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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eleven Plus Pain

“It will be all right on the day.”

“If the wind blows from the right quarter she should pass her eleven plus.”

What about the old adage: “A pilot flies by the seat of his pants.”

Space Scientist Dr Hubert Stughold wanted to test this theory. He injected his buttocks with anaesthetic novocaine until his posterior was numb.

He hitched a ride with a pilot who specialised in acrobatics. The pilot offered a full range of flying tricks.

Dr Stughold returned to earth feeling rather ill. He went on to maintain that a pilot’s pants are a most valuable tool.”

Health warning: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. It would be a sad day for the history of eleven plus preparation if a parent tried a similar experiment to see if they could encourage their child to sit still during the course of an eleven plus paper.

It probably will be all right on the day of your child does the right amount of preparation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eleven Plus Diets

Geri Halliwell, in her account `Just for the Record’, explained how she prepared for Brits – where it was likely that she would be offered an award. She had done all the preparation, written and recorded the song she hoped would win and seen the fruits of her labours selling and selling.

She then had the problem of the lead up to the Brits. She had been on the Atkins diet where she had eaten little but turkey slices. She really wanted to look slim so she then went on a three day fast of maple syrup and water.

She was in the process of shooting a new video where she had to learn to tap dance and perfect a pole dance routine. Her body rebelled and she woke up one night to eat and eat piles of cookies.

As your daughter approaches the eleven plus examination don’t suddenly change the routine and expect her to behave in a new and unrehearsed manner.

Keep the doing odd sections of questions.

Don’t worry about full papers in the last few days before the examination – unless your daughter has not done any at all.

Offer a diet that she enjoys – and no sudden changes.

Maintain a relaxed attitude to exercise.

Geri made it in the end – and we hope your daughter does too!

Friday, May 29, 2009

An Eleven Plus Winner

We heard this week about a wonderful girl who has won a place in a local grammar school. She is still with us and works with immense dedication and concentration. The family always thought that they would earn a place in the end. Good luck to the girl and her family.

The European golf is on this weekend – and like thousands others we have tickets for Sunday. It is sure to be a wonderful occasion. The weather will be good and the golf will be fascinating.

I was there, with my daughter Bridget, on the day Greg Norman did so well in the Open at Sandwich some years ago.

Faldo and Langer were playing fantastic golf. Faldo hit four birdies – while Langer and Norman each managed seven birdies. I can remember the Norman’s eighteenth hole as if it was yesterday. The `Shark’ hit a fantastic drive that landed up right in the middle of the fairway – about two hundred yards from the hole. He then took a four iron out of his bag. There was complete silence. He swung easily and landed up about 15 feet from the hole.

We all crowded forward. He putted. The crowd cheered and cheered. Faldo was beaten at a time when he was the best player in the world. You will recall Faldo’s incredible achievements from all his victories – but Greg Norman, the Shark, won on the day.

At the time Greg Norman had played the best final round ever to win the Open. He had the lowest ever winning score. The Sandwich links course was highly demanding. He beat Langer and Faldo.

When Greg Norman won in such a dramatic manner the whole golfing world was in awe. No one thought he was arrogant. He did not claim to have mastered the course. He paid respect to the demanding conditions and the quality of the competition.

When the girl reaches grammar school she won’t be arrogant. She knows that she has beaten other good girls. She will respect the traditions of the grammar school and we can fully expect her to do her best. Golfers often maintain that the feeling they get when they hit a sweet four iron is comparable to any other sensation in the world. Norman must have felt good as he walked up to the final green. I bet our girl will feel wonderful as she steps inside the grammar school on the first day of the new school year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thinking and the Eleven Plus

A study done in the USA back in 1931 suggested that the best time to teach reading was when a child had reached a mental age of six and a half years. This lead to the concept of `reading readiness’. Along with this age was the feeling that if a child was taught to read before six and a half, than the child would suffer lasting harm.

It was thought that it was possible to teach children to read before six and half – but that it was not genuine reading – it was called `barking at print’ - where a child worked from memory and understood little of what he or she was reading.

The age of transition to senior school was worked out by a study, over fifty years ago, which suggested that a child would be ready to leave junior school at around the age of eleven.

We could call this age, for the sake of argument, `Readiness for the Eleven Plus’.

To help a child to be ready for the eleven plus we can do many different activities from working on reading vocabulary to helping a child understand how pie charts work.

If a child is not ready to pass the eleven plus on the day of the examination, do we use the term `barking at examinations’?

Or do we call the eleven plus examination `barking mad’ because it relies so heavily on a child being able to remember facts and methods – and requires little original thought?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Eleven Plus Independence

One of the early thinkers about education and the development of young children was a man called Piaget. He was born in 1896. Some of his ideas may still be relevant to today’s eleven plus.

He used two main methods in his research.

One was to record everything said by children.

The other was set a number of standard questions to the children. The situations had to be contrived so to have some degree of conformity.

A typical Eleven Plus Conversation

“No, I don’t think that I understand. I am still not sure why the area of a triangle is half the base times the height.”

“Look at a rectangle. The area of a rectangle is base time height. Your triangle will be half the size of the rectangle.”

A typical Eleven Plus Contrived Situation

Find the area of a triangle of base 12cm and height 14cm.

Piaget set tasks that were not only foreign to school work – but excluded any form of readiness on the part of the child to give an expected answer.

