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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bruising Eleven Plus Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eleven Plus Hope

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

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

Are you usually troubled by feelings of eleven plus guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you find it difficult to sit still without fidgeting?

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

There are no answers.

If you score full marks you have a high esteem.

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

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

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

Familiar words?

Eleven Plus Bullying 28/11/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleven Plus Wars 27/11/11

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

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

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

All you have is two cans.

Can 1 – 3 litre
Can 2 – 5 litre.

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

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

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

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

Eleven Plus Responses 26/11/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can take this a little bit further.

“How you completed your eleven plus task today?”

“Yes I have.”

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Newton, Archimedes and the Eleven Plus

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

Newton – he had his apple.

Archimedes –when he leapt out of tub.

Eratosthenes – and the circumference of the earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Factors Affecting Eleven Plus Success

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

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

He crossed tall peas with short peas.

He crossed wrinkled peas with smooth peas.

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

He crossed green seeds with yellow seeds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cats, Dogs and the Eleven Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brain Stretching Step 1

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

Brain Stretching Step 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Boredom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Eleven Plus Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eleven Plus Technology

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

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

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

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

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

What percentage think that mum should purchase and install?

What percentage think that dad should purchase and install?

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Collecting Eleven Plus Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Percentiles

Standardised Scores and Percentiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eleven Plus Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bribery? Of course!

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

Discussion? The dream – but not always reality.

Information? Just an overload. Keep it simple!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eleven Plus Herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

The label would read:

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Criteria

Course Title
Eleven Plus Examination 2011

Selection Criteria

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

Selection Method

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

Course Content

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


“To get into grammar!”


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


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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eleven Plus Standardisation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

`Come to a pre eleven plus course

aimed at children from

three months and upward.

Your child will learn how to be

observed and tested.

The results will help in the actual

Eleven plus examination.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eleven Plus Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comparing Eleven Plus Results

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

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

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

“Why thank you mother.”

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Emotional Eleven Plus Behaviour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Content of The Eleven Plus

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

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

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

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Eleven Plus Some Time Ago

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

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

The Eleven Plus Today

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Eleven Plus Rewards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 06, 2010

An Eleven Plus Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 05, 2010

Eleven Plus Preferences

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

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

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

One town had its water supply treated with sodium fluoride.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Outstanding Eleven Plus Results

Today offers an opportunity for a celebration.

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

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

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

What an outstanding girl.

What wonderful parents.

What a good school!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Eleven Plus Routine

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

Eleven Plus Study

And so on ….

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Eleven Plus Papers

Some parts of the present eleven plus syllabus seem to be based on the nineteenth century curriculum which was built around the theory of `transfer of training’. This nineteenth century school of thought was that if a child acquired `mental discipline’ or was `trained formally’ then this could be applied to any other field.

Over the years there have been many instances of young men and women being thrust into challenging position by virtue of their education. We can look, for example, at the number of Prime Ministers that have been educated at Eton. Years ago these prime ministers would have been educated mainly in the classics. The concept of transfer of training’ was supposed to carry into other fields of leadership and endeavour.

Today we work on some rather specious verbal reasoning questions – especially those taken from venerable sources – and must wonder how this `transfer of training’ is supposed to work in the actual examination. We expect children to solve questions and problems on eleven plus papers – and then apply this knowledge in the actual examination.

We all hope that working through paper after paper will be of benefit in the examination. If would be wonderful if some erudite scholar could work out a formula where children could apply to spend as little time as possible on eleven plus work.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Parents, Children and the Eleven Plus

Is it possible that the eleven plus could have been easier back in the seventeenth or eighteen century? We know that the size of families was about the same as today. So even if we look back over seventeen or eighteen generations there was still a father, a mother and some children. We can only surmise that the parents had to work just as hard as today. Their roles would certainly have been difficult but many parents may have been faced with the same dilemma as to day - how to give their children the best possible opportunities.

The word `coterminous' springs to mind. This is where we need to be able to share similar boundaries. The family of years ago would have had grandparents that may or may not have been able to read - unlike most of today’s elders. Today’s grandparents may or may not be able to work out some strange non verbal reasoning question - but both sets would have tried to do their best.

Luckily for some of the children two hundred years ago verbal and non verbal reasoning tests had not arrived at the degree of test sophistication that we expect our children to achieve.

Surely, however, a bright child some two hundred years ago would have been able to answer a question like:

Which word is opposite to GOOD?

kind bad deep rude wrong

What about a question like:

The young knight Harry was eight years old two years ago.

His best friend William is two years younger than him.

Harry’s cousin, Mary, was one year older than William.

How old is Harry now?

Perhaps we should not always talk about eleven plus children but about children who have parents who want the best for their children.