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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1000 Eleven Plus Blogs

This is just to say thank you very much to all this blog’s readers. This is blog number one thousand. A milestone in my life!

The blog has had readers from around seventy countries. We have a steady stream of `returners’ and the blog has been read by literally thousands of people. It looks as if the eleven plus examination is a subject that interests many more than those actively involved.

I am most grateful to the children because they supply the unending source of ideas for the blog. I am very seldom at a loss as to what to write about.

I hope all parents and children achieve their dreams over the coming months and years.

Best wishes

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Eleven Plus Recipe

There must be some correlation between the ability of the teacher or tutor and your child’s ability to pass the eleven plus. Surely, however, you don’t need a gifted teacher in order to work with a very bright child. This would preclude many of us from feeling that we can help the children in our care.

We know that tests of ability, like verbal reasoning tests, do not necessarily mange to select children from very poor homes. Factors such as language and opportunity must come into play.

Every time a teacher is asked the question: “But will my child pass the eleven plus?”, then the teacher has to think of many factors:

Home back ground
Physical abilities
Emotional status
Social development

The key twin factors of ability and desire to pass the examination will no doubt flash through a teacher’s mind. If the child is not bright enough there is little chance of passing the examination. If the child is, however, bright enough then the teacher will think of the work that lies ahead, the co-operation from all those at home, how much pressure will be put on the child and if the child is mature enough to cope with the demands of a challenging course of study.

So if you want your child to become a doctor you know from the start that you expect, and hope, that your child may be more able than some of his or her teachers and tutors.

Your child will need innate ability.

You child must be prepared to work harder than most other children.

Your child must also be realistic.

Some parents will be looking for these traits early on in their child’s life. Extreme concentration playing with Thomas the Tank Engine will not, however, act as a golden sign that your child will, one day, become a physician of note. Ordinary children can concentrate, if interested, for long periods.

Learning to read at two years old could act as a significant sign. There must, however, be many serving doctors who did not read at two.

Your child may be very willing to work, for a long period of sustained time, through a full eleven plus paper – but also can not act as a sign that your child will become a doctor.

So we have a rare recipe for eleven plus success: a bright, hardworking child with concerned and supportive parents and dedicated teachers. If you are on this journey – take heart many others have gone before.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eleven Plus Profile

Eleven Plus children do not follow identical paths towards the eleven plus. The children will be offered a wide range of inputs from their parents, different schooling and will work through a variety of eleven plus papers. How then do the children land up with the same eleven plus scores?

To come towards an answer we can look at a rather generalised picture of an eleven plus child.

It is possible that the child is aware that university is an option. The parents will have done their job and commented on future prospects.

It is likely that he or she will read widely from a wide range of books, magazines and periodicals.

Some eleven plus candidates will have had hobbies and interests that could be categorised as academic in nature.

He or she may be eager to express an opinion on everything under the sun. Some of the conclusions may actually be telling and worth listening to.

Very often, but not always, the eleven plus child will be good at sports – and be able to participate in a wide range of activities from athletics and swimming to the more individual sports of golf or trampoline.

His or her parents will come from many different economic levels. The one common element will be the interest they will take in the education of their child.

Not all children will show all these attributes. It must help if the children embrace at least a few!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Good and Evil

During the period of teacher training would be teachers are encouraged to develop their education and attitude towards children. Almost invariably their attention is directed towards Rousseau who is often considered to be one of the early seminal philosophers of education. My Everyman edition of Emile goes back to 1966.

Emile evoked such strong feelings, back in 1762, that the book was banned and consigned to flames. For the next eight years Rousseau led the life of a fugitive – hiding from authority.

At the beginning of Emile he wrote: “God makes all things good, man meddles with them and they become evil.” He wrote about how a boy called Emile was to be educated. He then went onto to write about Sophy – the girl who Emile was to marry.

How many parents of eleven plus children will recognise this passage in their own daughters? “A woman’s judgement develops sooner than a man’s; being on the defensive from her childhood up, and entrusted with a treasure so hard to keep, she is earlier acquainted with good and evil. Sophy is precocious by temperament in everything, and her judgment is more formed than that of most girls of her age. There is nothing strange in that, maturity is not always reached at the same stage.”

He could have been writing about a number of eleven plus girls with these worthy attributes:

Good judgment
Understand the difference between good and evil

Sadly Rousseau was not able to write about how Sophy was able to cope with verbal reasoning questions.

It is likely that Rousseau would have wondered at the need for questions that eleven plus children have to take for granted.

