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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Desirable Eleven Plus Characteristics

Gone are the days when a parent can say to a child: “If you don’t work hard towards your eleven plus you will become a shop assistant.”

In the first place a person who decides to make a career in a shop has to have certain attributes which are hard to install – namely the ability to withstand the continual wear and tear that comes through contact with customers. A shop assistant who can deal with an aggrieved and angry customer has personal qualities which some eleven plus children may need. After all a child working towards the eleven plus has to feel special – and be cosseted at time by all concerned. (“The eleven plus is such a worry.”) Equally the eleven plus child is only one member of a family so that there can be no banging of doors (Literally as we as figuratively.)

Shop assistants have to be enthusiastic and cheerful – otherwise they will drive their customers away. Eleven plus children also have to be enthusiastic and cheerful otherwise they will drive their parents away. After the link between mother the earth mother and mother the eleven plus teacher can be tenuous.

Finally a little sincerity has to creep into the equation. Parents can be driven to say – with considerable conviction - “As I said before, if you don’t work hard towards your eleven plus you will have to become a shop assistant, but take heed if you do then you must be not only the best possible but the most sincere shop assistant.”

Do we remember a shop assistant who has been courteous and tactful? Very likely on major purchases. It is also likely that we keep well away from the angry and disillusioned. Every time your eleven plus child is friendly and hardworking say a little prayer. After all children under some degree of pressure must need to re charge their batteries – so long as it is not at your expense.

There is not an eleven plus parent in the land who will not display characteristics of patience, perseverance, adaptability, sincerity, courtesy, tactfulness and resistance to pressure at one time or another. They can only hope that their eleven plus children do the same - at one time or another.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Eleven Plus Payment by Results

The whole idea of the National Curriculum was that children between the ages of 5 and 16 should follow a centrally directed curriculum consisting of core and foundation subjects.

The second premise was that children should be tested at ages seven, eleven, fourteen and sixteen. The rationale for the change was that some state schools did not offer a curriculum that was appropriate to their needs and those of society. Nation wide testing was advocated because standards seemed to be slipping when compared with children in other countries.

Of course there was no room for eleven plus testing in the great scheme of things.

In essence, however, the national curriculum in the `new’ form of core foundation subjects went back to the Education Act of 1902 when the then Conservative Government abolished 2568 school boards.

Testing at 14 has already been abolished. SATs at eleven has been attacked on many fronts.

But back in 1862 there was a system of payment to schools based on a limited range of subjects – the 3 Rs. (Reading, writing and Arithmetic.)

Suppose that some future government introduced a different system of payment by results based on mathematics along with verbal and non verbal reasoning.

This would introduce considerable controversy into the present fraught education system!

Think of a scenario where teachers at school were actively trying to help bright children to tackle demanding mathematics problems and cope with having to learn to reason and think!

It does not bear thinking. All over the country worried parents would not only have to worry about the pressure they were putting on their children – but parents would have to worry about the pressure the teachers at school were putting on their children!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eleven Plus Mini Tests

In 1991 we started on developing a computer program that used the strengths of the National Curriculum to try to help children to learn in a measured and organised manner. We used standardised tests to diagnose strengths and weaknesses –and our test results were trusted by parents, children and professionals. The great majority of the tests were administered and interpreted by serving teachers – which gave dignity, authority and strength to any diagnosis.

Our program ACTION served us well – prescribing over two and half individualised lessons for children. A few years ago we started on eACTION – that allowed us to use the developing power of the internet to deliver lessons. Back in 1998 some children attending Etc were taught through the internet – but the download speeds were too slow. We used a Macromedia product called Authorware to carry the lessons.

Today eACTION allows us to test and diagnose through a battery of internet ready tests – and deliver lessons to any where in the world. Some children still do pen and paper standardised tests when deemed necessary.

Continuous assessment has always been achieved and carried out through each child’s ACTION plan. We have just added the concept of on line mini tests which allow us to offer partial assessments in the child’s own home.