Piaget used the example of a child being asked: “Why does the sun not fall?” He wanted to force the child to think on new and inaccessible problems.

If only Eleven Plus questions could be independent from knowledge, experience and learning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Cramming

On the BBC website there is a remarkably cheerful discussion on last minute cramming. Naturally all parents will have different views on last minute learning. Some will swear by it and others will recount horror stories.

John Hand was studying for an A Level Italian examination and looked at the value of last minute study. He reviewed work by a Mr. O'Brian who has written books on how to pass examinations.

Perhaps parents can do a similar exercise with their eleven plus children

1. Read the information - and try to commit it to memory.

To find 10%, divide by 10.

2. Go over the same information again 24 hours later.

To find 10% divide by 10

3. Revise it a week later.

To find 10% divide by 10.

4. Return to the same topic after a month.

To find 10% divide by 10.

Of course you may need to revise how to divide by 10 as you go along - but the repetition should help to consolidate what has to be remembered.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Light at the end of the Eleven Plus Tunnel

Children who are writing the eleven plus examination are likely to come from a wide range of neighbourhood communities. Some children will come from large detached houses and others, just a few miles away, from flats and `two up two downs’.

Sometimes we hear of only five or six children from a school trying to pass eleven plus examinations. In other schools well over thirty children my sit the examination.

After the results, in eleven plus areas, children transfer to different types of school. In non eleven plus areas children could go to comprehensives or the new academies. The larger comprehensives could serve children from wide areas.

We hear of bright children who are able to dominate whole classes of primary school children. Their behaviour at school can take be unpleasant and bullying. Some children will reject any idea of a `contract’ between teacher, parent and child. They will ignore regulations on behaviour and social manners. Some of these children may even boast or exhibit a `could not care less’ attitude – which could be a major departure from what we like to think of as an acceptable code of behaviour.

The other children in the class have to learn to live with unpleasant behaviour in the class and at school. Outside of school there may be little contact unless the unwholesome child lives `down the road’.

Parents can complain to the school about extreme bad behaviour – and the school can promise to do all they can to try to avert and monitor problems. Imagine sitting down to dinner every evening while one person is dominating and rude. This could upset your digestion! Think of your child having to sit on a table at school with a child who is disruptive and anti authority.

The consequence of close proximity to a child who has little respect for others is that children’s education can be affected. Being forceful and rude is not the domain of the ill educated child who lacks social graces.

Should we feel sorry for the bright rude child? It can not always be the fault of the community or the parents. Some children are just unpleasant.

The strictures of the eleven plus examination can not make an unpleasant child into a conforming and loving member of the community. Sometimes, however, the interest from a teacher or tutor – drawn from non school environment - will discover a child who behaves and acts very differently.

The school bully may also be a member of a karate group – and listen carefully and respectfully to the teacher – and enjoy the company of other like minded children. The change of behaviour and attitude may be no more than a comprehension of status. The child’s status at school may be determined a need to dominate and control – yet the same child may be perfectly happy to accept a situation where he or she understands and accepts limits of control.

Some parents must long for the Year 6 class to break up and the children disband. It is very likely, however, for there to light at the end of the tunnel. The primary school top dog will become a lowly member of the grammar school. Peace on earth!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eleven Plus Job Aspirations

Is there any recent research about the job aspirations of grammar school children?

It does seem likely that a grammar school child will have had a number of years of `indoctrination’ about the value of university and the chances of developing a satisfying career.

It is likely that a child who does not want to go to university will be reasonably content with a job that is `just down the road’.

An eleven plus child from a leafy suburb may have to leave home to go to university whereas a child looking for a local job may choose to stay at home. Some university undergraduates, however, choose to stay at home because of increasing costs of tuition and accommodation fees.

Do grammar school children every build their job aspiration in university courses? Of course some must. An A level student who sets out to become an economist may find a university place to read economics.

What we do know is that there are likely to be a number of changes of career. Gone are the day when a young person could take a civil service examination – and then have a job for life.

The next time you ask your child what he or she would like to do after school and university – you could consider pointing out many graduates have at least three changes of career. You could follow this by saying that at eleven years old there is plenty of time.

The Eleven Plus and the Middle Set

There must be a wide difference in the attitude of schools towards the eleven plus. We know of one school `down our way’ where the head teacher has arranged for children from the class to attend two afternoons a week, after school, for eleven plus preparation. This is, we understand, is a service provided by the state school and there is no charge.

Other schools are not geared in any way towards the eleven plus. The Local Authority may have issued instructions to schools that there should be no help with eleven plus preparation. The children who do pass the eleven plus, and go to grammar school, will have achieved their ambition through help from their parents and, possibly, tutors. Naturally all children who do gain entrance to a grammar school will have that invaluable ingredient – ability.

At one time there was much discussion about the value of children being taught in `homogeneous’ classes. Some schools preferred a `heterogeneous’ ability class. Some children today explain that they are in `Set 1’ or `Top Set’. Other children are in `Middle Set’. Some parents seem to refer to their child being in a `mixed ability’ class.

It is likely that some schools who do work actively towards the eleven plus will have parents who want their children to go to grammar school. It would be very sad to think that schools who do not `push’ towards the eleven plus feel that their children are not of grammar school standard and therefore are not helped towards passing the examination.

