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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Sands of Eleven Plus Time

Every now and again the question of paying reluctant eleven plus candidates to do papers comes up.

“Oh, Mother Dear, of course I will do the paper – but it will cost you!”

“Well, all right, but you can’t rush this paper. You must take your time with the questions.”

“Oh, no! You are not going to use that egg timer on me again? I hate the pressure.”

“Well, dear, you need to remember a little story.

In an hour glass the sand takes exactly an hour to empty from the top to the bottom. You usually have to take fifty minutes on a paper – but remember we are giving you an extra ten minutes to look through the paper so that you can plan your time.

We will use our other sand timer – the one that only lasts ten minutes. When the sand runs out on those ten minutes you can start. You can not start before the time – and you can not leave your desk before the sand in the hour timer has run out.”

“But mum, it is not fair. An hour is a long time. I am sure I can finish ahead of time.”

“Yes, but the sand timer was invented to allow work men to be paid for each hour that they worked. Any way if you finish early you can always watch the sand running. You will be able to see that the conical shape of the sand in the bottom glass matches the shape of the sand in the top glass.”

“No more. I will do the test for nothing. Please don’t give me more information than I need. Please just leave me to it.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Eleven Plus Questions

A few more questions about the eleven plus:

Will the content of the eleven plus have any bearing on the future development of bright children?

Should working towards the eleven plus examination make the child a better citizen?

Will the academic nature of the eleven plus impact on the physical development of any eleven plus children?

Will any bright eleven plus children ever be given an opportunity to show just how good they are at school work?

Does it matter than some eleven plus children have to give up many of their treasured activities in order to be able to slog through a forest of eleven plus papers?

How well equipped will most children be when they walk through the hallowed gates of a grammar school for the first time?

And now for a little aside:

If the eleven plus examination is based entirely on a spirit of competition – where the favoured few are first past the post – then should eleven plus children be expected to turn out to be co-operative when they arrive at the grammar school?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

Do successful eleven plus children have a certain type of personality?

Do eleven plus children, who are struggling with their work, develop an excessively social attitude?

Are eleven plus children who are under achieving become hostile and display changeable moods?

Is the mental efficiency of the eleven plus child significantly affected by his or her personality?

Are some very able children excessively obsessive?

Do girls who make friends easily achieve higher eleven plus marks than their less sociable peers?

Do mothers have more influence than fathers over eleven plus work?

Does a child centred eleven plus regime obtain higher marks than one of pressure and more pressure?

Do some eleven plus children feel superior to other children?

Do steps to reduce anxiety and emotional disturbance help children to do better on tests?

How can the detrimental elements of eleven plus teaching be reduced?

Can any child survive a truly permissive eleven plus experience?

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Eleven Plus High Flyer

Spare a thought for the Eleven Plus High Flyer.

This is an exceptionally intelligent boy or girl who has been at the top of the class thoughout junior school.

The Eleven Plus examination selects him or her for grammar school where our high flyer is put into the `A' stream and immediately meets other high flyers. Our high flyer is immediately put under pressure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eleven Plus Choices

Most parents would like the final choice about the school they would like their child to attend to be theirs. Unfortunately a choice of school after the eleven plus results is not always a parent’s right.

Choosing a school for an eleven plus candidate is one of the most important decisions a parent can make.

Children who pass the eleven plus do not only come from privileged parents – because successful eleven plus candidates can come from every sort of home and background.

An obvious advantage of attending a grammar school is that your child is likely to obtain good GCSE results. We have, for example, a young man joining us to work in one of our centres who has just been awarded 13 A*s. He is obviously a very bright grammar school boy. The children he works with should benefit from his obvious intelligence and ability. He will be a wonderful role model for prospective eleven plus candidates.

Grammar schools have to be able to prove to parents that they are right place for their children. Grammar schools appear to pride themselves on traditional values. Most grammar school children seem to take pride in their work. Most parents would value this very highly.