Take the following numbers in a `What comes next’ series:

9 5 8 4 7 3 ___

It is easy to see that a successful eleven plus candidate needs ability, interest, staying power and aptitude. Having good judgment and being mature are surely bonuses. It does seem likely, however, that it is possible to pass the eleven plus without really having the ability to distinguish clearly between good and evil. Would this be a more valuable asset in a grammar school girl?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eleven Plus Evidence

What can you do if your child seems to have dyslexic tendencies and is struggling with some eleven plus work? You know your child and you believe in his or her ability. You feel that your child could cope in a grammar school environment – with some support of some kind.

You know that `The Authorities Behind the Eleven Plus’ do not go out of their way to help children with one sort of learning problem or another. You have heard stories how parents, in the appeal situation, have had their pleas for clemency and justice rejected.

Some of you may even have spoken to your child’s school who have intimated: “If he / she manages to pass the examination then he / she would find the work very demanding.” This is the polite way, used by some teachers, of saying that first of all there is only a slim chance of your child passing and secondly that your child may not be able to cope with the pace and complexity of the work at grammar school.

It is very unlikely that the spectre of dyslexia will suddenly come up in year five – because most parents will have had some inkling that all is not well – but the content of eleven plus work can provide a wake up call and thus trigger a reaction. Some parents have found that working through verbal and non verbal reasoning questions shows when their child can nor read the question confidently. Other children show that they can not absorb what the question is asking. Other children demonstrate reversals, difficulty with the order of letters within a word or a tendency to substitute letters or shapes.

It is essential that as soon as your instincts are alerted that you drive into action. Ask for straight forward answers from the school. Do not allow any obfuscation. You may be remarkably fortunate and have contact with a sympathetic and knowledgeable teacher. Treasure the input that you are offered – and listen with both ears!

Seek professional advice from outside. An educational psychologist should be able to answer most of your questions about the nature of the `dyslexia’ and the ability of your child.

Talk to your child and try to understand where he or she is experiencing difficulty. You may find that some of the discussion appears to be incongruous and inconsequential – but you may gather gems that will offer some insight.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning questions are designed to examine different types of ability. The answers, however, do not always jump off the page. Sometimes the brain needs to reflect and think before delivering the right answer. Two types of questions spring to mind – those dealing with anagrams and those with relationships.

At least when you, and your child, are working through eleven plus verbal reasoning papers, and you reach the section on anagrams you feel you know where you are. An anagram is where the letters of the word are mixed up. People who work on crosswords love anagrams. Writers of eleven plus tests and selection papers love anagrams too. It can’t take much time to write an anagram question. It can, sometimes, take lots of time to work one out!

Sorting out the anagram sometimes needs a combination of imagination and stealth.

What is the odd one out?

Deed level madam toot owc

Answer: The word cow as it is not a palindrome.

Concerned parents and teachers would then react positively at this point and take time out of the eleven plus paper to ask their child to think of a few more palindromes. This allows a sense of freshness and realism to the lesson.

Of course someone in the family will come up with:

Rats are to live as evil is to … (star)

Eleven plus tests also rely on relationships. Most relationships appear to deal with words rather than numbers. Sometimes the test writer will try to add a little twist.

The questions could start with:

Man is to foot and horse is to …. (hoof).

And then develop to:

Eskimo is to igloo as Swiss is to …. (Chalet)

Keep reminding your bright, alive and active child that a brilliant answer to the wrong question does not offer any marks! You could add that when doing multiple choice questions it is essential to select at least one of the choices.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eleven Plus Concerns

Where do the bright children who pass the eleven plus come from? We must imagine that bright well educated parents will have bright well educated children. To take this a little further the parents of bright children are likely to be employed in occupations at a professional or highly successful business level.

It could be thought that successful parents will be more likely to have a higher percentage of children passing the eleven plus - but this can not be universally true. There will be more children passing from ordinary families – simply because there must be far more ordinary families.

If children who come from all walks of life then who do some bright children appear to fail the eleven when they have been given every opportunity by their parents? Some very able children may not be all that good at social relationships. Other children may choose not to take advantage of all that has been offered to them. Some children will want to pass the eleven plus – and others won’t.

Some parents will continue to worry that they have given every advantage to their children. There will also be some parents who will continually look for signs of how well their children will do in the examination.

Parents’ concerns will include:

Did the teacher at school actually understand that we want our child to pass the eleven plus?

Have we offered our child enough stimulation and praise?

Should we have done something much earlier about an apparent lack of interest in reading?

Are we pressing too hard?

Do we force an argument or do we allow a continual clash of wills?

Is our child feeling insecure because we are putting too much pressure?

An eleven plus child does not need lots of money or all the latest gadgets – what will help most of all is stable and caring home environment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Caring Side of the Eleven PLus

What makes an eleven plus child happy? Answering 34 out of 50 questions correctly on a paper? Playing sport confidently? Having the company of true friends? Enjoying minimal pressure from parents? Being offered, and accepting, a well balanced education at school? The prospect of a good job?

