It is immediately obvious to any self respecting Eleven Plus parent that their child could never do enough wrong to warrant a reprimand. Of course parents are able to observe the relationship between other Eleven Plus parents and their offspring. Parents deal with misdemeanours in different ways.

Picture the setting. A mother organises a birthday party for eight at the cinema. (This is the weekend just before the Eleven Plus examination.) A meal at a smart restaurant is part of the treat. The eleven year old children will order for themselves – but the birthday mum will pick up the tag. Parents, mothers and fathers, are seated in a different restaurant – but within visual contact. One child plays up. All eyes look directly at the poor mother – or stare studiously in the future. Silence reigns.

All eight mothers would have different strategies for dealing with misbehaviour:

“Stop that or I will remove you from the meal – and you will not attend the cinema treat.”

“Oh dear, Jimmy is at it again. I told him not to eat our hamster before we came out.”

“If you do that again, you will have to go home.”

“Jimmy, dear, please leave that `kind waiter’ alone. When he returns, treat him nicely like the sweet boy you really are.”

Non Verbal
Mum shakes her head and frowns.

Mum collects the misbehaving child without a word, and moves him to a spare seat.

The child is ejected by the hostess, and the mother takes her unruly son hone following an apology by the mother.

Mum says: “When we get home, you will do an Eleven Plus paper and will achieve full marks in no more than fifty minutes. Or else!

All the other mums, and the other children, will be pleased and impressed if the situation is dealt with calmly. Every `good’ mother will know that idle threats are pointless. In any case the last thing any one wants is any degree of upset just before the examinations.

(P.S. The film was great, the food was good and in the end there was no more confrontation. Every cloud, just before the examinations, has to have a silver lining.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The role of mothers in the Eleven Plus

Back in October of 1789 the population in Paris was clamouring for bread. The women were not impressed by the new constitution that was being drafted. They were also very unhappy because there was not enough bread to go around.

On October the 5th the amazing procession of women took place from Paris to Versailles. The commune had been able to keep the men in check – but not the women.

The count had to move from Versailles to Tuileries and guarantee that there would be enough bread.

Events moved on in France - and the despotic monarchy was toppled, but the power of a mob of women was established. History was changed for ever.

Women all over Europe – and especially in Britain – began to realise just how powerful their presence was in politics and government.

Over in America we have watched, with great admiration, Hilary Clinton battling against the odds. Now Sarah Palin has bust upon the scene – and has shaken the establishment. We can not be sure how it will all end – but we do know that there will be plenty of excitement and change ahead.

So mothers, as your children approach the Eleven Plus examinations, examine your hearts. You do not need any notes. You do not need a `pep’ talk. Just remind your child to do as well as possible. Remind your child that pass or fail you will still love him or her. Explain in detail that not passing an examination at eleven years old is not failure – but the chance to open up other opportunities.

Keep calm, keep constant but issue a battling war cry: “Just do your best. That is all we can ask for!”

Monday, September 08, 2008

Eleven Plus Outcomes

A course of study for an Eleven Plus pupil demands very different outcomes for the teacher, the parents and the pupil.

Naturally the child needs to be attentive, involved, receptive and ambitious.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"We did not do it like this in my day!"

“We don’t do it like that at school!”

This statement is sometimes stated rather grumpily by some children – who do really do not wish to listen to your explanation.

““We don’t do it like that at school!”

Here we have a triumphant statement – made to try to keep the parent from being involved. (A type of power struggle!)

““We don’t do it like that at school!”

This is quite simply the truth. Events have moved on in education – and children are taught some topics in a very different manner. (Long multiplication is a good example.)

Parents can be bludgeoned into giving up being involved in the parts of the Eleven Plus experience. This sometimes comes about when their much loved child demonstrates a complete inability to recognise that there is more than one way of solving a problem. Parents find this improper inflexibility highly frustrating and, sometimes, quite time consuming.

Some parents also feel that their authority is being undermined when they are not confident of being able to teach and apply the `modern’ methods. When doing Eleven Plus mathematics, for example, a parent could consider purchasing a Foundation GCSE mathematics text book – with clear examples. The right book will offer the correct setting out of examples to parents and their children.

Parents who are enthusiastic and involved in the learning processes can overcome much prejudice on the part of their children. “I am sure you are right, dear, let’s try to find out how solve this together.” (Any parent who then utters the words: “In my day!” is simply riding for a fall!)

Children will often respect the wishes of a parent who insists on neat and careful work. Parents should mark any work done together neatly and respectfully.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Art and the Eleven Plus

Creative writing is part of the syllabus in some eleven plus examinations. Teachers and parents can all help children plan and write a story. Some children will be more successful than others at writing creatively.

We are urged from all sides to suggest to children that they will write better if they write about what they know and have experienced. Writing, however, is a rather complex matter to some children. It is easy to expect a good story to come from a child who reads a lot. Lots of exposure to good stories should, in theory, stimulate creative thoughts.

Other children may find it easier to `talk’ a good story than `write’ a good story. Some children, for example, have a degree of difficulty in communicating in writing where they have no such a problem with being able tell a good story.

Television, videos and the DVD can also provide rich and fertile sources of good story lines.

We are all taught to teach Eleven Plus children that a `story’ needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. We need to show paragraphs. A story can show higher level thought with some reflection and analysis. Children should be made aware of how potent and effective dialogue can be. Quite simply bright Eleven Plus children can be guided towards writing a creative story strong enough to give pass marks in a competitive examination.

