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Friday, December 31, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions and Answers

Parents are often in a position in power – especially when their eleven plus child wants the same thing.

“Oh Mum, Dad, please may I have …. “

It may, at times, be a little more difficult to obtain answers to questions you pose. You can, for example, ask a series of formal questions.

“Do you really want to do the eleven plus or should we stop work now?”

“Why did you not complete the paper before going out? You said you would.”

Parents can also ask some rather more informal questions.

“What is your attitude to completing this paper?”

“Do you think that it is desirable that we work together towards the examination?”

Some parents will be able to respond to most answers in a straightforward and rational manner, other parents will find the similar answers to be highly complex and emotional.

Who said it was easy?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Information about Online Eleven Plus Lessons

Have you ever wondered what happens in your child’s eleven plus lesson? Would you like to see your child’s response to working with a tutor?

You book the online lesson with the Extra Tuition Centre. Each lesson lasts for an hour. In the lesson you cover the subjects you wish your child to follow. This could be:

Mathematics and verbal reasoning,

Mathematics, along with verbal and non verbal reasoning,

Mathematics, English and verbal reasoning

The combinations of subjects are endless – according to the requirements of the school you are aiming at. There are a multitude of eleven plus solutions.

As well as their own bespoke materials, the Extra Tuition Centre uses the Bond 10 – 11 Nonverbal Reasoning book in some online lessons. All parents have to do is purchase a copy of the book from the Extra Tuition Centre’s own store or from any major bookshop.

Online lessons link the tutor, the child and the parents. As their child sits in the lesson parents can hear what the teacher is saying – and also hear their child’s responses. Parents can also see the teacher’s work – and that of their child on the screen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Power of Music

Many years ago someone came along with yet another theory on education. This one was called eurhythmics. This is a system of physical and mental training, akin on the one hand to physical drill, on the other hand to dancing. Rhythmic movements and bodily control are practiced to music.

It was developed by M. Jacques-Dalcroze, a Swiss, and was introduced by him into England in around 1912. For one reason or another, the method was mainly adopted by girls’ schools. I am not sure how many boys’ schools used eurhythmics as a method of teaching!

One element of the eurhythmics method was to try to improve bodily grace and harmony.

It is very easy to see the relevance of his teaching to today’s eleven plus candidates. Working through an eleven plus paper requires many elements of music. We have, for example the overture, which can be likened to walking into the examination room, with all the resultant nerves, and the anxiety of staring at the unopened paper.

To initiate proceedings a conductor will raise his or her baton to guide the orchestra – just as the invigilator will intone: “You may open your papers.”

There is a rhythm to answering an eleven plus paper in an examination – the candidate has to keep solving questions with the speed and accuracy of a metronome.

As the paper comes to an end – and the time ticks away – the heartbeat rises to a crescendo.

Eurhythmics, however, is much more than music – there is the dance element which must play a large part. What better way of relieving stress in the examination than to have a five minute half time break where boys and girls can dance unselfconsciously, relieve tension and prepare themselves mentally for the rigors of the second half of the paper. Parents and children could even try this at home!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Online Eleven Plus Lessons

Etc’s on line tutoring was developed out of an actual demand from parents. Every week calls and messages come in from parents wanting extra tuition for their children. Our traditional method of teaching found itself unable to supply the demand.

Some years ago we asked two psychologists to look at the outcomes of traditional standardised tests. We wanted the tests to tell us where children were up to – and their possible potential. The psychologists then linked up with our teachers to select exercises from the National Curriculum that would help children to do better at school in their work. As a result of this investment our computer program called ACTION took the results of standardised tests and wrote a prescription or an ACTION PLAN.

Technology has gifted us the means to be able to offer individual and group lessons over the internet. We are able to deliver lessons to children any where in the country.

We use our involvement in Investors in People to help our teachers and their assistants to understand and use our well tried and carefully developed lessons. The results of the lessons are measurable.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Innovation in the Eleven Plus

Do parents need ultra conservative eleven plus teachers or ones who a perpetually enthusiastic about new methods and ways of teaching eleven plus topics? Is there a middle road? In any eleven plus group of teachers there will be those who have seen it all before and may try to resist any dilution of the eleven plus syllabus. There will also be those who would welcome change and a break from tradition.

Way back in the mists of educational history (around 1962) the authority of teachers used to be firmly established in the classroom. Teachers taught classes in rows. There was often a formal divide between teachers and their pupils.

Of course there were teachers who asked for quiet – meaning `keep the noise down’.

There were also teachers who pleaded for their classes to get on with their work – meaning `look as if you are working’.

Changes, however, came to schools and to teaching and learning with a widespread introduction of group work. Relationships between some teachers and their pupils had to become less formal.

Eleven plus teaching, however, is traditionally offered on a one to one basis. Recently, however, I was invited to visit a group in a town where around twenty children were taught by one teacher. The eleven plus children sat in rows. The teacher went through a paper question by question – allowing each child to answer in turn. There was no attempt at all for individual differences or ability levels. The group, however, were quiet, extremely well behaved, and spoke only on invitation. The teacher was teaching in the manner she had been taught, many years before.

We have introducing on line teaching where a teacher teaches in a roundly traditional manner – but the introduction of on line white boards, speech, communication, chat rooms and interaction between pupils using and wearing headphones and microphones adds an innovative and exciting dimension to the eleven plus.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eleven Plus Opportunities

For years we have teaching thousands of children on an individualised basis. Over this past year we have added group teaching into our developing online environment. A well disciplined and carefully structured class must counter to some extent anxiety from parents that their child will be able to obtain a good lesson.

We have been fascinated by the social interaction between the children from so many different backgrounds within the online lessons. Interaction between children is spontaneous – and allows for the personal preferences of the children. Some, for example, choose to switch their microphones off at times so that the teacher will not call on them – but the same children are happy to write or type their answers or replies on the screen.

Of course there are opportunities for children to have one to one lessons with on line teachers.

The advantage of general online lessons is that the lessons are in the familiar surroundings of the child’s home. A further advantage is that the children are using modern technology over the internet. For an elite number of children this is a far cry from a teacher arriving with a basket of books.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

More Eleven Plus Haste, less Eleven Plus Speed

Thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts today. This is a simply a plea to any eleven plus boys and girls who have been given eleven plus papers or exercises - just say no thanks, perhaps later on?

There is possibly a rather slight connection between the eleven plus and poetry. The eleven plus is taken by many – but comparatively few pass. Many children and adults will read novels – but few will read poetry. Poetry can be considered as a waste of time by some, or as a luxury by others.

If only there was a place for poetry in some parts of the eleven plus examination. This may encourage some children to think clearly, and to become, possibly, a little more involved in literature.

I sometimes think of Marcus when watching some children work through some types of eleven plus question.

A Record!

Marcus, the world’s worst runner, ran so slow
He finished seventh in a race for six. How so?
Among the crowd a friend came out to greet him;
Running along with Marcus, lo – he beat him!

(Translated by Michael Lewis.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

The Eleven Plus examination is a serious business for some parents and children. The attitude of the children to the examination may sometimes mirror that of the parents – but on other occasions parents may wonder; “It that really my child?” or “Where did that come from?”

Do more eleven plus boys revere achievement more highly than girls?

Do eleven plus girls value qualities of personal relationships than boys?

It could be interesting to ask eleven plus children to put into order the following list of ten attributes they would like their parents to aspire to:

Being a good cook
Not given to nagging
Good manners
The ability to pass the eleven plus
Willingness to help at home
A sense of humour.

Out of this list may come a realisation, from some parents, that there could be a need to re-evaluate their attitude, at times, towards their children. It would be very hard for some parents to understand, for example, why some very able eleven plus children set their sights too low – and work below the level of their capability. A wide number of eleven plus children may want their parents to accept their deficiencies as well as their obvious strengths.

What would children prefer?

Parents who demonstrate respect for strengths and weaknesses

Parents who want their children to demonstrate ambition to pass

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eleven Plus Consequences

This is a little offering to any eleven plus children railing against the iniquity of having to work over the Christmas break. The great majority of eleven plus children will have the intellect of twelve and thirteen year olds – but the emotional stability of ten year olds. Their arguments, therefore, sometimes may appear to fail to have a fulsome resonance.

D.H. Lawrence (1885 to 1930) had a way with words – he sometimes wrote on rather earthy – and worthy – subjects. He did, once, write a few lines about `Work’.

There is no point in work
Unless it absorbs you
Like an absorbing game.

If it doesn’t absorb you
If it’s never any fun,
Don’t do it.

Perhaps some kind parents may be inclined to read these words to their aspiring candidate but beware the consequences. They could come back to bite you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Predictions

Eleven plus teachers and tutors are often asked to predict how well they think a child will do in the eleven plus. There are many factors that affect eleven plus success – brains, ability, endurance, good teaching, forbearance, parental input and dedication are just some of the influences.

Back in 1956 a Californian paint manufacturer, Jack Swimmer, wrote down his predictions of the votes that would be cast for Eisenhower.

Los Angles 1 218 462
California 2 875 637
Whole Country 33 974 241

He also wrote a cheque for $5000 and deposited both documents with a charity commissioner clerk. The paper work was put into a wooden box and left in the sheriff’s safe.