It is possible that some children will be really happy when they can use their talents to help others. After all look at the number of adults we see go into the `caring’ professions. Some adults feel fulfilled by helping others –so why should we think that children do not have the same feelings.

How are the examiners who set the eleven plus examinations going to find children who have a strong desire to build a better society? It must be argued that the eleven plus exists to select children for a grammar school education. We hope that eleven plus preparation encourages children to extend them selves academically, physically and socially.

The present eleven plus examination is not designed to find children who feel empathy and a conscious desire to help others less fortunate. These talents are, however, surely nurtured within the grammar school by a wide variety of well meaning initiatives.

Perhaps some of the answer lies in the old saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

Parents can help to nurture a spirit of giving – not only money but time. Some eleven plus children live a bewildering life full of lessons, sport, study and after school activities. How on earth will these children, who have so much to offer, be able to find time to think of others?

Some families are already living the challenge. Perhaps they could share their experiences with the rest of us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eleven Plus Changes

Bright children are constantly urged to work hard and do their best. Some parents and some teachers will extol the opportunities that arise with a place in a grammar school. Children with exceptional talent should enjoy this interest because it means that their talents are appreciated and not wasted.

One of the reasons for entry to grammar school that some parents must quote would be the chance to develop highly valuable economic skills. In other words grammar school plus university equals well paid and successful job.

We know that important demands placed on children as they work towards the eleven plus. Eleven plus children are expected and even willed to climb to academic heights well above those reached at school. Of course not all children manage to pass the eleven plus through no real fault of their own. Ability and opportunity must play a significant part.

How could we do a better job and provide a broader and more comprehensive pre eleven plus education? We know that a verbal reasoning test is a significant tool in the eleven plus examination. Many of the questions, however, are remarkably similar to those produced over fifty years ago. This in itself does not prove that the questions are inappropriate – but it does suggest that the view of education and ability espoused all those years ago still has a place in our society today.

We can be sure that verbal reasoning tests are still valid and important – but the tests and the questions only cover a small selection of the talents and ability often shown in really bright children. A ten year old child with Grade 6 in music will probably do well on verbal reasoning papers – but entrance to grammar school does not recognise this. Exceptional talent with a cricket bat will not open up a grammar school place – but the grammar school should be able to profit if the child is able to pass the entrance test.

We want creative and imaginative children. Surely these are skills and talents that are more important in the long run than an ability to pass a multiple choice test?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quality Eleven Plus Work

Many children will be returning to school after the end of the spring term. The children are now starting the summer term. For a number of eleven plus children the next few months will prove difficult to cope with.

Some parents are going to have to be very careful that they do not over stress their children. Other parents will try to continue to maintain a steady balance between work, school and play.

These few months are really a golden opportunity for parents to work with their children. Now that the Key Stage 3 SATS have disappeared the next `big’ examination (after the KS2 SATS) will be the GCSEs. Some parents may find that they prefer to work with a ten to eleven year old rather than when their child is sixteen.

.Try to work on what is called `time wasting indecision’. Plan out what and when your child will work. (No T.V., for example, until after homework and eleven plus work.)

Try to help you child to understand the value of work on homework or an assignment as soon as possible – rather that leaving everything until the last minute.

Build eleven plus work up to be `quality time’ and not a drag or a bore.

A hard lesson for some eleven plus children is to understand the need to work on unpopular exercises – not just the bits that are enjoyable.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Eleven Plus Balance

There is a strong argument to encourage some eleven plus children to lead a balanced life. The eleven plus examination is a means to an end – and not an end in itself.

We all know the saying: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

A further twist on this story could be:

Willie built a Guillotine

Willie built a Guillotine
Tried it out on sister Jean.
Said Mother as she got the mop:
“These messy games have got to stop!”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Effective Eleven Plus Preparation

James Callaghan, in a famous speech at Ruskin College in Oxford in 1976, talked about `complaints from industry that new recruits from schools sometimes did not have the basic tools to do the job required’.

It is very difficult to assess performance when trying to compare the present with the past. Various politicians have continued to grapple with the problem. We have similar problems with trying to understand the present condition value of the current eleven plus examinations.

Children from rural communities, for example, may have different life experiences to children drawn from a densely populated urban sprawl. One group of children may be `street smart’ while other children may be thought of, by some, as rural plod hoppers. Wherever the children are drawn from, we know that in order to pass the eleven plus we need confident and competent children. Being exam savvy plays a bit part in success in eleven plus examinations.

