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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eleven Plus Differences

Before the Second World War the grammar schools were mainlu used by the children of professional middle class - and the bright children of the working class.

As many small firms were lost during the war years, so more jobs became avavilable in larger firms. We can see that this trend has existed until today. When Woolworths closed thousands of jobs were lost. Large chains with hundreds of shops have closed down.

To get a good job in a chain or a large organisation a school leaver had to have a good education. Grammar school boys and girls were prized employees - especially in the adminstrative and management posts.

Most early grammar schools had a house system - with prefects and compulsory games.

Some things haven't changed much!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Eleven Plus Moves

Would it help if all eleven plus children were taught to play chess? At least playing chess would teach children the need to follow rules – because chess players can not make random and idiosyncratic moves. Think of your child working through a verbal reasoning paper – thinking ahead, conscious of the time while being both attacking and defensive. This does sound like an eleven plus dream scenario!

Chess players have a wide variety of choices during the course of a game. The choices, however, have to be made within the rules. Children can be taught a series of opening moves. There is of course an opponent. As soon as a player moves the pawn in front of the Queen, the opponent can think; “Queen's Pawn Opening Gambit”. This makes life easy because there a number of moves to counter the effectiveness of the opening.

It would be very difficult to win a game of chess if the play made legal moves – but did not think about the consequences. Chess is full of tactics. It must be possible to achieve check mate after a series of random moves – but it would make life more difficult!

One of the best things about chess is that it is a game.

We sometimes hear parents saying, “Oh yes, we try to make our preparations for the eleven plus into a game.” This is understandable because parents know their children. Sadly, however, the games have to stop on the day of the examination.

`Check Mate’ is but a few marks away for some poor children.

The Eleven Plus is governed by rules. Parents, teachers and tutors need to understand the rules. All concerned need to abide by the rules. It is essential that our children understand the rules. They need to try, for example, to complete as much as possible of the test in the time allowed.

Many Eleven Plus children would love to learn the King’s Indian Gambit! (It would make a change from some rather uninspiring eleven plus papers.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Influences

In 1940s, when ideas about the eleven plus were being developed, there were a number of different schools of psychology. At one end of the spectrum were the `Behaviourists’ who felt that people assimilated knowledge in small steps. A different group, for example, were the `Freudians’ who postulated the need to psychoanalyse human behaviour.

In among these warring and divisive groups of professionals were the psychologists who often had rival views on the nature of intelligence. More and more efforts were being made to standardise tests. Some psychologists were fully concerned with experiments with rats – trying to learn from their behaviour. Other psychologists made tests of intelligence or personality. Then there were some, again for example, who looked at lighting in large scale industrial operations – to see the effect that lighting had on the ability to work. (I was recently taken round a large school in Kent where the head teacher was very proud of the lighting in his new academy.) Then we had psychologists who were concerned with behaviour patterns in primitive tribes.

All this diversity led to lots of talk, with many different views on education and children. This must have affected the earnest souls who were developing tests for the eleven plus. Intelligence, as we know it today, is made up of so many factors that no one would be brave enough to stand up and say that their system is the only one to be followed.

So when we are offered a series of eleven plus question that set out to select children for a grammar school education we do, perhaps, have a right to query the validity of the question.

A staple eleven plus question could be along the lines:

Find the one word that is unlike the others:

Alter regulate adjust modify replace

Does a question like this have much relevance to the life our bright children are going to experience in a modern grammar school?

Many years ago the BBC brought in a service that would allow pages to be displayed with up to date information. If you wanted to find the time a plane was landing you pressed a button and selected a page – and then waited while the ten or so pages scrolled around. There was a name for this service – but the service has now been discontinued. The rolling, scrolling pages have been replaced by broadband and internet searches. We can even get live feeds into our telephones so as not to be so dependent on television.

During the days when early eleven plus work was being developed, news and information were often dispersed through the old fashioned movie houses. People would crowd into cinemas to watch pictures of men and women at war – and every moving picture was in black and white. These were examples of the influences on the psychologists who developed the early eleven plus tests all those years ago.

No one has yet challenged the relevance and reliability of our current eleven plus tests. The world, however, has moved on. It is time for new research and new ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eleven Plus Change

We have been working with a very pleasant boy over the last few months, He failed his eleven plus and his parents want him to try again. He did not fail by much. It is likely that if only the children in his local authority gained admission to the grammar school he would he happily ensconced in the school of his choice in September.

We did not work with him on his attempt at the eleven plus but he came to us through a remarkably complex network of parents and recommendations. If he is to pass an examination called the Twelve Plus it is clear that he needs to be doing well at school.

The grammar schools within his community will only accept him with a firm recommendation from his school. It does sound as if there is more important than any test results. This means that we do not have to work with him on a range on verbal reasoning exercises as he will not do verbal reasoning at school – but he will need strong English skills.

In order for his new school to be able to recommend him for a place in a grammar school it is essential that he does well at school. His work must be executed beautifully, there must be as few errors as possible and his work needs to be at a consistently high standard. Mother and father have to contact the head of the school to see if he or she will recommend their child. The parents have all ready been told that there is a grammar stream in his new school.

There is a second grammar school that is only half a mile further away that the grammar school of his choice. His home is at the apex of a triangle. The second grammar school, because it comes under a different local authority, require the parents to apply directly to the school. The school will be sending out a pack of instructions for the 12+ in the near future. There will be entrance tests – but the school could not say what would be in the tests – other than to say that the pack would be sent out shortly.

Poor parents – on the one hand they, and their son, have convince a head teacher that their child should be recommended for grammar. In the second case the parents have to enter their child for an examination where the date has not been set and there are no real clues as to what may or may not be in the examination.

We know of one boy who passed a 13+ examination only to be told that although he had passed he was number 32 on the grammar school waiting list!

The father today said: “Why can’t there be just one way of testing for the eleven plus and one way for the twelve plus?”

Why not? We have one driving test that tests thousands of candidates each year. The test is a mixture of theory and practical examination. Some one, somewhere, is saying `But this is the way we have tested eleven plus children for the past fifty years. Why change?”

We need to find the `no changer’ and change him or her!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Eleven Plus Crusader

Back in 1902 the Education Act abolished the 2500 school boards and established the equivalent of our Local Authorities. The state therefore took on the role of organising the senior schools.

The old grammar schools were used a model for the newer grammar schools. The grammar school became the preserve of the middle class. Problems came when it was evident that the lower class were not being represented fairly.