Schools with a high standard of education, good discipline and a good work ethic would attract many parents.

Good pre eleven plus preparation may help some parents make a sensible choice.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Eleven Plus Diversion

The eleven plus examination is not all about adults imparting knowledge – sometimes children gain their revenge. A solemn faced little angel asked me today:

“Think of a four letter common noun that names a tiny animal. Now change the second letter of the noun to the next letter in the alphabet. What larger animal, also four letters long, do you come up with?”

What was I to say? I didn’t have a clue. The question was not in one of the `++++’ books or even the `****’ books. I am not sure if it was a question taken from the `&&&&’ website. Perhaps the question originated from Mrs `????’ who is very successful with her eleven plus candidates.

The beaming face before me urged me to get a clue. I was, however, clueless.

Others joined in. How nice to see a teacher humbled. The single smiling face became a sea of smiles. The suggestions started flying in. Words that were longer than four letters were immediately ridiculed. My puny efforts were mocked.

“Do you want a clue?”

“Yes please.”

“Listen to the question – what is the size of the animal?”

“Sorry – you said tiny.”


“We are all stuck. Please help?”

“It is a tiny animal that starts with the letter `g’ and ends with a `t’.

The suggestions flooded in. The noise and the laughter grew. I still did not have a clue.

“I will have to tell you. The word is gnat.”

A voice piped up. “It can’t be a gnat because a gnat is an insect.”

Our tormentor ignored this specious advice. “And the second word is goat.”

There were cheers of joy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eleven Plus Re-Sits

Why can’t the OFFICIAL ELEVEN PLUS AUTHORITIES allow some children to re-sit the eleven plus?

At the GCSE stage children can re-sit an examination to improve a grade. Surely it would be relatively easy to allow some children the opportunity of a re-sit? Of course in the eleven plus experience parents have the ability to appeal an eleven plus decision. But there is no opportunity for some children to be able to be given a second chance.

The questions could come from the same bank of questions.

Some candidates could improve their marks – and thus avert an educational tragedy.

In some cases the children may have to enter as private candidates but the authorities would no doubt institute a complex set of re-sit regulations.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Changes to the Format of the Eleven Plus

I watched two thumbed texting again today – along with predictive texting. The speed and accuracy were out of this world.

Surely the present format of the eleven plus is all wrong?

Why can’t our bright eleven plus children make use of modern methods of communication?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Objectives

Cognitive Objectives

After carefully reading this blog you will be able to:

Distinguish between different types of eleven plus preparation.

State the main sources of information about the eleven plus.

Give an example of good eleven plus practice.

Deliver your own opinion, based on research, to a waiting audience.

Carry out a skills analysis of what you, the rest of the family and the candidate have to do.

Summarise why you want your child to embark on the eleven plus journey.

Affective Objectives

After reading this blog the writer hopes that you:

Are aware that no one has all the answers to the many stages of the eleven plus journey.

Use your already highly structured and professional approach to the eleven plus – leaving as little to chance as possible.

Feel secure in your mind that preparation for the eleven plus is highly practical – and is not a theoretical exercise that can only be carried by `the super people’.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eleven Plus Stars

What would happen if the writers of the `Real Eleven Plus Examination’ came out of their lofty towers and started asking questions which allowed parents to respond honestly and faithfully?

“Do you think that we are doing a good job with the Eleven Plus?”

Strongly Agree … Agree … Strongly Disagree

“Do you think that the format of the Eleven Plus in your area should be changed?”

Strongly Agree … Agree … Strongly Disagree

The questions could roll!

What would happen if there was an attempt to engage the present crop of eleven plus candidates in some form of meaningful dialogue?

“Can you think of a different method of being tested for a place in a grammar school?”

“Is it fair that some poor children can not afford a tutor? Can you think of a solution?”

