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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eleven Plus Tests

The word testing has many different connotations. In Eleven Plus terms tests are used to pass or fail children. In the world of computers testing is used to try to find errors. A successful test of a computer program is one that finds an undiscovered error. This would not do at all well for our eleven plus children!

A computer programmer tries to develop a test strategy that is appropriate for what he or she wants to test. The programmer loads a little data into each module and then runs the program. This tests basics like updating and deleting functions. The programmer then makes the necessary changes and additions and then runs the test again to check on progress.

Computations need to be tested first of all. Is the program following all the necessary arithmetic calculations?

Programs run through loops. Each loop has to have a correct ending. Devotees of `Thomas the Tank Engine’ will know what happens when an engine runs off down the wrong branch line!

Of course the programmer may have to keep changing the original remit in light of the outcomes. Here close co-operation with the author and the programmer is required.

Parents of eleven plus children need to be equally meticulous. They need to check and recheck that their child has understood the work. Parents also need to help their children to stay on the straight and narrow of eleven plus work – and not go off on tangents – or branch lines.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eleven Plus Depreciation

Very recently a mum explained that her latest child was the fourth member of the family to come to us for lessons. (There is still one child after this one.) After all the pleasantries and the catch up chats had taken place I was asked a key eleven plus question. No not that one – but a question that holds a significant place in a mother’s heart.

“All my children have used the same eleven plus books. Do we need to buy new ones?”

In book keeping terms there is a method of depreciation called the: “Diminishing Balance Method.” Under this method depreciation is charged at a fixed percentage.

If the family bought eleven plus books for£10.00, then in the first year the books could depreciate at 40%. This would be 40% of £10.00 – leaving a net book value of £6.00.

The depreciation in the second year would be £2.40 which is 40% of £6.00.

There after the book would depreciate to £1.44, £0.86, £0.52, £0.31, £0.18, £0.11 – and at this stage one could reason that the book had served its purpose.

In many previous years we expected house prices to rise. A house worth £300 000 when the £10.00 book was bought may have leapt in value to £450 000 in just a few months. The value of the house may then have dropped back to pre £300 000 levels. Your house may have gained value with five children living in it – but the eleven plus book may have dropped in value through depreciation.

The one defensible attribute in handing an eleven plus book on through armies of children is that the ten pence book may provide the information on the one question that leads to passing the examination. What then is the ten pence book worth?

What advice did I offer?

“The examination has not changed much over the years. Books and materials have not had to change much over the years. Keep using the book – but do buy a new rubber to take out any residual pencil marks.”

We parted on amicable terms.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Multiple Choice and the Eleven Plus

If you ever have had difficulty in completing multiple choice eleven plus answers then you may care to take note if the research by Louis Cheskin of the Color Research Institute. (The spelling of Color is deliberate as Cheskin operated in America.)

He wanted to isolate why a woman would choose one evening dress over another. He and his workers used the second floor of a Chicago store as their workplace. The latest styles from Paris were advertised.

Every woman coming onto the display area was recorded from the time she came in to when she left. By and large the women came in, looked around and then thought more deliberately about three different dresses. This took around 90 minutes.

The problem that Cheskin set was the dresses came in three different colours.

He found that some women `just loved that dress’.

The colour turquoise most often accompanied the `just loved that dress’ attraction.

The next motivation he found was that some women were very aware of their complexions.

These women often chose fuchsia – often because at one time or another they had been told that they looked good in fuchsia.

The third primary preference was for style. Vogue magazine had had a big spread a few months earlier stating that chartreuse was the prestige colour of the moment.

The style conscious women chose chartreuse.

The `just love that dress women’ only amounted to some 20%. Of the remaining 80% half bought for complexions and half for style.

There must be a little moral in this story. When you are advising your child what to do towards the end of the eleven plus examination – and he or she is running out of time – you will naturally suggest that guesses are allowed under certain circumstances.

Your child could select all the `a’ line – or the `b’ or the `c’ or the `d’.

You could suggest simply guessing and jumping your responses about in a random manner.

You could mention that a further option would be to write down the letters of the alphabet in the right order, Look for the first four letter word in the question. Use that vowel!

We are led to believe that buying a Dior dress is a good investment – because the dress just lasts for ever. Passing the eleven plus is also a good investment – because the benefits just last for ever.

A suggestion: Suggest to your child that if he or she goes for `just have a gut feeling’ then he or she is going to be correct about twenty percent of the time.

If your child is drawn to choose between two similar answers and can’t decide over style and substance – then suggest that a guess will probably be about half right – or even half wrong.

This brings us to the eternal question: `Is it better to be half right or half wrong?’

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passing the Eleven Plus

This could be a cautionary tale or even an allegory. What ever it is it needs to be considered.

Once upon a time there was a boy called William. He entered reception with a good grasp of numbers. He could calculate and manipulate numbers arithmetically and could also sole some two step problems. His mother had been a teacher of mathematics and he had been encouraged to believe in himself. There was every reason to believe that he would have a reasonable school career and in time go on to do well in eleven plus examinations.

His father, who may have been a bit misguided – or even prone to over estimation, would mutter to anyone who would listen: “My boy is going to study maths at university.”

His parents were completely surprised when it was obvious that he did not like school. His first school report suggested weakness in number. There was also a comment that he would not co-operate in the Numeracy lessons.

Mum and dad were a little surprised. They then formed the opinion that their son was a little bored at school. He was expected to move at the same speed as the rest of the class.

Twist or stick.

Should he move or should he stay? Would a different teacher, or even a different school work?

Could they talk to the teacher?

Should they have a little word with the head?

Did it really matter; after all he had many more years left at school?

Will he pass the eleven plus?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Double Eleven Plus

There is a fundament dichotomy in the present eleven plus examination. Is the eleven plus trying to measure the potential children or is it a form of an assessment? We all presume that the examination is reliable and valid.

We can check the reliability of a test by looking at a child’s eleven plus results over two different administrations of the test. This could, for example, enable your child to sit the examination twice. If the marks were significantly different for a large number of children then we would be able to infer that the examination was not reliable. If the marks of only a few children were widely poles apart then we may need to look at what was happening in the lives of those children.

Validity is a different issue as validity is more to do with the theoretical aspect of the eleven plus test. This is where the test is looked at to see if the test is measuring what it is supposed to measure. In other words is the eleven plus actually measuring what it claims to measure. Is it in fact an accurate tool to use when trying to predict future academic success? Is the test truly fair for your child?

This is where the dichotomy of the eleven plus comes in. Measurement of children at the eleven plus stage tries to ensure that the test is reliable – and is valid. An Eleven Plus assessment, however, needs the subjective opinion of an assessor. An example of this is at the appeal stage of the eleven plus where a body of people look at test scores, and hear other evidence, and then decide on offering a place. The appeal body, however, does not have the luxury of having more than one set of actual test results.

Would children suffer by sitting the eleven plus twice? Some would take it in their stride – and others may struggle, It is more likely that a body of parents would shout and scream about undue `double the pressure’ on their children. A double eleven plus examination may, however, be fairer for a number of children. Some parents would win because it gave their children a better chance of passing.

“Horrified” of Tunbridge Wells would, however, write: “It is not fair. We did not do it that way in my day. It never harmed me.”