Children attending our Eleven Plus courses over the coming holidays can be tested to see just how secure their examination readiness is. As the children work through pen and paper eleven plus exercises on the courses their results are entered onto eACTION. Parents and the eleven plus candidates log on to revise and consolidate the work they did in their lessons.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Predicting Eleven Pus Success

One reason for asking children to compete for grammar school places is an attempt to use the results to predict future academic success. In other words a child who does well in the eleven plus, and then has the benefit of a grammar school education, should do well at GCSE, A level and I.B. examinations.

There must have been many comparisons of test results over the years. Are Verbal Reasoning tests better at predicting than Non Verbal Reasoning tests? What part does mathematics play in being a useful predictive tool?

Are there any tests which predict success in particular A level subjects? If so, how good is there predictive power? It would also be very helpful to us to know just how valid the eleven plus test results are.

We know that grammar school rely on the validity of the eleven plus test. We know too that verbal reasoning plays an important part in most eleven plus examinations. Verbal reasoning is a common element in many different eleven plus tests so grammar schools must rely on good verbal reasoning results.

The preparation for verbal reasoning tests must take many different paths. Good reading skills, and a strong usable vocabulary, must help. Good results on verbal reasoning tests must also be affected by the influence of the school, the home and the neighbourhood. A good tutor along with involved parents may sometimes also play a significant part in helping some children to do well on a verbal reasoning test.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Aptitude

The word intelligence is sometimes used instead of aptitude. The work aptitude is sometimes called reasoning. It is easier to say that a child has not passed the eleven plus because of a lack of aptitude or poor reasoning skills than it is to say that a child lacks intelligence.

Intelligence tests usually contain questions on vocabulary, analogies, similarities, opposites, arithmetic and general information.

Father is to son as bull is to (ewe, cow, colt, calf and mare)

Sometimes an intelligence test can look at short term memory – for example recalling a series of numbers. Quite often codes are used – and here the code can be used as often as is needed. Questions are sometimes designed to take into account the ability to learn and apply the code.

These types of questions were prevalent in intelligence tests sixty years ago. Surely eleven plus questions could have moved on?

Earlier this week I worked with a boy who obviously had high non verbal and spatial abilities. He found some types of verbal reasoning difficult. If his eleven plus examination had been made up of non verbal reasoning, spatial abilities and mathematics reasoning questions he would find a place in any grammar school.

It was likely, however, that his verbal reasoning scores would struggle to rise over 115. He would do very well in mathematics and computing grammar school – but not one that specialised in languages. In time he should go on to enjoy a degree in engineering – but would struggle at university doing Ancient Greek.

He may or may not gain entry to the local grammar school but he will certainly lead an academic life away from certain types of books and words. His intelligence is obvious – scores over 135 in non verbal reasoning and mathematics point to this. He may lack certain verbal reasoning skills in spite of every effort on the part of his parents and the school. He deserves a place in a grammar school.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Developing Ability at the Eleven Plus Stage

The notion that intelligence is fixed goes back to the days of Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution, and the intense controversy that surrounded it, helped to form the thought intelligence was fixed for life. His younger cousin, Sir Francis Galton, reasoned that intelligence could not be developed but what was needed was the selection of superior beings who would then survive and reproduce.

Galton built some tests which he offered to college students. In time psychologists began to test the theories of fixed intelligence and came up with a measure of ability called the `Developmental Quotient’. For many years it was felt that whatever test was used the child’s ability would stay around the same level.

What would Darwin and Galton have thought about coaching for the eleven plus? We are currently working with a boy who came to us in Year 4 – with around average results. In his recent tests at school his mathematics and reasoning results (verbal and non verbal) were all above 128. His environment had helped – having parents who could afford to pay for coaching, his school had helped by providing an encouraging environment – and the boy had helped himself.

The boy in question has surely demonstrated that there is much more to testing ability at the eleven plus stage than expecting a child to `deliver the goods’ on a day at a certain time.

What we do know about this boy that he has developed to such an extent that his measured intelligence has grown over time. He now has a chance of passing the eleven plus – whereas if there had been little intervention it is possible that he may have continued to display the characteristics if an `around average’ pupil. Around average pupils can not find their way into grammar schools. A different style of management at school, along with an inspired and able class teacher, and of course the boy could have reached a level where entry to grammar school was likely.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eleven Plus Debate

The debate on “Grammar Schools are Best” was an inaugural event by the Spectator.