Educators, test boffins, teachers, parents and children could then enjoy some form of meaningful dialogue. It would be wonderful too if there was a full bodied representation from the grammar schools who would be able to explain and articulate their needs and desires.

Some nine year old children may find the whole exercise a heavy burden. But what about the clever little thinkers? They may care to have a say in an examination where they are the stars!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eleven Plus Writing

We have children writing the Medway Eleven Plus tests in the very near future. Part of their assessment is written English. Last year the children were asked to write a letter. Will they be presented with the same task this year?

Who wrote the first letter? We just don’t know. The Chinese and Japanese have their own set of characters. Back in ancient Egypt, India, China and Central America writing was used for record keeping. In Mesopotamia the need for records and administration reached a point where people could not remember all the transactions and, to avoid disputes, clerks began make formal records.

Some scholars think that an individual in about 3300 BC produced a form of writing that can be recognised today. It is also likely, however, that writing was the product of an evolution of skills over a long time.

This same evolution exists today. The art of texting, for example, has allowed new forms of writing and communication. A message can pass within seconds over long distances. This is a far cry from the letter borne by Pheidippides when he ran the marathon to ask for help.

Was the first actual letter a business transaction? I hope not. It does seem sad if the first letter was a record of the delivery of some pots. It would be far more romantic to have the first letter from the pen of an Eleven Plus mother.

My dear

We all wish you every good fortune in your eleven plus examinations. You will be in all our thoughts and we are all very proud of you.

We will all go out for a big party to celebrate the end of the eleven plus. We know that you have worked very hard and we salute you for the effort.

Good luck!



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eleven Plus Realism

A number of new eleven plus parents will be approaching the year with a sense of purpose. Other parents may try to visualise the problems that could lie ahead. By and large most parents will have a plan. They will also be able to articulate their objectives:

By October of next year, when the results are out, my child will have secured enough marks to be able to go to the grammar school of our choice.

Some parents will try to find the most efficient way of achieving the objectives. Some may feel that efficiency is to do with achieving value for money. Others, in these difficult times, will try to be as cost effective as possible. Most parents will naturally try to set a budget.

The budget will depend on the readiness of their child to pass the examination. A child who simply needs a little work on a few papers will cost a lot less than a child who needs to work very hard towards the examinations.

Books, papers, possible lessons, downloads and courses will cross the minds of many parents. Some may feel that their child needs a full package. Others will feel secure that their child should pass with a little bit of brushing up.

Whatever the choices that are made most parents will monitor the situation on a daily basis and adopt a highly realistic approach to their children. The examination, after all is a competition. Only the best candidates will pass.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Pressure

Would you believe that research some years ago showed that dominant teachers produced dominant and aggressive children?

Would you believe that integrative and accepting behaviour among teachers produced co-operative behaviour among children?

Would you believe, although I don’t know if this has ever been formally investigated, that nurturing and caring behaviour from parents would encourage their child to want to work positively towards the eleven plus?

In the traditional do’s and don’ts of eleven plus work on papers, is it possible that some eleven plus children may be able to do extraordinary work if they feel nurtured and recognised?

Where is the punch line? Try not to punch an eleven plus child with too much pressure.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Reasoning

Deciding whether your child is ready for eleven plus work seems to depend on the experience of your child, the nature of the examination, underlying intelligence or reasoning ability and maturity.

Many years ago strong arguments took place about the effectiveness of coaching and practice. One side maintained that extra work on papers and eleven plus exercises was a complete waste of time. Other parents and educators felt that it was essential to give children the best possible chance.

Today few would argue that extra preparation could help towards providing children with the opportunities to acquire readiness for the eleven plus examination. There will always be some parents who maintain that their child was able to pass the eleven plus with remarkably little preparation. These fortunate parents, and their children, are to be envied. It is also likely that some parents may lack the ability to help their children. This could lead to bright and able children losing out to better prepared but less able children.