Grammar schools one hundred years ago were trying to develop a love of learning, and a place where children could work hard. In today’s parlance a grammar school was a place where `children could achieve their potential’.

The grammar schools that are left are encouraged to include children from poorer homes. Children who are in care, for example, are helped by the grammar school, as much as possible, to win a place.

We must look forward to changes coming in the composition of the grammar schools. The changes may not come early enough to affect the children who are writing this year. Change may be wrought by political will – as happened back in 1906 – when education was very high on the political agenda. It is unlikely that any government today will want to effect change – simply because of fear of a general political backlash.

It does seem likely, however, that a climate of opinion will one day change the attitude of the country to grammar schools. We have had well known crusaders for education over the years. Once the swell for change begins it may land up in an avalanche. We all thought, for example, that banks were inviolable. Yet in a few days the whole banking world was turned upside down – and with this collapse the lives and hopes and dreams of millions around England were affected.

We want a crusader who will drive for a fairer system of entry. We want a more level playing field for children from all walks of life. We don’t want a system, however, that militates against parents who have the will and the money to be able to help their child to do as well as possible.

The crusader will not argue the need for change for change’s sake. We do need a different range of tests. This will drive the need for new materials and new methods of teaching bright, able and articulate children. An examination system that relies of exercises similar to: Rearrange the letters to make the name of a bird: (SGKIERFNIH) must be both dated and suspect. Surely our understanding of the nature of intelligence has developed to a position where grammar schools could look for children who want to be stimulated and excited by preparing for an examination.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Eleven Plus Diet

Back in the early days in Rome most teaching took place in the home. The early Romans followed the ancient custom of passing on literature and commentary through word of mouth. Children used to sit at the feet of their parents to learn.

Boys used to go with their fathers to their places of work. They learnt the business from the bottom up. Boys were encouraged to conduct themselves in the same way as their parents. Girls learnt the art of home management from their mothers. Early Roman education was vocational and practical.

Later on the Romans embarked on a series of wars. Some become rich and acquired slaves. Some of the slaves from other lands were highly educated. A number of the slaves were Greeks. The Romans thus acquired the language of civilisation. The roots of the eleven plus were born!

We know of grammar schools being established in Rome around 230BC. It was only a few years later (around 160 BC) that grammar schools teaching rhetoric and philosophy were established. Not everyone in Rome was pleased about the way the grammar schools were educating – and around 96BC some grammar schools were closed because of the way they were teaching philosophy in Latin!

We can see that were divided opinions about grammar school that began many years ago! The Romans wanted a practical education while the Greeks advocated a more cerebral and academic education. No wonder that the Romans thought the Greeks were effeminate, while the Greeks thought that the Romans were barbaric.

In today’s world it is possible that some children from comprehensive schools would perceive some grammar boys as being effeminate – while a few grammar boys possibly think that elements within the comprehensive are barbaric!

Recent developments within schools still reflect different opinions on how children should be educated. Some of the more traditional comprehensive school are being broken up and are re-emerging as specialist Academies. Grammar schools too are becoming specialists in a variety of guises – from science to maths and computing while others are enjoying specialism within languages.

The days of grammar schools relying on Latin, Greek and rhetoric are long gone. Any self respecting grammar school will offer a bouquet of courses. If there are subject combinations that cannot be satisfied is always recourse to facilities at nearby school. Schools do not cater for the ability of a boy or a girl to be able to wander around after mother or father learning the trade from the bottom up.

We see in corner shops children sitting on counters watching their parents selling newspapers and bread to the general public. But these children do not grow up to work with their parents – they go onto university to become doctors and dentists.

It is unlikely that the Eleven Plus will every return to the `Good Old Days’ of Latin, Greek and rhetoric, but some children, I should imagine, would welcome a break from the bland diet of eleven plus paper after eleven plus paper.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eleven Plus Shocks

Surely parents of Eleven Plus children are quick to praise their children? Just think, your child completes a full eleven plus paper. The two of you mark the paper. You find one or two errors where your child did not read the question carefully. You find evidence of two questions where it is obvious that guessing took place. The final straw comes when your child makes a mistake on a question you know should be answered correctly. What are you going to do? Shoot your child.

Over in Wisconsin an essay by a nine year old boy landed a father with a child abuse charge. The father allegedly shot his nine year old son in the buttocks with a ball bearing gun.

The boy wrote about being shot in a school essay.

The father explained that his son had been blocking his view of the T.V.

This leads us neatly to what parents could legally do to their children for making mistakes on an eleven plus paper. Please use a five point scale when 5 is total wipe out and 0 means a laugh and a hug. Please email your analysis to us so we cans share your collected thoughts.

Forgetting to read the question twice:
5 4 3 2 1

Making the same mistake twice as many days:
5 4 3 2 1

Not remembering that `product’ means multiply:
5 4 3 2 1

Your child answering back – even when you know that you are in the wrong:
5 4 3 2 1

Your child not acknowledging that you are in fact that you are the most intelligent and forbearing eleven plus parent in the world:
5 4 3 2 1

After you and your child have had an eleven plus bust up, your child then forgets to say: “Thank you for all your love and help. I am very grateful. I will never call you nerdy again.”
5 4 3 2 1

Of course we don’t want our children to be shot – physically or mentally. We don’t want to shout at our eleven plus child in order to win a pre eleven plus argument. If our eleven plus child makes a mistake – like lurking in front of the T.V. – then a simple loving admonishment will suffice. We could say: “Oh my dear, please do not linger in from of the T.V. while the rest of the family are trying to watch. We think that you are a kind a thoughtful child. Please will you move? Thank you so much.”

That language and approach is much better than a short sharp shot (sorry I meant a short sharp shock).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Eleven Plus Lists

Eleven Plus tests, as they stand, are immensely useful to the men and women who think like bureaucrats. You take all of a child’s upbringing at home, all the hard work done at school, the efforts of the child at preparing for the examination – and then reduce the whole fermenting melting pot into one score.

Parents
Look at verbal reasoning, passing the eleven plus goes back to the vocabulary and speech patterns used by adults when addressing the baby. Parents will try to read stories to children at a level commensurate with their child’s oral comprehension. Most parents will not persist in reading Oliver Twist to their year old baby – even through they take time to explain some of the more complex words. A year old child will be acquiring vocabulary and will be stimulated by stories pitched at a sensible level.

Children will be learning new vocabulary from their parents at home all the time. Children may learn, for example, words that will never appear in an eleven plus examination. For example either mother or father may describe the behaviour of another driver in pungent terms. The words `little sponges’ spring to mind.