After the election newspaper men were called to the sheriff’s office – and the paper was taken out. Swimmer’s perditions were accurate – down to the last digit. He gave the money to charity.

It would be an interesting fund if eleven plus teachers were expected to lay out some of their own money to back up any predictions. Any teacher who said: “It will be all right on the day!” will need to add an extra $1000. Parents could ask the eleven plus teachers to write down the predicted scores. Any major deviation could cost money!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eleven Plus Aptitude

Eleven plus parents, and their children, need to recall the grand work done by Johnson O’Connor of the Human Engineering Laboratory in Hoboken New Jersey.

He devised a Wiggly Block Test with which he measured ability to visualise in three dimensions. There were nine pieces of wood with wavy sides. When properly fitted together they formed a solid rectangular block.

O’Connor reported that of 4000 men taking his test, 82% of the engineers scored better than the midpoint of the whole group. In other words men who were able to complete the Wiggly Block Test showed ability that was important to mechanical and engineering work.

Now is the time for enterprise. It looks as if remarkably few sets of Wiggly Blocks will be available this Christmas. Even if the blocks could be bought online, delivery is likely to be difficult because of the snow.

Many mothers and fathers will have used the pencil on a string test to determine the sex of their baby eleven plus candidate. Perhaps parents could also wave wiggly blocks over the head of the unborn child to see if he or she is going to become an engineer. In years to come prospective university engineering candidates could state on their UCCA forms that their sex had been determined by a pencil, and their mechanical aptitude by wiggly blocks. This would obviate the need for an aspiring engineering candidate to pass as many A* A Levels as is currently required.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Eleven Plus and `It'

It was fortunate that we could catch the Eurostar train.

This can be expressed as:

That we could catch Eurostar train was fortunate.

`That we could catch the Eurostar train’ is a noun clause.

`That we could catch the Eurostar train’ is a noun clause in apposition to it.

This type of analysis of a sentence used to be considered as good old fashioned teaching. At the moment there is no place for an exercise like this in the eleven plus. The teaching of formal grammar – and the testing of grammar in formal examinations - seems to have disappeared. Some parents must hope that once their children are in grammar schools they will be taught at least the parts of speech.

Learning the implication of taking the word `it’ out of a sentence will be intensely satisfying to some. Others will consider this exercise as a complete waste of time. A sentence can be considered as a group of words that make sense. Is it more sensible to say?

It was fortunate that we could catch the Eurostar train.

Or should we say?

That we could catch Eurostar train was fortunate.

Does it really matter?

Eleven plus children need the able to speak and write sentences that make sense. Some very bright children may, however, enjoy the challenge of learning grammar along with being tested by a multitude of multiple choice questions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eleven Plus Countdown

There are only a few days left to Christmas. As we count off the days we owe a lot to the Northern men and women who offered so much to our language.

Tuesday is Tys dag, the day of Tyr. (Tyr was the God of War!)

Wednesday is Wodnes daeg, the day of Woden or Odin. (Odin was the Supreme God.)

Thursday is Dures daeg, the day of Thor. (Thor was the God of Thunder.)

Friday is Frige daeg – Frigg’s day. (Frige was the Mother of the Gods and the wife of Odin.)

In years to come how will some people look back on the Eleven Plus?

History, in the hands of some, may record the examination as an exercise designed to filter bright children into academic schools.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Snow

There has been heavy, widespread snow today. It is possible that some eleven plus children, and their families, may have had to stay in doors. At one time or another there may have been a little tension between the children. There is a phrase: “stir crazy” that comes to mind.

You could read your children part of a little poem by W. H. Davies 1891 – 1940 who lived for six years as a tramp in the United States.

To Sparrows Fighting

Stop, feathered bullies!
Peace angry birds;
You common Sparrows that,
For a few words,
Roll fighting in wet mud,
To shed each other’s blood.

You could ask your children to substitute appropriate words relevant to today’s conditions. May the best wordsmith win!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eleven Plus Calories

We are told that an adult male needs about three thousand calories a day. A boy aged from thirteen to sixteen needs about two hundred more. During the later teens the daily need rises to about three thousand eight hundred.

The average amount an average female needs is around two thousand five hundred, after which girls need about two thousand eight hundred from thirteen to sixteen – after which the amount, apparently, declines rather slowly.

How many calories does an eleven plus child need?

Surely it would be invaluable if some enterprising mum or dad, who attends one of the major slimming concerns, developed a scheme to monitor the calories of their eleven plus child.

We see some children attending our three days courses who bring `wholesome’ looking food. Other children bring chocolate, biscuits and crisps. This may be rather slim evidence on which to base a premise. It may need a controlled study to investigate the dietary needs of growing, academic eleven plus children.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Eleven Plus Preference

Do you remember the section in Portrait of an Artist where Stephen Dedalus, half blind after his glasses had been broken, faced Father Dolan the prefect of the studies?

“Lazy idle little loafer! Broke my glasses! An old schoolboy trick! Out with your hand this moment!”

Stephen closed his eyes and held out in the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards.

The last we we want our eleven plus children to associate studying with is the fear of punishment, cruelty, pain and hate. We would much prefer eleven plus children to be full of wonder, excitement, ambition and diligence.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Attitudes

If your child achieved a high mark on a reputable eleven plus paper you may, possibly, want to celebrate. You may want to congratulate your child using effusive terms.

“Oh, my dear! Well done. I am so proud of you. You have done much better that I ever expected. Keep it up, dear!”

There would, of course, be some parents who would say, “Well next time don’t make so many mistakes. Think before you answer. I want to see 100%. Nothing less will satisfy me.”

Other parents would offer a quick hug, send the children to bed, phone a few friends and settle down to serious celebration. The thought of a little wine may lubricate the thought patterns!

A Magnum holds two bottle of wine.

The Jereboam holds about four bottles.

The Methuselah holds eight bottles.

The Nebuchadnezzar is about 15 litres or around twenty bottles.

You would need to choose your friends accordingly. With two further couples you, and your friends, would make a serious dent into any or all of the wine on offer.

If the evening was successful you would then need to choose which approach to offer to your child. Should you suggest that because your child did so well you would be prepared to offer a further reward if he or she could emulate or better the previous result. Would it be better, however, to warn your child that there would be trouble if the previous result was not improved?

You and your friends could then debate which approach would motivate an eleven plus child?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eleven Plus Fear

A bit of research that comes to mind when watching some eleven plus children learning is the work done, some years ago, on paratrooper trainees. Most of us will have seen pictures of trainees jumping from a 34 foot tower – where the trainee falls about eight feet before the harness engages.

The trainees were asked, on a ten point scale, to rate the amount of fear they felt before jumping from the tower. The average group rating was six before the first jump, and then gradually declined over the next six jumps. The average fear rating was three by the seventh jump.

Would a similar pattern follow in the world of the eleven plus? Give a group of eleven plus parents a paper for their children to work through. Ask the parents to rate their fear about how well their child will do on the paper.

It is likely that the fear will reduce as the eleven plus children work through the papers. The fear may never quite go away – but it will reduce.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eleven Plus Spelling

Your bright, astute and worldly eleven plus child possibly started off making random scribbles or letter like marks. Sometimes this `work’ may have looked like letters or parts of words. Then gradually a connection was made between the sounds of a word and the letters that represent the word. And so spelling developed.

Very few eleven plus exercises require good spelling but many verbal reasoning exercises require a child to be able to analyse a word – leading to the need for a good vocabulary, sound syllabication skills and strong powers of comprehension.

Some bright children go on to invent their own spelling of words. This can happen even with their own names – especially with some rather tricky sounding surnames. As the children grow more proficient with their spelling more and more children will be able to spell in a phonologically plausible manner. Some children may become very proficient at applying phonic skills to their spelling – but then have difficulty with the order of letters within a word. The dreaded CVC words often cause problems – these are the regularly spelled words made up of a consonant, a vowel and a consonant.

An eleven plus child writing a b for a d is not necessarily dyslexic but may have elements of limited short term visual memory. This could lead to a need for a full investigation – but in some cases there is no need for concern as the problem could, possibly, be residual.

Some eleven plus children may occasionally write letters in the wrong order. This could be to do with difficulty with sequencing, or to do with problems with holding the order of letters within the head.

Spelling is also to do with consonant digraphs (pairs of letters), vowel digraphs, prefixes, suffixes and irregular words.

Then there are the spelling rules. Hope becomes hoped. Hop becomes hopped. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelt differently. Apostrophes can also cause confusion.

Naturally some eleven plus children will work their way through the examination without making many spelling mistakes and nearly always being able to analyse a word. They are the lucky ones.

Some eleven plus parents will help their children to maintain lists of words that are likely to be met on verbal reasoning papers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Luck

Do examinations ever get easier?

My 1957 Edition of Diagnosis and Remedial Teaching in Arithmetic by Schonell (Chapter 3) describes the effect of research into curricula and methods and `enlightened’ class room practice.