Putting children in groups, or sets, or streams is a form of a self justifying process. We had a girl last year who spent her whole mathematics career at primary school in the `middle’ stream. We worked on eleven plus and Level 5 mathematics – and in spite of this the girl stayed obdurately in the middle stream. The middle stream worked on helping children climb from level three to level four. The school were preoccupied with ensuring as many children as possible achieved level four.

When the girl came on an eleven plus course with us she met other children from a wide range of schools – and mathematics ability groups. She coped remarkably well and met every mathematics challenge with sanguine inner confidence. She passed the eleven plus with a place in grammar school. She will easily achieve Level Five in her mathematics. She is, however, still in the middle set.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flipping and an Eleven Plus Answer

A little bit of history. The Robbins Report of 1963 noted: “The numbers who are capable of benefiting from higher education are function not only of heredity but also a host of other influences varying with standards of educational provision, family incomes and attitudes and the education received by previous generations.” I still have my copy of the Robins Report and it is interesting to look back at some of the statements made in the report.

The Spens Report of 1938 was the trigger for much of the reorganisation on which the 1944 Education Act was based. The Spens Report felt that Intellectual development during childhood appears to progress as if it were governed by a single central factor usually known as general intelligence. Our psychological witnesses assured us that it can be measured approximately by means of intelligence tests. It is possible, with a few exceptions, to predict with some degree of accuracy the ultimate level of a child’s intellectual powers.”

It was on the basis of the Spens Report that much of the early Eleven Plus techniques were developed.

In today’s world, many years on from the 1938, it is hard to believe that some of the present verbal reasoning questions still survive.

We know that education must be vastly different from what it was sixty years ago.

We know that society has changed considerably.

One factor is remarkably similar – in 1945 Britain was poor because of the war effort. In 2009 Britain is again poor. This in itself should not be enough reason to maintain the belief that some types of reasoning question, which date back 60 years, will select children accurately – much less find the `ultimate level of a child’s intellectual powers’.

One other area we can take into consideration is that of the `education received by previous generations’ (Robbins 1963). We know that today’s parliament is made up of M.P.s from widely different backgrounds. Some even have moats and others modest second homes. It is not clear, however, how many M.P.s have claimed for the education of their children. As the slow drip of `transparency’ takes place it must only be time when we will hear of an M.P. who has not been able to prepare his or her child for grammar school and will blame parliamentary rules.

For the rest of us without free access to tax payers’ money (our money) we simply have to rely on the education we received – and hope that we know enough to be able to answer some of the more mundane and even fruitless questions. After all when we look through an eleven plus paper – and see some of the questions – we must question the relevance of some questions. Our children will not be able to say in the examination:

“I am sorry and I will answer that question again. I have the feeling that it was well within the parliamentary laws to select Option B. I know that the right answer was Option A – but I was told, in a written letter, by my tutor, who worked part time as an M.P., with a second home near mine, that eleven plus children can flip an option in the middle of an eleven plus test.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bond and Etc

An exciting moment in our lives!

Today we announce a significant new partnership between the Bond arm of Nelson Thornes and the Extra Tuition Centre. Bond is the leading provider of books and materials for the Eleven Plus. The Extra Tuition Centre provides lessons and courses for children. Bond’s decision to work with the Extra Tuition Centre is a reflection on both parties determination to provide the best possible learning platform for children.

A key element of the partnership is the provision of bundled Bond papers to compliment the Eleven Plus Courses offered by the Extra Tuition Centre.

Bond’s marketing director, Claire Johnstone, said “Bond books have been widely respected and much loved by parents for many years. All of us at Bond are committed to providing the best possible support to parents and children in the lead up to the Eleven Plus.”

The Extra Tuition Centre offers regionalised intensive three day courses in a number of Eleven Plus locations. The courses cover the key topics – and are tailor made to accommodate the requirements of particular grammar schools. Parents are able to book a course secure in the knowledge that the work their children will do will be relevant.

Mrs Bridget Busfield, from the Extra Tuition Centre, who has organised thousands of Eleven Plus holiday courses for children said, “Children often come on a course and are excited to learn just how well they can do – and want to carry their new confidence into tackling new books, papers and exercises. The link with Bond enables us to provide a service that will allow children to approach the examination with increased confidence.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Guessing

There was a guessing game played across playgrounds in Brian called `Stars’. The actual name may change from time to time and location to location but the nature of the game does not change.

One girl crosses the playground and yells out the initials of a famous person, for example, S.C. - now every X Factor fan will know those initials. As soon as one thinks she knows what the initials stand for, she runs across the playground, touches hands, and runs back again. On her return she shouts out the name she has thought of. If he guess is right she changes places across the road. If the guess is wrong she has run for reason at all.

Sometimes a number of girls will be racing each other – and everyone will have thought of the wrong name.

There are obviously a wide number of variations on this game. Ask your daughter to recount to you a similar game.

Then use the opportunity to explain that the game is similar to working on a multiple choice exercise.

You are given a little clue.

You run a round and make some guesses.

All around you are running too.

If you get it wrong you have to try again.

Suggest to your daughter that she should think through the multiple choice options before making her choice. Suggest that she should eliminate answers that simply can not fit.

If she does not seem to take this on board – why not read a question to her. Give her a clue – and if she makes a mistake she then must run round the house. She may learn, very practically, to think twice!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Eleven Plus and the Stars

Has anyone ever seen an eleven plus child who moved slowly? Surely a bright and active brain will lead to a bright and active child?

Watch your child in a variety of situations.