Eleven plus preparation, for some children, will be a series of small steps – where each processes is analysed and hopefully assimilated. Other children will relish the opportunity of being able to extend and stretch themselves without having to wait for others.

Children can be coached in how to tackle verbal and non verbal reasoning papers. They can be shown different methods of tackling questions and can be drilled with exercises. This could help some children to obtain good marks on reasoning papers. The coaching and preparation can only effective if the eleven plus examiners persist in presenting the same format of papers year after year. If the examiners looked for new ways of testing reasoning ability they may be able to develop examinations where truly bright children were identified.

Years and years ago an effective eleven plus question may have been:

If 123245678 in code is PARAMOUNT

What is 123358?

Very few candidates sitting this year’s examinations will not be able to know how to cope with this type of question. This could help to diminish elements of the eleven plus the ability to be a true examination of reasoning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eleven Plus Luck

Your child is working through an eleven plus paper at this very moment. A friend calls and suggests that your child should join a little group that are going out together to a local park. The park is near your house. Your child would be safe walking there – especially as the mother of the caller is going to accompany the children to the park.

“Of course, my dear. Just finish off those last few questions before you go.”

“Thank you mother. This will not take long.”

The paper was completed within a very few minutes.

“Did you guess any answers? That did not take long.”

“Oh no, Mum, I was very careful.”

Subsequent marking showed that all the answers that followed the call were wrong. A little doubt entered the mind of the long suffering mother. Had her much loved child guessed at the last few answers?

The assumption that all wrong answers were guessed may be completely wrong. Your child may have answered the questions with great care and still made mistakes. We are presuming that there were four answers from which to choose. The laws of chance would suggest that if there were twelve four point answers your child would score at least three. Sometimes your child would score more than three and on other occasions less than three. If the previous sixty questions had been answered correctly – and only the last twelve questions completed very quickly - then dark thoughts may cross your mind.

It is unlikely that if your child answered the first sixty correctly that he or she would suddenly start making mistakes on the final twelve questions. Yet it happened. One solution could be that the final twelve questions were of a type that had never been seen before.

The indubitable fact is that even if your child has missed the word `not’ at the start of the block of twelve questions the laws of chance would still have offered three correct answers.

Perhaps, and this is a perfectly acceptable conclusion, some eleven plus children are luckier than others. Some will be lucky to pass – and others pass because of luck. If your child passes I am sure you will not mind either way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Information

When parents go about gathering information about the eleven plus they are faced with a wide variety of conflicting information. On the one hand there is the bewildering amount of information on the internet and in books and papers. On the other there is the personal advice from close friends and family. The more parents satisfy one demand on their time – the more they may be inclined to be become frustrated.

Some parents may tend to organise their research into a systematic form of information gathering. Others may prefer to benefit from personal recommendation and past experience. Some parents may have been through the eleven plus themselves and others will need as much information and advice as possible.

Some of the information needs to be factual – the date and time of the examination, the number of papers and the type and range of questions. Other information may be far more subjective. Will my child and I ever be able to work together? Do I really need the services of a tutor? Will he or she ever settle down to do some eleven plus work without being reminded?

For some parents the evening of September the 15th 2010 means that it is all over. The last eleven plus examination has been written. Other parents still have a few more days or weeks of worry and concern. Yet others are just starting on the journey. They are still sifting information and opinions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Eleven Plus Story

A number of children in Kent will be writing their Eleven Plus English essay tomorrow. The results of the exercise are only used in the event of further evidence about a pass or fail situation.

One hundred years ago children in some English classes were asked to complete a story.

Hare Tortoise race discussion winner hare arrogant humility participants spectators audience timely plodding moral

There was little room for individual thinking. Children could demonstrate a wide vocabulary and careful punctuation. The very essence of a bright eleven year old, however, may have been stifled – the need to argue and discuss.

A ten year eleven plus candidate who can not put up a robust argument must be rare and unusual. Some of the children writing the examination tomorrow may go on to become lawyers, barristers and judges.