A major problem with the eleven plus is that teachers, parents and children have to have blind faith in the present system.

The eleven plus is based on the presumption that the skills that are measured are distributed equally among the population. This can only be true if all children had access to the same degree of preparation. The majority of eleven plus children will answer some questions easily, they will struggle on some questions and a number will find the same question `O.K.’

We must surmise that the eleven plus, however, is based on half the total children finding the questions hard with only a small number coping easily. The pass or fail line is drawn half way but finds its place some where up in the top half of the population. Children are not drawn equally into two groups of pass and fail – there is a third group who could probably cope with grammar school if the test was more valid for their needs.

There seems to be a strong case for some new research on the eleven plus to discover exactly what skills need to be acquired in order to pass the eleven plus. In the mean time parents and children have every right to question both reliability and validity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An Eleven Plus Dilemma

A very useful Eleven Plus word is antithetical – this is where two diametrically opposed views come together. On the one hand parents may be inclined to teach their children in the same manner that they were taught at school – and on the other hand there is the understanding that they need to treat their children nicely, positively, cheerfully and lovingly. Naturally some parents will be able to quote positive evidence to maintain that their school days were the best of their lives.

We are offered a rich body of information about the eleven plus along with a wide variety of materials in the form of books, papers and the internet. There are also many experienced and caring eleven plus teachers. But none of this is able to help a parent when a particular method has to be explained to a sceptical child.

Parents know that their child has to be an active participant in learning. But some cruelly spoken words from their child can drive a mother or father wild: “But my teacher does not do it that way.” This is when eleven plus parents feel the need for a `subject specific knowledge of teaching’.

When their child challenges their parents the mother and father feel a heavy burden. They have to teach the process in question correctly because the whole of their child’s academic future may hinge on their explanation. (Or so their guilt ridden conscience tells them.) It does not really matter, at that very moment, that a mother or a father has a sound knowledge of the subject – if the words they are uttering are not the same as those used by `the teacher at school’.

The eleven plus examination can be thought of as a form of scholarship. The best and brightest scholars will pass the eleven plus. Children and their parents may think that teaching and learning towards the eleven plus is a separate universe of learning. But good practice will help a child pass the eleven plus however the topic is taught and learnt.

Parents do not need worry too much about any subversive muttering from their eleven plus child. If their bright and able child is taught a topic in two different ways, and is able to successfully apply these methods in the examination, then a parent has every right to say: “Good, please ask you teacher to explain this again to you. I will also try to understand your method. There is, of course, another way of tackling this – and lets explore this together.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eleven Plus Decisions

When you are planning your child’s eleven plus curriculum you are making all the decisions. You may choose to cede part of the responsibility to a tutor or a web site or even a series of eleven plus books – but once you make a stand and say: “We are going for the Eleven Plus,” you are putting yourself in command. You are now in control of the knowledge your child needs to be able to pass the eleven plus.

Passing the eleven plus is far more than gathering information and sharing this with your child. You are attempting to build a culture of knowledge. You are challenging the way some topics are taught in schools. You are saying to yourself; “In my case we need to go beyond what the school is teaching.”

Your child will not be able to compartmentalise what has to be learnt in order to pass the eleven plus and what is taught at school. A top mathematics group, for example, will be stretched and extended, but some of the methods you employ may be different. Not necessarily wrong, but certainly different.

There is a certain paradox in eleven plus work. One goal of eleven plus preparation must be for children to be able to make sense of new information. It is not enough, however, for a parent to teach their child how to do questions on area, for example, if the teaching of area is only presented in an abstract manner. Parents do, sometimes, have to get down and dirty and help their child to acquire a practical understanding.

There will always be some form of mismatch between what a school can teach and what the eleven plus expects. In just the same way parents may feel a sense of frustration as they struggle with their intentions and what they can actually achieve.

Most mothers and fathers just do the best they can.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Epistemological Perspective of the Eleven Plus

(Heard in the playground.)

“We need to be able to take into account an epistemological perspective when we are looking at the eleven plus.”

“Do you mean epistemology as it applies to the nature of eleven plus knowledge, it foundations, scope and validity?”

“Naturally – because like some eleven plus parents I do not subscribe to the feeling that eleven plus knowledge is easily transferable.”

(A third mother then joins the discussion.) I think that eleven plus knowledge is acquired conceptually – and that a step by step approach wastes un-necessary time.

“Well that is so much hog-wash, if you pardon my expression, all you have to do to help a child with eleven plus work, is to find out where he is and know where he has to go.”

“You may be right, we can use eleven plus papers as diagnostic tools to work out what needs to be done.”

“Again you are only partially right. As parents all we can do is try to generate full eleven plus understanding. We can not only train specific eleven plus skills.”

“Well my child will never get there. I can’t even teach him the skill of picking up his clothes much less picking up a new idea. It is simply hopeless.”

“I have just been looking up `epistemological perspective’ but we are in a little hollow and the internet seems to be running slowly.”

“Try my phone.”

“Or mine.”

“I have good signal – but should we go down to the gym and continue the discussion over a cappuccino?”

“The gym has a set of computers. We can have one each. Tell you what; the person who can look up `epistemological perspective’ first can buy the coffee.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Parent's Ambitions

High attainment between the ages of six and sixteen is associated with sixth form entry. Sixth form entry is associated with a place at university. University education means, for most, the potential for having a career rather than a job.

The parents of high achieving children are often highly ambitious for their children. These parents are likely to include education as an important factor when making decisions about the family. (I know of one family with a five bed roomed house and a swimming pool in Florida who chose to spend one summer holiday in England as their child would be sitting the eleven plus days after school went back in September.)

Parents of high achievers are more likely to feel that school performance is an important factor in progress towards the eleven plus. Many parents will also demonstrate high personal literacy – with an interest in books and ideas.

The rateable value of homes could possibly be a factor. We once had seventeen children from one road that was near to one of our centres. (The houses were lovely!) There is probably a `posh home’ factor that needs to be taken into account when looking at the likelihood of a child passing the eleven plus.

What is vitally important in any discussion on the eleven plus – a grammar school does not offer a child a fresh start – because the child must necessarily have been a high achiever to have passed the examination.

The scores a child achieves in the eleven plus examination must be, to a degree, be associated with future academic success. After all an aim of the eleven plus must be to try to find children of similar abilities – who have the potential to do well at school.

The wonderful thing about the eleven plus, however, is that just because parents have impressive jobs and live in mansions it does not mean that their children are going to work hard and be ambitious. After all a bright child from less fortunate background has an equal chance on the day in the examination. (I have just remembered – the house in Florida also had a three car garage – I know because I was shown a picture of the house on the internet.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Appeals

Some worthy children, and their equally worthy parents, face the dreaded prospect of `The Appeal’. Some appeals will be held in the very near future. Just as the parents of the eleven plus children may have woken up rehearsing their marriage vows, so the words they hope to speak in the appeal may be hurtling around their brains.

“Do you as a school take my child to be your lawfully constituted pupil?

Do you promise to teach, honour and take care of my wonderfully precious child?

Will you do your best through thick and thin and not think about other children all the time my child is in your care?”

