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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Chance

Clearly the role played by the home and parents during the course of the eleven plus is of vital importance.

It would be almost impossible to classify the different types of home environment – and the way different sets of parents behave towards their eleven plus children. The equation becomes much more complex if an attempt is made to try to factor in the differences in the way the father and the mother may behave towards their eleven plus candidate.

There must be all shades of variation from the strict father and the mild mother to the complete opposite. One of the parents may be intensely ambitious and the other far more relaxed about the consequences of the examination.

It is possible; however, that some of the parents of well adjusted children will be happy to observe signs of independence and maturity. It is also likely that these parents will enjoy a relationship with their children based on understanding and consideration.

Of course children will hope that their parents are able to communicate without being too strict or too relaxed. After all some eleven plus children are going through a period of pressure – and many of the children may be very aware of high expectations.

It would be impossible to estimate just how many children have the potential to pass the eleven plus. There will be children in other countries, for example, who will never go to school and will never enjoy the fruits of intensive examination preparation. The eleven plus child does not need to shoulder the burden less fortunate children. There may, however, be some room for compassion.

Passing the eleven plus is not just a matter of sitting down to paper after paper. The eleven plus requires considerable interdependence – parents, home, school, children, relatives, head teachers, teachers, class mates, siblings – the list must go on and on. The quality and quantity of the preparation must also, to a degree, be taken into account.

There will always be children who can pass the eleven plus without doing any extra work. There will always be parents who will do almost anything to give their child the best possible chance.

Passing the eleven plus is not altogether attributable to chance – it must, in part, be down to hard work, ability and a desire to succeed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eleven Plus New Year Resolutions

A mere thirty days ago you and you eleven plus child sat down to discuss the `Eleven Plus Resolutions’. The promise and resolutions were made in a spirit of reconciliation and pledges. Some will have been easier to keep than others. Examination candidates, and their mentors, will give their word to almost any thing if they think it will help.

(Some resolutions apply to the child, some to the parent and some are shared by both.)

I resolve to behave in such a way that I will respect the needs of the eleven plus and will work as hard as I can.

I will be polite and respectful to my mother and father (to my son or daughter) at all times. I will never raise my voice – unless I am excited by a correct answer.

I will keep my eleven plus materials neat, clean and well organised. I will pick up and put away. I will never leave a used cup or class on the hallowed eleven plus desk. I will always put any cutlery away.

I will do my eleven plus work when it is time to work. I will not argue or seek arguments. I will try hard to maintain a steady and purposeful direction towards the examination.

I will make reasonable adjustments to my work schedule. I know that one meaning of the word `reasonable’ is `in accord with common sense’. (I understand that definitions of the words `common sense seem to vary from generation to generation.)

I will treat everything to do with the eleven plus with dignity and forbearance.

It is not hard to understand why sometimes it is hard to maintain the intent of too numerous `New Year Eleven Plus Resolutions’. The old eleven plus proverb (borrowed from antiquity) maintains that it is impossible to square the circle. All parents and their children can do is their best.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Past Eleven Plus Results

I heard today about three sets of parents who wanted to leave one school and go to a different school – because the desired school had had better eleven plus results. The parents decided to try to move during the eleven plus year to give their children the best possible chance. The children would leave behind the friends they had had through out their school careers. The mothers were sure they were right and their present school was wrong.

Comparing schools on the basis of previous eleven plus passes can be a little misleading at times. Let us look at four different schools. Suppose the number of children winning places in grammar schools to be 26, 23, 20 and 21. It would be possible to place the schools into rank order – A, B, C and D. If your child was in school D you may wish your child to go to school A. Schools A, B and C had comparable intakes. But school D had almost twice as many children sitting the eleven plus. On this basis should school D be ruled out?

Schools A, B and C had year intakes of around 50 children. School D had around 80 children. Does School A still look the best choice?

School A, however, is about to enter a year of transition. The Head Teacher is retiring. The much loved, and highly respected, Year 5 teacher is about a take a year out to do voluntary work in Cambodia. The school is about to have an exclusion unit added – that would take in troubled children from the other schools. One of the school governors is to appear in court for threatening a parent who was downright rude.

Is school A still the best choice?

School C had an outstanding OFSTEAD report. The head is to take over the management of school A as well as run school C. School A is looking for a new full time head.

School D, however, is about to move into new buildings costing millions of pounds. The IT suite will be the envy of all the schools in the authority.

Should parents be conservative during Year 5 – or can they exercise their rights? Are good eleven plus results worth more than friendships?

The scenario with the parents mentioned about has yet to draw a final curtain. The first shots have been fired.

Is there more to a school than last year’s eleven plus results?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eleven Plus and Independent Schools

There is a thought provoking article in The Telegraph today.

An article written in by a respected journalist is always interesting and can broaden the debate.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Solving Eleven Plus Problems

If you bought your eleven plus child an educational science kit for Christmas, and it is still languishing unused, you could try this little experiment. Create a circuit where there are two light switches – and each one can only be in one of two positions. There is also an electric bulb.