Parents have to try to work out how much work has to be done by the candidate - and the rest of the family. Parents also have to make continuous judgements on the effectiveness of the school and the tutor – if indeed one is involved.

Children also have to play a part in the decision making. They have to work out how much effort needs to be put into examination preparation. Children also need to be able to feel they can talk about how effective their teachers are at school – and how useful the eleven plus tutor is.

All parents, schools and tutors can do is try to give their charges the best possible opportunity, and the correct tools, to do as well possible in the eleven plus.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Eleven Plus Examination

It is very hard for parents to work out just how effective the eleven plus examination is at selecting the right children for grammar school. Parents can judge just about everything else but they can not judge effectiveness of the actual examination.

The results of the eleven plus are most often offered to parents in the form of pass and fail. Sometimes some parents are told the rank order of their children – but for the most parents have to believe in the veracity and integrity of the examination.

The eleven plus examination exists in many forms. Some, for example, require mathematics, others don’t. Essentially the examination is trying to find children who would benefit from a grammar school education. A successful eleven plus examination would be one that produced good results - with selected children enjoying a successful grammar school career.

The eleven plus would not be a good examination if all it did was test how well children had committed facts to memory. It would also be a poor examination if gave too much away in the question. The eleven plus examination would only be really effective if it produced results that were in line with the purpose of the examination.

Some opponents of the eleven plus examination feel that while the eleven plus might be an effective examination in selecting children – the actual idea of the examination is not sound. This argument could be justified on moral grounds – in that part of the design of examination was to find poor children who were bright. There is also a political argument against the eleven plus – a Labour government swept away most of the grammar school – but no recent government has had either the courage or the will to challenge the place of grammar schools in society.

An eleven plus examination that went against the will of the majority of the people would be indefensible. It is likely, however, that there would be some considerable outcry if a future government decided to abolish the remaining grammar schools.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Behaviour

Good news for bright children who want to work hard.

Parents will be hit by severe penalties if their children misbehave.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eleven Plus Fees

Grammar schools were established years ago by bishops wanting to have development centres for their priests. In Saxon England much of the teaching in the grammar schools was in Latin.

The rise of medieval universities led the foundation and expansion of grammar schools. Where else would the universities find the able scholars? Allied to this was the desire of private benefactors to found schools to promote academic and secular learning.

During the seventeenth century the grammar schools developed on different lines to
`day schools.’ Grammar schools, however, began to go into a form of decline. The Taunton Commission (1864 – 7) found that many schools were needed reforming – and suggested that power for running many of the schools should be removed from the patronage of the bishops. Of course Church Schools remain today.

Education in those days, just as today, had to be paid for – so there was often a division between children who paid fees and the `free’ scholars.

One of the arguments today against grammar schools is that parents who can afford fees can help their children to pass by paying for books, materials and tutors – and so the children from poorer families continue to lose out. Parents with money can send their children to `good’ schools. Some parents can even move into `good’ areas where their children could have a better chance of entry to grammar schools.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eleven Plus Leisure

There are some parents who like to think that their child needs to maintain a relentless drive towards the eleven plus. They encourage their child to do some daily work towards the eleven plus – but want their child to use the time working through paper after paper. Working through papers is an important part of eleven plus preparation – but it is not the only activity to take into account.

Some where in the mix of reading, learning definitions, going to school and attending various after school activities some parents may care to consider the place of leisure time. Almost every one will have a different view of leisure. To some families leisure is a family picnic on a weekend, to others walking the dog is a key component in family life. Other families will look upon a regular visit to the cinema and of course there is sport.

In an ideal world a child studying towards an academic education needs to be offered a full range of athletic, dramatic, artistic and other activities. The child, and the circumstances of the family, will determine the take up. (Apart from walking the dog round the block, almost everything else takes money!)

When the child reaches grammar school he or she will expect a full range of facilities from playing fields to sports halls and music rooms to art studios. These are all the range of activities which the grammar school child will expect to benefit from.

To be able to enjoy leisure pre eleven plus children need leisure time. This could mean fewer papers – but may lead to more directed work.

Abraham Lincoln gave us a good reason to make the most of our time.

I did keep a grocery, and I did sell cotton, candles and cigars and sometimes whiskey, but I remember in those days Mr Douglas was one of my best customers. Many a time I have stood on one side of the counter and sold whiskey to Mr Douglas on the other side, but the difference between us now is this: I have left my side of the counter, but Mr Douglas still sticks to his as tenaciously as ever.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eleven Plus Independence

Some parents are often concerned about the amount of liberty and freedom they should offer their eleven plus children. This is a thorny question and teachers and parents are alike in worrying if too much or too little freedom is allowed. If the eleven plus child is to do well in the examination – and act independently, and without fear or recrimination – then parents and children need to know where they stand.