First Year Addition and subtraction to 10
First year A preparatory year – no formal requirements

Second Year Addition and Subtraction to 99
Addition and Subtraction to 10

Third Year Addition and subtraction to 999, Multiplication and Division to numbers 6
Addition and Subtraction to 99. No Multiplication and Division

These changes to the syllabus occurred around the time the eleven plus was being developed. It was felt then, for example, that long division by two figures required a mental age of 12.

It was also felt that lightening the syllabus did not mean a decline in standards. (Not much change today!)

One important element of the changes was the insistence that `telling’ rules and letting child apply them blindly should be superseded by more use of deductive methods. “Children should see relationships and discover rules for themselves.” (Page 41).

There would need to be big changes in the materials and the curriculum of today’s eleven plus to allow time for seeing relationships and discovering rules. The books with page after page of similar but different verbal reasoning questions would have to give way to materials that encouraged reasoning – and discouraged the effect of drill and repetitive practice. There may not be much appetite for this by all and there may be a reluctance to embrace change.

Think of bright eyed and bush tailed children entering a competitive examination eager to pit their wits and demonstrate aptitude and ability!

Lucky children.

Lucky tutors.

Lucky parents.

Lucky grammar schools!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Predicting Eleven Plus Success

Is there any truth in some of the sayings or `wise tales’ of yester year?

Premise One
The oldest child acts the role of the responsible one. This is the child who takes life seriously and tends to boss others around.

Premise Two
The second child takes on a role of being sociable and well liked.

Premise Three
The other members of the family take on a variety of roles – often it hard to predict.

If any of these predictions are true, and only any can be true, then would it be easier to forecast who will pass the eleven plus?

Some children are remarkably adept at maintaining two sets of rules. One set for home – and another when they are away from home. An example of this often occurs with language where a child will naturally use a set of formal grammar that has no place in the child’s vocabulary while away from the home.

Parents sometimes find that their child will work happily through an eleven plus paper – if the paper is set by the teacher. “Oh yes, Mrs Brown. Of course I will complete the paper. Thank you.”

“Oh, Dad. I hate papers. I don’t want to do one. So there.”

If the original premise is correct, is it easier to encourage a first born to complete a paper than any other sibling in the family?

Would a second born complete a paper just to make you happy – in a selfless and engaging manner?

Would the third born react in an unpredictable manner if asked to complete a paper?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Eleven Plus Failure

Children react to failure in many different ways – but then the word failure can mean many different things.

Eleven Plus failure can mean the end of a dream, but failure to finish a practice paper can, sometimes, be brushed away. Failing to put dirty washing away is something very different. (Even worse?)

Children will sometimes react to failure with anger.

On other occasions the child will demonstrate denial.

Sometimes the words: “I don’t care!” will be forced out between clenched teeth.

At one time or another many of us will have read the book about Pollyanna. She was a character who always looked on the bright side of things. If something went wrong she would always try to find something to be glad about. There was little room for grumpiness in her life.

Somewhere in between are the children (and adults) who try to use comedy to diffuse the sense of failure. Of course this will work sometimes – but fall flat on others.

Many of us, children included, do our best to forget about failure as soon as possible.

Of course we all hear about other people who try to pass the responsibility for failure onto some one else.

“It was not me, Gov. It was the system.”

“I don’t even like cookies. I hate them, anyway.”

“I can’t stand the grammar school. I did not want to go there, anyway.”

One of the easiest ways of escaping from failure is to try to attain the goal through fantasy. Lots of children, and adults, indulge in make believe. Make believe is a very normal side of a child’s development.

Eleven plus children will experience different types of failure along the way. The children, and their parents, will react to the failure in different ways. It is likely, however, that the most common response from a parent will be along the lines:

“Just do your best.”

“I am sure you did your best.”

“I know you, I am sure you will do your best.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Eleven Plus Tantrums and Hysteria

It is unlikely to happen in any well ordered and stable eleven plus home – but faint symptoms may, very occasionally, become evident under duress. This is the plain and simple tantrum or hysterical outburst. A tantrum is easy to look at with interest as it is no more than a childish outburst of anger or frustration. Signs of hysteria are, however, possible a little more complex. Hysteria is sometimes thought to be psychological conflict being converted into a physical symptom.

If your two year old lies down in the middle of a supermarket and yells for a particularly delicious sweet then you have a range of options.

1. Give In
2. Swear to yourself that you will never ever take the little one shopping again.
3. Take the trolley and run, leaving your child to be comforted by someone else.
4. Resort to …..

If your nine year old lies down in the middle of a large bookshop and yells for more eleven plus papers then you also have a range of options.

1. Give in and allow your child to buy the papers.
2. Think seriously about your child’s attitude to the examination
3. Ask yourself – am I doing the right thing?
4. Say, sharply, “Stop being hysterical. Get off the floor and behave yourself.”

There may even be some parents who would love, at times, to lie down in the middle of a busy supermarket and bang their heels against the floor and wail loudly. Their children could then offer:

1. Oh dear. Mum is at it again.
2. No, you don’t need to worry, when she does this at home we just offer her a banana.
3. Oh come on mum. If you can’t do those verbal reasoning questions, it does not matter. Samuel’s mother can. Just ask her.
4. Mum. The eleven plus is some months away. Grow up. There may be no need for tears. I may pass.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

One Thousand Five Hundred Eleven Plus Posts

A traditional way of changing the content of the eleven plus would be to set up a working party. The chair person would write the equivalent of a White Paper – outlining the present position, future needs and a list of recommendations.

When it came to look at the future of the eleven plus the paper would possibly need to contain at least:

Materials Needed
Teacher Education
Presentation to the public.

The aims and objectives of any proposed eleven plus changes would need to include the assumption that any changes in the eleven plus would occur through evolution rather than revolution.

The materials that the eleven plus children work off would have to reflect the needs of the present grammar schools. Making changes to the eleven plus would be a waste of time unless the grammar schools explained what they wanted as outcomes to the test. Specialist mathematics and science orientated grammar schools, for example, may prefer to select boys and girls who demonstrated more than precocious verbal talent..

The reality of making any changes to the eleven plus must take into account that there needs to be considerable interaction and discussion between schools, parents and examiners. Changes to materials, for example, would involve continual evaluation so that materials were suitable and effective.

It may be true to argue that it would be highly desirable that the eleven plus curriculum remained in a state of flux. This can not happen in today’s eleven plus system not true as some items are remarkably similar to questions asked fifty years ago.

What would parents want if they were consulted? Would most parents be happy to continue with the present system – or would they like to be presented with alternatives? Would parents feel that they are qualified to vote on what they would like in the eleven plus?

Some parents may feel that it is not desirable to press for changes because this could set off a pattern of depth charges that could rock the whole fabric of the eleven plus. “Better the devil you know!” and “Not in my backyard!” Other parents may, however, relish the idea of taking on a system founded many years ago where some bright children, for one reason or another, lost out on the chance of an eleven plus place.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Eleven Plus Family

Elements of the eleven plus are to do with `functional autonomy’. If your child works through a paper in an autonomic manner you hope you know that he or she is working with due thought. Elements of functional autonomy, however, are to do with resisting change to habits. Quite plainly if the eleven plus child is left to work though paper after paper then he or she may enter the actual examination and work through the paper without much thought or ambition.

As adults we often resist attempts to change our behaviour. An example is expecting an eleven plus child to complete question after question in the hope that this extra practice will build habits to be exhibited in the examination.

Some parents may possibly expect their child to approach every paper enthusiastically and diligently – and not want to take on board that their child may `really and truly’ not be in the mood.

There will be some parents who feel that a one to one session with a tutor is the only way to work towards the eleven plus. Other parents will prefer to work on their own with their child. Yet other parents believe that their child will work best if he or she is with other children working towards similar goals. Some will combine these elements and add their own insight into their child.

There is a lot to be said for the elements of social facilitation – or esprit de corps – which has carried a wide number of people through a broad variety of events. We know, for example, that teams that bond together are often able to go on to reach great heights.

Most parents will be able to recall eleven plus sessions where the family came together to solve an eleven plus problem. It may have been a tricky verbal reasoning question, or a non verbal reasoning where it looked as if the answer book was wrong – or even a problem in mathematics that no one could solve. These special moments add to the great eleven plus recipe. There can be little place for autonomy in a true eleven plus family!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Eleven Plus Regionalisation

When we catch unexpected glimpses of performers on shows like the X Factor it is always interesting to observe why they lose their accents when they sing. We do know, however, that when we are singing we use our voice tract in a different way from when we speak.

It is always extraordinary how a perfectly ordinary girl from a good background, having worked in a supermarket for two years, and has never been further than Blackpool from her home, is able to sing with a mid American accent. Not only is the accent true, and the words word perfect, and she has the ability to hold the top note for two quavers, but she can also smile, dance and keep eye contact with the camera.

When singing the mouth and the pharynx are held open and wider for improved resonance and amplification. The nasal squeak of some confirmed country and western singers is possibly harder to achieve. How can someone who has never been to Nashville sing convincingly? Part of the explanation is when singing in a karaoke style a singer has to follow predetermined rises and fall in the music. Most of us will remember our music teacher praying for` assonance and more assonance’

Some dialects allow for a rise at the end of sentence. Some accents are remarkably positioned a long way from received English. On the BBC regionalisation has long been a buzz word.