We hope too that at least some of the questions tomorrow will try to stimulate a bright and fertile imagination. We can only hope that some of the questions will try to inspire the children and encourage them to write with heightened visual imagery and decoration.

All we can hope is that the urgency of the eleven plus does not force some children into writing insincere and highly predicable stories or accounts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Helping an Eleven Plus Child

As children settle down to their Eleven Plus examinations some of us parents and grandparents may be scratching our heads. It looks as if we can't do much right at all. What ever we try to do there will be a different opinion on our endevours.

A fascinating article in The Telegraph points to the advantages of early intervention. One finding was that a settled home along with more expensive equipment did help a little.

We then read a comment from the Independent talking about what holds some children back.

My father used to say: "Don't wait for a red London bus; another will come along very soon."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Places

At the beginning of the twentieth England did not have an organised system of secondary education. There were grammar schools where the rich and selected poor children mingled – but the schools were called `grammar’ because of the curriculum that was taught in the schools.

Two institutions, Oxford and Cambridge, instituted local examinations for schools which had the effect of building a curriculum that could be followed by all the participating schools. There was, however, no connection between the teachers who were preparing children and the universities themselves.

All the universities had their own system of entrance test. This led to a diverse and chaotic system of examination. A central authority was introduced to try to bring order into the chaos. When children passed the `school examination’ and obtained a `school certificate’ they then had a qualification that the universities could rely on. With your school certificate you could apply to most universities.

We are preparing children for different eleven plus examinations – as there is no centralised system that looks after the concerns of children across the country. We have to prepare different courses for children in Manchester down to Kent as well for individual schools. The courses have common elements – but are not the same.

Parents, however, have to rely on their own investigations, word of mouth, the internet and advice from experienced teachers who operate to help children into grammar school. Teachers ploughing a lonely furrow with their children on a one to one basis have no input into the content of the examination.

A few selected publishers have great influence over what the eleven plus children are told to learn. Eleven plus teaching and examining functions, however, are kept separate. The prize of grammar school place is so great that parents will put up with almost anything as long as their child wins a place.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

We can’t blame the Eleven Plus for everything but big changes took place in England around the 1950s. Schools stopped teaching many subjects that had been part of a child’s education for many years. Teachers today do not seem to as involved in the classic subjects like Latin and Poetry. The whole tenor of the Eleven Plus would change today if elements of these two subjects were to become part of the so called eleven plus syllabus.

We know that some children are going to go on to be great explorers – these children will hear strange songs and dance to new beats. They will hear poems in other languages – sometimes with great epic stories. Other children will prefer to stay close to home and enjoy the familiar sounds and noises of their childhood.

Who is to say if the poem produced by one courageous child is better than one built up in a painstaking manner by a child who will never live more than a mile from the ancestral home? Should the poetry in the eleven plus then be about the analysis of a poem (as in the current GCSE examinations) or the form of a creative adventure?

There is a little song from Zimbabwe that may entertain. The song does not set out to be an epic. It does not try to scan. There is no need for an audit of feelings and emotions – it is simply a little song sung by some Mashona families:

Pasi Pamera Ziso

Pasi pamera ziso tururuzai wona

Wonawona ziso tururuzai wona.

Of course a multiple choice question is easier to mark and grade. Would an A Level English teacher at a grammar school, however, prefer a child who can think and create to one who arrived in the 6th form having been carefully drilled at the age of ten into answering certain types of questions?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eleven Plus Luck

A number of children are writing their Eleven Plus tomorrow. All of us wish them good luck.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Passing the Eleven Plus

From the beginning of time individuals with superior intellect must have been regarded as being special and different. The criteria for designating people of above average ability must have changed from time to time. Factors like birth, wealth, physical stamina may well have played a part over the centuries.

The Eleven Plus was not designed as a vehicle for identifying bright children – in its infancy there was the worthy aim of identifying bright children from poor backgrounds – and supplying an education that would otherwise have been denied to them.