If the parents try too hard to control their children then they may find that their well behaved and mannerly child suddenly shows signs of rebellion. If the parents push too hard to control and `manage’ independence they may find that they can not predict how their children will react in the examination.

We clearly remember one extremely bright girl who did not want to go to an all girls school and failed her eleven plus abysmally. She wanted to go to a mixed grammar school in a different local authority. Her results in this second examination were so high that she ended up in the top 180 out of around 4000 children who took the examination. In other words she put her foot down and was fully prepared to take a chance. If she had not been in the top 180 – she would not have been offered a grammar school place.

The parents who have made their children too dependent during the approach to the eleven plus may reap the reward of unexpected results. If the parent has controlled the approach to the examination with strict rules of conduct, careful attention to detail and never allowing their child to make a mistake, they may find that their child has not had the opportunity to think for themselves.

As the examination grows closer some parents may have to try to cut the chains that bind their child and allow a slow growth into independence.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Scope of the Eleven Plus

During the Second World War was necessary to train older men and women in skilled trades so that younger workers could be released for more specialised tasks. Experimental and occupational psychologists were used to investigate the factors involved in the acquisition of skills in various jobs.

It is not hard to think that when parents are learning new eleven plus skills with their children, there must be occasions when their child picks up a new skill faster than the parent.

The work of the psychologist during the war was to try to work how machinery and equipment could be designed to allow for human limitation – and so to minimise accidents or errors.

Some of the publishers of present eleven plus material do not appear to have thought successfully about the role of training parents to work through eleven plus papers with their children. Some parents, for example, may need more than the answer before they can help their child.

Some publishers do, however, seem to making grounds in their use of the internet to disseminate help and information. The problem is that the eleven plus has been around for many years – with remarkably little alteration in the scope and extent of the questions. Indeed there must be some parents and possibly some grandparents who sat the eleven plus years ago and are now working with their children.

There has been very little new and exciting in the world of the eleven plus. One school of thought could be: “If it ain’t broke – don’t try to fix it.” The eleven plus is obviously doing it job and is selecting the right kind of children for grammar schools.

What happens if there are children who can not pass the eleven plus – but could make excellent use of the academic education offered by grammar schools?

We could be pessimistic about the eleven plus but in truth most bright children love and thrive on the rigors of the present eleven plus. After all it is all we have at the moment.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eleven Plus Mistakes

Some children, when faced with a problem, will immediately ask their parents, or their teacher, for help. It is very tempting to supply the answer. Some parents and teachers will be inclined to say. `Why not try that line there?’ instead of allowing the child to make a mistake or find the solution.

If your child solves the problem then he or she is more likely to remember how to solve a similar problem.

Most parents will have discovered, over the years, that their children think differently to them. The way a child thinks is often very different to how an adult thinks.

There is no one single best way to solve a problem. Your child may suggest a way of solving a problem that is wrong to you. As an adult, and parent, it is sometimes hard to back down while your every instinct is to maintain that the adult way is the best way.

If you have time, the race towards the eleven plus should slow down for a moment, sometimes, to allow a discussion on different methods of solving the problem. It is only when you child keeps fumbling for an answer that you will need to put your foot down and use those most useful words in a parent’s vocabulary: “Because I say so!”

Again – if you have time – you will naturally want to lead your child to understand your position on solving problems. Your child may feel threatened and overwhelmed if you point mistakes out – after all it may be better for your child to discover that he or she has made a mistake – than to be told that a mistake has been made.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Eleven Plus Schools

When Labour came to power in 1964 there was a diverse collection of policies on education. The composition of schools was as follows:

Modern 3906
Grammar 1298
Technical 186
Bilateral and Multilateral 69
Comprehensive 195
Other secondary 240

There were also 240 all age schools.

A lot of parents today would be a lot happier if there were still 1298 grammar schools!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Eleven Plus Advantages

The London School Board in 1870 decided to have infant, junior and secondary schools. In time this thinking led to a desire for some form of selection to allow children to be educated in a senior school which best suited their capabilities. Of course selection led to the eleven plus and it was this examination that tried to find children who would benefit from an academic education.

Junior schools then had to alter the work they did with their children to allow as many as possible enjoy the opportunity of attending a grammar school. The narrowing of the curriculum did not suit everyone – and, in time, there was a general revolt against changes in the junior school and the whole idea of grammar schools. There are now around one hundred and sixty grammar schools left in England.