If you are a brave and forward thinking parent you will have the confidence to try this will all the members of your family, the task is to tell, on the basis of turning one switch only, what turns the light on.

Trial One

The light is off. Your eleven plus child turns one switch and the light comes on.

Trial Two

The light is on. The switch is moved and the light goes off.

Trial Three

The light is on. When the switch is moved nothing happens.

Trial Four

The light is off. When the switch is moved nothing happens.

Whichever way the problem is presented everyone in the family will find that they need to follow a similar pattern of steps.

In the first case the only thing that needs to be understood which position and which switch was used. The remaining trials require more than one thing to be remembered. Take Trial Four where nothing happens.

The present position has to be rejected,
The original position of the switch has to be rejected.
The present position of the switch that has not been turned has to be rejected,
The alternative position of the switch that has not been turned has to be the one that turn the light on.

The experiment was first set up by J. Huttenlocher who was in part looking at how few steps were needed to solve the problem It was found that some six year old children were just as good as twelve year old children.

This seems to suggest, but this could be a rather wild hypothesis, that some six year old children could possibly solve some problems that some eleven plus candidates find difficult. Perhaps the parallel can be drawn out a little further – some eleven plus children may be able to solve some problems with fewer steps than their parents. (If any one has any experience of this happening please let me know!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lot and Lots of Similar Eleven Plus Questions

Back in1212, long before the eleven plus was a twinkle in the eye of the educators, Etienne started the Children’s Crusade. Etienne was a shepherd boy who had a vision He appointed himself as an ambassador to make a pilgrimage.

As he marched through France he was joined by thousands of boys and girls – and some were even bearing arms. As the madness spread through the country, parents were unable to control their children. The children howled until they were able to join the march – and some even crept away in the night.

Is it difficult to imagine a similar Eleven Plus crusade in today’s world? The children would be able to make the crusade from the safety of their computers and phones. Bebo, My Space, Skype, Messaging and Face Book would offer relatively safe havens for the children. Their parents would be able to monitor their conversations, twitters and chat.

Would the eleven plus stay in the same format if every child who has embarked on an eleven plus course was able to be part of a massive eleven plus `chat’ scheme? Children would be able to communicate their answers, thoughts and grumbles. The children would be able to comment, in their own words, on particular papers and formats of papers.

There may even be some children who do not agree with the present control and standardisation of the format of today’s eleven plus. These children would not necessarily be the demonstrators we have seen recently complaining about university fees. These could be children who are genuinely embarrassed by the content of the exercises they have to endure. By the time the brightest of our present children have understood the principle behind the formulaic analogy question – then their curiosity and excitement must be contained. If you have seen one: Grass is to green as snow is to (black, purple, and white) then you have seen the lot!

But our eleven plus children are only around ten years old. Would they be strong enough at this tender age to be to resist pressures from their parents and tutors? Should they be content to continue to attempt to crack `play play’ codes like: “If 123245678 in code is paramount what is 8321?

After all if you have seen one you have seen the lot!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eleven Plus Predictions

How will parents be certain that their child will be able to react in a positive manner in the actual eleven plus examination?

First of all parents must know their child pretty well by the time the eleven plus examination comes along. There will have been many different opportunities for a child to be able to prove the ability to rise to the occasion.

However a mother loves her child, and is able to see more than strengths, it must be recognised that parents do not have access to a set of objectives they can judge their child by. Predicting eleven plus success is not like predicting consumer trends – there is much more to it than a line on a graph.

Parents are able to look at their children with hearts full of faith and confidence but they can not rely on a scientific formula that will safely predict academic success. A child can walk into the examination with a confident wave of the hand – secure in the knowledge that many hours of work have been spent in preparation. There may even be time for a few cheerful words with close friends. Some children will be able to demonstrate a complete resistance to nerves and feelings of fear and fright.

Why then should a child sometimes emerge with a totally unexpected score? Was there an unforeseen happening to cause a popping of the `concentration bubble’? Did a question emerge that was not in one of the practice exercises? Did something happen at school or at home?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eleven Plus Compassion.

We once had a very bright girl who attended lessons. Her mother was invariably cheerful and upbeat and very positive with her daughter. The daughter achieved all but perfect marks on two papers – but failed one, inexplicably, by one mark.

Mum did not want to appeal. “If she had been meant to pass she would have passed. I am quite happy with the local school.”

Her head teacher said that would support an appeal. I offered to attend an appeal. Her dad said he wanted his daughter to go to grammar. The girl said little. Mum did not want to change her mind. “What will be, will be.”

Both parents were professionals within different fields.

The girl was quiet, modest and very able. She was not one to laugh and joke – she simply wanted to do her work to the best of her ability. She certainly had the necessary tools to be able to argue with her mother about going to a grammar school – but chose to adopt her mother’s advice. If the girl had had a different personality would she have pressed for a place?

We know that a person’s personality alters as he or she grow older. Certain traits must become ingrained while others give way to new ones. The shock of not passing the eleven plus may have helped the girl, mentioned earlier, to almost freeze her thoughts – and listen without question to her mother’s arguments.