TV
Other contributions to vocabulary are made by the type of television program the child watches. Young children, for example, are being very well served by CBeebies.

School
When the child arrives at school there will be hundreds of well meaning literacy lessons. Teachers will work meaningfully on comprehension and the acquisition of vocabulary.

Children will acquire new words in many different ways. Reading, going on holiday, visiting friends, shopping, sports and even formal eleven plus lessons in vocabulary from a tutor.

An the day of the examination all this learning and education is reduced to a set number of questions that have to be completed within strict time limits.

In some far flung office a real human (not necessarily a bureaucrat) will ratify the scores and pass them to officialdom. This is where administration takes over.

Your child’s ability, personality, confidence and academic future are all condensed into a single score. Your child is then graded into a list of `pass and fail’. The list does not take into account sporting prowess, musicianship, membership of the gifted and talented register and leadership qualities. Your child may have read before school, and completed all the Harry Potter books before he is she is ten years old. Your child may have the super qualities of looking after a disabled parent, or demonstrated outstanding bravery by saving a drowning child.

A child’s academic future is still determined by the position in a list. This position is determined by how many multiple choice questions were answered correctly. Surely a child is worth more than that? There must be a way of `helping’ bureaucracy’ to be able to add value to scores.

When the eleven plus examinations were established there were no computers capable of collecting complex bits of information and organising, sorting and grading. Surely the opinion of the teacher and the head can factored into the equation. If all a child’s school reports could be scanned and digitised then words like `hard working’, `able, `conscientious’ and diligent could count just as well as answering some artificial verbal reasoning question.

If we do need to land up with one score, then let us pray for a score that will at least represent a mosaic of a child’s strengths and weakness.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eleven Plus Time

Just how old do you need to be to work on Eleven Plus courses? The answer probably is in the Seven Ages of Man. (Actually poetic licence has offered a few more ages.)

Pre birth.
Mum reads to child. Parents take it in turns to play suitable music.

Toddler
Parents start explaining to their child how cubes rotate. The toddler is learning to build and knock down blocks as well as flatten the blocks into nets.

Nursery School
The child starts learning nursery rhymes – which are completed into eleven plus questions. “If Bo Peep was herding her sheep, and she had four and twenty, did any back birds come to the party?

Reception
Eleven Plus work hots up. The child is `put down for a tutor’. This does not mean that the child is worked over by the tutor, not does it mean that the tutor employs derogatory words, it simply means that the tutor places the child on the waiting list.

Primary
The entire Bond series is available on the child’s book case. (Mum was offered a
premium to take the whole series. Mum thought. Why not? The child starts on Question 1 on Book 1. Only three thousand questions to go!

Secondary
Child is at grammar. (Thank the Lord!) Eleven Plus books again are used for younger brother.)

University
Young adult picks up extra pocket money tutoring for the Eleven Plus.

Married Life
Start with own family. Cycle begins again.

Retirement
No legal requirements for grand children’s education. (Other than the fact that someone still remembers how to do percentages.)

The Other Side
Epitaph One on Stone
Masie lived and died the eleven plus dream.

Epitaph Two
Uncle Burt was a true eleven plus product. He knew that 34 times 10 was 340!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Extending Eleven Plus Entry

One of the major problems with the Eleven Plus, after it was set up by the 1944 education act, was that intelligence tests appeared to play so large a role in determining a child’s future. Even psychologists could not agree on what intelligence was. There had been an earlier White Paper in 1943 which stated that `Children should not be selected by a competitive test, but by the assessment of their individual aptitudes, largely by such means as school records, supplemented, if necessary by intelligence tests, due regard to parents’ wishes and the careers they have in mind.”


This allowed parents to have a much greater say in helping their child gain entry to grammar school. In many eleven plus areas there is a rigid – but straightforward procedure to follow.

Enter your child on a common application form.

Work through some papers together.

Some, but only some, may choose a tutor or family friends to help soften the blow.

Listen to other parents and think: `Why did I not start this earlier?’

Remember that your child is actually bright – so relax for a moment.

Take your child to the school gates. Lots of hugs, kisses and `Good Lucks’.

More hugs when your child returns from the tests.

You wait fretfully for the results.

Your child does not seem to care – of hides it very well.

The results come. Tears of joy or grief.

You put in an appeal (if necessary) and this is the only time in the when your wishes will be listened to. This does seem to be without foundation. I understand why schools can not interview ten sets of parents for every one place. But we live in the culture of computers. When your child reaches `A’ Level or `IB’ then one application form is filled in which can then be distributed to the different universities.

The following could be adapted into the proposed `Eleven Plus Common Application Form’ (EPCAF)

Child
Why I want to go to grammar. (50 words)

What subjects I would like to study.

What I do outside of school

Parent
Why I would like my child to go to grammar.

The subjects I would like my child to study

How we will solve the problems if we acre not offered a place.

School
Why we think this child should go to grammar

The grades we think the child will achieve at `A’ level.

Supporting statement

The computer then collects and collates all this information and posts them into EPCAF. The grades from the EPCAF are added to test scores. The highest combined scores win places in the grammar school. The EPCAF must make a contribution to an Eleven Plus system that does seem very unfair at times.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eleven Plus and Parent Choice

Back in mediaeval times education did not end with school. Children and young adults were apprenticed – and were trained in technical skills from master craftsmen. We do not have SATs tests or GCSEs to be able to judge just how sound an education the children received. We do have some clue, however, from the records of accounts or household bills and transactions.

The old Grammar schools were founded in the towns like Canterbury and York – and were essentially cathedral schools. We only have to walk round the grounds of these schools to see the scale that the buildings were conceived on to be able to surmise that it is likely that the education of the children was also conceived in grandiose terms. The same must hold true today.

A number of grammar schools today rely heavily on tradition – not only of the curriculum – but also of buildings and grounds. We tend to think of a modern grammar school as a leafy place with polished corridors and rooms full of computers and modern technology.

Long, long ago schools were allowed to develop along their own lines. A parish could have a school that reflected the local environment. There were not only farm school but dance schools, song schools and even reading and writing schools. Schools often prided themselves as being `Free’. Parents had a certain freedom of choice. Back in 1406 the Statute of Artificers stated that every man and woman had the right to freedom of choice in school, and that parents “ shall be free to set their son or daughter to set their son or daughter to any seat of learning that pleaseth them within the realm.