Some eleven plus parents must wonder, sometimes, how the paper they bought is going to help in the specialised eleven plus examination their child will sit. The proliferation of papers and online tests and exercises offer lots of choice, but little real information, about the paper’s efficacy and reliability.

Is there a need for eleven plus papers to be regionalised? In some ways yes but the papers are trying to excite and stimulate parts of the brain. An exercise on similar meanings is almost the same in any region or county. All a parent can hope is that just as the mouth and the pharynx must combine to produce melody and tune so parents hope that eleven plus papers will produce correct answers in the examination.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Appoggiatura and the Eleven Plus

All the eleven plus parents, and their eleven plus children, who have studied music, are fully aware of the importance of `appoggiaturas’. This means a leaning towards and refers to a note which resolved to a weaker beat. As a general rule it moves to the next note above or below when it resolves.

All those mother and fathers who have been paying due attention, and those eleven plus children who have listened with great attention will be able to equate this to rounding. (Remember five and upwards – round up. Four and below and you need to round down.)

The general rule for the length of an appoggiatura is that it takes half the value of the following note if it is duple and two thirds if it is a triple. I know that words like `duple’ will trip off the tongue of every eleven plus parent – but they will not be used all that often on the X Factor.

An appoggiatura needs to be played with conviction – because you don’t want it to distort the underlying melody.

By now you will be wondering the significance of the appoggiatura to the eleven plus. Very often it can be discerned in the voice of a child crying: “Oh Mum! Do I really have to do this now?” Where would you put the stress? Does it go on the word `Mum” or on the word “really”? Where could the notes slide together to give greater impact?

Seriously though, some eleven plus questions appear to be so abstruse and unconvincing that it must be like learning a bunch of esoteric terms for some children.

I like to return to my 1963 copy of `Essential of Verbal Reasoning’ by O.B. Gregory. Exercise 92 on page 51 gives:

If CSZEL means MITRE, what does ZESELCL mean?

We are told that the ability to deconstruct codes is a sign of ability. We know too that once an eleven plus child has been taught the `method’ that it then becomes easier to cope with decoding.

If decoding, however, is in many practice papers then it seems likely that a wide number of eleven plus children will have met and conquered how to cope with different types ao nefarious codes. All the poor examiner can do is to try to make the codes more demanding and place the child under more pressure of time.

As your child enters the playground, on that walk towards the examination, whisper very loudly so that every one can hear. “Remember appoggiatura.” The other children will come running over towards you.

The playground mothers and fathers will lean towards you.

Your best friend will say: “What on earth is appoggiatura?”

You will reply that it is well known eleven plus advice meaning that when a question looks a little hard then it is time to slide onto the next question – or even review, very quickly, the previous question.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Never Ever Land

It looks as if a lot more children will have to return to school on Monday as the snow is receding. Parents, therefore, have the next few hours to prepare their `onwards and upwards’ speeches. The examinations are only a few months away and parents will be anxious that their children do not waste a moment.

Eleven Plus speeches need practice and preparation. An eleven plus speech is different from daily exhortations and nagging. The eleven plus speech has to contain words that will resonate through your child. You can hope that the words will remain in your child’s heart for ever – and that he or she will deliver the self same words, in time, to your future grandchildren.

Work on timing. The speech can not be offered at a most inappropriate time. In is no good delivering the `Pre Christmas Eleven Plus Speech’ just as you child is going outside to play in the melting snow.

Think about your delivery. Are you trying to inspire your child? Are your words of wisdom being entertaining, persuasive or informative? You can’t have it all ways – unless you are a descendant of Winston Churchill.

Make sure your speech has a beginning, middle and an end. It is of little use to offer a rousing beginning only to meander through the middle and end without a punch line.

Try not to dwell on past glories. It is unlikely that your child will be impressed by your past academic successes. At ten years old a child likes deeds not words.

Never ever start with the words: “Now this is just a brief chat.” Your child, being an eleven plus student, will see through your subterfuge. He or she knows that the `brief chat’ will simply go on and on.

Never ever apologise when you are making `The Eleven Plus Speech’. You have nothing to be sorry for. You have fed the child, educated the child and offered every eleven plus help. It is your child who should be apologising to you!

The final `never ever’ must be the comparison with an older sibling. Never Ever!!!!

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Eleven Plus, Yoga, and Belly Dancing

Would some parents think it a close run thing if they had to choose between belly dancing and yoga to reduce stress? By now much of the country will have been affected by the snow – and the proximity of their children. After all there are only so many snowmen or toboggan runs that can be entertained. Eleven plus children living on farms will have had the advantage of being able to take food to the sheep.

The advantage of yoga is that it can help to combat the strains of everyday living – while combining mental and physical fitness. After all if any parents have managed to encourage their children to do two papers a day over the last few days may need some form of formal relaxation. Do you remember the phrase `a purveyor of nostrums’? That is when parents began to question their sanity. Where they look at the intelligence and diligence of their children and wonder if they have been deluding themselves for years. The word `yoga’ means a union of the body and spirit. Yoga could help some with the strains of worry, tension and strain.

Belly dancing, however, seems to combine health giving exercise along with dance exercise. Belly dancing can be considered as an art form – with communication between the dancers and the audience.

In both yoga and belly dancing participants will need to learn movements. In both belly dancing and yoga parents will be able to let their imaginations run riot. Both activities will be good for the body and the soul. After all the fitter the eleven plus parent is, the fitter the parent will be able to cope with their snow bound child.

Suggestion One
Ten eleven plus questions.

Five minutes digging the snow.
Five minutes meditation
Five minutes belly dancing.

Suggestion Two
Give up any thought of eleven plus work.

Ten minutes phoning and texting friends
Ten minutes preparing snacks and drinks
Ten minutes persuading the kids to go to bed.


A prolonged lotus position followed by the dance of the houris.

(Just a suggestion.)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Eleven Plus Record Breakers

The snow is with us. Lessons have been curtailed. The innovative Etc team brings fresh life into the Eleven Plus arena. We are trying a world record attempt on Saturday.

All our Year 5 children have been invited to take part in free eleven plus lessons. This record attempt is by invitation only.

We have sent the following message:

Beat the snow and join our online world record attempt.

Please join us, if you are a current pupil, for our record attempt to host the biggest ever FREE 11 plus online lesson.

You will hear the teacher giving the different mathematics, verbal and nonverbal reasoning lessons. You will be able to write and type on your computer screen and if you have a microphone you will be able to talk to the teacher and your 11 plus classmates.

To see what’s on offer this Saturday and to book onto the free 11 plus lessons simply log onto your Online lesson area.

This exciting Saturday event is brought to you by the Etc team, always striving to make your 11 plus journey as exciting and ground breaking as possible.

Your child’s success is our first prize!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An Eleven Plus Nut

You may care to ask your eleven plus child to explain how a pendulum clock works. He or she will appreciate that a works of a pendulum must be materially differently from those in a digital watch. Ask your child to pay particular attention in his or her answer to the role of nut in adjusting the swing of the pendulum.

Pendulum clocks need to be level in both directions – that is vertically and horizontally. Traditionally one side of the clock can be raised by the insertion of a small wedge. What the clock owner is trying to achieve is a level base – forwards and back – as well as from side to side. An uneven swing of the pendulum will affect the ability of the clock to keep good time.

The sound of the pendulum ticking gives a good guide to proper levelling. The ticks should be even in strength and duration. I am not sure how many `wind up’ watches or clocks are still used today. Many clocks would now be powered by electricity. I suppose that most watches have batteries. My watch does not have a battery – but winds itself through movement.

The pendulum is often regulated by a nut at the bottom of the shaft. Turning the nut in one direction or the other affects the length of the swing. With shorter swings the clock goes faster.

Eleven plus examinations approach families remorselessly. At the start of the journey the date seems to set far ahead. The hours tick by. At one end of the swing of the pendulum parents can feel elation, joy and a sense of purpose. At the other end some parents may question: “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”

Fashions in education seem to come around in large swings. At one time the eleven plus was thought, by some, to be the intellectual and academic saviour of the country. Some years later a great swing against grammar schools took place which curtailed dramatically the number of grammar schools.

The questions you need to pose must cover at least:

What are the highs and lows of an eleven plus pendulum?

Does the eleven plus pendulum move quicker at the top of the swing or at the bottom?

What can your child do to help you maintain a measured and calm approach to the examinations – to avoid pendulum like mood swings of excited anticipation and quiet desperation?

Are short choppy little mood swings preferable to long slow build ups?

All we can be sure of is that progress towards the examination will not be even. Some parents may wish, sometimes, that all they had to do is to adjust a little nut to achieve equanimity and peace of mind.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bruising Eleven Plus Experience

We all probably have a number of names for a game which has rather simple rules.

One child holds out his or her clenched fist. The other, friend or foe, hits the knuckles as hard as he or she can with his or her knuckles.

As the game proceeds the knuckles become more and more bashed and bruised. Neither side can give up. The first one to withdraw is called a baby.

There are a number of names for this game. Some call it `knuckles’, others `knuckleduster’. It is likely that that there are many different names for the same trial of bravery and fortitude.