Personality is studied through interviews, questionnaires, projective tests and direct observation of behaviour. There will always be some degree of scepticism about the assumptions that the tests are based on. Who needed the personality assessment?

The bright, articulate, well educated and down to earth mother?

The able, hardworking and `super’ little girl?

The human in the local authority who did not pick up the phone - when he or she looked at the wonderful marks on two of the tests – and the strangely out of line mark on the third test?

Should compassion play a part in the eleven plus?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Challenges to the Eleven PLus

A reasoning score, be it verbal or non verbal reasoning, gives an immediate and concise piece of information. This must be one major reason why reasoning scores are used in so many eleven plus examinations.

To sum up the whole of a child’s academic potential in a single score does, however, need to be treated with some degree of caution. The eleven plus test are supposed to be predictive – in that the results are used to say which children should benefit from a grammar school education. It would be interesting to read studies that confirm the effectiveness of the present tests.

The whole area of mental measurement is infinitely complex. Some of us may occasionally find the final test results very frustrating. The validity and fairness of the present eleven plus tests can not, at present, be challenged by parents. In the eyes of many there is not viable alternative.

Many years ago a Frenchman called Binet used a series of tests to identify mentally handicapped children. This lead to the development of other intelligence tests – and then to the widespread application of tests in schools. The reasoning tests used in the eleven plus are standardised, reliable and valid.

There does not, however, appear to be any appetite for questioning the validity of the tests. The stability of the tests is unquestioned – as they have been used effectively in their present form for many years.

The world, however, has moved on considerably in the past few years with the impact of the internet and social networking. Teaching in schools is being challenged on a daily basis. Children are taught with whiteboards and through on line lessons. Perhaps children being educated in today’s world need a different kind of ability test that is more suited to the world they will meet in another six years time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Eleven Plus Under Fire

Has much of the published eleven plus content become a little too docile? We hear of some children and some parents who have become preoccupied with the number of questions answered correctly on online tests and exercises. We have also been told stories of tutors who work doggedly through paper after paper.

The eleven plus for ten year olds could, for example, involve critical reading and wide searching examinations. The whole eleven plus experience for some children is to do with preparing `objective' or `multiple choice' answers. There is little room for criticism or detachment.

Some children will be able to pass the eleven plus after working through hundreds or even thousands of questions with answers that are either right or wrong. There is little room for shades of grey! Does the act of reasoning actually come into the examination?

It is a massive achievement to pass the current eleven plus. First class teaching from the thousands of well thought of eleven plus teachers from all over the country help children to `go to grammar. Even the most gifted teachers must, however, be constrained by the tight bands of the some of elements of the eleven plus.

Very bright children are subjected to a caricature of an examination. We have an incredibly able boy with us who is aiming at achieving marks in the top two percent. He tears through questions - at twice the speed of other able children. He does not need lessons as he can cope with the mechanical aspect of the present eleven plus. His face only lights up when he meets an occasional demanding problem. We have told him, and his parents, that he does not need lessons yet the family feel that he still needs to go through the motions of examination preparation.

Should we offer the present `eleven plus syllabus' or is it our responsibility `to go where no boy has gone before?'

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eleven Plus Shopping

It is simply time to dream again.

You are in the supermarket with your family. Your children say to you:

“Mum we can do the shopping? You go and sit over there. Have a nice cup of tea and one of those cream cheese cakes you love. We will sort it all out.”

Your thoughts go round and round.

Is there something dodgy going on?

What do they want?

Can I trust them with my list?

How can we pay?

My feet do hurt. I would love a cup of tea and a cream cheese cake.

Then you say those fateful words:

“Oh all right then. Thank you. I will be over here.”

You sit down at the table and sink back into your chair. The tea is wonderful. The first nibble is squishy. You are in heaven.

You see an eleven plus paper sticking out of your child’s bag. With a sigh you pull it out and start looking at question 34 again. The answer in the back simply can not be right. A strange woman leans across and says: “We can’t do that one either. We think that the answers are wrong.” Two other mothers, also complete strangers, lean over.

“We tried that one last year. We could not do it. My husband and I had a fight over it.”

The other mother says: “I creased to be a yummy mummy when we tried that question. I got so cross that I wanted to belt my child. Of course the answer in wrong.”

The chat then moves in different directions. All five mothers are listening and talking at the same time. Your child runs up to you. He greets the other women and informs you that the shopping is finished and you have to go to pay. Before spinning away he glances at the paper and says: “I know how to do that now.”

There is a chorus from the assembled mothers. “How?”

My friend’s nine year old sister worked it out. It is a rotation as well as a transformation. See?”

One of the mothers says: “You are so lucky.”

Another says: “And they did the shopping!”

The third mother, the one whose child passed last year, asked: “But what did he want?”

The fourth mother remarked: “Out of the mouth of babes.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eleven Plus Sugar

How much sugar do eleven plus children need? Our society has become addicted to sugar. About one hundred and fifty years ago sugar was virtually unknown in the West. Children today meet sugar in all sorts of ways – from little `lifesaving sweets’ to `must have’ biscuits.