There was no distinction between the education of girls and boys. Girls were generally well off in terms of education – and had access to whatever education was available.

There was no talk of eleven plus examinations in those days. Naturally there must have been some form of split as the children grew older. It is unlikely, for example, that a strong 12 year old boy would have been allowed to stay at school if he had been needed on the farm. A bright and able twelve year old girl, with some learning, may have been swept into managing the family’s finances – or running the household.

There would have been little talk of verbal reasoning questions back in those days. Bright, able and articulate children would not have been drawn into a culture of studying an increasingly narrow selection of work. After all there can be only a limited number verbal reasoning questions. The present eleven plus examinations requite children to think and to reason – but do not look for creativity and excitement. We have all seen children pleased and excited over solving an eleven plus conundrum. Few of us would have seen an imaginative and creative eleven plus student – unless the content of the lesson was so structured.

If one day there is a great shake up of the eleven plus examinations, and if the powers that be can evolve new ways of testing and examining children, then one day we may return to the free schools of yester year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Twitter and the Eleven Plus

We must all, at one times or another, wonder at the sheer effrontery of the some of the verbal reasoning questions that our children are some times exposed to. Naturally every one reading this statement will be horrified to think that the words sheer and effrontery can appear side by side in a sentence. Perhaps we need to look back in history.

There was a Professor of the History of Philosophy in the University of Rome back in 1913. He (Gentile) wrote: “A text book is a text book: when it was written, and if the author was capable of thinking and living in his thought, it too was a living thing.”

The roots of Eleven Plus questions were founded fifty or more years ago. It is doubly sad that some of the questions do not seem to have changed. After all there has been an explosion of thought and volcano of new ideas about education, but the sober and sterile question much loved by the authors of eleven plus text books and papers still lives on.

If the early authors of eleven plus thought were capable of being alive I am sure they would be horrified to see just how little as changed. It is almost as if the constructors of todays `real’ eleven plus tests have simply not moved on ay all in their thinking.

When the children come to actually sit the examination they are sitting an examination prepared by experts at the height of their profession. These experts, we presume, have not been charged with finding new ways to select children for a changing society. Because all the selection material we are offered are remarkably similar, we must presume that the examinations are similar.

So what can the expert do? Invent a new kind of eleven plus test? Why not? Twitter was not around fifty years ago – yet I bet any self respecting eleven plus child could use and apply the concept in seconds. There would be little need for the child to sit through endless papers that cover much the same ground. Twitter would allow new strains and stands of thought to develop in the build up of the examination – and this could in turn influence the actual composition of the paper.

Perhaps Twitter is not the answer – but we do need to have a rethink of value of the eleven plus.

Gentile tells us (almost a hundred years ago}: “A pedant is the teacher who pins his faith in repetition and memorising.” It is a sorry thought that we need to rely so heavily of repetition and memorising to help children pass the eleven plus examinations. Perhaps we all need to have a far reaching twitter – and then we may have something that could be of real use to our children.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eleven Plus Help from a Tutor

Dear Eleven Plus Tutor

Please help me. I hate using my brother’s old eleven plus papers. He has written all over them and I don’t like working over his scribbles. He was given new books. I know they are expensive but I think that I deserve new books too.

I wouldn’t mind working from his books but he makes these funny marks under answers which he thinks can not be right. I don’t always agree – but it is confusing.

Anon 10

Dear Eleven Plus Tutor

I hate eleven plus work. My mother keeps smiling and saying: “Just do the best you can,” but I know she really wants me to do well. I know I have to do the work but it is so boring. Anyway she makes me do the same thing every single day of the week. I have had enough. I would prefer to work only three days a week – leaving me time to do other things with my life.”

Fed Up 10

Dear Eleven Plus Tutor

I have to write three different eleven plus examinations this year. This means that I have to study four different subjects. I don’t mind doing extra English because I like the subject – but I hate doing the silly comprehension passages from olden day books. The passages are so boring. Why can’t we do comprehension from books that are more modern?

Other children that I know do not have to do non verbal reasoning. I only do non verbal because my mum and dad want me to try for a school that wants non verbal in the eleven plus examination. I don’t really want to go to that school because the buildings are so old. I like new looking buildings.

Anyway, why do I have to do three different examinations? Why can’t I do just one test and then have the results sent to all the schools?

Please Help 11

Dear Eleven Plus Tutor

Please talk to my mum and dad. I don’t want to do the eleven plus. They want me to go to grammar. I don’t want to.

I don’t want to have to work hard for the examination and then probably fail and so go to a comprehensive.

I really want to go to college and learn how to sail my boat. I love going on the water and don’t think that I want to go to 6th form in a school and then go to university. I would much rather spend my time sailing. If I get good I could go to the Olympics and think that that would be much better.

Please can you do something to help? Mum and dad just do not listen.

Help 10 and a bit

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eleven Plus Crime and Punishment

There is a law when dealing with children. It is called the law of cause and effect. We know that there are many different types of cause and effect.

Cause and Effect 1

A banker wants a big bonus. The banker tells his friend that a different bank is in trouble. The friend sells his shares in the bank. The banker buys them. The friends take a commission on the sale for selling the shares and the banker takes a commission for buying the shares. The banker then tells his friend that the company in questions is going to be all right as a result of a share issue. The banker sells his shares and takes a commission, and the friend buys the shares and takes a commission.

The banker expects a large bonus for anticipating problems with the company and having the skills to know when to buy and sell. The problem is that the bank is now partly owned by the government who want to change the rules so no commission is paid – unless both parties can agree.

Cause and Effect 2

A child who refuses to put his toys away at the end of play time finds that his mother refuses to let him have the toys when ever he wants.

The principal here is that a wrong act can be undone by a right one. The mother is fully within her rights to stop the child playing when he did not tidy up. The child has to learn.

Cause and Effect 3

A child who does not want to work on an Eleven Plus paper should be punished. An appropriate punishment would be taking away the mobile phone for the first offence. The next time there is an argument about working at home the television goes off for a week.

This is fair enough. The eleven plus child should learn. After all if a three year old child was playing with a sharp knife then no parent would leave the knife with the child `to see what happened’. The consequences may be too serious.

In the olden days if a child did wrong then the child would expect his ears to be boxed. Under rules of this type it would be fair to box a child’s ears – and then when the child asked, “Why did you box my ears?”

The answer would come: “It is up to you to find out why your ears are boxed.”