The surroundings were superb – built in times when austerity and credit crunch were not dynamic foreboding words. We gathered, before the debate started, for `drinks on the terrace’. It was so civilised. I kept wondering how many of the past geographers had been grammar school boys and girls. One teacher arrived with around eight girls in tow. She peered at the queue waiting for drinks and said, “You are on your own. Do not stray!”

Around two hundred and forty of us must have attended the debate. As we walked in there was a poll - `For or Against’. Mr Neil, the Chairman, announced that 173 had voted for the motion, a few against and about 50 `Don’t Knows’. A secret ballot was taken at the end of the proceedings where some of the `Don’t knows’ had become `Against’.

Those debating for the motion relied heavily on the how grammars schools had opened up opportunities for children with poor prospects of any real social mobility. Those `Against’ pointed out that grammar schools were still the preserve of the middle class.

The audience were given ample opportunity to make a variety of points. Most of the speeches were short and to the point. One teacher, however, went on and on and had to be restrained.

There were some witty extemporised remarks. Some people do think on their feet. A statistic had just been quoted, by a main speaker, about the increased number of comprehensive children passing their GCSE examinations. When the speaker drew the point out that strong leadership and gifted teaching in the comprehensives had led to a rise in GCSE grades, when compared with those of forty years ago, some wag in the audience raised his voice to yell; “The GCSE examinations are easier today than they were forty years ago.”

The motion was carried. I felt privileged to be there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I am looking forward to attending the debate tonight, promoted by the Spectator, at the Royal Geographical Society between 6.45 and 8.30.

"Grammar Schools are the best."

Speakers for the motion include: R. Hon David Davis MP, Stephen Pollard, Gragam Brady MP.

Speakers against the motion: Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Simon Jenkins, Polly Toynbee.

The event is chaired by Andrew Neil.

Every parents wants to feel that they have some choice in teh schools that their children will attend. The ability to earn a place in a Grammar School is not right - but a priviledge which a child earns by being bright and hard working.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Eleven Plus Nagging

Parents, teachers and eleven plus children all chat at some time of another about the cycle of feelings. The terms people use may be different but the cycle is sustainable. Very simply:

How I think and feel about myself.

How others behave towards me.

How I behave towards others.

How I think and feel about myself:

The Teacher – I am confident that I know what I am teaching, I have some knowledge of my eleven plus pupils and I am able to work with the parents of my eleven plus children.

The Parents – I know what I want. Quite simply I want to give my child the best possible chance of passing the eleven plus. I know my child’s strengths and weaknesses and expect the teacher to bring out the best in my child.

The Child – I like work that is interesting – and I do well at work that I like. I want a teacher that is fair and makes the lesson interesting.

How others behave towards me:

The Teacher – I am a professional, I will earn respect with every pupil. I will listen to the concerns of parents.

The Parent – I am our child’s mother (father). I would like our teacher to understand and respond to my concerns. My child must understand and act on my concerns.

The Child – Just don’t lecture me.

How I behave to others:

The Teacher – I will respect the needs and concerns of all concerned. I will, however, defend my position if I come under fire.

The Parents – I will do my best to be realistic about my child’s ability and will therefore try to understand what the professions are saying.

The Child – I will work hard, be polite, say thank you, always start my eleven plus work without being nagged and tidy up my work after I have finished.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eleven Plus Tests

The eleven plus examinations are designed to select children for entry to grammar schools. The remit of the examination does not need to include differentiating scores between children in the lower twenty five percent – but does need to be reasonably accurate with establishing the ability of children in upper twenty five percent.

Verbal reasoning tests in their present eleven plus form rely heavily of good reading skills. These could include the ability to read and recognise a word, good comprehension skills and a sound reading vocabulary. Children entering the eleven plus links with a can’t read and won’t read mentality are disadvantaged.