There is a fairly general feeling that refined sugar is bad for the body. The only real contention is just how bad sugar is for us. Some medical authorise used to think that sugar caused diabetes and contributed towards coronary thrombosis and ulcers.

Some `experts’ also feel that the `sweet tooth’ so beloved by many of us is not a natural urge – it has come about through social convention.

There is a village in Ecuador called Villacabamba where people live for a long time. Of the eight hundred or so inhabitants nine were over one hundred and one was one hundred and forty two. Their diet has remarkably little fat and even less sugar. They eat a lot of vegetables and only eat a few grams of meat a week.

It would take a very brave mother to suggest, and implement, a simple diet with little fat and sugar in the build up to the eleven plus.

Some children may benefit from a reasonably well balanced diet; we sometimes see families where children arrive for their lessons with little cartons of fresh fruit and raw vegetables. We are more like to see sweets and coke.

Few mothers, however, in today’s world need to be reminded that eleven plus children, like so many of us, just need to eat sensibly and well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eleven Plus Percentages

Your child has a bike which is now rather small. You bought it at great expense some time ago. The bike has stayed the same size – it is your child who has grown. You want some money for the bike – and don’t want to give it away. You do not want much money for the bike – after all it has been used.

A friend offers you £35.50. You work out that this would give you a return of 17% if you did not trade the bike in.

Your child’s older sister, who is at grammar school and it at all times a bit of a `know all’, maintains that you need to make a profit of 26% on a private sale when you take into account what the shop is offering in incentives.

You mumble rather inconclusively as you just want to get rid of the bike. At the moment the bike is just one more bit of clutter. Your brain then lights up. Your eleven plus child should solve the problem and then receive the bike as a reward for going above and beyond the so called eleven plus syllabus.

You and your child have studied percentages.

117% of the bike is the cost price.

126% must be £35.10 multiplied by 117 and divided by 126.

Your child’s answer is £37.80.

You settle on this revised price. You try to work out if the extra £2.70 is worth upsetting your friend. You want to acknowledge your daughter’s acumen but you do not want to loose the friendship.

The Eleven Plus Dilemma

a) Do you stick with the original quoted price?

b) Do you simply give the bike away?

c) Do you take the extra money and spend the difference on a very small glass of wine?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trying to Organise an Eleven Plus Child

Some people like to enjoy a highly organised approach to eleven plus preparations. Others may prefer to be a little less systematic. Most of us will be somewhere in between. Some child will like to have their eleven plus papers spread out so that they can pick up where they left the work on a previous occasion. Other children will put their work away leaving their work place wondrously neat and tidy.

A comparison with a computer manual and organising an eleven plus sessions may throw some light on the subject:

Recommended tools to change a component on a computer:

Small flat blade screwdriver
Small Philips screwdriver
Small plastic scribe
Bios update

(Confidence to do the job)

Recommended tools to prepare for an eleven plus lesson

Eleven Plus paper
Clock or watch

(Desire and willingness to do the work.)

The Computer

Keep the work surface clean and tidy
Ground the system board
Change the component

Eleven Plus lesson

Keep the work surface clean and tidy
Remove distraction
Work on the paper

Some parents will try to help their children become more organised. Some children will persist and want to do things their way. There could even be some arguments. Parents can always say: “I know better. Keep your work place tidy.”

If your child persists with an unwarranted argument then quote Mark Twain:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Eleven Plus Debate

There has not been a country wide debate on the value of the eleven plus for some years. An important ingredient in the early arguments for the eleven plus was the ability of the examination to find bright children, who were poor, but would benefit from an academic education.

It would be very difficult to have a broad debate about the present effectiveness of the eleven plus without the presence of newspapers. Would a barrage of negative articles about how the eleven plus was failing poor pupils help to sway people’s attitudes?

Would the intervention of powerful forums like `Mums Net’ help to build a tsunami of opinion that would force the government to act?

The underlying assumption of the eleven plus is that the examination will filter out a number of bright and able children. The evidence for this may have been compelling some years ago – but it may be time to question the nature and content of the examination.

Children from poor backgrounds may benefit additional preparation – but the sheer economics may help to militate against their progress. Books, papers, connection to the internet, teachers, tutors and transport all cost money. As in all walks of life the parents may be very willing to do what they can – but may lack the financial resources to be able to help their children.

A wider public airing and debate may help some parents caught in what some call the `poverty trap’. The notice of a `means tested eleven plus’ may, however, be an anathema to some.

Any attempts to question the eleven plus would bring in the main political parties.

I have seen the immense value of the eleven plus in its ability to change the lives of children.

Boys who were hitherto uninvolved and disaffected; clamouring for more work.

Girls learning to love mathematics - and subsequently wanting to `do’ mathematics at university.

Bright children achieving their potential.

Class room teachers being delighted by the progress that some of their charges may have achieved.