We know that throughout the eighteenth century the curriculum of the grammar schools revolved around classics. The study of Latin and Greek do not, however, play so large a part in grammar schools today. A learned man called Dean Gaisford, and was a professor at Oxford nearly one hundred and seventy years ago, made the case for grammar schools when he wrote:

The advantages of a classical education are twofold – it enables us to look down with contempt on those who have not shared its advantages, and also fits us for places of emolument not only in this world, but in that which is to come.

We know that the word emolument comes from Latin – and is to do with the fees or wages of work. It is fun to think of all our precious little eleven plus children working as hard as possible to pass their eleven plus so that they can earn lots of money! (I hope they pass some to their parents in time to come!)

We hope too that these potential grammar school children do not look down on lesser mortals who do not pass the examination – or who are not offered the opportunity of sitting the eleven plus.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Eleven PLus Answers

Teachers sometimes use the technique of `Open Ended Sentences’ to gain information about what their children think about themselves, their parents and the eleven plus.

After school I will

Parents should always

I admire a person who

My younger brothers and sisters

My older brothers and sisters

My mother should

I would like my father to

When my aunts and uncles speak to me they always

I think that the eleven plus

I do enjoy studying

I hate

Above all I wish

Once you have encouraged your child to write down the answers, seal them without looking and then answer the questions yourself. I wonder just how far alike some of the answers really are.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Eleven Plus Goals

The eleven plus examination was devised to select candidates for grammar schools. In 1906 more places were offered to children in secondary schools. After 1944 it was decided to have different types of schools – and hence the need for selection.

When the supply of places in the more favoured educational establishments exceeded the demands of the candidates, then a selection device was needed.

The examination system has grown and grown – from `O’ level examinations – which changed into the more favoured GCSEs. `A’ levels and the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) are used, in part, for selection for places in university and colleges. Along the way we have had Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs examinations – and we used to have Key Stage 3 SATs. In among this huge logistical exercise we have children trying to win places in private and grammar schools. The Common Entrance, for example, is a highly competitive examination at the age of thirteen.

At the top end of the secondary school teachers try as hard as possible to help their children to earn good grades – this allowing, in some cases, entry to favoured seats of higher learning. But sixth form courses are not intended to be `preparation for degree courses’. Indeed if one day some minister decided to abolish the GCSE, the sixth form would need to bear the brunt of children being challenged by a number of subjects – as in the I.B.

A large number of primary teachers feel that KS2 SATs tests should not be used to test the width and balance of a school – and some teachers also feel that a system of grading of schools should be abandoned because league tables simply can not sum up the whole ethos and spirit of schools. Personalised learning and continuous assessment are the present `buzz words’.

In eleven plus terms there is a real justification for keeping the examination. Quite simply the eleven plus provides motivation for learning and encourages competition.

There must be always be some objections to an examination system that is inseparable from being competitive. One strong point is nearly always made – that competition is not good for children of primary school age.

The goal of winning a place in a grammar school cannot be transferred to a child who wants a place in a comprehensive school. The child who is set on a comprehensive will need to work equally as hard as a child aspiring towards grammar – but the emphasis and the syllabus will need to be different.

Until a better system is found the eleven plus remains the best method of ensuring the right children have the chance of a grammar school education. Naturally are some children who miss out a place completely unfairly. Until teachers are involved in selection and a system of continuous assessment is introduced, the eleven plus will need to stay in its present state.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Eleven Plus Boys

Boys, when they are approaching the eleven plus examinations, sometimes find themselves under pressure. History has given us a picture of boys from different cultures growing up accepting initiation and a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. The boy has to become a man.

A boy often is expected to show manliness by being more rough and ready and more adventurous than girls. At the same time some boys are taught to be polite, clean and are expected to show some delicacy of taste and manners.

We hope that pre eleven plus boys will not demonstrate signs of delinquency and conflict. The occasional rebellion over completing an eleven plus paper is not, however, quite the same as throwing a stone through a window.

Some mothers will encourage their eleven year old sons to be independent and tolerant - after all these are essential parts of the make up of a balanced adult. Other mothers will emphasise the need for their son to work hard at school and maintain the family name.

An eleven year old boy, even a very bright one, will try to assert himself in a bewildering variety of ways – depending on the circumstances within the family. If a boy feels, for example, that he is subject to an injustice he may react in a very different manner to how he behaves when he has to submit to the will of the family.

The comforting thing is that very few true eleven plus boys feel the need to descend into juvenile anarchy.

We had an eleven plus boy with us some time ago. It was clear that he would pass his eleven plus. He was often off hand with our teachers. He would pass our receptionist on his way into and out of lessons without acknowledging her cheery greeting. His fights with his mother after lessons were legendry. There was little give and take. He had the ability to endure a whole lesson without a smile – and never offered a please or thank you. He simply demanded.