The eleven plus examination presupposes a supply of suitable candidates – and with this the need to reject a percentage of them. Some grammar schools will have the real problem of selection of wondering whether they have selected the right children – as well as the concern that they may have rejected other able children who have simply not reached the required mark on the day.

Parents must enter the appeal secure in the knowledge that it is likely that there will be some vacant grammar school places – and that the school needs to fill the empty seats. “The school needs my child more than my child needs the school.”

As soon as the results of the eleven plus are posted we have a range of children with different attributes vying for a limited number of places. Before the pass mark is announced we have large numbers of children who have to reach a specified score. After the results there will be a variety of reasons why a child may not have done as well as expected `on the day’.

One of the various rationales of the eleven plus is that the examination is designed to predict future academic success. Parents do not, however, have the opportunity of being able to question the `goodness’ or the `appropriateness’ of the examination. Of course some parents may be able to see the papers their children sat – and then have the opportunity of discussing the papers in the appeal.

After all the appeals have been heard the children will be put into various categories. A major factor in the classification of the children will be the ability of the panel to be able to predict how well they think each child will perform in a grammar school.

To a degree the appeal board will need to have a picture of a composite child. Naturally there will be extenuating circumstances affecting the outcome.

For parents – one final gesture of good fortune. There is a section in the Christian marriage ceremony where the priest says words to the effect:

“Speak now or for ever hold your voice.”

After all when you walk away from the appeal you want to keep in mind the saying:

“Speech was given to conceal or disguise man’s thoughts.”

Don’t give your chance away.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Smart Eleven Plus Child

Helping a child to learn how to cope with reasonably complex probability questions is sometimes a little stressful for the even the most able eleven plus child. Here is a simple suggestion. Gather all the family together. You need five members. The experiment will still work of you `borrow’ next door’s child.

Purchase 30 packets of smarties. Sort the smarties into colours within ten bags. Make sure that the red smarties predominate in the majority of the bags. Blue smarties should be the major colour in the rest of the bags.

Empty the rest of the smarties into a bowl – and invite all concerned to share the plunder.

Place the bags under a towel – and mix them up. Ask one person to take one bag from under the towel. You have now established that the bag was chosen by chance.

Hold the bag up and ask each person to estimate how many smarties are likely to be in the bag. Keep it simple. Are there likely to be more smarties or less?

Now ask each person to select a bag and repeat the question. Are there more or fewer red smarties?

By now the more mathematically able readers will have worked out that if there were more smarties in one particular bag it is possible that there will be fewer smarties in the other bags that were chosen.

The ratios will keep changing as each of the bags is selected and then used.

Now comes the fun part. Each person has to empty out their bag and count the number of smarties. They must keep their proportion of red smarties – if that was the predominant colour. Each person then rounds up the proportions to arrive at simple ratios like 70 : 60 or 60 : 40. They then eat the residue.

The whole sequence has to be repeated with the remaining five bags. This gives us a range of reasonably exotic questions on probability. We are now entering the realms of binomial probability which is to do with the outcome of several successive decisions, each of which has two possible outcomes.

If your eleven plus child can cope with binomial probability (you will have used the example of repeated heads and tails) and with the after effects of eating hundreds of smarties then you know you are a true eleven plus parent. You are genuinely a person to be revered and looked up by all concerned. As you prepare the breakfast tomorrow morning you will hum a little probability song.

I am a member of a binomial probability family.
I know the coin will be heads or tails.
If my child gets a question on one in the exam,
I know my child will be a real little smartie.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Preparing an Eleven Plus Appeal

A number of families will be facing an appeal board over the next few weeks. Eleven Plus appeal boards are often, but not always, made up of a Chair Person – a worthy individual – assisted by two or three lay persons. There is often a legal person who makes notes and asks for clarification of points. The school is represented by one of the staff who has to tell the board that there is no place in the school for the applicant.

When a defendant is sent to trial there are, once again, no hard and fast rules as it seems that expediency is an important part of the legal system. When the defendant is brought to trial he or she is place din the hands of the jury – and this is normally twelve men and women. There must be exceptions – but British subjects are expected to serve on a jury. Usually property owners or rate payers are on the lists – but certain professions are excepted.

The jury is not expected to decide on questions of law – because their function is to try issues of fact. The Judge has to look after the rights of the defendant. Witnesses are submitted to cross examination – in order that the truth of the statement can be tested. The jury then hears speeches from Counsel and the Judge then sums up the case to the jury. The jury, of course, tries to remain impartial. Convicted prisoners can appeal to the Court of Appeal.

A defendant is deemed to be innocent until he or she is proven to be guilty.

The prosecution must prove the case by admissible evidence – and not by assumptions.

The defendant has a right of appeal on a question of law.

When parents are thinking about what to say to the Eleven Plus appeal board they may care to consider the present attitude to justice in England.

Parents must try to present facts – not opinions. It will not sway an Eleven Plus Appeal Board very much if parents maintain that one of their child’s teachers once said that their child had a good chance of passing the examination. A letter from the teacher or the head will of course be part of the evidence – and it is likely that these letters will be made up of pertinent facts. “She is a lovely child,” will not be considered to be a weighty pronouncement.

Parents do need, where possible, to savour the moment. Ernest and caring men and women will be hearing impassioned pleas from anxious parents. During the first hearing of the eleven plus appeal board the child is still a potential eleven plus candidate.

The former Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Buckmaster, once said:

`Law and Legal Procedure have always been a mystery to the uninitiated, a snare to the unwary, and a red rag to the unhappy man.’

During the discussions, while the appeal is taking place, parents can ask questions and ask for clarification on points of law. Careful preparation is important. Do you remember Benjamin Franklin who said: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eleven Plus Rewards

If you wanted to reward your eleven plus child for a good piece of work, what method would you use? Would you plum for a concrete reward – something tangible or go for something sweet satisfying – the proverbial current bun? Some parents would even be tempted to go for a reward that has an appeal to the mind and the soul.

Do you remember the words of Tennyson in his poem called `The Revenge’? He used these stirring lines – which may appeal to boys and girls alike:

'Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
For to fight is but to die!
There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.'
And Sir Richard said again: 'We be all good English men.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil,
For I never turned my back upon Don or devil yet.'


What about Sir Walter Scott’s take on bravery and fortitude in `Marmion’?

The stubborn spearmen still made good
Their dark impenetrable wood,
Each stepping when his comrade stood
The instant that he fell.


Parents may hesitate to read the whole poem to their children – especially if there is Scottish blood in the family. It is obvious that the poem is about bravery and fortitude – and endeavor against incredible odds.

You may need to convince your child of your pride and wonder and your admiration and gratitude. (Is this really my child?) For immediate gratification offer a quick reward like an ice cream. A more long term reward is the promise of a visit to the pictures. Few children would prefer a wordy reward to an immediate flash of silver.

If your child’s eyes flicker in disappointment at being offered a paltry reward for having done an excellent piece of work – remind him or her of Horatio.

Now who with stand on either hand
And keep the bridge with me?


Horatio and his friends held the bridge. This is all good romantic stuff for a bright ten year old to read and enjoy.

We can now see the threads of the argument drawing together.

Children need to fight for what they want – and not turn their back when the going gets rough.