Working on an eleven plus paper
You may see some or even a combination of the activities including great concentration, rapid eye movements, a steady shifting of limbs and a display of co-ordination and ability. You may even feel that your child looks to be intelligent and able.

Listening to your explanation of an error
The head, sometimes, shakes from side to side. There are involuntary movements of the limbs – almost as if your child is trying to escape. You may see a broad smile and even receive a well earned `high five’ if you offer a worthy explanation.

Talking about the Eleven Plus to a much loved grand mother
A calm relaxed body, slow and evenly modulated speech and striking evidence of a general desire to please.

In other words your eleven plus child will surely, and confidently, adapt to a variety of situations. The behaviour will be like that of a chameleon – along with mood swings and displays of attitude.

Even while your child is working confidently through an `easy’ eleven plus paper you will see familiar little work habits. For some it could be eating hair, other will make little grimaces on demanding questions; some will throw an episodic tantrum which could blow over as quickly as it emerged. Your child will be experiencing a riot of emotions – ranging from relief that the paper appears to be reasonable, to content in answering a question correctly and then to frustration when an answer appear to be elusive.

Back in 1796 an astronomer at the Greenwich Observatory dismissed his assistant because there seemed to be a purposeful delay of a second every time the cross-hair in a telescope fastened onto a star. The poor assistant’s reactions were simply slower than the astronomer.

If your child is one second out on each eleven plus question – then that should not make much difference over a whole paper. Spending a minute on each question could, however, affect the result.

When your child enters the examination room there is little that you can do affect the end result. Helping your child to relax, read questions carefully and adopt a measured cadence to answering questions could help.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scraping the Eleven Plus

There is no way of knowing of this is a true story. It all took place a long time ago.

Hadrian went one day to the public baths, and saw an old soldier, well known to him, scraping himself with a potsherd for want of a flesh brush.

The emperor sent him a sum of money.

The next day Hadrian found the bath crowded with soldiers scraping themselves with potsherds. He said: “Scrape on gentlemen, but you’ll not scrape acquaintance with me.”

We must all wish for a new emperor who will want to take a fresh look at the eleven plus. The emperor will not be satisfied with questions like:

Spot the odd word out:

Strode, clambered, sailed, journeyed, and swam.

It is easy to see that the odd one out is journey – because it is a less specific word that the others.

It is also easy to see that a less able child may have some difficulty in unravelling the conundrum – but a question like this can mean the difference between a grammar school pass and fail.

The problem is that many years ago some erudite scholar announced that `spot the odd one out’ could offer a fair test of ability. Writer after writer, tutor after tutor, parent after parent and child after child have all perpetuated this travesty.

Why should we continue to scrape acquaintance with these heirlooms or antiques of early eleven plus tests?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Intelligence and the Eleven Plus

I know the following comments show a complete lack of academic sensibility - but the article in today's Times is illuminating. The heading is :"How to make your child more intelligent." I have not yet read the book by Richard Nisbett `Intelligence and how to get it' and have only read the article. I know I should read the whole book before commenting - and will naturally do this in time.

There is a quote in this article about James Flynn who has collated scores on I.Q. tests from all over the world. This quote by Flynn is from the article - and once again I have nor read the source.

`Our ancestors intelligence was anchored in everyday reality. We differ from them in that we can use use abstraction and logic and the hypothetical.' In an IQ test, he says, we might be asked what rabbits and and dogs have in common. `The correct answer is that they are both mammal, assumes that it is important thing about the world is to classify it in terms of categories of science. To an American in 1900, that would be absurdly trivial.'

Present day verbal reasoning tests continue to throw up excruciating types of questions that are rooted in the perception of ability and the needs of the eleven plus of fifty years ago.

I have argued over many of the last thousand blogs that there is a need to change the present eleven plus. My credentials are not those of professors or academics - but those of a practicing eleven plus tutor. I have prepared programs for around 600 children a year for the last three years - and many more children over the past years.

Some types of verbal reasoning question are not relevant to today's children. It is very difficult to see how some questions can meaningfully select eleven plus children for today's world.

The whole concept of selection and the eleven plus needs a review that embraces not only the needs of the grammar schools - but the intellectual makeup of today's children.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jealousy and the Eleven Plus

As the eldest child of the family enters the eleven plus year these is often a shift within the family. All concerned are aware that the eleven year old needs considerable attention. The problem is that that not all the family feel that this is fair.

We remember the section in Othello (Act 3 Scene 3) where Iago tries to upset Othello and says:

“O beware my lord of jealousy,
It is the green eyed monster which does
Mock the meat it feeds on.”

The youngest could aggrieved that so much attention is being offered to the eldest – when for long it has been the preserve of the youngest to garner as much attention as possible. (The eleven year old eldest would call the youngest a little pest.) The youngest is always jealous of the privileges awarded to the eldest.

All middle children would feel resentful that they did not have the privileges of the eldest or the attention offered to the youngest. The middle child would also be burdened with those unloved Eleven Plus words: “It will be your turn soon.”

The only child will feel that there is simply too much pressure – and that too much is expected of him (or her) in the lead up to the eleven plus. There is no one to divert the attention of the parents. It is all very well remembering that the first born children go on to become astronauts, captains of industry and members of parliament. This does not help the eleven year to feel less jealous of children who are allowed more play time and contact with other children.

All parents can do is to try to keep the balance.