There must be some common link to these three different cause and effect scenarios. We can not box the ears of the banker for wanting to take a commission on every sale and purchase of shares. We do need to make sure that the punishment fits the crime.

Punishing an eleven plus child with a physical withdrawal of his `toys’ is indefensible – unless a moral ban is also imposed. We can not make the banker give up his commission. (After all it was written into his or her contract and so has earned it.) We can make the three year old give up the sharp knife. (After all it is dangerous.) Why should we punish the eleven plus candidate for not working by denying him something concrete?

Should the banker lose the bonus on the commission? Yes.

Should a child lose the right to his or her toys? Depends.

Should the Eleven Plus child have privileges withdrawn? If the punishment fits the crime.

Should you box a child’s ears? You can feel like it but you can’t do it!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Eleven Plus Learning Patterns

There are a number of different ways that your child make progress during your Eleven Plus saga. Sometimes you will feel that there is week by week progress, while at other times there may appear to be little progress – and then a sudden spurt. No one type of pattern is usual.

Some parents will be attempting to measure progress on a week by week basis, other will try to test their children more infrequently. For the sake of discussion we could use the Bond 10 – 11 Verbal books – aimed at 10 minutes study slots.

Steady Improvement Pattern

Here you child will make progress week by week. Sometime this could be quite desirable.

Sudden Improvement Pattern

This is where you may feel that your child is not making much progress, and then there is a sudden jump. This could be when you child has not really grasped something on a week by week basis – and then the penny drops.

A Plateau Pattern

Progress is being made – suddenly a plateau emerges where nothing seems to happen. There could be progress week after week – and then suddenly it seems that learning is not taking place.

Irregular Patterns

Parents will find this difficult as they will not know what their child is doing. One week the child is up, another it will seem as if nothing at all ha been learnt.

Small Improvement Pattern

This is where you will feel that your child is just not making much progress. You may need to explain that in eleven plus terms it is all very well to be slow and methodical, but at times there really does need to be a burst of energy and performance.

Look back to learning to drive. Your driving instructor will have observed all these patterns in you. Think about taking an advanced driving course. Ask your instructor to grade you (1 – 5) each lesson. You will hope that your instructor will offer lots of praise and encouragement even when things are not going too well. This will give you some indication of hum much continuous prise and encouragement your eleven plus child needs.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eleven Plus Plans

One concern parents must have is just how well their child is learning. The poor mite has slaved on papers, worked with parents and attended a tutor. He or she HAS to pass. After all this effort, however, just how much has been learnt?

It is quite easy. The tutor is teaching Plan A. The child is studying through papers – Plan B. Parents are working on Plan C. (Plan C is trying to manage the whole Eleven Plus project – along with good solid parent input.)

Scenario 1

Child learns Plan A – and is tested through Plan B.

If Plan A is working there should be an effect on Plan B.

Scenario 2

Child does daily papers on Plan B – supported by tutor on Plan A.
Child is tested by tutor on Plan A – supported by parents on Plan C.

Scenario 3

Learns on Plan A and Learns on Plan B
Supported by Plan C
Tested by Plan A and Tested by Plan B.
Tested by Plan C.

Underpinning the whole deal is the candidate who is in the top groups at school. The teacher is keen on academic study and pushes hard with mathematics and English. The head teacher is keen on the idea of pupils going to `good’ schools.

The reality is that the scenarios meld and blend into each other. The plans co-exist with successes and failures. The `candidate’ has good day and bad days. It is really a pity that we have to be realistic about the eleven plus – because it is good to dream!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eleven Plus Selection

Way back in 1948, when tests were being used to select children for grammar school, there was also discussion about tests that would select children for `trade schools’.

General tests of intelligence still rely heavily on verbal ability. There is one county where eleven plus children are selected purely on the results of verbal reasoning tests. Other selection tests use mathematics and / or non verbal reasoning – as well as verbal reasoning.

If parents were wondering what sort of school would best suit their child, then some parents could be grateful for a test that did not rely too heavily on verbal reasoning. A practical test could be much more useful in predicting future success in a range of non academic subjects.

If a primary school in Year Six needs to spend time in preparing children for SATs tests, then there may be little time to spend preparing children for practical tests. After all it would be difficult for an eleven year old child to try to decide on what type of comprehensive school would be suitable if he or she had not been exposed to a wide range of occupations and hobbies. Even comprehensives and academies are becoming specialist schools.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Eleven Plus Timing

Some parents must think sometimes, that helping their child towards the Eleven Plus has elements of a full time and intensive job.

Issue a reminder about Eleven Plus work
Supply an answer to a statement of intent.
Offer something to eat.
Offer something to drink.
Supply food and drink.
Accept thanks with a smile
Help to find an Eleven Plus verbal reasoning book
Suggest an exercise
Discuss whether a different page should be used
Help with first question
Take washing out of washing machine
Return to candidate
Help with a different question
Turn kettle on
Answer a yelled question
Make tea
Walk into room with tea, mark work done so far, drink refreshing tea
Wonder at intelligence of child
Hope for a miracle
Answer telephone
Reassure child that you will not be long
Discuss Question 34 with friend
Accept advice
Return to lounge
Sit
Drink cooling tea
Allow min to go blank – just for a second
Climb wearily to feet
Return to scene of study
Hug child
Discuss answer to question 34
Leave room

Look at watch and wonder that only twenty minutes have passed since you and your child have arrived home from school.

Time does fly when you are having fun!

The Eleven Plus Club 10/02/09

Act 1
Scene 1

A University town with two grammar schools.

“Hi, I would like to introduce myself. I am in the 6th Form. I am studying Mathematics, Design and Technology, Information Technology, Physics and Economics – all at A level.

I have been accepted by four Universities – subject, the main, to two A grades and one B. I am actually writing five A level subjects. I have already got 9 A and A* GCSE grades. I play rugby for the school and I am in the orchestra where I play the oboe.”

“Well done, where did you go to school? Did you go to your local grammar?”

“No ways. I go to our local comprehensive. I passed the Eleven Plus and chose the school where all my friends went.”

This last bit of information forces us to readjust our view of the boy. Attending a grammar school may appear to bestow a status on a young person growing up. It is almost as if there is an invisible boundary based on the grounds of school as well as GCSE and A level results.

So far as socialising is concerned, it might seem on the surface, that there are distinct labels that can be applied to people. Can we imagine an eleven year old, with a grammar school place, giving up the idea of grammar school to continue education in the same school as one’s friends?

Scene 2

The town is the same. The comprehensive is still a comprehensive and has not yet changed to an academy, and the grammar school is still there.