As soon as one hurdle has been scaled, your child needs to prepare to climb the next.

Your child may need a few friends around at times to keep the morale up. For an outstanding piece of eleven plus work you could organise an eleven plus sleepover. This would be three or four friends. You could lay on a movie then an eleven plus paper. You would be able to show your gratitude and pride – but not lose sight of the long and involved eleven plus road ahead.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Economic Bonds

Is there any evidence to suggest that if one or both of the parents went to grammar school, that their progeny will have a better chance in the eleven plus?

We know that the landed gentry will pass their lands and possessions onto their children. After all, a King and Queen are allowed to pass the throne onto their eldest child. The succession in our royal family, for example, is secured. (The senior members of the present royal family have not needed to worry about grammar school!)

There is possibly an economic bond that binds families and generations together. Perhaps some children are likely to follow the occupations of their parents. Good luck to all concerned!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eleven Plus Places

Who deserves a place in a grammar school? Suppose there are two places left at a prestigious school. The Appeal Board has narrowed the large number of contestants down to just four. Just as we see in reality shows, the particulars of the four youngsters are laid out on a table. A choice has to be made. The panel has a welcome cup of tea and a rich biscuit. They put their cups down and gather quietly round the table. A hand is stretched out – the decision is about to be made.

Boy 1
Mathematics Score: Exceptionally high
Accuracy: High
Verbal reasoning: Around average
General Knowledge: Outstanding
Interests: Engineering, astronomy
School: Unqualified recommendation

Boy 2
Mathematics Score: Very good
Accuracy: High
Verbal Reasoning: Very good
General Knowledge: Good
Interests: General
School: Unqualified recommendation

Boy 3
Mathematics Score: Well above average
Accuracy: Very good
Verbal Reasoning: Well above average
General Knowledge: Good
Interests: Many and varied
School: Positive recommendation

Boy 4
Mathematics: Above average
Accuracy: Good
Verbal Reasoning: Excellent
General Knowledge: Extraordinary
Interests: Archaeology, geology, swimming, any sports, camping.
School: Good recommendation

The early arguments and discussions seem to focus on the general knowledge and the interests – after all the boys have only failed the eleven plus buy one or two marks. The academic ability is not in question. All the boys have books and school exercises of a reasonable standard. All the parents have put in impassioned pleas. The head teachers have all written in support.

There must be an unknown or unspecified element that guides the panel into making what they feel is a fair decision. When the panel looks at remarkably similar scores they must make assumptions. They do not need to dwell on scores reached in the examination – but they do need to think about the use the successful candidates will make of their opportunities at grammar school. Naturally a child who is in the top ten percent of the successful candidates deserves a place – whereas a child in the lowest ten percent would find grammar school very difficult to cope with.

The problem all of us have is when the scores are remarkably similar. Does this mean that the tests are actually flawed? Should more than a score on a battery of tests be taken into account? Should a strong literacy bent count for more than a wide general knowledge?

Which of the boys deserves a place? Which would you choose?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Post Eleven Plus Justification

Psychologists are responsible for providing evidence for the content of the eleven plus tests. It is their responsibility to look out for the reliability and validity of the tests used. Some parents used to believe that in some areas the same tests were used year after year. Anecdotal evidence suggests that effort was made by these parents to place their child with a tutor who had `access’ to the content of the tests used in previous years.

We know about parallel versions of tests – and unless there is sound consistency between the results of the tests, one test or another will always be rejected. If the test was thought to be reliable then the test could be used with a wider audience.

A very reliable form of establishing the predictive value of the eleven plus test would be to take comprehensive `after histories’. This post eleven plus examination history would be able to offer an account of what the child had achieved at school and at home.

For some eleven plus experts passing the eleven plus may be the ultimate reward – and score most highly. Other experts may value strength in other areas as being important. A child prodigy in Irish dancing may choose to ignore grammar.

Some could argue that success in dance or playing a musical instrument could not rank as highly as a grammar school pass. Beauty, however, is in the eye of the beholder. A child with the ability to write an outstanding story or account can be counted as being creative and gifted with words. A different child, however, with an interest in the sciences could demonstrate equal creativity and giftedness – but not in the same fields.

One of the aims of a grammar school may be to promote an interest in the humanities. Another school could prefer the sciences and computer technology. A potential author could land up in a science school – while a scientist may possibly be forced to eek out a lifetime of frustration at school in a humanities institution.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Looks

Will it ever be possible to work out whether a child can pass the eleven plus by simply looking at his or her physical characteristics?

Way back in 1940 W.H. Sheldon put forward a rather elaborate scheme based on clinical data and body measurements. He was trying to find the correlation between endomorphy (roundness, softness of body build) and sociability - along with comfort loving. He also tried to find a correlation between mesomorphy (hardness and muscularity) and how vigorous, assertive and physically active a person is. Sheldon also tried to find the correlation between ectomorphy (a linear physique) with a person being reserved but mentally active.

Is a comfort loving and rather lazy person – who is mentally alert – likely to pass the eleven plus? Or is it a vigorous and active person? Is a child who play cricket for the country – and is in the top maths group going to be a better candidate than a softy who reads books and laughs at weak jokes?

Way back in medieval times phrenology was thought to give accurate measure of the worth of a person. Facial characteristics have long been thought to be important. The formation of the skull was also thought to give clues towards temperament and character.

If, and only if there was enough current proof of these theories, eleven plus children could submit a digitised photograph along with the application form for the eleven plus examination. The faces of the children could be analysed – and the results used to predict future success at the eleven plus stage. Dr. Martin Gruendl, of the Chair for Experimental and Applied Psychology, at the University of Regensburg, seems to have software that will allow a face to be analysed.

A computer would then scan the photos of the eleven plus candidates and then pick the faces that seem to fit the eleven plus model. This would save children a whole lot of hard work. A quick visit to a photo booth could be followed by a letter offering an eleven plus place.

One advantage of a scheme of this nature is that parents would not need to look for intelligent and hard working spouses – they could just go for looks. Brad Pitt `look a likes’ would not need to sing good karaoke – but could attract partners simply by being good looking and rich. Quasimodo, however, might have struggled a little as potential spouses worried whether his physical characteristics were passed on.

All this talk of beauty and analysis may seem to be very fanciful and nonsensical – but what about children who fail their eleven plus because they can not answer a question like:

Which is the odd one out?

3 x 8; 6 x 4; 7 x 3 and 12 x 2

As you child goes to bed tonight rub your hand in an affectionate manner over his or her head. Feel the bumps. Offer loving words of re-assurance:

“Yes dear, there is little need to worry; you do have the proud head of a successful eleven plus candidate.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eleven Plus Looks

What are the characteristics that eleven plus children inherit from their parents? Parents would hope that intelligence; wit, beauty and good nature would be passed on. Children would hate to inherit irascibility, a liking for a glass of wine and an apparent inability to hear some one else’s opinion.

Parents look at their children and think `immortality’ – for it is their progeny who hold the future The perpetuation of the family is important to most families. The study of genetics is the science that shows the slight variations that children have from their parents.

“I am a grammar school girl. My daughter should pass.”

“My dad played rugby for his grammar school. I want to go to the same school and play rugby too.”

