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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Eleven Plus and A.D. 826

We can go back to the Seventh Century to find schools established by the Church as Grammar Schools. Some of the schools were established only for the children of the laity. Other higher schools were also for the clergy – but there were lessons that were of interest to those who were not going to enter holy orders. The General Council in 826, for example, wanted schools that also taught grammar and the liberal arts.

The major cathedrals had `song schools’ and a grammar school for the education of the professional classes. Lessons took pace on astronomy and ecclesiastical arithmetic. Children were also taught rhetoric, singing, about animals and birds as well as different kinds of numbers and geometrical figures. In some schools law was considered to be an important subject. Back in those day educators were looking ahead!

There have been many reports over the years about the value and the nature of education. There have also been many different attempts to modernise schools and prepare children for leaving school. As universities have become more expensive the pressure on apprenticeships seems to be growing. Our brighter school children are being advised to avoid soft `A’ level subjects if they want to gain admission to a `good’ university. One of our assistants is taking the Internal Baccalaureate with a view to going to university. She wants to follow a degree focusing on Public Sector Management. The day of the gifted amateur being able to run big businesses and take responsibility for the public sector seems to be over. The continual cry is for qualifications and experience.

I suspect, without any hard evidence, that many parents, quite rightly, simply want a grammar school place for their child. I bet, however, that there were many parents back in 826 who also simply wanted a place for their children in a grammar school.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Eleven Plus Anxiety

There is a difference between `Eleven Plus Fears’ and `Eleven Plus Anxiety’.

Fears are a state of apprehension which focus on isolated and recognisable danger.

Anxiety is to do with different states of tension – which can magnify and appear to cause the illusion of danger.

In today’s world a banker may fear that he will lose his bonus. The idea of having to live on a salary may, however, cause considerable anxiety.

Franklin D. Roosevelt made a simple but magical statement: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.

He was not talking about the fear of danger – but about the anxiety that was besetting the United States back in the 1920s with the source of money drying up and job losses. History does tend to appear to repeat itself!

In very young children, however, fear and anxiety may seem to be almost indistinguishable. By the time the child reaches the Eleven Plus stage, however, it is hoped that we can call some of the apparent fears under a different name – `Eleven Plus Anxiety’. An eleven plus child may then fear that there will be questions that can not be answered – but will be anxious about the outcome of the examination.

A parent’s role is then to try to remove as much fear as possible – and also to try to reduce as much anxiety as possible.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Carrots, Sticks and the Eleven Plus

Many eleven plus children are prepared with a teacher on a one to one basis. Many other children are taught by their parents. Some children prepare all by themselves. Other children are taught in small group situations. Sometimes small group teaching is administered on an individualised basis while others are taught as a group.

A number of parents will try to influence the development of their child’s eleven plus progress through incentives, interest and goal orientation exercises.

Step One
Build your child’s self esteem.

Step Two
Consider the social dynamics of any or all of the teaching environments mentioned above and decide on what is best for your child.

Step Three
Think about the relationship of the chosen eleven plus teacher, if you have one, to your child.

Consider your relationship with your child – and how that will change and grow over the months.

The question of your child’s self esteem is an important but subtle factor in the build up to the examination. Your child wants to feel that he or she can cope with eleven plus work as well as other eleven plus children. You hope that your child feels, at times, that he or she may be better than most of the competition. Approval by others is probably vital to most eleven plus children. I have even heard of eleven plus teachers developing a `star’ system to try to keep rewarding their children. It is likely too that some parents are rightly proud of their own form of a star system. The goal would probably be, in most cases, to try to keep motivating and involving their child in the eleven plus process.

For some parents a carrot works better than a stick.

Other parents will rely on sticks rather than carrots.

Some will use a combination of carrots and sticks.

The carrot versus stick scenario will not even enter the mind of some parents.

There can not be a right way or a wrong way – just what ever works!

Pigs, Horses and the Eleven Plus

Some children appear to be able to sail through an examination and `take it in their stride’. Other children seem to fear an examination. Is eleven plus fear to do with what will actually happen in the examination – or the consequences of failure? Could it be a combination?

Fear is as old as humans have been on this earth. There can not be a culture or a creed where fear does not play a part. We can think of babies fearful of loud noises. Fear of the unknown must play a part through the lives of most of us. Some very fortunate people are able to block fear. Others seem to thrive on fear and go on to achieve great things.