The boys have changed to men. They have very different occupations, two went to university. They all have very different addresses.

Do the boys who went to grammar feel they have a monopoly on prestige? Do they view all comprehensive men as upstarts and ill educated – not quite so good?

“We are all members of local golf clubs. We don’t all go to the same club. Only one of us is a member of the best club in town. He didn’t go to university and transferred his junior membership of the club to adult status. He was earning so could afford the fees. The men who went to university are earning more now, but can not join the club because there is such a long waiting list.”

We all remember Groucho Marx talking about clubs. “I don’t care to be a member of a club that accepts people like me as members.”

I sincerely hope that going to a grammar school gives a child growing up the feeling that they are members of a special club. I am naturally delighted when any child from any background earns a place in grammar school. It is also highly edifying to hear stories about grammar school boys and girls who have gone on to make something of themselves. An ex grammar school pupil does, however, become an elite member of a prestigious minority.

Here we have a scenario, to maintain a steady membership of `The Club’ the ex grammar pupil has to be a member of a minority group and be subject to factors involving occupation, education, family background, behaviour, sporting interest, salary, home ownership and diposable income.

It does sound a little like the basis of a musical, doesn’t it?

Monday, February 09, 2009

An Eleven Plus Wind Up

What does the parent of an Eleven Plus child do if their child is still having difficulty with reading? Some children will dislike reading because they have a problem with reading and understanding words. Other children may not read because their parents don’t read, and there are no books in the house other than books from school.

Some children at the age of eleven will not read simply because they do not choose to. Their parents may have been nagging theme for years to read – and their child understands that reading is very important to the parent. A battle of will begins.

“If you continue to nag me about reading, I simply won’t read. You can’t make me. I will just sit and look at the page. I am not reading.” Some children appear to prefer to argue about what they should and should not be doing – and this leaves little time to do what is expected of them.

“Right, if you won’t read those lovely books I bought your for Christmas, and it is nearly February, you can not: (Pick any one of the following: Watch T.V. Go swimming. Have your friend over. Get your pocket money this week.”

“Mum, you should know this by now. The more you pressure me, the less likely I will do what you want. I don’t like reading. I sometimes find it hard to decode words I don’t know. Please help!”

“Well I don’t know about that. If I don’t pressure you then you don’t do anything at all. There are other children in this household. They all read. I read. Your father reads. Your grandparents read. Your sister reads. You actually can read – but you choose not to.”

“Well when I read my eyes get tired. The words dance around the page. I get bored very quickly. Anyway I am too old for the books you got me for Christmas. They are just boring, and for younger children.”

“We have had this argument before. Books are fun. They can be exciting and you can learn a lot. I have told you before. I have this feeling that I should be doing more to encourage you to read. All you do is say that you don’t like reading, but you never give us a chance.”

“Oh, all right then. I will read three pages before I go outside.”

“Thank you.”

“But I won’t read any more.”

“I really am tired of arguing with you. It is your future. I have had enough.”

“Sorry mum, I was just winding you up. I will go and read now. Is there anything else I can do to help? I really do love you.”

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Eleven Plus Teachers

What sort of person becomes an Eleven Plus tutor or teacher? The answer is simple. It takes all sorts. Somewhere along the way the Eleven Plus teacher or tutor has had to go to school for many years. The majority will probably have gone on to study at sixth form or in a sixth form college. Most, but not all, will have gone on to take a professional qualification.

Over recent years there have tended to be more woman teachers than men. There is one point which may or may not be relevant – there is probably a much higher proportion of teachers who have had one or both teachers in the teaching profession.

There is a chance that your eleven plus teacher will hold radical views – but most will probably be rather conformist in their thinking. Some parents will be attracted to an eleven plus teacher with green hair and torn jeans. Other parents will want to put their trust in rather more formal attire.

A number of parents would probably prefer to work with a teacher who appears to like children. You may be drawn to your prospective eleven plus tutor who actually looks at your child – and addresses friendly remarks. Most of us, however, will probably remember teachers who did not seem to like children.

When you look at the C.V. of your prospective eleven plus teacher, you could be attracted to read in the hobbies section that the person who will be preparing your child for the eleven plus likes reading. There must be some wonderful and inspiring teachers, however, who don’t read.

We all know of teachers who do not appear to fit any criteria. After all teachers are like the rest of the general populations. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. The amount and degree of their eleven plus expertise will vary from teacher to teacher.

All you can hope is that your child feels happy and secure – and is motivated to want to do well. (The same with your teacher!)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Eleven PLus Choice

A parent’s right to some form of choice of school remains a controversial area. Back in 1944 the Education Act set out what parents could expect.

“The minister and local education authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, children are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.”

The Eleven Plus meant that only around 20% of parents ended up with a right of choice – because they were the parents of children who had passed the Eleven Plus.

The Eleven Plus is now restricted to a small number of grammar schools. Even fewer parents there have freedom of choice. If every parent could freely choose where they want their child to go, then school would need to be flexible enough to be able to accommodate fluctuating numbers of children. If we were all suddenly given the ability to go to a popular comprehensive, we could land up with a large intake one year – that could simply overwhelm the teachers and the ability to provide classroom space. In some school there would be a surplus of teachers and classrooms.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Guessing and the Eleven Plus

Sage advice to an eleven plus child is that if you are nearing the end of an eleven plus paper, and time is becoming restricted, then simply guess the remaining answers. If there are four choices in an eleven plus test then you will naturally explain that you have 1 in 4 chances of guessing the right answer. You will probably go on to say that if there are ten questions left at the end of the examination, and you guess the answers. Then you may guess two or three correctly. It could even be that he or she would guess one question correctly for every three or four questions.

Eleven plus examination do not have a `guessing correction’ built in. You could try this at home. Take any one of your standard eleven plus selection papers that has 100 questions. Suppose your child answers 64 correctly, 30 incorrectly and leaves 6 out then you could assume that your child has really scored 54.

You would, however, hate to assume that your child guessed all the wrong answers. If this was true then It is however, very unlikely that your eleven plus child will deliberately guess all the answers that he or she is unsure of. After all you would expect your child to al least try to work some out. (We sometimes see a patch on a certain page where all the answers are marked with the same answer – so it then becomes likely that perhaps the guessing was deliberate for one reason or another.)