We are, however, very fortunate that children do not develop in the same way as their parents. Think of a grandfather, father and eleven plus son all with the same physical characteristics - with same expressions and the same attitudes to work and play. Imagine the same colour eyes staring at you over the morning egg cups.

Think too of the problems the family would have doing an eleven plus paper together. Grandfather, father and son all getting stuck on the same questions. Three sets of identical eyes would swing towards daughter, wife and mother at the same time.

We are fortunate that innumerable generations have failed to replicate acquired characteristics. We remember the story of a well known and beautiful actress who once remarked to George Bernard Shaw what a wonderful child they might have with his intelligence and her beauty.

“Ah,” said Shaw, “but suppose he has my looks and your intelligence.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eleven Plus Snapshot

As soon as a child enters school he or she is compared with others – by grades or other explicit methods. Some children at a pre school age may already have been classified and placed into `ability’ groups.

There is, however, a problem in relating achievement and the progress back to a score – and that is that is that that it is very difficult for one test result to be able to sum up all the progress that had been made – and the potential that is implied. Culture, educational opportunities, drive, ambition and speed of reaction all come into the picture. A single pass or fail score can struggle to sum up the whole of the estimated ability of a child.

Few eleven plus parents can think of the eleven plus as being a vehicle for vocational opportunities. Few parents will offer the following words of comfort: “If you pass the eleven plus you will be offered a blue collar job.” It is more likely that parents will be using words like `university’ and `success’. Some eleven plus parents may even be busy explaining to their ten year old the difference between a job and a career.

Eleven plus parents would no doubt prefer their children to act in an even tempered manner – and remain cheerful and calm even when under pressure. Eleven plus children would probably prefer their parents to be even tempered and enthusiastic. In just the same way parents will probably prefer their children to be accommodating rather than hostile and impertinent. How can a single eleven plus pass or fail score hope to pick out a child with little respect for property or the feelings of others?

Ideally a grammar school must want to work with children of roughly the same socioeconomic levels. After all, the school has to work as a cohesive unit. Yet grammar schools must necessarily deal with a wide range of intellectual, emotional, social and physical abilities. Eleven plus selection, however, does not rely on the sum of a child but on the ability of a child to pass a number of questions in a set time.

What the present eleven plus examination does appear to do is to stifle any attempt at originality. At times very bright eleven plus children must become bored with the banality of some questions – and attempt to inject some humour or even offer a ridiculous answer. There can be no place for the absurd or any calculated levity when completing a set of formal multiple choice questions.

The whole of a child’s past has to catch up with the future on a certain day at a certain time. Some children will no doubt keep developing intellectually after the age of eleven. The fifty minute snapshot that is taken on the day of the examination may be in focus for some – but blurred for others.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Standards

It is about this time of year that parents seem to start worrying about the standard of the examination that their child will have to meet. School playgrounds can be rife, at times, with stories about the expected standard of the approaching eleven plus. Some parents will be worried that standards are falling. Others will be concerned at that standards are rising.

The eleven plus examiners – and the schools – are likely to want the standard to be around the same level year after year. Who actually can demonstrate that the yardstick one year will be different from another?

Eleven plus examinations in different years can not assume to be comparable because it would be almost impossible to gather enough evidence to be able to support any claims.

Suppose a school wants children to have a deciding score in verbal reasoning – but is prepared to be more flexible over mathematics. This could possibly lead to the assumption that it may be easier to pass the mathematics paper than the verbal reasoning. All that might have happened is that the pass mark for mathematics was raised or lowered.

If exactly the same examination was offered over three successive years, and the same pass mark applied, then it is possible more children could pass in one year than another. What might have happened is that the children taking the eleven plus in one year were not as good as in other years.

The eleven plus examiners can maintain that the standard was the same because an identical examination was set. This, however, can not be entirely true because it would be completely improper to draw a comparison between the years – because the performances of the children in the actual examination room must be different.

Some grammar schools advertise proudly that they take the highest 80 or 100 children. In this case the question of a standard rising or falling can not occur. The cut off mark could be higher or lower depending on the calibre of the applicants. A school adopting an approach of this nature would not need to set a standard – all they need to do is to say that this year a total of 100 children will win a place. The bottom twenty children may not, however, achieve as good marks as the bottom twenty children from previous years. The school’s standard, however, would not have slipped because the school only needed 100 children.

All parents can really do is hope that their children will pass easily and comfortably – with minimum stress and discomfort.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Eleven Plus C.V.

Will there ever be a change in the admission system for the eleven plus? After all there must be some very bright children who do not pass even though they have all the characteristics of being remarkably bright and able.

It could help some children if an application form could be added to the test results. The form would take a bit of filling in – but could help educators to look beyond 11+ results. There would need to be all the usual sort of information about the candidate –and then parents could be invited to submit detail about their own backgrounds and personal development.

On the application form parents could be asked about what they are looking for in a school. They could also be offered the opportunity to say why they want their child to be considered as a worthy grammar school candidate,.

The eleven plus child could be asked about personal preferences, interests, hobbies and attitude to academic life. In addition to the short biography there could even be a short statement about how the candidate feels that he or she has the ability to cope in a fast moving academic environment. Bright children should be able to articulate their dreams and ambitions at a young age.

An example of the ability of a child to communicate in a a mature and honest manner came our way today. We had a application today from a past pupil wanting to do some voluntary work with us. His C.V. had 13 A* GCSE passes – plus two other subjects at A level and diploma level. We had worked with him towards the 11+ but he used us a sounding board for his theories on a range of mathematical topics. We recalled him well because he explained the formula behind quadratic equations when he just nine years old.

It may also be helpful if the child’s school could be prepared to complete some core questions about their child’s abilities and potential. After all it is the teacher at school is who at the heart of the child’s progress. There may even be a case for a comment from a teacher who knew the candidate in previous years.

It is difficult to know how long a submission of this sort would take to build and create. An articulate and well informed child would shine through on a carefully prepared C.V.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eleven Plus Slamming Doors

Do you remember the story of Rebecca? She was the girl who liked to slam doors. An edited eleven plus cautionary tale by Hilaire Belloc lives on:

She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild;
She was an aggravating child...

It happened that a marble bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the door this little lamb
Had carefully prepared to slam,
And down it came! It knocked her flat!
It laid her out! She looked like that.

The children who were brought to hear
The awful tale from far and near
Were much impressed, and inly swore
They never more would slam the door,
-- As often they had done before.

The passing of the Children’s Act of 1908 paved the way for later reforms. The law attempted to safeguard the children from physical cruelty – and also showed concern for the mental and moral welfare of children. There was a time, for example, when reasonable punishment was allowed by a teacher or parent and guardian. Many years ago a child of five could be taken from parents and deported for stealing.

There is considerable debate at the moment about the rights of children who are being educated out of school – and parliament is naturally much involved in trying to safeguard the children. In a number of decisions by parents to keep their children out of school the word `bullying’ is used.

It would be interesting to know how many children who are being educated out of school are also preparing for the eleven plus. Very bright children are often mature beyond their years in some areas. The same child may, however, be emotionally at the same stage as other children of the same chronological age. For most parents a caring and sharing school would tick most boxes. Parents of bright children, like all other parents, just want to feel that their child is being given the best possible opportunity to do well academically.