Parents happy and proud of their children.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Eleven Plus, Speech and Sport

Some of the present grammar schools are really ancient. They have a system of `houses’, `prefects’, `school loyalty’ and `team spirit’. It can be argued that this structure can, to a degree, explain how grammar school children can compete with the best of the public schools.

Sir Robert Morant, who was a product of one of the best public schools, worked on the 1902 Education Act. This act was to develop the idea of Local Education Authorities and provide funds for non religious education. The act also made more provisions for some money to be set aside for Adult education. Grammar school education was largely secure.

When a child entered one of the early grammar school the emphasis was often put on trying to level out the different accents of the children. It was felt, in some quarters, that the way an Englishman talks and moves would affect his social mobility. Speech alone was a significant social ticket.

When we listen to presenters on regional and national television – and to Members of Parliament – then we must be thankful that there have been changes in attitude towards accents and local idiosyncrasies.

For many years sport has been used to play a part in developing character. Sport is still highly prized as a worthwhile formative influence. We worked with a family some time ago where sport was a vital element in the choice of schools. A boy with a wonderfully positive character passed the entrance test to two schools. The boy was a very good swimmer. He had the marks to go to the one very successful and highly academic grammar school – which had a good history of sporting achievement. He chose to go to the lesser grammar school in order to make more time available for his competitive swimming. He was a national age group competitor and needed hours in the pool. The boy and his parents recognised that there was simply not enough time in the day for work, sport and play.

The Head Teacher of the primary school where the swimmer attended wrote (we were told) to the Head of the grammar school explaining the training schedule and the commitment that was entailed.

Entrance to grammar school used to be made up of intelligence tests, attainment tests, critical compositions and reference to the child’s school record. This has been replaced, in some authorities, by single subject ability tests.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eleven Plus Methods

There have been many raging debates in Education over the years. One persistent discussion has been over the best way to teach a child to read. There are times when an eleven plus child needs the disciple of reading and learning through the whole word method and there are times when a child needs the methodical approach developed when learning phonics.

Comenius suggested a whole word or `look and say’ approach back in the sixteenth century – and students in English training colleges were appraised of this method before the 1914-18 war. Phonics, however, was the usual method of teaching children to read.

Many teachers liked the whole word method because it appeared to offer a wider range of reading, more attractive illustrations and a release from phonic drills. It was also felt that some children found the phonic drills boring. Every now and then the debate reopens in some educational quarters but it looks as if the great majority of teachers acknowledge that a combination of methods is better.

Another debate that crops up now and again is the amount and degree of differences in maturity between boys and girls as they approach the eleven plus. I was in Bluewater today. There is an amazing food hall with a variety of `chain’ food shops. There are hundreds of tables.

There was a group of five girls, around the age of thirteen, on a table near ours. The girls talked the whole time. The talked through each other and over each other. Several girls were conducting two conversations simultaneously while texting friends at the same time. They flicked their hair and the conversation ranged over an incredible number of topics. The girls left the table and a group of six boys took over.

The boys sat without a word and ate in silence. They did not look around but concentrated on their food and their own thoughts. At least two boys did not lift their heads to look around throughout the meal. One boy stood, collected the plates and plastic utensils while a second boy threatened to pour the remains of a drink over the others. This was the stage when they erupted into movement. They talked and laughed raucously and pushed each other exuberantly as they sauntered off.

All this to say is that, like with reading, there is probably not one `best’ method of eleven plus preparation. Some questions will need to be analysed (phonic approach) very carefully. Other questions will require different reading and comprehension skills (whole word).

Some girls will be mature and sociable beyond their years – while some boys will be able to perform even simple tasks with great concentration. Parents are fortunate – they just have to work with the children they have!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eleven Plus Sleep

Over three hundred years ago Samuel Johnson wrote about sleep:

“Sleep is a state in which a great part of every life is passed. No animal has been yet discovered, whose existence is not varied with intervals of insensibility. Once in every four-and-twenty hours the gay and the gloomy, the witty and the dull, the clamorous and the silent, the busy and the idle, are all overpowered by the gentle tyrant, and all lie down in the equality of sleep.”

Just on a year ago, in fact just before Christmas `Little Cat’ arrived at our kitchen door. She was cold, thin and very depressed. We did not feed her for two nights – but took her round to all the neighbours to see if anyone had lost a little cat.

If Samuel Johnson and seen Little Cat he would have been able to add several riders about the degree and extent to which some cats can sleep. Little Cat is a world champion sleeper. She likes her head rubbed before she drops off – but sleeps through anything and everything.

A study of the sleep habits of the eleven plus child may prove fruitful.

Few eleven plus children will be insensible – unless they are asleep.

Many eleven plus children will display a variety of moods as they tackle their eleven plus work – ranging from the witty to the busy.

Few eleven plus children will nod off during a paper.

Some eleven plus children may enjoy having their heads rubbed as they work through a paper.