We worked last year with an extraordinarily bright child. She should have sailed through her eleven plus – but instead she failed her verbal reasoning paper. This is a girl who consistently attained high marks in any of the standardised test we offered – and in all the tests she worked through at school. It is difficult to recall if she ever needed help with any verbal reasoning exercise. She had good comprehension and a broad reading vocabulary.

I had an opportunity to ask her what had gone wrong. With remarkable insight – and some degree of sadness - she explained.

“I was enjoying the paper. I suddenly realised that time was running out. I panicked. I tried working quicker but kept looking at the time. I started guessing. The girl beside me started crying. I could not concentrate. I just guessed.”

As a teacher, and as a tutor, I am sad that this wonderfully articulate and deserving girl is not enjoying the fruits of a grammar school course.

Her parents did not ask for help with an appeal. Unfortunately there was no place in the grammar school for a girl who ran out of time. The children who did pass deserved to pass because they did not run out of time.

The inflexibility of the eleven plus system, however, feels a little at times like the game of knuckles. It is possible, sadly, for bright children to fail the examination. It is possible that some potential scholars leave the eleven plus saga feeling bruised and bashed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eleven Plus Hope

What kind of questions can tell you more about yourself as the parent of an eleven plus child? Are the same questions suitable for your child?

Are you as good, or better, than most people at answering verbal reasoning questions?

Are you usually troubled by feelings of eleven plus guilt?

Do you find yourself apologising if you can not answer an eleven plus question?

Do you sometimes feel that you don’t care if you can’t answer an eleven plus question?

Are you pretty confident about yourself and your role in the eleven plus?

Do you indulge in little superstitious eleven plus rituals? (Like tidying up?)

Would you say that you have a high opinion of yourself?

Are you offended if you are corrected over an eleven plus error?

Do you find it difficult to sit still without fidgeting?

If someone says something nice to you, do you believe them?

There are no answers.

If you score full marks you have a high esteem.

You are obviously a happy and well adjusted eleven plus candidate.

You don’t worry much about the outcome of the examination.

All you can do is hope for the best – and do your best.

Familiar words?

Eleven Plus Bullying 28/11/11

We have been establishing a basis for helping children who are being bullied. Bullying is a highly emotive term – with as many heads as a `Many Headed Hydra.’ You will recall that the Hydra had nine heads and if you cut one off it grew two more.

(The resultant eleven plus question: `How long will it take a Hydra to grow eighteen heads?’ Answers on a post card please to: Etc DA11 0DL. Please mark your post card with: the word Hydra and your answer.)

I can still remember at school a boy from the boarding house dormitory where I was a pupil’ He quite simply had a stutter. He stuttered because he kept repeating words or parts of words. He did not stammer, which is the inability to offer any words. He stuttered. He did not like one of the boarding house masters who took the roll call when we were all lined up waiting to go into the meal. We lined up in rows, starting with the youngest dormitory.

The whole hostel waited with bated breath for the boy’s name to be called. All he had to say was `present’. When the master (Mr Geoff) read his name he started to stammer. Mr Geoff made the entire hostel wait until the boy had said the full word. We wanted our food. Mr Geoff wanted vengeance. He wanted power. Sometimes we waited in silence. Sometimes someone tried to help by answering on the boy’s behalf.

The saving grace for this boy was the undoubted ability and ferociousness he displayed on the rugby field. He would tackle anything and anyone. The boys in the hostel respected him for this bravery and courage. Most were tolerant and supportive – especially during the rugby season.

Sometimes a very bright eleven plus child may experience bullying from less able children. Bullying does not have to be physical – mental bullying can be worse!

“Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Eleven Plus Wars 27/11/11

When the builders of the early eleven plus questions were developing their tests (back in the early fifties) some may have been relying heavily on the collected thoughts of Professor E.L. Thorndike. He felt that intelligence was demonstrated in different ways. He postulated mechanical intelligence, social intelligence and abstract intelligence. By mechanical intelligence he meant the ability of a person to work with machines, tools and gadgets. He distinguished social intelligence as being to do with understanding people. Of course abstract intelligence needed to be able to include verbal and non verbal reasoning.

Some eleven plus questions seem to cut across all three disciplines.

“You need to be able to measure exactly four litres from an open hundred litre drum.

All you have is two cans.

Can 1 – 3 litre
Can 2 – 5 litre.

How can you measure the four litres swiftly and accurately?”

At some stage in the eleven plus process your child should be able to answer this question reasonably happily. If a question like this demands high class abstract reasoning skills – how come some adult swill have to be able to think twice to be able to solve the problem?
A mechanically minded adult may build a picture of the cans and be able to visualise the process. A socially minded person may use words and ideas and have the ability to communicate with others about how to solve the problem. The adult with strong abstract skills may be able to reason the problem but not explain it easily and lucidly.

War breaks out in the home. Mum and dad are both highly intelligent people. Their eleven plus child is possibly even brighter.

Each member of the family may see the solution in different ways – and try to explain it in their own words. The end result could be the eleven plus child is simply hoping that mum and dad will just move on. After all it is just an eleven plus question – and certainly not worthy of protracted war.

Eleven Plus Responses 26/11/11

Your pre-eleven plus child is now thinking about grammar school.

Something pops into your mind. You ask your eleven plus child the question:

“Have you learnt how to knot your tie without looking in the mirror?

(You have the feeling that boys and girls, in Year 7, at the local grammar school, need to wear ties. As a parent you sometimes may worry about the ability of your child to `fit in’.)

When you ask your child this question, you are really asking three questions:

1. Has your child solved the problem?
2. Has your child committed the steps to memory?
3. Can he or she actually perform the task?

If your child answers with a monosyllabic, and entirely unwarranted, `Yes’, then you can take the answer many ways.

(You could, as a last resort, ask for more detail on any of the points.)

“Yes, I have solved the problem. I can tie my tie.

“Yes, I can remember how to tie my tie.

“Yes, I can tie my tie? Would you like me to demonstrate it?”

We can take this a little bit further.

“How you completed your eleven plus task today?”

“Yes I have.”

“Yes I have done the verbal reasoning task – but nothing else.”

“Yes I did finish the whole paper in just fifty minutes. I am pleased with my mark as it was higher than yesterday,”

Parents may, sometimes, have to read a lot into the responses of their eleven plus candidate.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Newton, Archimedes and the Eleven Plus

History has shown up many able men and women over the years. I like the stories of three men in particular. We will all have heroes at some time or another in our lives – but the choice of the best three must change from time to time. Today I put three names forward:

Newton – he had his apple.

Archimedes –when he leapt out of tub.

Eratosthenes – and the circumference of the earth.

At one time or another they each demonstrated insight and understanding.

Insight and understanding are naturally vitally important in any eleven plus examination. These three men must also have shown elements of originality. Perhaps the eleven plus examination would be more exciting to some children if they were challenged to think originally.

One test that is used to look at originality is that of `Unusual Uses’. An example could be: “What uses can you put a verbal reasoning paper to?”

A second form of originality could be providing a list of words to the eleven plus candidate and asking him or her to build a story out of the words.

There may be some children who will benefit from a section of the examination where marks can be gained for being able to demonstrate that he or she can think originally.

There must be some Grammar schools who would be proud to know that a past pupil of theirs had gone on to be as well known in the world as Newton or Archimedes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Factors Affecting Eleven Plus Success

Consider a typical family with two children. One child is a smart eleven plus candidate. The other child is simply different. They both come from the same home. They have the same parents. Why are they different?

I used to read about Gregor Mendel who worked for eight years on varieties of garden peas. This led him to determine the `Mendelian Lays of Inheritance’. He crossbred and inbred varieties of peas. His preoccupation was with pairs of contrasting traits.

He crossed tall peas with short peas.

He crossed wrinkled peas with smooth peas.

He crossed peas with red flowers with peas with yellow flowers.

He crossed green seeds with yellow seeds.

Parents of eleven plus children do not generally have the same opportunity to make a wide number of cross choices when they are considering having their own children. Should a short dad cross with a tall mum? Could a wrinkled dad cross with a smooth mum? Could a dad who preferred red flowers cross with a mum who preferred yellow flowers? All these crosses would have to be made with the sole intention of developing a smart eleven plus child. There could be problems!

Mendel noted certain traits were passed on without alteration. Other traits showed dominance. He crossed, for example tall peas with short peas. The first generation of pea plants all grew to be tall. The peas were then encouraged to self generate. Mendel found that typically there now three tall peas – but one dwarf variety. Being tall thus became a dominant trait while being small was of a recessive nature.

Of course some blending of traits will occur in offspring. We can only presume that the mother of a true eleven plus candidate will be bright. We must presume too that the mother would look for a father capable of producing an eleven plus child. (Unless he had a beautiful body!)

There are many factors affecting the development of an eleven plus child. Inheriting certain traits may or may not play a significant part. If the mother’s brothers were, for example, bald – then it is not likely that the possibility of baldness on the mother’s side would affect future eleven plus performance.

The study of the application of knowledge of heredity is called `eugenics’.