That green eyed monster does not go away simply because the child is in the eleven plus year. Jealousy does not remember the adult stating: “I treat all my children exactly the same way.”

How many second of third children are given the already used eleven plus papers?

The very prestige of being an eleven plus candidate is onerous enough without illicit manifestations of jealousy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Eleven Plus and The Bride

How can parents prepare their children for the `ordeal’ of the eleven plus examination? In the first place a large number of eleven plus children will actually look forward to the examination. They will be confident that they have been able to do most of the questions on the papers. Some children will relish the idea of being stretched and having to confront difficult and puzzling questions.

There will still be some children, however, who will creep towards the examinations feeling fearful and apprehensive. These children may, in part, have been conditioned by their parents:

“William is not good at examinations. He just goes to pieces.”

“You wait until you get into the examination. You won’t be able to do anything. You must do some papers now.”

“I was always good at examinations. Look what I have achieved. You just don’t care. All the rest of the family have done well. You must try harder.”

After all the work on selection and practice papers is simply a rehearsal for the real event. Think of a bride preparing for her wedding. She is changing clothes to go to the final walk through the evening before the wedding. Her mother and friends are gathered around helping with final fittings.

“Marriages just don’t last these days. I’ll give this one just three months.”

“Yes, your bum does look fat in your wedding dress. Never mind no will notice the extra two stone.”

“Just wait until the honeymoon is over. You will regret this for the rest of your life. You know he only loves football.”

The bride and the eleven plus child have a few things in common. They don’t need to know what they can’t do they need to know what they can do.

They need to be built up with kind and timely words – and not feel unloved and denigrated.

Somehow the eleven plus child and the bride need to feel that what ever has gone before, what ever errors have been made, what ever preparation has been missed – that they have done the best they can.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Leisure

If you were not preoccupied with helping your child towards the eleven plus, what could you, and THE CANDIDATE, do with all this extra time?

You will have been monitoring your child very carefully over the past months – trying to make sure that you do not force your own anxiety onto your child. You may have a pretty fair idea of what your child thinks about doing a paper on a sunny afternoon – but may be less sure of what goes through your child’s mind last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

The other area where you have no control of the pre eleven plus situation is when your child is with his or her peers at school. You don’t really know exactly what the class bully may or may not have said to your child about the eleven plus.

We may possibly have heard of some children who have reverted to bed wetting or stealing or extreme rudeness. The eleven plus examination in itself can not realistically have caused concern in a child. A more likely trigger could be how the eleven plus is handled by family, school and peers.

Parents have to temper their ambition for their child with a just assessment of what their child can achieve.

This call for a balance must carry across into sports and leisure activities. A child who wants his way all the time will not easily gain entry to the `inner circle’. Likewise a child who is a complete namby-pamby will only find play mates when he, of she, has learnt to stand on his or her own feet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eleven Plus Day Dreams

What happens when your child appears to be day dreaming instead of knuckling down to do a paper?

When a child is very young, and has not had the opportunity to build a comprehensive construct of the world, then he or she may slip into a make believe world. In early day dreams it does not really matter that make believe can be far removed from fact.

When we watch a young child play we can see games that seem to be verging on fantasy. Some children grow into adults – and fantasy still plays a large part in their lives. The advent of technology has opened up the opportunities for games and delving into fantasy land where stimulation is part of a computer generated game.

An old fashioned theory is that boys prefer adventure and girls romance – but this may not be true of all of our eleven plus boys and girls. It is far more likely that our bright eleven plus children have matured to such an extent that they are able to appreciate the relationship between fantasy and the real world.

What does play a big part in make believe is the desire for ambitious success that is largely unattainable. This may or may not be a large part of the fantasy world of the eleven plus.

Fantasy One
A child dreaming of passing the eleven plus, making the parents happy, bringing glory to the school and `going to grammar’.

Fantasy Two
A mother dreaming of having two children at grammar school. The dream would enter the world of fantasy because the second child is far more likely to be a famous golfer than a studious academic.

Fantasy Three
A grand parent dreaming of winning the National Lottery and being able to give the family lots of money so that the children can move to a large house near to the grammar school and being able to provide the grand children with every eleven plus opportunity.

Fantasy Four
A school teacher hoping that the extra input from all the eleven plus work will help her pupil to reach Level 5 in the SATs.

If your child does seem to drift off into a day dream – all you can hope it is the right one hard work, no answering back, lots of papers, passing, grammar, university, family and support for you when you are old and infirm. (Don’t interrupt the day dream in case you break the chain. After all, `It could be you that is left out of the dream!’)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eleven Plus Humour

I met a boy over the weekend – and had seen him on several previous occasions. We had talked about work and his aspiration but nothing in his make up prepared me for the stream of jokes that something in our conversation undammed. I think he found a very weak remark on my part a licence to tell jokes.

He started with a standard joke:

A blind man went into a shop,
Picked his dog up by the tail and
Swung it around his head.
“Can I help you?” asked the assistant.
“No thanks,” said the blind man, “I’m just looking around.”

We know that we should not laugh at disability – especially visual impairment.

We know too that we should not laugh at the idea of dog being thrown around.

Not all people with a disability can laugh at themselves.

So why did he chuckle at his own joke? Why did a different eleven plus child (a very bright girl sitting near by) immediately question the need for a dog to be mistreated?

The boy, not yet characterised as a comedian, then told a different joke.

“Why did the old lady cover her
mouth with her hands when she

To catch her false teeth.