Some eleven plus parents may feel a little sceptical, or even suspicious, if their bright and bubbly eleven plus child suddenly mummers - in an unforeseen manner: “Mum, I feel a little sleepy and won’t do this eleven plus work now. I think I need a little sleep.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Evaluating Steps in the Eleven Plus

Do you remember how to evaluate the square root of 405 768?

You will recall that you had to follow successive steps:

Mark off the digits from the right in groups of two

40 57 69

Look at the 40. Find the largest square number whose square is not greater than 40, i.e. 6

Put the 6 in the working above the 40.

Multiply 6 by 6, and subtract the result from 40, leaving 4.

Bring down the next group – the 57.

Double the 6 on the next line and put down 12 – to make the first part of the divisor.

124 times 4 is too big.

123 times 3 is 369.

Put 3 above the 57 – and also after the 12 to make 123.

Multiply 123 by 3 to obtain 369 and subtract this from the 457. This gives 88.

Double the 63 on the top line and put down 126 as the frst part of the divisor.

Put 7 on the top line and complete 1267 as the divisor.

Bring down the 69

You now have 88 69

Multiply the 1267 by 7 to find 8869

Take the 88 69 from the 88 69.

The square root of 405 768 is 637.

Prove this by multiply 637 by 637.

It may be an idea to work through this example yourself before trying it with your child.

Some eleven plus children, who know how to divide, will be able to follow these instructions. Some nine to ten year old children may find it a challenge.

Square roots of this nature are not, however, in the eleven plus!

Is long division really necessary in the eleven plus?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eleven Plus Chances

Some children may find the relationship between passing an eleven plus examination and future success a rather difficult concept to understand.

“If you pass your eleven plus, and go to university, you will get a good job with a nice house and a lovely car.”

“Well Dad did it without going to university. He sometimes says that he is doing better than some of his friends who went to university.”

One way of trying to explain to children, who have the ability to do well academically, is the difference between a `operator’ and a `supervisor’.

The operator is mainly concerned with machines and materials. The supervisor is concerned with human beings.

The difference between an operator and a supervisor or foreman is probably much bigger than the difference between the supervisor and the director of the company.

Try explaining to your child that the operating success of a business often owes much to the middle management who do get to communicate with workers. The future direction of the business, however, is down to the directors – with input, hopefully, from all the staff.

Passing the eleven plus and going to university gives the opportunity to choose what sort of job or a person wants to do. Some very able children, who could pass the eleven plus, can easily land up as happy and contented adults doing something that they want to do. Grammar school and university needs to be a goal for some – but not all.

“Well Mum. I have listened to what you say. I don’t want to go to university. I don’t want to go to grammar. I want to be just like Dad.”

“You may change your mind later on – and then it could be much harder. Why not try to pass the eleven plus, try grammar school. If you don’t like it you can still change your mind when you are older. Please, just give yourself a chance.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spiders and the Eleven Plus

Most of us, at one time or another, will have found a spider in the bath. On seeing a spider we have a variety of choices:

Whip the spider out of the bath and throw it out of the window

Call for `spider patrol’ and watch, in a squeamish manner, as some one much braver tackles the awesome task of coping with a live daddy long legs.

Fill the bath, cover the exit pipe, and hope that the spider floats out.

Throw a towel over the side of the bath and pray that the spider climbs proudly out.

One’s approach to the spider problem is much the same as tackling some eleven plus questions. Do we encourage children to try to solve as many problems as possible without calling for help? Do we explain every topic carefully and make sure that the child knows exactly what to do – or do we allow the child to make mistakes and work out their own solutions?

When that little creature climbs onto the towel – and carefully makes his or her way out of certain death – we must be thankful that survival requires a very small brain. Our eleven plus children are blessed with big brains and lots of ability. They deserve a helping hand but don’t need to be spoon fed. We do not want them to throw the towel in during the actual examination.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eleven Plus Parents and Children

The parents of eleven plus children have the ability to wield considerable power. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Parents have a variety of ways of assessing a teacher’s ability to prepare their child for the eleven plus.

One vital method is their child’s attitude to the lessons and the extra work generated by the eleven plus. Personal recommendation must also play a part as parents discuss the teacher with other parents. The teacher’s past eleven plus record must also be important. Some parents will also rely on their own very personal reaction to the teacher.

Eleven Plus teachers are concerned with far more than being simple purveyors of eleven plus preparation. There is the important matter of the intellectual development of the child. After all the very title `verbal reasoning’ implies that there could be a need to develop and stretch a child’s reasoning ability.

Some children may also need some elements of social training – where help is offered to the child to understand the implications studying largely academic subjects. This could include the need to understand that a candidate can not give up in the middle of an examination. Some children may need to learn how to cope with pressure of time. Other children may need some assistance with breaking day dreaming habits.

The eleven plus teacher is also concerned with helping the child to become organised. Books and papers have to be put away after use. The child needs the right equipment – a sharpened pencil, for example, must help! The child has to arrive at a lesson and leave on time.

Children, however, often have reasonably simple requirements from an eleven plus teacher:

Is the teacher fair, patient and friendly?

Does the teacher have a sense of humour?