We have, on occasion, met children working towards the eleven plus examination with gross discrepancies in reading ages in the order of a year and a half. There could be many factors in mitigation – but essentially a child preparing for the eleven plus need to be able to read well.

To find test items that can select the top children in a competitive selection test the constructors of the test first of all have to try out a number of items with various groups of children.

The eleven plus test has to take into consideration the popularity of items with children, fatigue, practicability and ease of administration. After all if the items in the test cause stress or concern in children it is evident that they should not be included.

Once the items, the length and durability of the test have been established it is then checked against other tests of ability. The reliability of the test also has to be checked. As well as parental concerns the grammar schools also need to know that they are being offered children who have tested effectively and efficiently.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Eleven Plus Check Test

The Eleven Plus examinations are but a few weeks away. Most parents, by now, will be resigned to the gods of fate. A little test of fortitude and spirit could help.

Which of the following does your child really need?

A. A full set of current Eleven Plus selection papers.
B. The ability to prepare and deliver a reviving cup of tea.
C. Warmth and loving understanding of the stresses of taking the eleven plus.

Where should your child do the eleven plus preparation?

A. At school because the school always has good results.
B. With Mrs J. Kelly who helped all five of her children pass.
C. In the attic with access to good on line tests.

What is the fundamental rule of the eleven plus?

A. Listen carefully to your parents.
B. Check each answer carefully even if you do not finish.
C. Don’t ask your mother to solve a hard problem while she is dishing up a meal and talking on the telephone.

What is the correct response to an unanswerable question?

A. Just wait until your dad gets home.
B. Just wait until your mother gets home.
C. Just wait until I get you home.

What should you check before you start working with your child?

A. The T.V. is off.
B. You have the answer book secure in your hand.
C. You are impervious to any misleading suggestions.

How long have you been working on the eleven plus?

A. From birth – but I may need more time.
B. We wil start next week – that gives us five weeks to the examination.
C. I was not very good at mathematics at school.

Give yourself 50 marks for each answer you think you have marked correctly.
If you are not sure of the answer then give yourself 40 marks.
If you think you have made a mistake then offer yourself a mere 20 marks.

250 and 300 marks – you are too good to be true.
200-250 marks – one of you has to change – either your child or you.
150 – 200 marks – you are an ideal eleven plus parent. You are naturally full of fears and concerns. You have good friends who enjoy the same type of red wine. Your child will be fine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Investors in People

We have just heard the fantastic news today that we have achieved Investors in People Status once again.

The review was conducted by Mr Derek Milliner who is an Investor in People Assessor for Quality South East.

Investors in People is to do with business improvement - while Quality South East is to do with National Quality Standards. Recognition by these organisations is important to us to make sure we are providing the best possible opportunities for the people who work for us and our customers.

We achieve our outstanding Eleven Plus Results by the hard work and dedication of our people. Thank you!

The Extra Tuition Centre relies on providing good tuition. Thank you too to all our customers over the years.

Mr Derek Milliner can be contacted -

Derek Milliner
Milliner Consulting
Investors in People Assessor & Advisor
07732 273422

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eleven Plus Pressure

Children living in primitive surroundings sometimes have fewer stresses on their lives than children working towards the eleven plus. In puberty a boy would join his father in making a canoe, building a wall to protect against wild animals and preparing hunting weapons. A girl living in a primitive manner may be more prepared to look after a baby than attempt an exercise on rotational symmetry.

It is likely, therefore, that children growing up in a relatively simple manner will not feel so much pressure as our eleven plus child.

I have watched many eleven plus children half turn away when their mother offers those immortal eleven plus words: “I don’t really mind if he (or she) fails – so long as he (or she) is happy at school.”

Every single bright eleven plus child knows full well that the mother does not really mean that she does not mind. The children know that their parents will do all they can to ease the path towards the eleven plus.

We once had an eleven plus girl with us who was so bright that she could have passed the eleven plus at the end of Year 3. It is easy to recall her face when her mother said that she did not mind if her daughter passed. (You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.)

While the eleven plus child is working towards the eleven plus it is the function of the parents to try to help him or her to pass the examination. Running battles can be edifying for on lookers – but can not help the preparation.