It is very likely that children who are successful in the eleven plus will come from many different backgrounds. The children will have had many different experiences growing up. Some will have always felt cosseted and loved. Other children will have felt bullied and oppressed. Some of the children who pass will be very bright. Others will earn a grammar school place by hard work and determination.

At one time or another, whatever the circumstances, it is possible that your eleven plus child may occasionally become a little frustrated and feel like slamming a door. You could consider just whispering the words:

She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild;
She was an aggravating child...


and then end with the lines:

They never more would slam the door,
-- As often they had done before.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Eleven Plus Research

It is probably time for some research into the eleven plus. The internet has helped to expose the strengths and weaknesses traditional eleven plus materials. The same internet has allowed an abundance of materials to flood into homes. There is no case for regulation but a controlled trial may offer some parents useful information.

There is no time and no place for an experiment into the value of different teaching materials – because this would be very risky for the families and the children involved. An investigation could, however, cover at least three main areas:

1. Do eleven plus materials actually boost a child’s performance?

2. Would children have made the same progress if different materials had been used?

3. Do children forget everything they have learnt very soon after the examination?

The trial would need to have a number of schools that would be willing to participate. There would be little point in conducting a trial if the head and all his staff were violently opposed to the eleven plus. If schools were not willing to co-operate then alternative methods of sampling would be needed.

The eleven plus work could be tested against reading and verbal reasoning quotients – and some areas would be able to add mathematics. Children would be tested before starting on any eleven plus work – and then re-tested after six or seven months.

The children who were in the control group (no eleven plus stimulation) would simply continue with ordinary work.

We would expect:

1. Eleven plus materials do not really help.

2. Different materials do not really make a difference.

3. Children will forget most of what they have been taught within six months of the eleven plus.

The report would be published and read with considerable anticipation by widely varying groups. Anti eleven campaigners would be able to latch onto some of the findings to prove that the eleven plus is a vile and un-necessary examination. Some parents would be grateful that they had an opportunity of helping to determine their child’s future – with out being told that the National Curriculum: `Does not do it that way.” Tutors would read into the conclusions what ever they wanted to find. Other parents would acknowledge the value of the research but would continue to try to do the best for their children. The lives of the researchers would be examined. At least two researchers would land up on the couches of the early morning news programs.

Publishers would continue to publish.

Examiners would continue to examine.

Parents would continue to worry.

Children would continue to sail through the year.

Life would go on.

Monday, March 08, 2010

An Eleven Plus Song

Before the 1944 Education Act some parents had a choice about where their child was to be educated. If you had money you could choose to have your child educated privately. Parents with less money could not easily make a choice – hence the introduction of the eleven plus.

We could write the words of a song:

She had the money, he had the talent.
She had her school, he had his.
He was a late developer, she developed early.
He has no preparation, she was taught and taught.

Chorus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Better jobs, better professions
Doors closed on those who can not pass.

She had the culture, he had the drive.
Her back ground was rich, his was impoverished.
He was outside the zone, she lived near the school.
He had desire, she had birth and brains.

Chorus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Better jobs, better professions
Doors closed on those who can not pass.

Perhaps the eleven plus tests need to take into account children at schools who do not teach to the eleven plus – to try to nullify, to a certain extent, the effect of educational and cultural advantage. There must be a number of schools which seldom send a child to grammar schools – and lucky children at other schools where a good proportion of children have a better chance – or even a fairer chance.

The eleven plus examination takes place on a certain day at a specified time. There is little room for compromise. The examination, in its present form, can not take into account the preparation a child has had at an ambitious school – nor can the papers make allowances for children with few books and opportunities at home.

She passed with joy, his heart was sad.
She went to grammar, he could only dream.
He went on to get a first, she managed a third.
He had the drive, she had the advantage.

Chorus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Oh! The Eleven Plus
Better jobs, better professions
Doors can open for those who could not pass.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Eleven Plus Gang

“I leave the eleven plus stuff to my wife.”

“I don’t do the eleven plus. My husband does all the work.”

“My mother is a retired teacher and she does all the eleven plus work with her grand daughter.”

Some of the more entertaining of the eleven plus questions must pull all of the family in. Parents have the ability to do well at most eleven plus questions because they have wisdom and experience. These are great substitutes for burning desire and ability.

The role of an observer to the eleven plus journey is not always straight forward. The word ethnology springs to mind. An ethnologist is a person who studies the many facets of other humans. One such man was the sociologist William Foote Whyte. He made a study of an Italian slum corner just before the Second World War. He met up with the leader of the gang and gradually became assimilated into the gang’s various activities.

Whyte learnt to speak Italian and took part in many of the gang’s activities. He was taught how to gamble and to bowl. He also engaged in other activities that have no part in the rambling of an eleven plus blog. Gradually he became more and more involved in the life style of the gang – and then he suddenly realised that he was no longer an observer – but was an accepted member of the gang.

Much the same feeling of `incorporation’ must occur during the approach to the eleven plus examination. Bit by bit members of the family have to become involved in the `eleven plus gang’. The eleven plus gang has to learn new and old facts. Work has to be done on papers. The question of timing becomes important. Forgotten skills and attributes have to be revived and brought into the open for scrutiny.

There will be a gradual shift of priorities where the observer becomes a participant. Once this paradigm shift is in place, the roles of the various members of the family will change. It may be that `mother’ has a hitherto unknown ability in solving anagrams and codes. The `father’ may be a true and sustainable expert in withstanding specious arguments about the value of study and the worthiness of reading. The younger sibling may have a more comprehensive knowledge of tables.

What the eleven plus child has to cope with is a shifting of the roles within the family. Some of the shifts could be seismic –almost like the displacement of rocks at a fault. Imagine that grandpa can do more than play golf and moan – he is really good at maths – and he can make jokes about how much to study! Auntie Isabella is not just the quickest slurper of a Martine in the family – she is also good at non verbal reasoning questions.

Little bit by little bit the eleven plus will become part of the history and the fabric of the evolving family. The family, for example, may start with assumptions about the candidate – and then find new facets that can be burnished and polished. The child may have categorised the family into different and discrete `units’ – and then finds that he or she has to re-evaluate and re-think his or her role.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Is Our Present Eleven Plus Syllabus Too Narrow?

“The eleven plus examination, as it stands at the moment, is an `ism’ not an `ology’. Discuss.”

This is one of the questions that prospective eleven plus parents will have to pass before submitting their children to the stresses and strains of the eleven plus. “Antidisestablishmentarianism”, for example, is an `ism’ – as is magnetism but Kidology and Physiology are `ologys’.

Eleven plusism implies a belief in the eleven plus and what it stands for while eleven plusology is to do with the study of the eleven plus – as well as the study by children and parents within the eleven plus.

Our eleven plus children are subjected to the `ology’ side of the eleven plus – because this is to do with studying a particular branch of knowledge – where every thing is limited towards the examination. It is no good studying something of interest outside of eleven plus work because it won’t come up in the examination.

The ologys are not completely finite. Skills learnt in verbal reasoning exercises may sometimes be carried across into non verbal reading exercises.