Creative writing then becomes a means to an end. The end is passing the examination.

But creativity is more than words on paper. Why not consider that painting and drawing could be part of the Eleven Plus process? This would force big changes in the way that children were prepared. Think of ten and eleven year old children being able to dip their fingers into paint and being allowed to be creative on paper.

Children could then use fairy tales, stories from T.V., and themes they have encountered in books. Painting could release fantasies that can not be described in mere words. Children could express them selves with symbols for love, fear, devotion – and delve in areas where the written story can not stray.

Visits to art galleries could become the norm – rather than `educative’ visits. Talented art teachers would be recognised and appreciated. Parents would be able to give painting sets for birthday and Christmas presents without any feelings of guilt.

There would be some drawbacks to art being an Eleven Plus subject – but think of the pool of talent that is being masked by questions like:

Select one word which is unlike the others:

Nation, country, tribe, race, people.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Eleven Plus Information

We can look, in fairly general way, at what an Eleven Plus child needs as the examination approaches. First of all he or she needs the physical and mental ability to be able to collect all the information.

After all as the examination grows closer the Eleven Plus child will have been exposed to a wide variety in increasingly complex experiences. All we can hope is that as much information as possible is correct and apposite.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Eleven Plus Writing

We were working with a bright nine year old today: planning, writing and marking a story in preparation for future Eleven Plus examinations. The question of books and vocabulary arose.

"How does reading books help my story writing?"

In Eleven Plus terms writing a story means that work has to be set, planned and marked. The story has to be about an A4 page long.

A real book written by the child would have decorated front and rear covers, a thoughtful page layout, supporting illustrations and a carefully prepared script. This is a far cry from a story prepared for an examination. Yet if passing the Eleven Plus examination depended on the production of a book - just think of the lengths that Eleven Plus parents would go to:

Hiring published authors to help with story lines

Engaging illustrators to prepare drawings

Sourcing printers and binders.

It must be far more simple just to offer the pre Eleven Plus child a piece of paper and expect (or accept) a snippet of literature.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Education

Irrespective of the Eleven Plus examinations eleven year old children from many different social backgrounds and academic abilities will be meeting each other in their new schools over the next few days.

The Eleven Plus examinations allow a distinction to be made between children of different abilities. In theory the successful are educated in grammar schools in a different way to the `unsuccessful’. In practice very able children who were not part of the grammar school race – or who did not gain a grammar school pace, still have the opportunity of an accelerated education.

More selection takes place after the GCSE examinations – where children are offered a wider range of educational opportunities – from 6th forms to college. Once again the children will meet and mix with other children from different backgrounds. For some it may be a girl attending a grammar school for boys, while a different girl could start on a more vocational course at college.

What does seem likely is that a child will respond and gain value from the social environment engineered by the parents – and this in turn will be reinforced by the educational institution itself.

As your children go to school this week in their new school uniforms – with clean and smiling faces – parents will naturally be very aware that their children will be making new friends – and encountering different social values.

As Gustave Flaubert said: “Life must be a constant education; one must learn everything, from speaking to dying.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Eleven Plus Print

An awful lot of Eleven Plus children, and their parents, will be blaming Gutenberg for all their problems. He produced his printing press around 1456. He printed a copy of the Bible – and before the century was over books were being produced all over Europe.

Before the books came along family history and events were all communicated orally. Teachers and priests had less influence as people found that they could educate themselves.

By the mid sixteenth century teachers were spending more time teaching reading than passing on the oral history of the land. Since the sixteenth century the written examination has become a key part in testing the effectiveness of teaching – and also the ability of students to be able to write examinations.

Then big changes came to challenge the effectiveness of the written word. Photographs were invented, the Morse code was used for communication, movies changed from silent to talking, T.V. arrived – along with the computers, digital newspapers – and even the blog.

There have been such big changes in the last fifty years that it may be time to challenge the effectiveness of the Eleven Plus examination is being able to select the very brightest in the land.

I should imagine that Gutenberg was very proud of his press – and he may have been overwhelmed to see the proliferation of print that is born every day. What would he have felt about?

Which letter of the alphabet comes immediately before the sixth letter of the fifth word in this sentence?

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Eleven Plus Invigilator

I had my car windows cleaned inside and out with vinegar over the weekend. This was not any old vinegar – it was honest to goodness white virgin vinegar. The windscreen wipers were also burnished.

Vinegar is an acid – and old fashioned spinsters are sometimes referred to as `vinegarish’ if they have a tart tongue and an acid disposition. Some children do not mind being taught by what is commonly called an `old battleaxe’ because they know exactly where they stand. The children expect no favors and do not seek any. We all know, however, that beneath that heart of stone there always lies a warm hearted and compassionate educator.

Children are never sure of where they stand if their teacher is happy and makes jokes one moment – and then bawls them out the next.

It may be worth while discussing the role of the invigilator in the Eleven Plus process.

Reiterate that the invigilator may appear to be stearn and unyielding but explain that an invigilator can not show any preferences or favours.

Explain that just because a person does not smile it does not mean that you are not liked.

Talk about how the invigilator is there to do a job.

Remind your child, if necessary, to be unfailingly polite.

Above all remind your child that he or she can communicate with adults. Remind your child of all the occasions when he or she has showed maturity and confidence with adults.

Remind your child of why adults enjoy his or her company.

Let your child go into the examination with a smile for the invigilator - and confidence in the heart.