Today children from all walks of life have means to enter the eleven plus round. Papers, tests, tutors and anxious parents are the norm in parts of the country. The internet has played large part in opening up different approaches to how children learn and prepare for the examination.

There is still, however, a place for the truly bright child to be challenged and involved in the examination. This would be the child with the ability to sail through the eleven plus with scores over 136. A number of these lucky children must relish the opportunity of showing just how good they are.

Some parents can only hope that their children will be able to rise to the challenge of the eleven plus. Yet these children may be gifted in other areas. Being of `superior intellect’ does not necessarily mean gifted academically - but it probably helps a lot!

Passing the eleven plus today is probably the preserve of good hardworking children from good honest homes. We wish them well in their examinations!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Food For Thought

It used to be common practice to ask a promising candidate out to dinner – or observe him or her in situations outside of the interview room. This would enable the `host’ or prospective employer to make inferences on the validity of the C.V. The dinner would also offer insight into the ability of the candidate to form relationships.

The prospective employer would also be able to observe the manner in which peas were eaten. (On the knife or off the knife.)

Did the candidate wait for grace?

Did the candidate offer to officiate at the ceremony of the grace?

Was grace deemed to be necessary?

Did the candidate sit before the host or after the host?

Was there small talk or did the conversation immediately revolve around the job and its prospects?

Did the candidate appreciate that the social situation of the dinner may be far removed from the niceties of holding down a responsible job?

Suppose that some of our eleven plus candidates were put into the same position.

Do you advise your child to order pizza – because that is the flavour of the month?

Should you suggest that your child order the fish soup – in the hope of looking genteel?

Does your child order a coke or a glass of sparking water?

Should the conversation revolve around your child’s accomplishments – or those of the interviewer?

Does your child adopt an obsequious manner – or try to dominate the conversation?

And finally:

Does your child leave three or four peas on the plate to demonstrate an appreciation of social niceties?

Last Word

Would you want your child to go to a school that wanted more than high scores on multiple choice tests?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Eleven Plus Methods

We are sometimes faced with yet another method of doing long multiplication.

“My teacher does not do it like that.”

“But Dad says I have to multiply by the number on the right.”

What would happen if yet another method was introduced?

Multiply 27 by 35.

Halve the numbers in the first column again and again. Ignore the remainders.


Double the numbers of the second number


Cross out the numbers in the second column that are opposite an even number.

The even number in the first list is 6 so the 140 of the second list is crossed out.

Add the remaining numbers.

Total = 945!

If this method is less confusing than that shown by the school then why not suggest to your child that he or she could contemplate an exploration of numbers and methods?

After all is teaching towards the eleven plus teaching a child to pass an examination or teaching a child about themselves?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Eleven Plus Potential

How can you try to maximise the potential of your eleven plus child? One way could be to treat your child as if you expect him or her to pass the examination. You could contemplate trying to instil the best possible working practices while working through papers and doing any extra eleven plus work.

Your child must view you as a strong eleven plus manager. Start the eleven plus journey as you hope your child will finish. This does not mean strict times for the work or completing a specified number of questions every day but it does mean planning and lots of motivational talks and exercises.

Try not to rely too heavily on one supplier of eleven plus materials. Look around until you find a number of different books, materials and tests. You want you child to think and reason in the examination. There is no royal road to success. Keep trying.

Keep everything neat, tidy and well organised in any work you do with your child. You may, heaven forbid, need to prove all the hard work and effort. Untidy books and scribbled on papers will not help all that much in an appeal situation.

Try to ensure that the eleven plus is part of your lives and does not take over. Allow some time off for your child to be a child and not an eleven plus automation.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Median Eleven Plus Number

There were lots of us on the Mayor’s London Cycle Sky ride today. I was pulling a Halfords Cycle trailer with the granddaughter proudly ensconced – who was waving regally to the attendant crowds. Grandson was on his yellow machine – along with full suspension and fearsome brakes. At one time we were told that there were over eighty thousand riding the paved streets of London.