Not all eleven plus children like decisions to be made for them. After all they are learning more than facts and methods on an eleven plus course. They are learning how to compete and show maturity beyond their years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eleven Plus Problem Solving

Some children find difficulty in solving eleven plus mathematics problems. Problems are not only found in eleven plus papers – but also occur in many different contexts. We are often blessed with very bright children and are thus able to wander outside of the `official eleven plus syllabus’.

A ten year old girl today worked out the volume of a pyramid in her head – this involved working out one third of the area of the base times the height. She was also able to give a logical answer as to why it was necessary to divide by one third. The teaching time was no more than 25 seconds – because she able to grasp the concept looking at the example and then apply what she had read.

1. Your eleven plus child needs to know the four rules of number, fractions, decimals and the metric system. A sound grasp of tables must help.

2, Where possible every effort should be made to help your child see the problem in real terms. Distance, for example, can be discussed in terms of car or train journeys.

3. When you are explaining a problem try to keep your reasonably simple. It must help if any data you present is clear and free from ambiguity.

4. Try to hint a solution to the problem rather than giving the answer.

5. If you suggest that a diagram is drawn, where appropriate, then the illustration or visual explanation has to be clear to your child as well as to you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eleven Plus Adaptability

In broad eleven plus terms we can look at two types of pre examination intelligence. There is the natural intelligence of the child along with factors like the amount of effort put into the child by the parents and school and the degree of desire, by the child, to pass the eleven plus examination.

We may also need a different form of intelligence – and that is adaptive behaviour. Adaptive behaviour is the ability to cope with the natural and social demands of the examination. The ideal eleven plus candidate, therefore, begins to emerge. For some children this could be a child who states, with conviction, that the eleven plus is attainable and that he or she will work hard to achieve that goal.

Of course there are going to be a variety of factors affecting eleven plus performance. Some children may simply not have the ability to pass the examination. After all many eleven plus counties aim at drawing the top 25% into the grammar school system. If there is to be a top 25% there does need to be an average band too.

Other children may not be mature enough to cope with the rigors of the examination. These children may require considerable direction.

Other children will simple `mature into’ into the eleven plus bubble. They will begin to feel confident – and start displaying a responsible attitude towards the examination.

In summary, some teachers and parents may hope for a bright and adaptable child. One who listens carefully and approaches work in a mature and thoughtful manner. Some parents are fortunate enough to have such a child. We wish them well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Eleven Plus and the Power of Cooking

The question of timing of eleven plus papers has as many twists and turns as an Agatha Christie novel.

“Ten strangers find themselves trapped in a lonely island mansion off the Devon Coast. Ten strangers who have nothing in common – except that each one guards a deadly secret.

Then the murderer strikes – and there were only nine.
Then eight. Then seven.
Then six. Then five.
Then four. Then three …

By now you will have guessed that the title of Agatha’s book was:


There is one way of encouraging children to time themselves. It is easy: teach them to cook.

Take a simple recipe. Your child will need a grill pan, a chopping board, a bread knife and a spoon. The ingredients include one muffin per person and a variety of toppings. Start the clock.

Heat the grill and toast the muffins for one to two minutes on each side.

Slice the muffin in half with a bread knife.

Put a spoonful of tomato sauce on each muffin.

Add toppings like strips of ham, sliced olives or tomato and grated cheese.

Grill the pizzas for a few more minutes. You know when they are ready as the cheese starts to melt.

The family are sitting expectantly. They are all looking at their watches. The eleven plus candidate enters the room carrying a plate full of toasted muffins. Hands reach out. It has taken under fifteen minutes for ten muffins. All that eleven plus effort on timing has worked.

The muffins are enjoyed.

The first one was eaten – and then there were nine.
Then eight. Then seven.
Then six. Then five.
Then four. Then three …

By now you will have guessed


(This is where you consolidate the timing question to your child. Fifteen minutes is the time you take to prepare and eat a plate of muffins. To complete the task in the time allowed there is no times to waste.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eleven Plus Communication

When some of us arrive in a foreign country on holiday with out any prior knowledge of the language we often feel completely lost. Of course we can have access to translation sheets and dictionaries – and even sometimes one of these amazing little machines where you type a word in one language and the translation is offered in a choice of languages. If all else fails we hope we can rely the ability of the indigenous population to be able to speak English with due facility.

