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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

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

Professional Group IQ Parents IQ Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a question from 50 years ago:

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eleven Plus Non Verbal Aids

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

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

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

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

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

“The New Non Verbal Reasoning Book.

All new visual questions.

Your very own stereoscope.

Eye patches supplied as optional extras.

The Must Have Non Verbal Tool of 2009.

Remember you read it here first!"

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

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Eleven Plus and the Colour Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eleven Plus Teachers

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eleven Plus Change

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

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

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

Schools are beginning to change radically.

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eleven Plus in The News

A provocative article on the Eleven Plus engendered considerable debate.

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

Emotions run high because there are winners and losers.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eleven Plus Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Eleven Plus Pass

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

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

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

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

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

Special aptitudes
Social Adjustment

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

What about honesty or persistence?

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

Could we expect bright eleven plus children to?

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eleven Plus Change of Rules

Three couples are competing for two places in the final.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Child 1 Passes first time and passes second time

Child 2 Passes first time and fails second time

Child 3 fails first time but passes second time.

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

The appeal board say an urgent review is necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is all a fantasy isn’t it?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eleven Plus Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eleven Plus Praise

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

The first group were praised for performance.

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

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

The fourth group were taken out of the class room.

The children were retested after a period.

The praised group had a mean of 20.

The reproved group reached a mean of 14.

The ignored group stayed the same at 12.

The control group reached a mean of 11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Eleven Plus Scores

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

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

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

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

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

“You could have checked the paper over.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eleven Plus Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia stresses the need to be organised and efficient.

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eleven Plus Cowboys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Eleven Plus Reasoning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because reasoning can be taught,” replied Nasrudin.

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eleven Plus Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Eleven Plus Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eleven Plus Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eleven Plus Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(It would be wonderful to have the opportunity!)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Eleven Plus and Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Future

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

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

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

Entry Level – Little prior experience, lack of confidence

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

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

Level Three – More complex work, supervisory skills
A Levels

Level 4 – A specialist
HND – Foundation Degree

Level 5 – Management Experience
Honours Degree

Level 6 – Senior managers
Masters Degree

Level 7 – The sky is the limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions 01/12/08

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

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

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

“I would guess at about twenty five metres.”

“That is rubbish. How do you know?”

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

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

“Well give me the Euro.”

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

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

“How do we work it out?”

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

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

“How did you work that out?”

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

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