Perhaps some parents may feel that they have to check to see if their prospective partner is eugenically eleven plus enabled. This would encourage the scientific selection of eleven plus candidates.

I pity the poor child if the parents went to such lengths!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cats, Dogs and the Eleven Plus

Would it be true to say that eleven plus children, who pass the examination, are more intelligent than children who do not?

Would it be far more likely to say that children who pass the eleven plus examination are better than other children at working on eleven plus questions?

Is it basic intelligence that creates the opportunity for a child to pass or is it the ability to read and answer eleven plus questions? Is it a combination? Does it help if your child is a friendly and sociable?

There is a wonderful article in today’s Daily Telegraph entitled: `Dogs are smarter than cats’.

The premise of the argument is that dogs are cleverer than cats because their friendly character has helped them to develop bigger brains.

The researchers from Oxford University discovered that cat’s brains are smaller because they are less social.

We all know that a successful eleven plus child needs to be intelligent – and be able to work on examination papers. Parents, however, may need to consider the size of their child’s brains! This transformation of the brain will not be achieved by sending the child to a tutor. The transformation of the brain will take place through social networking.

Brain Stretching Step 1

Immediately purchase a phone with the ability to send and receive unlimited texts.

Brain Stretching Step 2

Upgrade your child’s personal computer. Encourage and develop the ability to use the social networking sites:

On no account use sites you may be interested in:
Face Book
Microsoft Messenger

Go for the ones suggested in a Times article in 2009.

(At this stage I have to confess I have never heard of most of these sites. My only concern is trying to help your child develop a larger and more effective brain!)

The first two were: (28 million users) (76 million users)

It looks as if a family can increase their eleven plus opportunities through the parents hitting Twitter and Facebook and the children Clubpenguin and Poptropica.

Send your cats to live with the nearest maiden aunt. Get hold of a pack of dogs in the interest of increased sociability.

I’m off to buy shares in a dog food company!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Boredom

What does your eleven plus child mean when he or she complains of boredom?

Is it a continual need for adventure and new experiences? Does boredom mean that the child feels caught up in a series of static or repetitive situation? Bright children are able to explain that they are bored at a remarkably young age. Place a clever ten year old in the back of a car. Stop unexpectedly in a traffic jam. Count backwards in Russian from five and you will hear the familiar whine: “I’m bored.”

Adults can work their way through boredom by bringing work home, DIY, reading papers, walking the dog, T.V., radio, hobbies and a hidden still at the bottom of the garden. Some children, a few children, just need to have money spent on them.

At bright ten year old should be at the peak of his or her powers of investigation. Eleven Plus children should be arguing, discussing and demonstrating a wide range of interests.

Can parents present a case to their child that it tends to be the apathetic who complain about being bored? Surely the child should have known what a potentially long journey entails? Who should have provided the extra books to read, puzzles to play with and as wide a range of electronic games as possible? Should a mother put them in a car for their intelligent ten year old? Should dad plan and provide the in-car entertainment? Should it be the responsibility of the child?

Is the grind of eleven plus papers to blame for occasional boredom creeping into the eleven plus year? Are papers and exercises too similar?

In the examination we want our candidate to be daring, imaginative and thoughtful. We want persistence and independence. It could be argued that a child with at least some of these characteristics will seldom be bored.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Eleven Plus Project

Some parents may feel a strong desire to direct their thoughts towards making the eleven plus journey into a project. After all projects have been used in education for many years. Projects also have a role to play in adult life. So why not establish the `Eleven Plus Project’?

The term was used by Kilpatrick in the spring of 1918. He felt that a project needed to be a purposeful activity. He also argued that there was a strong element of a `social environment’ within a project. He hoped for sharpened intellectual acumen and enhanced moral judgement.

What Kilpatrick was on about was the way that reading, spelling, mathematics and English were all taught as separate entities and that there was a need to combine the activities.

This would mean children studying in the `Project Eleven Plus’ manner working on mathematics and English as well as verbal and non verbal reasoning papers – but not as four separate subjects but as a wholly integrated unit.

Grammar schools would need to understand that the extent of net that an integrated Eleven Plus syllabus would cast. After all it is possible that a different type of intellect would be exposed. Eleven plus tutors would need to teach methods of investigation and analysis rather than how to answer preset types of examination question. (Which word is opposite?) It would be far more difficult to set the eleven plus syllabus in advance. It may even be much more difficult for major publishers and players in the eleven plus market to set the agenda.

Of course a new curriculum would appear very swiftly. Publishers and examining bodies would quickly organise the subjects into some form of structure. Chapters would appear. Spin off would spin off. The whole excitement over a new form of the eleven plus would swiftly dissipate.

There is a chance, however, that a small number of children would be able to benefit from a grammar school education even if they did not know how to cope with analogies and codes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eleven Plus Technology

We have been conducting on line lessons for some months. The lessons need a headset and a microphone – other wise it is hard for the child to communicate over the internet. Who should set the computer up – the male or the female member of the family? Should it be a joint effort? Who should buy the headphones? Who decides which headset to buy? How much should the family spend? Should the family spend £60.00 on the best possible head set or £13.00 on one which works just as well?

The following statement does not follow definitive research – and is largely unsubstantiated – but we have found many women (mothers) making the buying decisions. Of course this naturally leads to who should install and test the equipment.

A wonderful website called `Women in Technology’ has an article about women making better bosses.

38% of people think that women make better bosses.
29% of people think that men make better bosses.
33% think that gender is unimportant.

Would it be possible to extrapolate the thinking behind the research into who would be best to buy and install the equipment?

What percentage think that mum should purchase and install?

What percentage think that dad should purchase and install?

What percentage of children think that it does not really matter so long as it is working?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Collecting Eleven Plus Knowledge

Some parents will be able to predict remarkably accurately their eleven plus child’s capacity to learn and understand. Parents know, almost instinctively, where their child stands – and is usually able to predict how easily he or she will cope with eleven plus work.

`List maker’ parents will fairly quickly be able to draw up a list of work that needs to be done and work where attention is needed. The further into eleven plus work the more likely the candidate is able to assimilate and learn new processes. An example that can be used to explain this to your child is to retell a story.

A lonely man is a castaway in a small boat on the sea. He is running out of food and water. He has only dried fish to chew on. His water is down to almost the last cup. He sees a rain squall approaching on the horizon. The man makes a plan! He has to think quickly!

He wants to collect water. Should he use his mug to try to catch the rain water - so that he can drink in a formal and proper manner? Should he spread his large sail canvas out in order to catch as much water as possible?

Some parents may care to remind their children that the more that is learnt, consolidated and revised, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to do as well as possible in the examination.

The eleven plus examination covers a wide range of topics. A large sail is needed to catch as many drops of eleven plus knowledge as possible.

Very few parents will rely only on a tutor or a website or a particular set of books or papers. It seems likely that that most eleven plus parents will use a wide range of sources of eleven plus materials. Spread the sail wide and let little drops of knowledge rain on your child’s head!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Percentiles

Standardised Scores and Percentiles

Standardised Scores range comfortably between 70 and 130. A mean of 100 is average. Naturally there are children who are able to climb to scores over 130. Some children will achieve these outstanding scores through excellent support at school, others through wonderful parents and some through good preparation. Some lucky children have a combination of outstanding ability, amazing parents and miraculous tuition.

When a score goes above 115 and below 85, then the scores are a standard deviation from the mean of 100. The children who are well above 115 and well below 85 can be two standard deviations from the mean. The word deviation in this sense is how far the score is from the average of 100.

A percentile, however, gives different information about a child’s performance in comparison with other children. A percentile describes how many children are on or below a score.

A standardised score in the 75th percentile suggests that the result is as well as or better than 75 out of every hundred children.

A score of 130 and above is reached by only 2.27% of the population.

Standardised Score 130
Interpretation Excellent
Deviation >+2
Percentile Score >98
Percentage of the Population 2.27. (How you find 0.27 of a child?)

Standardised Score 115
Interpretation High Average
Deviation >+1
Percentile Score >83
Percentage of the Population 68.26 – between 85 and 115.

Your child may be more interested to hear that he or she is better than 75% of the other children taking the same test.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eleven Plus Information

One of the problems that parents face on their shared eleven plus journey is what to do with all the information that they collect. At certain stages the eleven plus train will pull into a siding to allow the driver to take stock. This is rather like parking to check that the sat nav is still working correctly.

Mothers and fathers have to believe in the inevitability of the examination. Like death and taxes the eleven plus examination grows ever closer. Along the way parents have to make basic assumptions.

“Nearly all the children in my child’s class are attending tutors – therefore my child needs to attend one too.”

Of course this assumption is fundamentally flawed. Many children pass the eleven plus without attending a tutor.

“I must use the recommended books otherwise my child will fail.”

Again this is not correct. We once had a father who wanted to sit in every lesson his child attended. He scrutinised every single question – much less every exercise. He was preoccupied with the question – how relevant is that exercise to the questions my daughter will be offered in the examination?

“Will my child feel alienated from friends and family if he or she has to attend the local comprehensive?”

In all these things beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We once had a very bright girl who wanted to attend an all girls school grammar school and not a mixed grammar school that was `just down the road’. She passed the one examination with fantastic marks – but failed the other with extraordinary low marks. She voted on her choice of school in the actual examination.