One day a much younger child sat beside him in the lesson. His whole demeanour changed. His voice and look became gentle. He offered advice, comfort and suggestions along with a ready and winning smile. The younger child blossomed and looked for approval. We had worked with the older boy for some months and he had never given any of us an inch.

There was some trigger in his personality to protect and succour. He did not need to be taught to be manly and pleasant. These traits were within him. The nature and breadth of formal eleven work simply did not allow him the opportunity to display his ability to be friendly and co-operative. We wondered if he was very resentful about having to work towards the eleven plus. It could be that because he was so bright that he could cope with much of the work at school – but he met new and different work as he laboured towards the eleven plus.

Was there a happy ending?

It is difficult to know. Was it our place to ask him why his behaviour changed so much? I am not so sure.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Eleven Plus Frustrations

When we read text books about relationships between children and their parents we often see the case stated of a girl and her parents. There was repeated conflict between the girl and her parents over wearing a coat to school. Every morning she maintained that she did not need a coat. Every morning her parents insisted that a coat was necessary.

Finally they talked the matter over and the girl agreed that 50 degrees Fahrenheit was the proper dividing line. The family consensus was that if the temperature was over 50 degrees on a sunny morning or 55 degrees on a cloudy morning she did not need to wear a coat. Any other temperature: “You wear that coat!”

The breakfast fights stopped. The girl went outside to check the temperature.

Conflicts between parents and children often seem to revolve around remarkably similar areas.

Untidiness and disorder will probably come very high in the list.

Un-reliability and being late or unaware of the time must come pretty high.

The why and when of any eleven plus work must also cause, at times, some degree of conflict.

There must be plenty of other opportunities for conflict within a family including money, clothes, late nights, reading, obedience, answering back and general disagreement.

Not all families are faced by challenges of authority by their eleven plus children. Some children are able to grow up smoothly, without behaviour problems. These are children who do not want to make demands on their parents and they do not wish to vex and frustrate their parents.

In the initial example the family decided to draw a line with a temperature of 50 degrees. But drawing a line when eleven plus children are supposed to be working does not mean that all forms of democracy within the family have to be abandoned. The eleven plus is not all about punishment and discipline.

Some eleven plus children only need to be obedient when it is necessary. After all they will rationalise that obedience is a means and not an end. To counteract this most parents will use social controls like rewards, explanations and suggestions as a means of steering their children towards good behaviour.

The big problem that families face is that of time management. Almost every thing an eleven plus child does is governed by the clock. Years ago the family used to have a large grandfather’s clock that rang the hour. Time was heard to be measured. Primary schools today often ban the use of a watch , indeed some children do not appear to have much idea of the passage of time. But watches can not be thought of as toys to eleven plus children – they should regarded as essential tools in the management of time.

Good time keeping will remove some frustrations in the lives of parents and children in the lead up to the eleven plus. Good time keeping will help with completing papers on time – but will also help with when to start and when to stop a paper.

As your child approaches the school gates – collect the watch. When you pick your child up from school hand the watch back. Bit by bit you hope that your child will start to become aware of the passage of time.

It is worth a try!

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Working Mothers

I was chatting to a mother today about her son’s results. She explained her frustration about being able to work with her son because she worked full time and could not arrive home until late. Of course we talked about the possible need for a timetable so that her son knew what was expected of him every day. The mum agreed that at some time in the evening she could sit with her son and work through some short but intensive exercises.

Driving home, at the speed limit, I was overtaken by two young men in a back BMW coupe. I wondered why they were in a hurry. Were they going home to cook the family meal? What domestic tasks would they perform?

The woman of the family is real leader – and not just as the sun goes down. She organizes the family in terms of leisure and co-operation.

The mother becomes the family chauffeur. She drives the children to school and various activities after school. She collects the children from school, drives them to swimming and tennis, takes the second child to a music lesson, collects the first, fits in some shopping and the collects the second. She then supervises any homework as well as offering a quick hot snack.

The mother then is expected to cook the meal, start on eleven plus work, watch part of a familiar soap, supervise the behavior of two children, ease them into water, read to them (sometimes), encourage bed time, clean the kitchen, iron the clothes and sink to the favorite armchair.

The mother of the eleven plus child is also expected to cope with telephone messages, make inquiries, pay bills and maintain the family accounts. She is the family computer operator, accountant and part time gardener.

There seems to be even less time for a mother who has to work full time to be able to spend quality eleven plus study time with her child.

To the son, who feels like work but has difficulty in settling to work on his own, the mother appears to be enjoying a full time job outside of the home – as well as a full time job within the home. The mother also has to be the unparalleled eleven plus teacher, the motivator and the judge of any argument or heated discussion. In fact there are probably a wide collection of tasks and roles that probably have been missed.

