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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An Eleven Plus Nut

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions you need to pose must cover at least:

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

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

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

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

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

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