When immigrants come to a new country without any knowledge of the home language, then their approach to learning is often one that lacks complete organisation and method. The immigrant has to slowly learn to put the correct name to common and familiar objects – and then build to phrases that allow the ability to communicate.

Bit by bit fluency will grow, especially if lessons are available, until sentences appear. Of course the pronunciation may be almost incomprehensible at times – and the grammar may appear to be insecure but progress will be made.

Working on some aspects of verbal reasoning papers must feel learning a new language at times. A structured approach should help to accelerate learning.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eleven Plus Change

If there are good arguments that there is a need to look closely at certain aspects of the eleven plus examination, then there will also have to be a discussion on how to make the necessary changes. It may seem to be a good idea to change elements of the selection process – but this will need to involve a lot listening to stakeholders.

The grammar schools set out a stall for the type of children they want. Parents look at the various educational options and some, not all, opt for trying to help their child secure a grammar school place.

If parents start demanding a fairer and more inclusive selection process then they have to be aware that they are starting on a journey where the end is not clear. Years ago, for example, the transition to grammar school, in some areas, took place at thirteen. Now the children sit selection tests at eleven. Whereas there could be an argument for many girls being ready to transfer at eleven, there may be a good case for some boys to transfer at thirteen.

There is so much at stake in the eleven plus process that a number of parents may prefer to opt for no change. (The devil you know …..) Other parents, coming from different backgrounds and having different interests, may embrace change and feel strongly about throwing down the gauntlet and looking forward to vigorous debate.

At the very least changes to the eleven plus examination would affect people politically and socially. Governments swept in the eleven plus in an attempt to differentiate the education of the young. A concerted wave of opinion then demolished many of the early grammar schools.

No government, at the time of writing, appears to want to engage in any eleven plus debate. The present government seems to have enough problems in broad areas of finance and education to want to rake up old ashes.

If, however, a fresh and invigorating discussion could engage the interest of the public - then it is likely that change could be effected.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Eleven Plus Debate

The debate about the Eleven Plus and Grammar Schools is live.

It was reported that the place of grammar schools dominated one election debate.

The comments that followed the report by Oliver Evans are illuminating - and fascinating to read and touch at the heart of Eleven Plus debate.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Boys and the Eleven Plus

A fascinating look into problems boys have with coping with the aspirations of their parents can be found on the web site Why Boys Fail.

It is gratifying to see the progress that girls are making at school and at university.

Our boys at ten and eleven years old have to grow up so quickly when they are faced with competitive examinations. Some boys are grateful for the opportunity to display their academic ability. Other boys, in some cases a little less mature, just need a few more months.

All parents can do is try not to become too frustrated with their sons. Evidence does show that boys (and men) usually get there in the end.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Post Eleven Plus Pressure

Being an Eleven Plus parent is not always easy.

Some parents are over ambitious for their children.

Some parents underestimate their child's ability.

Some parents are happy with their lot - and don't mind if their child does attend a grammar school.

If your child is obviously bright and able - and doing well at school - then grammar school is certainly an option. After all you do not want your child to be bored and frustrated at school.

Some `non grammar schools', however, are obviously able to cope with very bright children. All is not lost if your child does not pass the examination - or does not choose to attempt the eleven plus tests.

The last thing most parents would want is for their child to earn a place in a grammar school by hard work and considerable effort - and then find that there is too much academic pressure.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Eleven Plus Tests

Many years ago an advert encouraged women to buy a new style measuring tape:

With our

This is a bit like believing that the eleven plus examination will be fair to all children. Some children will no doubt benefit from an examination based on verbal reasoning questions – but other children may need to be able to demonstrate other skills.