In some ways we are fortunate man does not needs to rely on fear as much as animals and birds appear to. Yet as adults we sometimes use fear to try to mould and direct children. I once heard parents telling their child that if he did not pass the eleven plus he would be sent back to the `home’ country to live and work in a boarding school. I know of a different family that actually did that!

Fear has many manifestations. The story goes that there was once a group of wise men and women at a state dinner who argued about the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. The topic came up because the dinner included a pig’s head on a plate. The teeth, in this case, were there to see. None of the guests were prepared, at that moment, to find a horse and count the teeth. Some of the guests may have been prepared to put their hand into a horse’s mouth to count the teeth – others may have been a little more fearful. The mouths of how many horses needed to be counted?

All this to say that no matter how carefully some parents try to convince their children to banish fear in the eleven plus – the fear may continue. Eleven plus fear may diminish in time through doing papers and exercises but for some children the fear of the act of writing the examination may continue before during and after!

Some parents may care to ask their child about eleven plus fear. Is it easier to open a horse’s mouth, press the tongue to one side, and count the teeth or struggle with a few eleven plus questions? Ask your child how many mouths would have to be opened before deciding that the teeth counting results were fair? Ask too about how much age had to be taken into account. Does a foal have the same number of teeth as a mature horse? Will an eleven plus paper dribble all over you? Can an eleven plus paper bite? Ask your child if he or she would rather count teeth in a stuffed pig’s head on the dinner table or in an open field with a semi wild horse? Ask then if an eleven plus paper under examination conditions may not be an easier exercise.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eleven Plus Probability

One wonderful aspect of the eleven plus is the ability of the examination to generate debate. We are bombarded with opinions, ideas, rumours, facts, fiction and truth. The influence of social media sites are growing in importance. Some topics seem to bubble away under the surface only to emerge by being triggered off by a remark or a statement. Some elements of the ongoing eleven plus debate appear to be annuls and others perennials.

There seems to be endless discussion as to what sort of parents want their children to do well in eleven plus examinations. (Is she really a pushy mum?)

Will too much or too little pressure leave permanent effects on a child’s personality and development?

Should there be far more notice of the feeling and emotions of eleven plus parents?

What changes in advice have been offered to eleven plus parents over the past fifty years?

Is there one best way for a parent to adopt in trying to help their child prepare for the examination?

Do some eleven plus parents feel neglected and out on a limb?

We were doing probability today – and tried to use the example of a weather forecast.

This morning there is a chance of light rain. The rain will die away in the afternoon leaving a sunny and clear evening.

Probability is used to try to predict what is likely to happen. The probability scale runs from `0’ to `1’.

0 - Unlikely
Half - even chance
1 – Certain.

It is certain that there will be some pushy eleven plus parents.

There may be an even chance that some children will be affected by pressure from their parents.

It is unlikely that the examination will ever take into account the feelings and emotions of parents.

The outcome of the examination should influenced by the toss of a coin! (Use Twitter, Facebook and Blogger to discuss)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eleven Plus Debate

One way parents can unite to ask for an investigation into the fairness and the efficacy of the eleven plus is to develop into some form of a coalition. We have, at the moment for example, a coalition of some considerable stature engaged in running the country. The success or failure of this form of this coalition will be determined, in time, by the ballot box. An eleven plus parent coalition could also, in theory, represent a form of democratic view.

There used to be a much wider range of grammar schools – but some of these schools changed the way they were governed to become comprehensives. Today there may be a number of grammar schools who could even be contemplating developing into Academies.

If parents wanted more grammar schools they would need to be granted a significant stake. An effective `uprising’ of parents would need strong incentives for participation. There seems to be, at present, little stomach by the various political parties to engage in vigorous and meaningful debate. It may be unhelpful, at the moment, to engage in a debate where there is no clear end point.

Who then can promote and develop a campaign to ask for an investigation into the present eleven plus? We know from history that there will always be leaders.

We probably all remember the story of Jason and the Argonauts. He had to plough a field and then sow the teeth of a dragon. The teeth grew into warriors. Someone threw a rock into the warriors who began fighting with each other. The warriors went on to defeat each other.

Would an eleven plus coalition grow into an eleven plus army? Would the ensuing coalition become so divisive so as to start destroying any goodness that may ensue? We may need to find a hero and a right hand person. Remember Horatio trying to defend the bridge? Three men stood on a narrow bridge to fight against a thousand.

In yon strait path, a thousand may well be stopped by three:
Now, who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?'