Is the teacher willing to answer questions?

Will the teacher provide a safe and secure environment?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

An Eleven Plus Homily

Have you ever felt the need to offer a little eleven plus homily? If you feel you need some inspiration you may care to ask your child to read and interpret a short little section of a poem by John Keats. (1818) It should not take long to read – but it may offer fertile ground for your own collected words of eleven plus wisdom.

(Be sure to point out the uncommon and interesting rhythm. This could capture the imagination.)


There was a naughty boy,
And a naughty boy was he,
He ran away to Scotland
The people for to see-
There he found
That the ground
Was as hard,
That a yard
Was as long,
That a song
Was as merry,
That a cherry
Was as red,
That lead
Was as weighty,
That fourscore
Was as eighty,
That a door
Was as wooden
As in England-
So he stood in his shoes
And he wonder'd,
He wonder'd,
He stood in his
Shoes and he wonder'd.

“Yes Mum, I understand, I may as well do the work now.”

“Oh now I understand, Mum, why you keep saying that the grass is not always greener.”

“All right. All Right. I will start work now. You do not need to go on.”

Friday, January 07, 2011

Eleven Plus Incentives

Some parents, sometimes, may be encouraged to offer their children incentives to do with the eleven plus. The work to be rewarded could range from completing three questions to working through a full paper. Naturally there will be some children who will never need any incentive – and we can all envy these lucky parents and children.

For an incentive to be successful it needs to be something that appeals to an eleven plus candidate’s character. Parents who are aware will immediately distinguish between a bribe and an incentive. A bribe can come back and haunt you. An incentive should rank in the `happy memory bank’.

Parents may prefer an incentive of a meal, a show and a night at an expensive hotel. If only children had the monetary depth to be able to send their parents on an `away weekend’. (“Just to get them out of my hair.”)

If your child loves sensation then you could offer a day with a celebrity.

An active eleven plus child may enjoy an experience on a paint ball site.

The discerning parents may try to find an incentive that meets their child’s needs.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Fairness of the Eleven Plus

It must be quite easy to add up the scores of the eleven plus test results of all the children and come up with some form of numerical data. You can add, for example, the shoe size of every one in the family and come up with an average shoe size. The problem comes when you look at the extended family – who should you include? Do you leave out Uncle Arthur on grounds that he emigrated to Australia? Should you include Grandfather Wilson who only wears slippers now – and hates wearing shoes?

The eleven plus results only represent the results of the children who took the examination. The results do not take into account children who did not take the examination. The selection results are based on a normal curve – or a bell curve – so if children are missing then the curve is not a true reflection of the whole cohort of children who are eligible to take the examination.

This would not be a serious point if the present selection policy was fair to all children – but, at present, the eleven plus does not pretend to be fair. You pass. You fail. You appeal. There are no second chances.

We have seen technology used in the present Ashes series in Australia. The fifth and final test finishes tonight or tomorrow – depending on how many wickets can be taken in the next few hours.

Cricket has always been based on fairness. Years ago there were the `Gentlemen’ who played the `Players’. A batsman would walk, and be expected to walk, if he was caught or was leg before wicket. The T.V. allows reviews of bowling, batting and fielding decisions and give players the opportunity to call for reviews and have decisions over turned.

There is no opportunity for a review in the eleven plus. There is a pass, a fail and an appeal.

A test result, however, is only valid if it measure what it is supposed to measure. How do we know how valid the eleven plus tests are? We can appeal a test result – but not the reliability and validity of the actual examination.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Eleven Plus Mistakes

What could be the greatest error or mistake a child could make in the actual eleven plus examination?

Running out of time?

Leaving too many questions out?

Too much guessing?

Spending too long on a block of questions?

We have just had Christmas and that brings to mind the story about a couple who took a taxi home after Christmas shopping. After they unpacked their parcels they found that they had one too many packages.

They unwrapped it and found a leather jewel case packed with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. The value, at today’s levels, would be around five million pounds.

The couple took the parcel to the police who found the owner.

The owner was the Great Duchess Zenia and she was carrying part of the Russian Crown Jewels.

What can you say that will help your child to avoid making some uncalled for error?

Most of us will use repetition.

Others will hope that sustained practice will help.

Parents will naturally rely on their child’s common sense to avoid any slip-ups and incomprehensible errors.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Multitasking and the Eleven Plus

This is a little experiment you can try with your eleven plus child. While your child is working through the experiment you will be multitasking. You will be simultaneously be feeding the children, listening to chat, talking on the telephone, worrying about a member of the family that needs to be picked up and thinking about the requirements of the eleven plus paper.

Your will expect your eleven plus child to be able to focus and attend while the older sibling, who passed the eleven plus easily, plays background music in the privacy of the bedroom. Your present candidate may make some form of ineffectual effort at lowering the noise and will then probably relapse into a morose and withdrawn state.

Now parents do not need to worry if multitasking is good or bad for their eleven plus child. After all they will want their child to be able to solve problems, think in an academic manner and remain focused and attentive. Parents need to ensure a form of balance between the ability to multitask and the ability to focus on the job in hand.