One way to achieve test consistency is by offering the children a test – and then retesting them on a similar test a little bit later on. There would be no proof of inconsistency if different results were obtained – but the greater the divergence between the two sets of marks would point to some degree of inconsistency.

If there was perfect correlation between the two sets of test marks then it could be argued that the examination was valid. One county publishes the results of the top 180 children – so if the same 180 children achieved the same positions on the retest then the test could be considered to be reliable and valid.

This information would only be useful to parents and children if they felt that the test questions were fair and reasonable.

We need an example.

If an eleven plus mathematics examination was set to include lowest terms in fractions then all the children would ideally need to be able to do lowest terms. Does the examiner make all the questions easy so that all children can do the questions – or are the questions made hard so that only the top twenty five percent can provide the correct answers?

The key point here is – what happens to the children who are in the top 26 percent and not the top 25 percent? Should they be denied a grammar school place?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Fairness of the Eleven Plus

Years ago one of the arguments against grammar schools was that people in grammar schools felt themselves to be socially as well as intellectually superior. Grammar schools then, as now, represented between twenty and twenty five percent of the children selected at eleven.

Grammar schools were perceived to spend time on manners and speech – in order to enhance professional prospects. This made some parents keen to send their children to grammar school.

Arguments made against grammar school included strong feelings against coaching – as it was felt that coaching was unfair because it gave children an advantage.

People were also upset by parents who could afford to send their children to independent schools if their children did not pass the selection tests. Even today some preparatory schools prepare children for the eleven plus as well as common entrance.

Another argument that still persists against the eleven plus is that the examination places a restrictive influence against schools.

Protesters used to complain against the reliability of the eleven plus. These protests have, to a degree, fallen away as parents do not want to `rock the boat’. Today parents appear to accept the content or the syllabus of the examination and work hard to help their children to do as well as possible.

The only way that the present examination could be made fairer for more children is if an independent enquiry was established into the present needs of the grammar schools – and then a thorough investigation into the efficacy of the examination. There are a wide variety of eleven plus examinations. Perhaps this adds a richness or diversity to the selection process – but surely this can not suit all children.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Timing Eleven Plus Questions

Some children find it difficult to work out just how long to spend on a question. Of course having a watch helps – but only if the watch is used effectively.

Suppose that a question has to be answered with 45 seconds.

The 45 seconds is a length of time with a beginning and an end.

Tap twice to start the 45 seconds and count on.

Counting `One million and one, one million and two’ in a measured way sound count out the 45 seconds. End the sequence with a closing double tap. The duration of the distance in time between the first and the second double tap is the time allowed to read, digest and answer a question.

If extra time is needed then this will need to come off subsequent questions. The amount of time for a different question then needs to be made up where the duration of time allowed must become less direct. In other words `hurry’ comes into the equation.

Some children can start the question on time but lose time because they have to fill the period between starting the question and moving onto the next questions with many different mental activities. The passage of time is but one of them.

It will be much easier to help your child to count to 5 seconds than 45 seconds if the gap in between starting and finishing is concentrating only on time. If you ask your child to fill the five seconds with another activity it is likely that the ability to measure the duration of time is affected.

You and your child may find it easier to fill the time with words rather than noises.

You may find that meaningful sentences fill the time more easily than nonsense syllables.

You could also try filling the time by encouraging your child to read a question twice, eliminate multiple choices that can not be right, selecting an answer and checking it quickly.

If this works you may have helped your child with the timing of questions within a test.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Eleven Plus Work

The report on mines in 1842 revealed how girls of six spent their whole day in the day attending to ventilation doors. Young boys and girls – along with women- dragged loads of coal along the floors. In some pits girls worked in passages 26 inches high – while some adult women worked in passages no more than 30 inches high.

Very often when the women arrived home they were too tired to do more than sink into a chair. Fatigue was a major factor in the lives of women. Girls were brought up in unspeakable conditions. The overseers had licence to punish mercilessly. Children who tried to run away were shackled by irons linked their ankles – and they were still expected to work.

Britain has come a long way over the past one hundred and fifty years. It is very likely that some of the children described above must have had to ability to pass the eleven plus – had they had the opportunity.