This joke too pokes fun at age and disability.

By the girl had returned to her work and did not even look up.

In the space of two school boy jokes we uncovered laughter at:

Cruelty to animals

The ability to recall jokes is not an important element of any eleven plus course – and some may find the jokes distasteful. The ability to recall and tell a joke, with good timing, is a rare skill. I wonder if the telling jokes or being a comedian is the domain of the more able. Certainly the comedians we see on the television obviously have a team of gifted comedy writers behind them but they often also have the rare skill of being able to laugh at them selves.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eleven Plus Expense Claims

I have read five different newspapers and listened to as many news casts as possible - to try to find the first reference to a subject dear to all of our hearts.

We know that various members of the cabinet and the shadow cabinet have been `outed’. We believe that there are further revelations yet to come. Perhaps one day there will be full accountability – and clear evidence.

Of course it is obvious what the search has been about.

We all want to be the first to find the first evidence that Members of Parliament have been claiming expenses for the eleven plus.


To Preparation of said child for the Eleven Plus:

1. Selected selection Eleven plus Books 34.98
2. Tutor 678.65
3, Stress and counselling for parents 345.89

By now you will see that the devil lies in the detail. By itemising the pence column the claim will gain authenticity.

Please tell all of us if you do hear anything on this subject.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eleven Plus and Parents

When parents are working with their children they may sometimes feel a little touch of impatience. If they, as an adult, give a perfectly logical explanation, why can’t their child understand straight away?

What parents need to remember is that the most difficult time to learn anything – especially learn how to solve a problem – is the first time. Learning to solve problem usually demands a greater effort than solving problems of the same type later on.

This is why children are given an explanation and then offered examples to consolidate the learning experience. Parents have built a library of experiences in solving problems – and they draw on this library when faced with eleven plus questions. A parent can therefore appear to be very able – and sound highly intelligent – to their eleven year old child.

The levelling out time comes when a completely new type of problem is thrown up by an eleven plus paper. It is impossible to simply generalise about all parents and all eleven plus children – but some children may be able to solve some problems faster than their parents.

It is well documented that some intellectual facilities start declining from the age of around 25. The premise is that some intellectual activities require considerable brain tissue – and if the activity is not repeated on a regular basis – then that element of the brain begins to wither and diminish. (It just begins to fade away!)

So when your child is sitting in the eleven plus examination room, and you have done all you can to help your child solve as wide a range of problems as possible, then you can reflect on the fact that your child is relying on two main elements of ability. The first is the intelligence that has been inherited from you. The second is the relevant experiences that have been offered to pathways of the cerebrum. So what your child has inherited from you is the capacity to learn to absorb new eleven plus experiences – what you can then offer to your child is a multitude of relevant experiences.

If all this can be accepted as reasonable then to pass the eleven plus a child needs innate potential and a well developed eleven plus brain.

To help their child pass the eleven plus a parent needs innate ability, lots of experience – and a strong desire to learn. Good luck!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Eleven Plus Flexibility

Those of us who are heavily involved with very bright eleven plus children will meet some children whose ability, in some way, exceeds our own. As an eleven plus teacher or tutor we may not be as bright as some of our pupils in some areas – but as an adult we have the benefit of experience, maturity and professional training.

As teachers we sometimes need to be very flexible when dealing with able children. Last year a mother commented that her daughter’s friends all had one to one tutors – and that her daughter was the only one on her class with us. In the actual examination our little girl gained full marks (140) on the mathematics and the two reasoning tests (verbal and non verbal reasoning). We needed to be flexible at teachers as this little girl was able to work at twice the speed of any of our other eleven plus children.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Philosophy of the Eleven Plus

There was a time when it was considered to be sensible to allow bright children to be accelerated. For some children this meant jumping a year. A few other children were allowed, or even encouraged, to gain greater depth in a subject.

The trend today is for the school to feel that the junior teacher has sufficient resources to be able to cater for a wide range of children. Ideally class sizes should be smaller so that teachers do have time to be able to cater for the needs of the more able.

The old Greek philosopher Socrates had the right idea – he worked, sometimes, with small groups and employed a question and answer technique to encourage and develop thought and reasoning. It is a bit difficult to see how his approach would work with some verbal reasoning questions. If only the eleven plus required a child to be forced to think and reason – instead of being able to answer a fairly narrow range of questions.

If the scope of the eleven plus was broadened then it seem likely that the role of some eleven plus teachers would then need to change. The eleven plus teacher would then not need to dispense facts – but try to stimulate activity and thought.

Suppose, for example, a crucial element of the eleven plus was to encourage children to slow down and think before uttering or submitting an answer. Questions would need to be phrased in ways where thought – and common sense – were examined. Children would then be encouraged to dig for truth – and then make up their minds before stating a conclusion.

In time the grammar schools must benefit from children who had spent their junior school days in research and discussion – rather than as passive recipients of facts and methods of working out various verbal reasoning questions. No wonder some bright children find the whole eleven plus experience rather tedious.

At the school open day the head teacher will encourage the precocious piano playing ten year old to offer a piece for the attention of the visitors to the school. Parents and teachers will all applaud talent – and live for a moment in reflected glory.