Perhaps one day an Eleven Plus Horatio will emerge. What we are not sure of, until we hear the debate, if there is any point at all in looking into the present eleven plus system. There may be nothing wrong at all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eleven Plus Harmony

We are now deep into half term. It may be as well to remember the technique of non interference that was practiced by David Wills in his experiments. A camp was established by the `Society of Friends’ for unruly adolescents. Two principles governed the enterprise:

Do not force your discipline onto any miscreants.

Being free and having to discipline oneself can be a burden.

The technique was employed to try to promote less hostile and more co-operative attitudes.

This needed courage on the part of the organisers.

If any eleven plus parents have any similar experiences they may care to share with us - we would love to hear.

Eleven Plus Half Term Rules

No child will be forced to do an eleven plus paper.

No adult will engage in any form of argument with their eleven plus child.

Will these two points make for a more harmonious holiday setting?

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Eleven Plus Campaign

We were taught in history that Napoleon Bonaparte was an unfortunate man who caused much grief and upset across Europe. His ambition was to conquer the world. The aspiration was arguably correct – it just his methods were hopelessly cruel and thoughtless.

He loved playing with toy soldiers as a boy and had a wide collection of tin soldiers. He organised fights against other groups of boys. When he went to a Paris Military school he spent his free hours studying military history and planning battles.

His mother sent him off to a girls’ school, at one stage, to try to calm him down.

He did not like spelling and his handwriting was incredibly untidy. A professor once described his ability with languages as `granite heated by a volcano.’.

His family did not see him as a genius but looked at his misshapen head and decided that he would have an insignificant future. Little did they know!

Where then is the connection between Napoleon and the eleven plus? It is more of a cautionary tale than an uplifting and inspiring story.

If your child suddenly takes an interest in reading too many military book – then a tiny little warning flag may need to be raised.

Spelling and handwriting problems? Your child may be a doctor not a war lord!

Language ability? I enjoyed the phrase `granite heated by a volcano’. This does tell a story!

A misshapen head? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The ability to plan and co-ordinate a series of extraordinary military campaign show many of the skills that seem to be inherent in the present eleven plus. As parents, however, you want an eleven plus genius not a military genius!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Isolation of the Eleven Plus

The eleven plus is a strange examination in today’s world of enlightened education. The `Eleven Plus Authorities’ see their main role as organising an examination that uses tried and tested assessment techniques. The eleven plus examination is not designed to cater for the needs of the underprivileged or the special needs of the less able. The eleven plus is unashamedly an examination where the first few past the post win.

It would be unwise to link all the teachers and tutors concerned with the eleven plus as a single homogeneous body. But the very nature of the examination must hinder any new developments in terms of the need for new and fresh approaches to ability. Why should anyone at all want to promote a fresh approach to the publication and dissemination of new eleven plus materials before there is a substantial shift of opinion as to what constitutes ability?

For those actively engaged in teaching eleven plus children it can be an exciting and eventful journey. It is wonderful to see how bright and able children meet the challenge of the wide range of eleven plus material that is available. We are sometimes blessed by a child or children who bring in materials that have been downloaded from the internet. An example of this is sometimes found in analogy questions. An analogy is an analogy – but some publishers and authors seem to try to make questions not only demanding but wildly obscure.

It is possible to meet analogies, for example, in both verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises. An eleven plus analogy looks at a set of words (verbal reasoning) or symbols (non verbal reasoning) and encourages the child to try to apply this relationship to other words or symbols.

The questions that are set in the actual examination are tried and tested. The children are not faced with a pile of esoteric questions because each question has earlier been used with a group of children of a comparable age and level. The examination is fair and carefully controlled. An open licence is, however, offered to anyone - through guise of the internet – to allow anyone to set themselves up as purveyors of `invaluable, essential and carefully controlled’ practice questions.

Is the eleven plus a sacred cow? Is it carefully protected and carefully managed? In the minds of some, however, there must be a slightly uneasy feeling about an examination that is undertaken in isolation from what is happening in a number of schools.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Quicksand of the Eleven Plus

We were doing compound words today and a rapid fire discussion came up with a wide range of suggestions. A word that was mooted, rejected and accepted was `quicksand’. An explanation was offered and considered. Quicksand quickly became a primary topic.

The general consensus was that quicksand should be avoided because it could be fatal. What could be done if one did land up in quicksand?

Step 1
Don’t panic too much. Lie back in the mud with your arms outstretched. This could help to distribute the weight.