Our eleven plus children are incredibly lucky to have the education, the families, the schools and the social conditions that exist today. Some of our present families may have survived those conditions to live in solid middle class surroundings.

It would be very sad to think of one of today’s bright eleven plus children complaining that they are too tired to do some eleven plus work. .

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Kent Eleven Plus Examinations

The Kent 11+ tests are set for September the 15th and the 16th.

Registration is open now and has to be completed by July 10th.

To register see:

There is an online form – or a paper copy can be down loaded.

Results letters are sent out to arrive on October 20th.

Emailed results on sent on the 19th – if an email has been supplied.

Parents then have until November 6th to submit their application forms for the schools of their choice.

It all looks very formal and straightforward. Good luck to all concerned.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Eleven Plus Motivation

Parents and children perceive their eleven plus tutor in many ways.

The tutor’s attitude to the children and their parents is determined by a number of factors.

The tutor’s personality will affect a relationship

The expectations made by the `customers’.

Other factors like age, sex, experience, qualifications will all play a part.

Inside the class room a teacher has a clearly defined role. The teacher is able to act largely without being questioned. Of course the teacher, in state schools, has to work to the National Curriculum. There is also help and assistance from the head teacher and the senior team at the school. A little cloud arrives on the horizon in the form of an inspection every now and again.

The eleven plus teacher does not have a laid down syllabus or curriculum. The work the teacher or tutor does with the child depends very much on the child’s needs. Parents of course want the best possible attention for their children.

Naturally parents will hope that their children are motivated to do well academically.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Doctors and Dentists

It is interesting to note the Royal Commission on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration (1958) comment on the attitude towards the recruitment of intelligent working class boys towards professions.

“Medicine would lose immeasurably if the proportion of (middle class) students in the future were to be reduced in favour of precocious children who qualified for subsidies from local authorities and the Sate, purely on the basis of examination results.”

A number of children who are working towards the eleven plus today may aspire towards a future in the medical profession. This is laudable and must be promoted. After all we need good doctors and dentists.

Is it possible that the way some verbal reasoning questions are couched means that bright children are excluded from entrance to grammar school. I was working today with a very bright little girl who was struggling with one type of verbal reasoning question. The manner in which the questions were framed required Use of English rather than reasoning skills.

Strength in verbal reasoning does require strong comprehension and a broad usable vocabulary. Families from middle class background would expect their children to have achieved strong `Use of English’ skills. The families would hope that their homes, relations, schools and neighbourhood would stimulate and encourage good language and usage skills.

Perhaps one day when a fresh look is made at the eleven plus, and the contents of the examination, then time could also be spent on looking at some types of verbal reasoning questions that are revered by today’s eleven plus writers and tutors.

“Off with his head!” – and we all know where comes from!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Eleven Plus - Rights and Wrongs

We must all wonder a lot about the influence parents have on the development of their children.

“Your son seems to have inherited you ability in engineering.”

“A chip off the old block.”

“Your daughter inherited your love of sports.”

“Your son can do verbal reasoning questions just like his mother did.”

What does seem to be likely is that your enthusiasm for mechanical objects possible means that your children have above average access to all things mechanical and digital.

If your daughter does well at games it is likely that you spent hours in the car travelling to and fro to a wide range of sporting activities from swimming to hockey.

If the son can `do verbal reasoning questions just like the mother’ is likely that the two of them spend time doing verbal reasoning questions together.

A number of eleven year olds, however, are likely to refute any suggests they take after their parents unless it is of value to them. When your child is eleven the opportunity to argue and `discuss endlessly’ is highly appealing. We sometimes see a sweet gentle and wonderfully polite child turn into a virago when the mother asks for information about the course and extent of lessons. This is an invasion of privacy! Other children are content to stand demurely as they are discussed – smiling at the right time – offering helpful suggestions. The roles, however, can be reversed at the twitch of an eye brow.

It is through the endless arguments that your child learns right from wrong and when to thrust to win an argument – or when to back away.

If your child can learn from you to listen to the other side of a discussion and to make wise choices in life then you would really like your child to be a chip off the old block.