“Do I need to react passively if my child starts on a familiar `Why me?” conversation?”

As far as family dynamics are concerned a healthy exchange of views can clear the air.

Raised voices? That is up to all concerned. Depends on whose voice!

Splendid sulks? That depends on who is doing the sulking.

Bribery? Of course!

Threats? A waste of time. Like water off a duck’s back!

Discussion? The dream – but not always reality.

Information? Just an overload. Keep it simple!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eleven Plus Herbs

Will eleven plus children and their parents ever be able to have timely and prescribed access to herbal remedies? Not every one agrees with the concept of herbal remedies – yet some people swear by them. We all know that herbs are not suitable for all conditions and that considerable caution needs to be taken with some herbs.

As civilisation developed, people began to know which herbs were good to eat and which had healing or medicinal functions. For thousands of years herbs have been easily available to people – and in spite of modern developments millions still rely on herbs. Of course herbs are not much use without a herbalist. Most herbalists are people who try convince their patients that they are treating the cause of the problem and not the symptoms.

When we wander off to have a `nice cup of tea’, we are imbibing a herb. A mug of Kenyan coffee is a herb. We are warned that too much tea and too much coffee can have an effect on the body.

We know that some herbs can stimulate the heart – and others can have a relaxing and calming effect on the body. This leads us nicely into the eleven plus herb.

This is a herb taken by both men and women. Sometimes the herb is distilled and offered in a highly concentrated form. (For some this would be a restorative like a quick slug of 15 year old whiskey.) Other eleven plus herbs need to be savoured with a slap up meal in a wildly expensive restaurant while sharing the problems of bringing up an eleven plus candidate.

We know what it is like going into a book shop in an eleven plus town. There will be rows and rows of a range of eleven plus books. Think of the people going into an upmarket supermarket and seeing rows and rows of `Superior Eleven Plus’on the herbal shelf.

The label would read:

A tough but tender ten year old.
Sometimes pleasant and sometimes a tiger.
Quick to take offence but slow to respond. (At times.)
Needs careful nurturing – but demands own space.
Treat with love and respect – the years go quickly!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Criteria

Course Title
Eleven Plus Examination 2011

Selection Criteria

The ability to demonstrate ability in an examination.
Physical requirements must include the ability to sit still and concentrate for periods of time.
The personal qualities of an eleven plus candidate must include the ability to be pleasant to parents when under pressure.
(Parents, of course, do not have to have formal eleven plus qualifications – the children will hope that their parents will pick it up as the family move closer towards the examination.)
Children do not need to be able to read before they are three years old.
Children do not need to be proficient at Grade 5 on the flute.
Children do not need to have played at county level at a popular sport.
Children do need to be able to work hard and do their best.

Selection Method

Selection is by a public examination.
Selection does not have to take into account how a child is feeling on the day.
Selection does not have to take into account the concerns of the mother that her child enters a grammar school and not that school `down the road’.
Selection does not need to take into account dad’s weak jokes on the morning of the examination. (However well meaning!)

Course Content

Lots of different papers.
Lots of different eleven plus books.
Lots of different online tests.
Lots of publishers – ranging from the well known to the earnest.
Practice examinations.


“To get into grammar!”


Parents must wish, at times, that they could take the examination for their child.
Sadly, children do actually need to pass.
It is possible, in some areas, to take different eleven plus examinations.
It is possible to pass one eleven plus examination and fail another.


Depends where you live.
Depends where you might live in the future.
Depends if you child passes the examination.
An eleven plus pass depends on a lot of things!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eleven Plus Standardisation

In the world of the eleven plus we often talk about standardisation and standard scores. We all hope that an age related standard score will make it as fair as possible for eleven plus children. The scores reflect a child’s attainment on a certain day at a certain time. A pass through the vehicle of a standardised score is not the full sum of a child’s ability.

What would happen if the final eleven plus standardised score was a component in a child’s portfolio?

The work done Arnold Gesell tried to provide standardised observation methods for babies and young children. Openings were made in the walls of the observation room, and specially constructed looking glasses were built in. From the one side of the room they looked normal – but from the other side the walls were transparent and allowed clear observation of a child’s behaviour. Cameras were able to take up to 3000 pictures a second allowing a minute analysis of movements. The cameras could record a child interacting with books and papers.

There may be some information in this blog for men and women of vision. Parents of preschool children could book their child into a `Pre Eleven Plus Clinic’. The clinic would take details of weight, height, ability to interact with pre eleven plus books and appetite for concentration. (There would be a fee of course.)

The standardised results f the pre eleven plus test could be combined with the standardised results of the actual eleven plus examination.

Proud parents could then feel that they had done their best.

“When is it time to start eleven plus work?”

`Come to a pre eleven plus course

aimed at children from

three months and upward.

Your child will learn how to be

observed and tested.

The results will help in the actual

Eleven plus examination.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eleven Plus Speed

It could be interesting, to some, to look briefly at a chameleon. The most curious attribute of this wonderful creature is the ability of the chameleon to change colours. By changing its colour a chameleon is able to blend in with its immediate surroundings so that it becomes practically invisible.

The body of a chameleon is compressed laterally and its tail is prehensile. The feet are adapted for climbing and the chameleon spends most of its time in trees and bushes.

My sister kept different chameleons in her bedroom for years. She used to trap flies and grasshoppers. The eyes of the chameleon work independently making it easy to watch unsuspecting insects. When a fly or an ant comes close the chameleon sticks out its tongue which has a sticky tip. The prey is swallowed.

As children we used to introduce different colours. A favourite game was to encourage the chameleon to walk over an old jumper – with stripes of muted green and blue. We revelled in trying to develop different bands of colour on the chameleon.

At times some eleven plus children may appear to adopt some of the characteristics of a chameleon. Changing skin colours is obviously out. Eating flies and ants may also be unpopular – few eleven plus children would relish so restricted a diet.

The one feature where a link between a chameleon and some eleven plus child could be established is in the stillness and stealth of movement. Think of an eleven plus child watching a favourite T.V. show. Time the speed of movement towards a challenging eleven plus paper. The desire for work could range from slow to even slower.

A chameleon can not often be hurried. When threatened, however, it can move remarkably quickly. I would be grateful for observations!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Controls

After the Second World War, when the eleven plus was being established, the education in England was vastly concerned with the separation and distribution of powers between the central government, and local authorities, and schools. The eleven plus was just one of many initiatives trying to offer the best possible education to the widest possible number of pupils.

When later Governments brought in the National Curriculum it was believed that it could combine higher standards with better management of resources. A school’s results could be recorded and measured with elements and degrees of uniformity. It became possible to compare schools within authorities – and indeed parents could even compare the effectiveness of different local authorities.

The Government of the time did not want a comprehensive testing and assessment service. Their plans, however, were attacked. Today the standard assessment tasks (SATS) are still under heavy criticism. We have seen, for example, the forced abolition of SATs for fourteen year olds. The eleven plus examination, however, has persisted. The SATs tests tried to offer formative as well as summative assessment. The Eleven Plus, however, is different. It is a battery of tests conducted over a few days, at set times, regardless of the weather, how a child is feeling and the amount and degree of preparation.

The present eleven plus examination is, however, set by the market. Parents want to feel that their child has been well prepared and has gained enough insight and knowledge to be able to do full justice to the demands of the examination. For some parents the golden goal is measured by how many papers their child has worked through.

Somewhere along the line the eleven plus may possibly be supposed to be able to bring into line a bright child’s rights and educational needs. After all, the eleven plus is supposed to be able to cater for many bright children sitting the same examination. There is still some degree of uniformity of the nature of the eleven plus. At a highly practical and pragmatic level children writing different eleven plus examinations have to be prepared in slightly different ways.

Parents can not call upon the government to act to develop a level playing field. Would any parents offer the consoling words: “If you can’t stand the fat, keep out of the kitchen?”

Other parents may argue, “If you think the eleven plus is unfair then leave the conversation.”

In one sense it is great to be outside of the control of central government. In another sense, firm and fair direction may help to deliver a more level playing field.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comparing Eleven Plus Results

There is a phrase which must be on the lips of almost every eleven plus parent.

We all know that there is a temptation, at times, to compare the score of the previous eleven plus paper against the current offering.

“Well dear, you achieved 68% last time and 72% this time. This is great progress. I am so pleased with you. This is definitely reward time.”

“Why thank you mother.”

“If you can describe how to work out the percentage increase you will qualify for a great reward.”

“That is easy. I take the 68% from the 72%, put the answer over 68 and multiply by 100. This is the percentage increase. O.K.?”

This is called an `ipsative assessment’. This is where you give your child feedback about progress. A slightly different use of ipsative tests is to try to encourage a candidate to make an answer. This could be useful at home – because parents are not trying to compare the scores of their child with those of other eleven plus candidates. If their child’s score is better than the rest then a parent will want to keep quiet so as not to antagonise others. If the score is not as good then a parent will burn with a need to help their child improve.