Dick Whittington would have loved to have been with us. He became the Lord Mayor of London. I am sorry to say that we did not see the present Mayor of London as we swept past the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. I would have prized an opportunity to say thank you for the privilege of traffic free riding. I can, however, say thank you to the hundred of volunteers lining the route who made the ride such an enjoyable experience.

On the journey back my mind wandered, as it is wont to do on occasions, on how an eager eleven plus child would work out the average age of the cyclists. There was a wide spectrum of ages – with male and female seemingly equally distributed. Our eleven plus mathematician could not have approached all eighty thousand and asked their ages. He or she could, however, have selected a sample drawn over a period of time as the cyclists crossed the starting line. The prospective actuary could have closed his or her eyes and on a signal opened them to select a group of nine cyclists. Answers about the ages of a random sample of nine participants could have sought and recorded.

The ages could then be placed into rank order with the oldest at one end and the youngest at the other. The middle number of the nine would be the median age – because of the ranked order. Suppose that ten ages were obtained – because an enthusiastic member of the cycling fraternity also wanted to be entered into the calculation. The middle number would then be a number between the middle two ages.

(We saw a man on a unicycle but we were not counting wheels but ages.)

So if the question on the eleven plus paper, by chance, does not have an odd number we would need this formula.

The median of a set of N numbers which have been ranked in order is equal to the odd number in the middle. If the range of numbers is not odd, the median is half the sum of the middle two numbers.

Using this method we could have found the age of the cyclist in the very middle of the range of all eighty thousand and one cyclist. If, however, there were exactly eighty thousand some poor soul may have needed to be cut in half.

Who said the eleven plus is easy?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Eleven Plus Breakfasts

Is it possible that there could be some form of relationship between meal times and success in the eleven plus? Is a child nibbling on crisps and sucking chocolate bars more likely to less likely to want to eat meals at set and specified times? This are questions may perturb a minority. Most families will have their own rhythm and their own eating habits.

In some cases it must be a very complicated task trying to synchronise meal times in the family. Imagine having to cook special meals for the eleven plus candidate. The family, for example, may be eating a tasty roll of beef – but the eleven plus candidate is on fish brains and bananas – become some expert has found that mice react best on fish food and bananas. It is perfectly all right if the candidate likes fish – but must be a horrifying experience to watch the rest of the family tucking into a solid English meal while nibbling at desiccated fish.

We all know that breakfast in the most important meal of the day. I met an eleven plus candidate this year who stated that she never ate breakfast. Her mother explained that she too never ate in the morning. Should her mother have looked ahead when her daughter was a baby and started eating breakfasts to ensure that her daughter (when she reached ten) also wanted to break her fast? Should we believe the breakfast food manufactures when that state that we need to eat a hearty first meal of the day?

Suppose that a mother opted to provide her candidate with a `Full English Breakfast’ as a treat on the morning of the eleven plus. (Just to cheer the family up!) The breakfast food could revolve around eggs. (“Would you prefer scrambled, poached or fried?”) There could be bacon. (“How many rashers do you think you would like?) The meal could also have a little back pudding, toast, grape fruit, milk and possibly beans.

Other mothers and fathers may offer a more continental breakfast of croissants and preserves along with a cup of coffee. (It is suggested that the typical little shot of brandy that some continentals seem to prefer with their coffee may not be a good idea on the on the morning of the examination.)

And finally, the breakfast cereal, along with a slice of toast and jam or marmalade, may be a preferred offering.

Discuss the preferred menu ahead of the day – leaving you to shop, if necessary, for any unforeseen delicacies.

“Do you really want a chocolate cream egg this early in the day?”

Friday, September 03, 2010

Time and the Eleven Plus

I was asked today about time. “How do I help my child with time in the examination?”