The mother can not show irritability and fatigue or display hostile tendencies. Mother has to be relaxed, pleasant and all knowing. In those stolen eleven plus moments
She has to appear to be patient and under worked. She can not regularly appear to be frustrated and over worked. After all, the hours that a mother puts into running the home are largely unpaid and sometime undervalued.

It must be wondered why this blog explores the role of the mother in the eleven plus journey – well the answer is simple if those two young men had not exceeded the speed limit and rushed off with raised fingers then a different story might have been told.

Of course, if any mother (or father) would care to comment and add to the duties outlined above, please feel free to comment.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Eleven Plus Help Needed

There is a saying that no-one should ask a question if they do not know the answer. The reason is that you may not like what you hear!

Horace Smith wrote an Elegy to Miss Emily Kay who was a cousin of Miss Ellen Gee of Kew – who died in Ewell but was buried in Essex.

Please ask your eleven plus child to crack this code – because I can only guess at some of the content:

Sad nymphs of UL, U have much to cry for,
Sweet MLEKU never more shall c!
OSX Maids! Come hither and D, O,
With tearful I, this MTLEG.

I found this verse a little easier:

With her Piano-40 she did press
Such heavenly sounds did MN8, that she
Knowing her Q, soon iU2 confess
Her XLNC in an XTC.

My guess was pianoforte, minuet, and excellence in ecstasy.

The last verse is very sad, I think ….

Sweet MLEK in SX they bore,
Taking good care the monument 2YIO,
And as her tomb was much 2 low B4,
They lately brought fresh bricks the walls to 10 (heighten).

Please send any solutions your child may come up with. In my work I often meet children who are much brighter than I am!

Thank You

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Eleven Plus Emotions

There are some tests that are useful for testing children of widely differing ages. The likely outcome of the test would be performance described in terms of age. An average would be worked out for all the children of a certain age – and these would be called age norms.

Tests that are designed for children of a certain age, like eleven plus tests, use percentile levels – and are given the name percentile norms.

It is much easier to develop tests based around multiple choice questions where each answer is complexly objective, than a test where the opinion, training and qualifications of the examiner has to be taken into account. The answer in a multiple choice test is either right or wrong. Any person, or machine, marking the same multiple choice script should achieve the same answer.

In an intelligence test the age norm is usually called the mental age. Intelligence is usually described in a ratio of mental age to chronological age. This is then expressed as a percentage.

The age norm in educational attainment tests is referred to as an attainment age. We can have an attainment age, for example, for mathematics and one for reading. The attainment quotient is the attainment age divided by the chronological age multiplied by 100. If all the attainment ages are added together this would give a general educational age – and the ratio of this to chronological age gives an overall educational quotient.

Intelligence and attainment quotients interpret test results in terms of the average achievements of other age groups. A quotient of 120 gained by a ten year old suggests a result equal to that of an average twelve year old.

Eleven plus children often need to arrive at a standardised score of around 120 – hence need to be able to work successfully at the level of a twelve to thirteen year old. Parents often wonder at the content of some of the mathematics papers. “These questions are too hard for a ten year old.”

If the eleven plus examination is pitched to capture bright children - who have the ability to answer questions two years ahead of their age – then parents need to feel reassured that the level of questions in reputable books and selection papers is probably going to be appropriate. It is no good giving an eleven plus child too much work at the ten year old level if the content of the examination is aimed at the thirteen year old.

To answer some kinds of verbal reasoning questions your child should, if possible, be reading books at the twelve or thirteen year old level. The vocabulary and themes of a book aimed at thirteen year old children is sometimes markedly different to a book aimed at a ten year old. Naturally there are books that will appeal to all ages – the Harry Potter series is a good example.

It is frustrating for some parents that the emotional age of their child does not always appear to be at the same level as their educational age. A ten year old child can sometimes appear to have the emotional age of six year old when tears and tantrums erupt. Some parents will naturally feel an urge to try to continue talking to their child as a twelve year old even when the lower lip trembles and the poor little face crumbles. If only the eleven plus could take into account the emotional age – then a number of children would probably be able to `clean up their act’ and start behaving sensibly.

Mothers and fathers of bright and well balanced ten year olds would love to think that their emotionally secure child would have an even better chance of gaining a coveted eleven plus place. We have the pleasure of working some remarkably mature children who would never ever consider having a tantrum over work. These confident and happy children love the chance of stretching themselves and being challenged by demanding work.

Imagine your eleven plus results.

Verbal Reasoning 120 – twelve years old
Mathematics 125 – twelve and a half years old
Emotional 140 – fourteen years old.

This would offer parents an emotional rush!