One view of the eleven plus must include the thought that some eleven plus children have to beat other children to win a place in a grammar school. This then raise the spectre that some eleven plus children are actually in a competition! Ipsative tests are not designed to promulgate competition. An ipsative assessment, however, can be vastly rewarding to parents as they encourage their child to do as well as possible.

It would be one for the playground gossip if you could slip in the comment that you and your child worked through an ipsative assessment with positive results! Think of the kudos as you explained the implications. (Playground guru?)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Emotional Eleven Plus Behaviour

Many years ago I can remember reading about Professor Ross Stagner who looked at relationships between parents and children. As I recall he was writing around the early 1940s. This was about the time that the early work on the eleven plus was being developed. A quote I partly remember, but can not find the source of, was along the lines:

“Studies of the heredity nature of emotional behaviour have been especially prolific in producing controversies, if not understanding, in the area.”

In other words if mum or dad, while working on eleven plus papers, is a cantankerous curmudgeon then it is likely that their child will approach work in a similar manner? In more other words a grumpy mother may, or may not, develop a grumpy eleven plus child.

Is the reverse true? Will a happy, charming and selfless mother develop a child who approaches complex eleven plus work in a like manner?

We often see big differences between the attitudes of siblings to each other. It is easy to establish that siblings may develop differences in attitudes towards the eleven plus. Take an older sister who passed the eleven plus with flying colours. Younger brother comes along, possibly just a bright, but certainly less confident academically. Is older sister going to take time out of her busy day or will she offer a ladylike grunt and throw an answer to her little brother?

Will the softly, softly approach advertised by grandmother help – or should the family adopt the gruff and passionate approach – as promoted by Uncle Fred? Will either method bring lasting peace to the eleven plus home?

Can a desire to be hardworking and successful be manufactured – if it is just not there?

Will the art of arguing ever be developed to such an extent that no one wants to work with the prospective candidate? Did he inherit this from dad?

Most parents will just be happy if their eleven plus child puts in some meaningful work. This could imply a contented and successful pupil. Without trying to be too controversial it is possibly true to say that an emotionally balanced child makes an emotionally balanced parent. More research, however, is needed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Content of The Eleven Plus

Why can’t the authors of the `Real Eleven Plus Mathematics Tests’ follow the National Curriculum?

A whole lot of time and effort has gone into the National Curriculum – especially in mathematics. It seems that the authors are mightily pretentious to insist that their syllabus is the only one for an eleven plus child to follow. We have all had to follow the same route so that our children are not disadvantaged.

One amazing advantage would be that teachers in schools would be able to pay a much larger part in the eleven plus process. Imagine giving an inspired school teacher a much greater opportunity to contribute towards the outcome of the eleven plus.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Eleven Plus Some Time Ago

If the eleven plus had been around two hundred years ago is possible that the name of Karl Witte (1800 – 1883) would have entered almost every eleven plus conversation. Karl Witte was a clergyman and lived in Austria. He felt then that traditional education placed too much emphasis on natural aptitude. In the early eighteen hundreds there was also a feeling among some educators that too much early education would sap a child’s vital energies and strain his or her brain.

A giraffe’s neck became part of the conversation. Some felt that because the giraffe stretched its neck to eat the fresh juicy leaves at the top of the tree – the neck became longer. Some people, however, also felt that the giraffe did not get its long neck by stretching – but by inheritance.

The Eleven Plus Today

Imagine passing these thoughts on to some of our eleven plus children today!

“No mother, I take after my father. He is good at mathematics. I inherited his ability. I will wait until he gets home as your explanations sometimes confuse me.”

“No mother, I take after you. Too much eleven plus work will sap my energy and strain my brain.”

“No mother, you said you passed the eleven plus without doing any extra work. I am sure I can pass without doing any extra work. You always say, like mother like son.”

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Eleven Plus Rewards

Dogs learn to associate a range of commands, familiar noises, whistles and call with well drilled and almost automatic actions. It takes a lot of repetition and hard work on the part of an owner or trainer before their dog is able to be obedient. Years ago some circuses used to use pain and cruelty to train animals. Owners and trainers today are more inclined to use praise and reward.

Horse whisperers also appear to use a mixture of insight and kindness when they are training and developing their horses. The words `horse breakers’ must have almost been eliminated from our vocabulary.

A dog training session will often start with an intense session – which is often repeated five or six times a day. The sessions do not last too long so that the dogs (and the trainers) do not become too bored. Dogs are instructed in a variety of commands. Key ones include:

Sit. The dog is often expected to sit on the left side. Lots of praise and a range of rewards are usually needed.

Stay. This command is sometimes accompanied with a hand movement.

Lie. Here the dog is expected to lie down – often in a position of submission with the head resting on the paws.

Fetch. Come on dog. Collect the ball, stick, newspaper, sheep or what ever takes the trainer’s fancy.

Some owners are also very successful with `come’. Often prolonged praise and rewards are needed to drive this command home.

Do some eleven plus children respond to a similar range of commands? Some children, for example, may not choose to address the softly spoken query: “Is it time for work, dear?” A selective hearing loss could be covered by: “It is time for work! Go NOW!”

Does all eleven plus topics have to become familiar and well drilled or is there an argument for a liberal and broadly based approach?

Should children have to work through a thousand or more questions or is that an educational travesty of justice and endeavour?

The one dog training technique which should not be entertained is the use of the clicker. Some dogs learn to associate the noise of a clicker with the need to pay attention and concentrate. Imagine the eleven plus examination hall with little groups of eleven plus children using their well used eleven plus clickers to stimulate their brains at key moments.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

An Eleven Plus Revolution

Watching some eleven plus children at work is sometimes more than edifying. A child bent over an eleven plus problem is more than the question – that he or she is working on - at the very least, the child is the product of the parents, the school and the educational opportunities.

We have a picture of gentlemen back in the Eighteenth Century who were witty, urbane and well educated. Yet these gentlemen were not taught from a wide curriculum – they were often taught the humane subjects as well as the classics. The Industrial Revolution, however, demonstrated that men and women needed to have knowledge of the sciences as well as some knowledge of manufacturing and mathematics.

Little by little schools became more complex and offered more educational opportunities. This broadening of the curriculum has continued over the years and today very few parents would want their child to go to a grammar school that offered only a few `A’ Level subjects. A viable grammar school is one where children have the ability to make choices from a sensible range of subjects.

An eleven plus examination based around verbal and non verbal reasoning focuses the minds of children into pretty stereotyped forms of thinking and reasoning. A child from a home where discussion and the promotion of learning is paramount will, hopefully, do better in the eleven plus than a child who has simply been drilled.

A bright, articulate and motivated eleven plus child should succeed in spite of the present narrowness of the eleven plus syllabus. If England today needs more engineers and scientists surely the eleven plus should look for children with ability in these areas? In one sense elements of the eleven plus could be considered a throwback to pre Industrial Revolution days. Someone, somewhere, needs a good talking to.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Eleven Plus Preferences

Some parents are sometimes faced with which eleven plus tutor to choose. There could be a list ranging from the highly prized specialist tutor who ALWAYS gets results (but lives a long way away) and a tutor who lives less than a mile away.

Another factor is the `before and after’ effect of tutoring. Does one tutor select only strong candidates and another does not mind as long as the child and the parents are willing to work hard?

There was a research experiment based on two towns in America. They were thirty five miles away from each other on the Hudson River. Both towns had a water supply that was fluoride deficient.

One town had its water supply treated with sodium fluoride.

After ten years it was found that the children who had been brought up on fluoridated water all their lives had a fifty eight percent chance of less tooth decay.

These results appear to be conclusive. Yet there could have been other factors that could be compared like bone structure, vision, hearing and ability.

In eleven plus terms the wonderful tutor who lives far away may be a better choice for a parent to approach. The eleven plus child, however, may prefer to spend an hour a week less in the car. The eleven plus child may prefer to follow a highly structured approach. Some parents may prefer not to be told every week just how good the tutor is and what wonderful results had been obtained in the past. Preferences, however, do not help parents make a scientific judgement.

At some stage, however, some parents may prefer to say: “What ever!” and go with the flow.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Outstanding Eleven Plus Results

Today offers an opportunity for a celebration.

A girl, who attended lessons with us, had test results that were simply extraordinary!

On the Kent 11+ tests she achieved 140 on each of the three tests – mathematics, verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning.

The Bexley tests cover mathematics and verbal reasoning. We understand that she only dropped one mark.

What an outstanding girl.

What wonderful parents.

What a good school!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Eleven Plus Routine

Some of our eleven plus children will have been brought up in an atmosphere where they are expected to develop in an organised and systematic manner. Many parents will hope and pray that their children will adopt a `metronome of routine’ into their eleven plus studies.

Eleven Plus Study

And so on ….

Within the Eleven Plus study period some parents will hope that their child will be prepared to settle down quietly to work on an eleven plus topic or a paper – with out equivocation or prolonged discussion.

Within these parameters children will be expected to develop and grow into studious academics. The eleven plus child will be expected t be ambitious and responsible. There will be no room for any form of discontent or individual disorientation.

The reward for parents is their child has a place in the grammar school.

The reward for the eleven plus child is an opportunity to have an outstanding education.

The price for some children could be a dislike of the `metronome of routine’.