The Experiment

Provide a relatively easy eleven plus paper along with the addition of quiet, soothing music.

Offer the same task, with a similar paper, in an environment where the T.V. is on, the radio is playing and the dog barking at a stranger.

Compare the results including the amount of work that has been answered correctly.

Don’t explain the experiment to your child – or even discuss the results until you have been able to repeat the experiment on a number of occasions.

You know that some members of the family will be able to multitask more easily than others. Do not treat the results of the experiment as in the same manner as you would a price comparison site. But what you can hope to achieve is some understanding, for yourself and for your child.

A partial solution could be:

“Turn the T.V. off. Pay to have the dog walked. Withdraw funding to the inconsiderate teen that has passed the eleven plus. Sit down yourself for twenty minutes and read a book quietly and happily. Let the world go by. It is not worth the battle.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Eleven Plus Vocabulary

Some of the big dictionaries have around half a million words. Eleven plus children, working through eleven plus papers, do not need to be able to cope with as many words. In any event it is likely that eleven plus children will be able to speak and understand far more words than they will ever meet on a paper.

Dialogue between mother and candidate, over working through eleven plus papers, is probably remarkably lacking in breadth and depth.

“It is time to start your work now.”

“Oh Mum. Just a few minutes more.”

“You always say that. Now go and start work.”

There may be a need for both sides, in a situation of this nature, to be direct and keep the vocabulary simple. Even if both parties sat down and used a Thesaurus it would be difficult to use a much wider vocabulary.

Eleven plus mathematics papers probably use a rather basic vocabulary.

The challenge comes in some verbal reasoning exercises. Some eleven plus authors seem to deliberately confine themselves to the more familiar words. Others, however, appear to look to extend and challenge the children.

We often tell children to read `good books’. Sadly some of the authors who are often promoted as capable of `good prose’ and `good for you’ writing seem write in a rather archaic manner.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Authority of the Eleven PLus

The Year 2011 looks as if it has the potential to become a time of great educational change. For years educationalists have tried to make education `child centred’ rather than `teacher centred’ yet the eleven plus seems to continue to trumpet the need for it to be `examination centred’. It does seem very wrong, at times, that children who do not pass the eleven plus can be written off because some old fashioned view of what constitutes ability and intelligence.

We know from our exploration into online teaching and learning that the introduction of technology has the ability to throw doubt on some aspects of traditional eleven plus teaching. For years some parents have been content with the idea of the eleven plus tutor arriving on a bicycle with a basket of books and papers. In all but a few cases the bicycle has probably given way to a comfy saloon and it is either `your place or mine’.

The advent of the internet has allowed children to be able to complete online tests in mathematics, verbal reasoning, English and non verbal reasoning. Some of the online exercises have cunning and satisfying methods of delivering answers and of marking and scoring the tests.

At times it seems as if it is tremendous pity that the eleven plus is aimed at bright and able children. If only the same technology and attitude to striving for success could be offered to the less able.

The very nature of the present eleven plus requires children to learn facts and methods. There is even one verbal reasoning paper which requires children to learn twenty one different types of verbal reasoning question. For better or for worse this must be the most soul destroying examination for children to prepare for.

“If your child learns these twenty one types of verbal reasoning then he or she will have a better chance of passing the eleven plus.”

How sad. How rooted in the educational ethos of fifty years ago! Clearly these must be many kinds of intellect and abstract reasoning that are not covered by the `rule of the twenty one’. If decisions about a child’s future education are based on a narrow system of informed guesses, and a child’s ability to react in a programmed manner to set questions, then a challenge does need to be mounted.

Parents can’t lead the way. Would anyone in authority have the courage to say: “If you don’t like the idea of the examination, and the manner in which it is conducted, then don’t encourage your child to sit the examination?”

We do need an eleven plus examination to sift out bright children who would benefit from an academic education. Does the present form of the examination direct children towards thinking and behaving in conservative patterns? Is there any transfer of training from being able to solve twenty one types of verbal reasoning question to other types of thinking and reasoning? Has there ever been a will to see if there could be an alternative form of the examination? Does any one `in authority’ want to see if there are answers to at least parts of these questions?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Eleven Plus Events

1614 Napier invented logarithms. (Etc has online calculators)

1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard developed an automatic loom controlled by punch cards.

1822 Charles Babbage completed his first model for the difference engine

1936 Alan Turing published the mathematical theory of computing

1951 Launch of Ferranti Mark 1 – the first commercially produced computer

1958 The first minichip

1977 Etc (The Extra Tuition Centre in Zimbabwe) put all pupil’s accounts onto punched cards buying time on a micro computer

1981 IBM launched the IBM PC

1990 Microsoft released Windows 3

1993 Intel launched the Pentium chip

1997 Etc developed ACTION – linking standardised test results to National Curriculum

2009 etcACTION delivers online lessons using Microsoft’s Live Meeting using video and white boards

Good luck to all Eleven Plus children and their parents in 2011.