Eleven plus `isms’, however have the power to be able to lead parents into realms far beyond the remit of the examination. Big Brotherism is an example of an ism that transcends taste while tribalism leads to thoughts of football crowds.

If we see or hear the word criticism in connection with the eleven plus we think immediately of parents worrying that they are not doing enough for their child. If criticism comes into a child’s vocabulary we must surmise that the child is feeling despondent about the attitude of his or her parents.

Some parents may choose, when possible, not to involve their children so deeply in the eleven plus to the exclusion of other activities. It may be better to shun the ism side of the eleven plus and go for a much wider ology.

Friday, March 05, 2010

ReadinG problems and the Eleven Plus

Some eleven plus children will be approaching their eleven plus examinations with a reading problem. All eleven plus children have to write the same examination – but not all children have similar reading skills. Some children may even have a descriptive label while others, with similar problems, may be in a system that does not recognise the `specific learning problem’.

Some children are in schools where there are specialist teachers who are able to support the classroom teachers. Some eleven plus children may even be in a class where the teacher is trained in coping with children with difficulties in reading. Other children may be withdrawn to a special class – while others are helped by specialist and well trained teachers.

Children are usually offered extra help at school after a full and comprehensive examination or battery of relevant tests. Most classroom teachers will be aware of the child’s problems but may not have the tools to be able to help the child in their care. Naturally most eleven plus parents will have been aware of problems with reading and interpretation of questions – and will have tried to help their children as best they can.

Some eleven plus parents may feel that they are forced to become politically orientated towards trying to apply pressure on some one or some body in order for their child to have the best possible opportunity in the examination. The political orientation is probably not to do with party politics – but with a pragmatic desire to make something happen.

If parents take their child to twenty different eleven plus teachers they will be offered twenty different opinions on the effect of the perceived reading problem on the child’s ability to cope with examination papers. The different eleven plus teachers may have varying methods of assessment – and will certainly have different methods of trying to help the child.

It is likely that some parents will listen respectfully to the different eleven plus teachers –while others may feel inclined to argue. Some eleven plus tutors, for example, may focus attention on perceived behaviour problems while others could focus on lack of attention. Some tutors may be trained in reading problems as well as the eleven plus while other may tend to specialise in the delivering good eleven plus lessons.

Some eleven plus teachers may have difficulty in accepting that a child is dyslexic. Some parents may feel they understand a lot of educational problems once their child has been diagnosed as dyslexic. In the similar manner some children will accept they have a problem and endeavour to move on – while other children may feel the need, at times, to blame their `dyslexia’ for all types of ills.

It is most likely, however, that a child with a reading problem, whether labelled or not, probably needs compassion, understanding, comprehension and interest. After all the examination is hard enough without the child experiencing the additional difficulty of being not entirely sure of what is being read.

Parents, of course, have one massive advantage over all the specialists, teachers, tutors, psychologists, ophthalmologists, therapists, doctors, paediatricians, hearing specialists and neurologists – and that is that parents have that wonderful ingredient called love.

ReadinG problems and the Eleven Plus

Some eleven plus children will be approaching their eleven plus examinations with a reading problem. All eleven plus children have to write the same examination – but not all children have similar reading skills. Some children may even have a descriptive label while others, with similar problems, may be in a system that does not recognise the `specific learning problem’.

Some children are in schools where there are specialist teachers who are able to support the classroom teachers. Some eleven plus children may even be in a class where the teacher is trained in coping with children with difficulties in reading. Other children may be withdrawn to a special class – while others are helped by specialist and well trained teachers.

Children are usually offered extra help at school after a full and comprehensive examination or battery of relevant tests. Most classroom teachers will be aware of the child’s problems but may not have the tools to be able to help the child in their care. Naturally most eleven plus parents will have been aware of problems with reading and interpretation of questions – and will have tried to help their children as best they can.

Some eleven plus parents may feel that they are forced to become politically orientated towards trying to apply pressure on some one or some body in order for their child to have the best possible opportunity in the examination. The political orientation is probably not to do with party politics – but with a pragmatic desire to make something happen.

If parents take their child to twenty different eleven plus teachers they will be offered twenty different opinions on the effect of the perceived reading problem on the child’s ability to cope with examination papers. The different eleven plus teachers may have varying methods of assessment – and will certainly have different methods of trying to help the child.

It is likely that some parents will listen respectfully to the different eleven plus teachers –while others may feel inclined to argue. Some eleven plus tutors, for example, may focus attention on perceived behaviour problems while others could focus on lack of attention. Some tutors may be trained in reading problems as well as the eleven plus while other may tend to specialise in the delivering good eleven plus lessons.

Some eleven plus teachers may have difficulty in accepting that a child is dyslexic. Some parents may feel they understand a lot of educational problems once their child has been diagnosed as dyslexic. In the similar manner some children will accept they have a problem and endeavour to move on – while other children may feel the need, at times, to blame their `dyslexia’ for all types of ills.

It is most likely, however, that a child with a reading problem, whether labelled or not, probably needs compassion, understanding, comprehension and interest. After all the examination is hard enough without the child experiencing the additional difficulty of being not entirely sure of what is being read.

Parents, of course, have one massive advantage over all the specialists, teachers, tutors, psychologists, ophthalmologists, therapists, doctors, paediatricians, hearing specialists and neurologists – and that is that parents have that wonderful ingredient called love.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Child's View of the Eleven Plus

What on earth could possibly stop your eleven plus child from wanting to work on a steady and sustained basis? After all you, as fond loving parents, have offered every opportunity. You have bought papers, books, engaged the best possible tutor and even called upon Auntie Annabelle who is the really intelligent one in the family. You can do no more.

Your ever loving child, however, has different ideas. In his or her life the eleven plus has a place but the examination is not the focal point of existence. You settle down to one of those 8.30 on a Sunday morning chats. (These are the discussions that your child regards with dread and fear.)

“Do you think, dear, you could suggest why you do not choose to work on a regular basis at your eleven plus work?”

“Certainly, mother. Thank you for offering me the opportunity to offer my point of view. Here are a few of my ideas.”

“Tell us what you think,” suggested dad.

“Number one. Eleven plus work breaks my leisure. I never get free blocks of time to pursue any activity I am interested in. You have stopped my swimming, my horse riding and my archery classes. All I have to do is work and work.”

“That is not entirely fair, dear, but do go on. We are interested.”

“Secondly I have to do too many different activities to do with the eleven plus. I have to do papers, work with dad and you, go to a tutor and even have to listen to Auntie Annabelle – and you do know how I feel about her.”

“Oh dear. We did not realise how you felt. We are only just trying to help.”

“You see, mum, dad, I suffer from a severe lack of opportunity to be rewarded by my endeavours. You expect me to keep working without any chance of financial reward.”

“Now look. You can not have everything. You had Florida last year. This year we are going to Rome. Your work towards the Eleven Plus does not, and should not, need to be rewarded.”

“Mum, dad, you have to let me have the freedom to make my own judgements about the eleven plus. I respect your thoughts on extra pocket money. I will not raise the subject again. I am just losing contact with the outside world. It is just work and more work. I can not see any way out of the cycle.”

“Once again we have come to the end of our little chat. Just do that paper you promised earlier in the week. Show it to me before we leave.”

“Oh mum.