Parts of some eleven plus verbal; reasoning papers, however, do not even seem or pretend to require superior language skills. Some questions can be answered with a simple mechanical application of `rules’. It seems, therefore, necessary to change the philosophy of the eleven plus before attempting to re-educate teachers, children and parents.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Soft Approach to the Eleven Plus

A little, very bright, eight years old wrote a story using a much loved technique. Her mum then asked what she needed to do to help her daughter to pass the eleven plus. This brought to mind the writing style adopted by the girl. To help your child to pass the eleven plus you need to think SOFT.


Keep in close contact, when possible, with you child’s class teacher.

Try to have some continuous communication with the Head Teacher.

Other Parents

Learn from parents who have children who have passed through the eleven plus experience.

Talk and listen to your contemporaries. From them you will learn the latest techniques and ideas.


Engage your family in the process – don’t try to slay all the dragons by your self.

Ask and even demand support and help. It is vital not to feel isolated.


If you have a tutor then communicate. Offer your ideas and describe what you would like to happen.

If you have decided to go without a tutor – then trust your instincts and don’t panic towards the end. Above all do not berate yourself wonder if you did the right thing by not employing a tutor.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Power

Why do people in authority keep trying to change the education system? It is easy to see why regulations like school uniform and wearing jewellery or make up to school become important. After all, authority must not be challenged. If there is opposition to a rule, then it is a very natural reaction to fight back. Problems can escalate until there is only a stern recourse to draconian measures. But why do ministers of education want to change the whole premise of schooling?

The new academies that are springing up to educate children at senior school level could soon be joined by junior school academies. Part of the idea must be `if it is broke then fix it’. It could also be a strong instinct within people in power to want to `leave a mark’.

It is conceivable that some of our eleven plus children are being educated in school where authority and regulations are being challenged on a daily basis. Other children could be affected by changes with the classroom – as well as within the school.

One thing is for sure – that our education system will never become ossified. Change in education is inevitable. The contents and regulation of Eleven Plus, however, do not seem to have changed much over recent years.

Back in 1971 a learned educationalist called Illich argued that: “School prepares for the alienating institutionalisation of life by teaching the need to be taught.”

It is not hard to see how the very nature and composition of the eleven plus examination appears to lean towards selecting children that do conform and children that want to wear uniforms. What about children who do rebel? Some of these children may miss all the advantages of a grammar school education. After all if a child passes an eleven plus examination, it is likely that some form of preparation must have taken place. (We all know, however, of stories of some children who never open an eleven plus paper and still pass the examination.)

It is conceivable to suppose that some children who come from uneasy home backgrounds are more prone to rebellion that children from stable back grounds. These then are the children that grammar schools should try to find.

If any `leader’ wants to leave a legacy – why not try to find the children from poor backgrounds who do not have all the advantages offered to more privileged children? When the inevitable political upset arrives and the education `leader’ ispassed to obscurity – or the back benches – surely a worth while epitaph would be:

“The educator of the poor and disenfranchised.”

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Eleven Plus Ability

There are ultimately only two ways that a child can pass the eleven plus. The first is through innate ability and the other is by working on eleven plus materials.

Some Eleven Plus questions seem to require immense innate ability. Other questions can be answered by children with widely different abilities - if they are trained and taught.

If a small selection of eleven plus questions require abundant ability – then it is likely that these questions will be more difficult to learn by rote or practice. If, however, the question requires a rare skill then those types of questions must be very attractive to parents of very able children.

I wonder if it follows that questions that are extremely hard for most of the eleven plus population will help to select children who will do very well in the eleven plus – and thus go onto enjoy lives of great prestige, high salaries and ample leisure.

If this does follow then the next time you meet a hard question with your child, don’t rail against the eleven plus system – but think positively of money, power and flights of fancy. Above all hope and pray that the reward is worthy of the sacrifice.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Eleven Plus Perspective

Parents will naturally be concerned about their children as the Eleven Plus examinations approach. A lot of family conversations will revolve around the candidate including health matters as well as intellectual, educational and social development. Some families even become more child centered than usual. Every single piece of progress in eleven plus terms is analysed and discussed. The `will he pass’ and the `what if’ scenarios are revisited ad nauseam.

Some families even find that the eleven plus dominates key times of the year. School holidays, for example, are no longer the domain of a happy carefree family – because there is always the spectre of another family who are staying at home working on eleven plus exercises.

Perspective is a key issue in eleven plus years. It is a very important examination for one member of the family – but there could be other children in the family. Parents have to make time for the whole family. Along with eleven plus work there still needs to be visits of the dentist, the special interests of other members of the family – and quality time to be a family unit.

Eleven plus children do need some activities that are not too directly related to the eleven plus. Some parents may encourage dance, other swimming, while some may even teach their child to play cards. After all, playing snap requires concentration – and ability to anticipate. Poker, however, is demanding in a different way. Five card stud, for example, brings any number of eleven plus skills into action – not the least of which – are counting, recognising odds and learning to look emotionless under pressure. Some parents, however, may prefer trips to museums and art galleries.

Eleven plus parents will take for granted that their child shows talent in diverse area like art or music. Some children may prefer to show interest, and ability, in drama or sport. These, however, all take time away from eleven plus papers.

We can’t, however, simply rely on long walks or cycle rides to give the eleven plus child enough physical stimulation. There has to be something more. Excessive reliance of sport to relieve anxiety and stress has, however, to be tempered. We all remember the words of Dolly Parton:

“I bought all those Jane Fonda videos. I love to sit and eat cookies and watch `em.”