We all actively tell our eleven plus children that guessing is not penalised. If your child answers all the questions correctly it is highly unlikely that he or she will have guessed all the questions. If however your knew 80 out of 100 questions, and guessed a further 8 correctly, the score that would appeal to the eleven plus examiners would be 88. The eight questions that were guessed do not matter. After all a pass at the eleven plus may depend on the number of questions that your child knows plus the number of questions that were guessed correctly.

What children, parents teachers and tutors try to is to reduce the number of questions that have to be guessed. Of course it must be possible to pass an eleven plus examination and leave out a number of questions without guessing.

When your sits the eleven plus examination the questions will already have been tested on a cohort of children not directly involved. The questions will probably have been drawn at random from an item bank. Each question will have been tried out with a number of children. If 80% of children found Question 1 easy, but only 30% coped with Question 2, then the eleven plus examiners would need to look closely at the two questions. After all the eleven plus examination is trying to find children who are at the top end of the ability scale rather looking at the average population.

An eleven plus question that 80% of successful eleven plus answered correctly may be considered a rather difficult question for a test that looked at a wide range of children. Equally a question that only 30% of eleven plus children could pass, would probably be a rather demanding question for any one to attempt.

When parents meet a question on selection papers that appears to be ridiculously hard, it may be no more than a design to stretch the child, the tutor and the parents. Take heart, if your bright child found it hard – so will nearly every other child. You may need to explain this to your child.

The only other advice you could offer your child is: “If you are going to guess, make sure you guess correctly!”

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Eleven Plus and Ability

It is possible for very bright children to have difficulty at school. There will always be some high flyers who develop late, or perform far beyond their own level so they are not recognised, but the majority will have been identified early on.

The brightest children may sometimes face the problem of working at the pace of the class. Mixed ability teaching is designed to implement, in an enlightened manner, the concept that every child learns at his or her own speed. Even if the very bright child is in the top group, then he or she could be held back by the speed of the children in the top group.

We recently had an eleven plus child with us who went on to achieve outstanding eleven plus results - 140 in mathematics as well as verbal and non verbal reasoning. The top group in his class were working from mental arithmetic book 3. He found our mental arithmetic book six a bit too easy. He worked on book three at school, book six with us and really needed something considerably higher. Hi school was in special measures, he was the only boy in his class to pass the eleven plus, but enthusiastic and hardworking class teacher simply did not have the resources to be able to offer him a `super’ group on top of the top group.

Luckily this extremely well balanced and mature child did not demonstrate boredom by day dreaming, or coasting or becoming the class joker.

Academically he could possibly have transferred to grammar school at the end of Year 3 and certainly would have passed the eleven plus at the end of Year 4. A different route could have been for him to miss a class at grammar school – and so work with boys a year older. It is very likely that he would have held his own.

It is likely that the teachers at the grammar school will argue that working a year ahead causes more problems that it solves. Unless a child is exceptionally mature working with children who are physically a year older can be very tiring. Boys who are a year older can suddenly shoot up in size – and this could cause problems all round.

Schools and parents traditionally encourage the very bright child to do a lot of reading and try to encourage in depth study. Some grammar schools provide enlightened programs where children can study a wide number of GCSE examinations. We all year of stories of a child pass 13 or 14 GCSE examinations – simply because the child has the ability to pass examinations. We have also heard of grammar schools which deliberately restrict the number of GCSE subjects to encourage the child to take up a number of outside activities.

Parents, of course, will do their best. We have a 12 year old grammar school girl with us at the moment who could pass a GCSE Higher mathematics paper now. Her parents, and her have opted against this as they would prefer her to go at the same speed as the other children in her class. Instead the girl has opted for swimming as an outlet. Last week she swam 14 hours with her swimming club and five hours with the synchronised swimming squad – representing Great Britain. One weekend, she swam, we understand, 126 lengths of the pool! There she is; gifted academically, gifted physically and the nicest child you could wish to meet.

The school system has not failed her, her teachers at primary and grammar school have not failed her. Her outside activities have not failed her. Who says that education is collapsing all around us?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

From the Eleven Plus to the 12+

If your child has not won (or earned) a place in a grammar school, then at some time or another the school will need to do an assessment. Some Local authorities opt apply the eleven plus tests to all the children in the borough. The advantage of this is that the senior schools have SATs results as well as Eleven Plus results to gather an early picture of a child’s attainment and academic abilities.

Some schools will proceed to implement, at one stage or another, some form of streaming – but do not always make rigid and unflinching decisions. If there is an element of steaming then, as children are assessed continuously, the school leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre.

Even schools which offer mixed ability teaching need some for of assessment to ensure the classes have a fair distribution of children. Some schools like to offer a completely random system of allocation of pupils to a class – and so use means like initial letters of surnames. Most, however, in the eleven to thirteen years appear to desire a mix of high ability and slow learners.

One of the most important reasons for a series of early assessment just after transfer to senior school is to try to find the children in need of additional support.

Some schools have what could be called the `express or `grammar’ stream Where able and hard working children are encouraged to accelerate their learning. A number of children flower in an environment where they feel that they are top of the year group – rather than struggling with the pace of a grammar school.

If your child does not pass the eleven plus then all is not lost. Some children will simply shrug off the `failure’ of not passing the eleven plus and get on with their lives. Others, admittedly a much smaller number, will still express a desire to `get to grammar’. In some cases it will genuinely be the child’s ambition – but in other cases parents will be the driving force and will try everything possible to help their child win a place in a grammar school.

What ever the motivation, the prospective 12+ or 13+ candidate has to take a lot of responsibility. The eleven plus examination is most often an open and shut – pass, fail or appeal. Factors such as the ability to try hard at school, an untimely and upsetting occurrence in the family personal pressure and problems at school only really come out in an appeal situation. Much more preparation than working through a number of selection papers is needed at the 12+ and 13+ levels.

Books, assignments and notes need to be immaculate. It may become difficult for some parents to become involved in the school work of a 12 year as often the child is not used to close scrutiny. Where possible, however, parents could check every single possible bit of work to ensure that there are as few spelling mistakes as possible, that work is rules off and underlined. Pictures, diagrams and maps have to be completed. Where a teacher has made a comment – then every effort needs to be made to make sure that the work has either been redone or the relevant corrections applied.