Oh dad.

I never can win.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Eleven Plus Predictions

Every now and then the minds of some parents must wander in the direction of: “How well is my child doing towards the Eleven Plus?” Suppose your child is at a mixed school where there are two Year 5 classes. You could obtain some data from the scores of all the children in the year group.

In one scenario the school could usually help around 27 children to pass the eleven plus in any given year. A different school could reflect on why only three or four children out of the year group pass.

You could obtain a lot of data from looking at the scores from the children’s results. It would be considerably less easy to try to work who is going to pass by trying to predict pass scores. It may even be easier to try to work out whether more boys than girls will pass. In this exercise there are thirty boys and 20 girls.

Hypothesis One:
The chances of more boys than girls pass is random.

Hypothesis Two:
The chance of more boys than girls passing is not random.

Decisions on whether more boys than girls are likely to pass can only be made if it is accepted that some ten year old girls are more likely to pass than some boys. If this hypothesis is also rejected then it becomes even more difficult to predict which boys and which girls will pass.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Eleven Plus Plod

If you are sometimes worried about your child’s progress towards the eleven plus – take heart. There are a wide number of axioms you can call on to bolster your flagging spirits.

One of them is `the courage to plod’. Naturally a phrase like this will have many different connotations – and uses – but an eleven plus courage to plod is to start at the beginning and plod to the end.

You could remind your child too that: “The good guys get tired of being good before the bad guys get tired of being bad.” Once you have explained to your child your interpretation of this rather enigmatic statement, you may feel that you are in a position where you can cope with almost any eleven plus situation.

Children are offered all sorts of stimulating messages through the medium of advertising. Imagine in a world where the more complex elements of the eleven plus were promoted at primetime on one of the major networks.

Questions of the fairness of the eleven plus would be swept away – after all the messages would be seen and assimilated by a much wider audience. The purpose of advertising is to sell products. An example of an eleven plus product could be helping children to decipher and cope with code questions. Think of the impact on your child if a major star extolled the main points of the structure of a codes question through sound, video and a strong message.

Advertising, however, very often does not impart full information – possibly because of constraints of time. An `eleveninfo’ advert could encourage a much wider audience to share in a different thirst for knowledge. It is the parents who usually make the economic decision associated with buying the product – but the child can play a large part in guiding the parent towards making a purchase.

If more children could see the benefits of following a comprehensive eleven plus course then it possible that some of the children may want to lobby their parents to `get a bit of the eleven plus action’.

Small children are often depicted as being gullible and unwary. Eleven plus children, however, should be able to distinguish between a well prepared lesson and one where they are not stimulated or engaged. After all it is difficult to see why parents would want their child to plod towards an examination when there could be an option for `lights camera and action.’

Do you remember that bit from Thomas Gray?

THE Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Don’t push your child too hard to work when he or she is tired. Don’t expect your message to be received with joyful acclamation every time you make an eleven plus pitch. Just keep plodding on. Eleven Plus step by Eleven Plus step.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Saga of the Eleven Plus Refocillation.

At one time or another parents of eleven plus children may have to offer words that light a spark of fire. It is possible that some children find it very difficult to maintain a `high five’ attitude towards the eleven plus. Some eleven plus children may even feel that the whole saga of eleven plus preparation goes beyond the bounds of human decency. Parents may need to act. They may need to `light a fire’

There is a word in the English language, refocillate that means to refresh or reanimate. One of its meanings is to relight the fire. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary offers:

Re*foc"il*late\ (r?*f?s"?l*l?t), v. t. [L. refocillatus, p. p. of refocillare; pref. re- re- + focillare to revive by warmth.] To refresh; to revive.

We can see from the `atus’ and the `are’ that the roots of the word are more than likely in Latin:

The main problem with the word and any self respecting, bright and astute eleven plus child will be pleased to point this out: `refocillate’ is not a valid Scrabble word. Parents may need to act:

Ten Ways to Light a Fire under your Eleven Plus child.

At seven thirty on a Sunday morning, just before the family leave for Disneyland, Paris, sit down and have a heart to heart about the eleven plus.

Explain how Aunt Mary, who is now a judge, had to study every day for her eleven plus. Go into detail on how she never missed a day of study.

Give examples from history about how high achievers often seemed to have a cathartic moment when they suddenly realized the need to turn their lives around.

Discuss your trials and travails of life – and how you went on to become a wonderful mother

Warn your eleven plus child how a younger sibling is sure to `go to grammar’.

Recount how hard you were forced to work towards your grammar school place. Trot out the old story how you won a place through hard work and dedication.

Invite your child to abandon all hope of entering a favourite cinema, dance studio and swimming pool unless all work is completed on time – and virtually error free.

Take your child to sit outside the gates of the most unappetising school in your neighbourhood – and then ask your child to ignore the fact that each and every friend has rejected grammar school but want to go to the unloved comprehensive – because the school has been designated as an art performing college.

Threaten early bed, no pocket money and a miserable life if your child simply does not want to go to the school of your choice.

Ask your child to write out ` refocillate’ one hundred times – with an accompanying set of dictionary definitions.

If all else fails adopt a recumbent position. Ask for help. Pray aloud. Dream of what might have been. Then say quite fiercely: “You need to refocillate your life. Stop prevaricating and do the work. Thank you.”

More Eleven Plus Reading - and Thank You!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Eleven Plus, a Fox and a Cat.":

Sir,

I enjoyed reading your 11 plus blog about your Fox and your Cat. I have some questions of my own to pose.

My child will soon be sitting his 11 plus examination. I am concerned that he does not always ‘think the questions through’ and rushes into the first thing that come to mind. His teacher has informed him to read the examination questions carefully because the required answer is sometimes hidden therein. I’m not sure about this approach as my son is only 11 and quite na├»ve!

In view of this I have devised the following mock 11 plus test which I plan to give my child in preparation for the real thing. I hope to shock him into ‘reading the questions more carefully’ and NOT to read too much into the way it has been phrased. I would welcome your comments as to the wisdom of this approach by trying out my test paper on a group of your pupils to see the results. You need only get 4 of the questions right to pass the 11 plus!! Here it is:

1) How long did the Hundred Years' War last?

2) Which country makes Panama hats?

3) From which animal do we get cat gut?

4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5) What is a camel's hair brush made of?

6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

7) What was King George VI's first name?

8) What colour is a purple finch?

9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

10) What is the colour of the black box in a commercial airplane?


Check your answers below ...

ANSWERS TO THE 11 PLUS TEST - HOW MANY DID YOU GET RIGHT?

1) How long did the Hundred Years War last?

… 116 years !!

2) Which country makes Panama hats?

…… Ecuador !!

3) From which animal do we get cat gut?

……. Sheep and Horses!!

4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

……November !!

5) What is a camel's hair brush made of?

…… Squirrel fur !!

6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

….Dogs !!

7) What was King George VI's first name?

…..Albert !!

8) What colour is a purple finch ?
…. Crimson !!

9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

….. New Zealand !!

10) What is the colour of the black box in a commercial airplane?

….Orange !!!

Let me know how your sample group performed and how many expect o pass the real 11 plus test!



Posted by Anonymous to The 11 Plus Exam Blog at 2:34 PM