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Eleven Plus Potential

A man called George B. Leonard remarked once that:

“Teachers are overworked and underpaid. True it is an exacting and exhausting business, this damming up of the flood of human potentialities.”

A bald statement of this nature tells us nothing about the context of his rather unjust words. After all potential is what the eleven plus examination is all about. The potential to pass a competitive examination, the potential to enjoy a grammar school education, the potential to enjoy a challenging university education and the potential to live a happy and fulfilled life.

We do have many advantages when preparing a child for the eleven plus – with the opportunity of unleashing potential. Take the case of a man who wants to reach the other side of the river. He has to build a boat, equip the boat with sails or oars, navigate the current and find a safe landing point.

To achieve this adventure the man had to understand gravity, motion and friction. If a teacher can help a child to understand these three cornerstones – then surely the child has the tools to cope with many aspects of carving out a wholesome life? The child needs to know how to apply the laws of the eleven plus – with out having to understand each and every law in full.

We use an example like this on one of our eleven plus courses. The children are set the problem:

Two guards have to transport three prisoners to the other side of the river. No prisoner can be left on his own without a guard. How do the guards achieve their task?

The solution of course does not involve currents, gravity and friction – but does require a logical approach to solving the problem. We once saw an eleven plus girl solve the problem on the second reading – and give an exquisite and apposite answer.

Her parents and teachers at school had obviously given her every opportunity to release the flood of her potential. What a lucky girl!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

An Open Eleven PLus Letter

Dear Eleven Pluser

Thank you for coming to your lesson today. You worked really hard and it was pleasure to see you solving problems in such an enthusiastic manner. You found the verbal reasoning really easy.

Those mathematics examples on Pie Charts are difficult – but you coped very well. I liked the way you asked for help when you did not understand.

I know that you don’t always feel like working at home on your eleven plus papers with your mother.

You can argue about clothes, food, bed time and make up – but not about work.

Work is something you just have to do.

Pick a fight about anything at all in the world but leave eleven plus work out of it.

Don’t argue before you do your eleven plus work because your work will suffer. Save all your feelings for afterwards.

Good luck – and talk to someone. Don’t bottle everything up. You must talk – especially to your mother who loves you very much. Your mother just wants to help you to do the best you can.

Once again – good luck.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Travel

Up until a few days ago a job in the travel industry would have offered a wonderful opportunity to one of our eleven plus children.

Of course bight and able young people would have the opportunity of being fast tracked through the system. Just think of your child having a career where he or she could swop the weather of Britain for a life of travel and glamour. Your much loved would not need to go to university for a `degree’ in tourism as there are many relevant but different routes into a life of freedom and travel.

Your child’s personality may be drawn by the travel agency side of travel- where you talk about ravel instead of doing it. (A bit like us teachers who are sometimes characterised by being people who teach because we can’t do any thing else.)

A tour guide is a very different sort of job that might appeal to some. You could warn your child that there is a range of tour guides – from those helping pensioners on a cruise down the Rhine to guiding adventurous folk who are trekking through the Andes. You may prefer, however, for your child to be a tour rep for Club 16 to 30 – and thus gain access to clearing up after unfortunates to lazing on the beach.

Of course most parents would like their child to go to Oxford, come up with a bright travel related idea, raise a few million seed money to start the project off – and then sell the concept for millions and millions.

We need to feel sorry for all those caught up in the present swine flu saga. Perhaps one of our young people will go on to discover a vaccine that will help to prevent pandemics. After all it is the poor and the vulnerable who are most often caught up in any disasters.

Eleven Plus English

When we look at the some of the written work some bright children do in the writing exercise it is difficult to understand just why the study of syntax and language structure has been out of fashion for so long.

Planning of stories seems to be taught in Year 6 with the SATs approaching. Of course children are taught to plan written work in nearly all the juniors school years – but it does seem that a number of children only learn to apply the principles on planning when they reach Year 6. We some times see beautifully planned work, neatly set out and executed confidently – and think to our selves `lucky children’.

There must be a case for formal teaching of sentences, phrases and punctuation. These are the very bed rock on any written work. The case for learning the names of parts of speech does not seem, at first glance, to be so strong. It is very useful, however, to be able to discuss the embellishment of a sentence if the words in the sentence can be described using the right terms. After all an adjective is an adjective – and not a pronoun.

Converting reported speech into direct speech does have a certain grandeur. Some children really enjoy understanding that direct speech consists of the exact words used by a speaker – and is usually put inside inverted commas. Indirect speech, or reported speech, is often expressed using the past tense. “Come inside children, it is raining!” screamed the teacher can be changed in many ways. Verbs become past tense, pronouns are turned to the third person, and words denoting close proximity are altered to remote locations. Almost all the eleven plus children we have worked with love the `rules’ and the formality of the exercise.

We are always impressed when children are able to use the figures of speech. We had an eleven plus girl in earlier this week who was able to discuss – and use – similies and metaphors. (We sometimes see GCSE children who struggle to remember the difference.)

I recall learning, in Latin, classes about `phrases in apposition’ – and often think of this when using commas in sentences. One of our `A’ level assistants, who helps with teaching the eleven plus children, explained on Tuesday that she was going to do a joint law degree with Spanish and Mandarin. She felt that these two languages would ensure a stellar career. It is reasonably easy to imagine a Spanish lecturer discussing `phrases in apposition’ – but I am not so sure of the Mandarin’s team use of commas.