What can happen at the 12+ stage is that entry to the grammar school may ask for a report from the secondary school. Of course you want a good report showing diligence and a positive attitude to learning. In some cases your child’s school books may also be asked for. It would be sad if your child lost a place in grammar school on a technicality. If the science teacher had said, for example, “Underline all heading and complete the previous two experiments,” and your child (and you) has not complied, then the grammar school could justifiably offer the coveted place to a different child.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Eleven Plus Wind Up Artists

Occasionally, very occasionally, your child may feel a little reluctant to do uplifting eleven plus work. You could meet a tiniest resistance to sitting down to do any work. You may even hear, very faintly, words like, “Well, I don’t care. I am going on strike.”

Our neighbours across the water have a reputation for going on strike to express their feelings. Perhaps our Eleven Plus children have something to learn from our European neighbours. It would be admirable if our children could learn to have the confidence to be to say, “Just for the moment I had had enough, and I would rather do something else.” The more you push the more the child stands firm. It is called growing up. Many parents would argue that growing up is all very well, as long as it does not impact on eleven plus work.

When you sit down to discuss the mini crisis one of the first questions you will ask is if everything is going all right at school. If you child shows a lasting resistance to work then you need to try to find out why. There could be any of a number of reasons:

Worries about school work
Problems with the hitherto much loved teacher
Other child causing problems in the classroom
Difficulty with a child or children in the playground.

Most children will meet at least one teacher during their school like whom they simply do not get on with. Your child may feel that the teacher does not like him or her. The teacher may be perceived, by your child, to be too soft or too hard – or even too unfair.

You will need to explain that he or she will have to learn to live with people they dislike – just like in real life. What a parent needs to be is remarkably tactful because the feelings towards the teacher can change with the passage of time or a different set of circumstances beyond your control. Of course you will discuss favouritism or unfairness. You will talk about gossip and problems with peers. All parents can do is the best they can. They can not win every fight – even if they want to.

Your child may be unhappy because of other children at school. Your first instinct will be to try to protect and shield from unwholesome incidents. Children can sometimes pick on their brighter peers. All you can hope is the school’s attitude to bullying is firm and unyielding.

Of course parents will compromise over one or two missed eleven plus sessions – but most mothers and father will stand firm if the desire to work appears to have left their eleven plus child. After all your child have to test himself or herself against the world of parents every now and then. What better test is there of trying the patience of mum and dad?

I heard very bright one child saying to her sister: “It is good fun winding mum up, isn’t it?”

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Hot Tubs

It would be very easy to dream of your child falling asleep – and then waking up full of eleven plus facts and opinions. You stride confidently into your child’s bedroom – offer a loving kiss and leave secure in the knowledge that your child will assimilate eleven plus knowledge and technique during a deep refreshing sleep. I am sure parents would pay good money for a service of this nature.

We need to go back to Mesmer (1733 – 1815) who was known as a saint to some and a sinner to others. He dealt with incurable cases – and was loathed by many other physicians. He created an attitude in the patient towards the `problem’. This developed into a crises – along with twitching muscles and a trance. After this had passed the patient would feel weak and lethargic – but the odds were on that the illness or malady had disappeared.

Later in his professional life he accidentally came upon the sleep like state – which we call hypnosis today.

He also developed a different technique. (This could, possibly, be adopted on eleven plus courses – if parents and children gave permission.) He filled a large tub with magnetised filings. The tub had around thirty projecting handles – so 30 different problems could be serviced at the same time.

Just picture the scene. 30 eleven plus children enter a large, warm tub carrying verbal reasoning books. The children hold the rods; they close their eyes and on command lift their verbal reasoning books to the heavens. They rub their bodies with the iron filings. The energy flows and eleven plus knowledge enters their bodies.

This view of an easy passage for children towards the eleven plus will be greeted, no doubt, by scepticism and suspicion by doctors, teachers, scientists, parents and general public.

Doctors will feel that the tub suggestion is frivolous.
Teachers will laugh at the idea of an easy short cut in education.
Scientists will demand proof.
Parents will hope that immersion in a tub of iron filings will not he harmful – but will be pleased to try anything as long as it helps.
The general public will simply groan and say, “It was not like this in my day!”

A large number of us regard hypnotism with a combination of smiling apprehension – along with an almost mystical belief that `there might be something in it’

But parents can cast their minds back. Do you remember the colicky baby who cried and cried? What did you do? Of course you soothed your child by rubbing circles on your child’s back while murmuring quietly. No rods. No iron filings. Nothing mystic – just plain common sense.

So when your child looks out of sorts with the eleven plus you could do worse than revert to those early days.

Take your eleven plus candidate, including the verbal reasoning book, into your arms. Give several soothing pats and say: `There, there. There, there.’ (The incantation!) Suggest a hot warm bath with lots of bubbles. Offer the comfort of a hot water bottle, along with a medicinal cup of cocoa.

When you come to think of it your loving offering is not much different from the hot tub suggested by Mesmer. Parents know just how good for the body and soul the hot tub is!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Clothes

We have a remarkable shopping complex in Kent called Bluewater. When it first opened back in 1999 newspapers and television marvelled at the way in which women saw the shopping trips to Bluewater as a ritual. Women, apparently, used to dress up to shop. Sociologists observed that the visit to Bluewater reassured women of their high status.

Women arriving used to look chic and poised. They also dressed their children in smart clothes. (I am not sure how successful the women were in making sure their husbands were attired correctly – but I am sure the men did their best so as not to disappoint their wives and partners.)

We all know the story, or the variation on the story, of a woman who went shopping in a prestigious store only to be told that a garment was not for sale because she was not dressed well enough. The women returned the following day attired in her best. She was not recognised the same sales clerk – who proceeded to fawn over the customer – and expedited the purchase. (A variation on this story took place in a highly regarded film.)

Bluewater has a multitude of clothing shops. We know that clothing has been used for years and years to demonstrate wealth. We have been told that `old’ money does not follow fashions but the owners of `new money’ needs continual reassurance – and a constant stream of new clothes.

There is a saying that as you go up the class scale there are an increasing number of fat men – but the opposite is true of women. I wonder if any of our eleven plus children will go on one day to test the theory?

The eleven plus children I met yesterday were models of correct clothing. The colours were generally muted. The girls were invariably smartly dressed. The boys wore uniformly similar clothes.

Why such a preoccupation with clothes? In some verbal reasoning papers our poor children are posed some remarkably artificial questions.

Write the incomplete word from the sentence:

The woman wore smart new c . . t h . . when she went shopping.

Arrange these words in alphabetical order:

Chimney character clothes thank contract

Look at the following pair of words. If they have the same meaning select A. If they are opposite, choose B:

Clothes apparel.

Finally:

A shopping paradise for men, women and children in Kent: E E T R W U L B.