This is a remarkably difficult question to answer. Time wears many hats and for many of us the eleven plus develops into a race against time.

It is high time that you wear your watch when you are working through eleven plus papers.

If you are not careful you may ruin out of time. Time waits for no man (or any eleven plus child).

I have told you more times than I have had hot dinners that keeping time in the examination is simply a question of managing time. “If you do not use time wisely, you may lose it!”

You may find that time is running out in the examination. Try the obvious answers.

If you are pressed for time then try to keep calm. It is no good panicking.

You may find the right answer in the nick of time. Keep trying. Do not give up.

It is just a matter of time before your tummy wobbles silence themselves – and you should start enjoying the examination.

You may find that you have to make time during the examination.

And finally – in the fullness of time your hard eleven plus work should pay off.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Eleven Plus Confidence

It is to be hoped that parents are now concentrating on trying to build confidence as the examination grows closer. I had the privilege of chatting informally to a number of children who has attended courses over the school holidays. The universal feeling was the extra work had helped to build confidence.

The film `Braveheart’ showed Mel Gibson and an army of Scots preparing to do battle with blue stripes on their faces. Other than decoration we can only imagine that the blue to there to denote sameness (rather like a school uniform), bravery and an attempt to instil fear into opponents.

The Maoris are another `tribe’ who paint their faces and perform highly ritualised dances or routines to terrify their opponents. The Hakka at the start of a New Zealand Rugby match must be intended to strike fear in the hearts of the opposing team.

I witnessed today another example of pre examination moral building. A ten year old girl had a pair of the brightest pink shoes imaginable. We were all highly impressed. She felt good – and looked good.

It may be very unwise for any eleven plus child to arrive in the examination hall with painted faces and pink shoes. Parents could, however, arrange for a little fake tattoo and a snippet of pink ribbon tied to the shoelaces. After all you have worked hard with your children, supplied tutors, papers, comfort and support. You just want your child to feel good on the day.

After dropping the pre examination children, mothers (and possibly some fathers) could paint their faces and wear a little pink. Some, however, may prefer the solace of a little pink gin or two.

“Yes please, a little sweet gin and a touch of bitters. Make that a double. Chin, chin children. Down the hatch.”

“I do feel better now.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Thank You

There are two little words that must surely transcend any language – namely `Thank You’.

These are the words every parent must long to hear. There must be some families where the words are rare – and in other families it is possible that the words `thank you’ are sprinkled around in a most liberal and welcome manner. It is never possible, however, to take these words for granted.

Your child has just left an eleven plus lesson. You are offered a squeeze of the hand and the words `thank you’. Sitting in the car playing with the radio and your mobile phone is all worthwhile.

You offer a new eleven plus paper and your child turns to you are says “This is exciting. Thank you. I can’t wait to pit my wits against the paper.”

The ever patient grandparent drops the eleven plus candidate off at home and hears the whispered words: “Thank you. That was great. See you next week.” The heart is full as grand parent drives happily away.

You leave the lesson and, without prompting, your child turns to the teacher and says: “Thank you.” You know that pride is a deadly sin – but you do feel proud as you, and your child, stride comfortably away.

Do you remember the poem by Robert Service?


And so when he reached my bed
The General made a stand:
"My brave young fellow," he said,
"I would shake your hand."

So I lifted my arm, the right,
With never a hand at all;
Only a stump, a sight
Fit to appal.

"Well, well. Now that's too bad!
That's sorrowful luck," he said;
"But there! You give me, my lad,
The left instead."

So from under the blanket's rim
I raised and showed him the other,
A snag as ugly and grim
As its ugly brother.

He looked at each jagged wrist;
He looked, but he did not speak;
And then he bent down and kissed
Me on either cheek.

You wonder now I don't mind
I hadn't a hand to offer. . . .
They tell me (you know I'm blind)
'Twas Grand-Père Joffre.