Step 2
Keep your haversack on as this could help with buoyancy.

Step 3
Try, very slowly, to pull your feet out of the mire. Don’t make any fast movements at all.

Step 4
Use your arms and legs as paddles and move slowly.

Some of the children understood the moral of the discussion very quickly. Your son or daughter may understand the need to move slowly in parts of the examination – and to think before any uncalled for movement of the pencil on paper.

The word `quicksand’ may remind your son or daughter to try to keep his or her head above water – and not to panic – unless it is absolutely necessary.

In the country side quicksand can be recognised by back stretches of ground with little vegetation.

In an eleven plus examination quicksand can be recognised by losing concentration and not reading the questions carefully and thinking clearly.

In the country side quicksand is found, sometimes, under green expanses covered by moss.

It is very difficult for a child to carry a stick into an eleven plus examination – but if he or she did then the physical passage of the stick into the examination may be mired in the quicksand of disbelief.

“Why are you carrying that stick into the examination?”

“My Dad said so.”

“Why did your Dad tell you to bring a stick into the examination?”

“In case I got stuck in potential quicksand areas. The stick is to remind me to move slowly and carefully and to read questions carefully.”

“Oh well, I suppose it can’t harm. Come on then, but be very careful.”

Common sense will, in the end, prevail.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Temperature of the Eleven Plus

We were working on graphs yesterday – and one graph came up converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and back again. Our rather eccentric science teacher at school used to get quite emotional about an apparent misuse of terms. He used to refer to Celsius as Centigrade. We will all be able to remember from school that Centigrade was devised to divide the temperature between freezing and boiling points of water into one hundred equal parts. As a science teacher he liked the exactness and the formality of the experiment. He just did not like the new name `Celsius’.

We were also regaled with stories about Galileo who noticed that when alcohol was heated in a narrow glass tube it expanded and rose in proportion to the increase in temperature. As school children we were upset that we could `play’ with boiling water but were not allowed to use alcohol in experiments. Life can be very unfair when you are at school in a science lesson.

Fahrenheit was a physicist who developed the temperature scale for a mercury thermometer. He was going to fix the blood temperature of a healthy man at 12 – but needed a more accurate scale. Water froze at thirty two degrees and blood at ninety six. Later on `normal’ blood temperature was refined at 98.6 degrees.

It was only in 1948 that Centigrade was renamed Celsius after a Swede Anders Celsius. The books we used at school were old. Our science teacher was old. The act of conversion lives on today.

Your eleven plus child may need to know that to draw and interpret a conversion graph you need two values. It is unlikely that an eleven plus child will be expected to remember that 0 degrees Celsius = 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Celsius = 212 degrees Fahrenheit. What then could be a possible question interpreting a conversion graph?

Degrees Celsius – from 0 to 100 - would be on the `x’ axis.

Degrees Fahrenheit – from 0 to 220 – would be on the `y’.

A straight line graph could be plotted.

The eleven plus question could be:

Change 60 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius.

A boy we are working with is aiming at a top eleven plus pass. He joined us with mathematics at Level 5B – so it was evident that his mathematics was strong enough to pass the eleven plus with very little intervention. He does, however, enjoy the challenge of demanding and interesting questions.

We just hope that when he reaches the grammar school he is actually allowed to heat and experiment with alcohol. The fact that we were denied this opportunity has rankled till today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Eleven Plus and the Magpie

The birds have been enjoying our garden as winter slips into spring. There is a wonderful bird food product which the birds enjoy – and the seeds do not leave any unwelcome growth. If only life was really that simple.

At one stage, just as the eggs were boiling for breakfast this morning, there were twenty three birds actually on the ground. There must have been far more in the garden as the trees around were alive with movement and sound. We then saw, for the first time ever in our garden, a magpie.

It was only when I looked the bird up in The New Birdwatcher’s Pocket Guide to the Britain and Europe (ISBN 978-0-7537-1454-6) that I saw that I should have noticed the tail. The plumage, however, was decidedly black and white.

We all have views on the Magpie – they are well known as scavengers and predators. Considerable folk lore has built up about the birds. There are many variations on the rhyme – but this old Scottish rhyme does paint a scary picture:

“One’s sorrow, two’s mirth,
Three’s a wedding, four’s a birth,
Five’s a christening, six a death,
Seven’s heaven and eight is hell,
And nine’s the devil his ane sel.”

The actual name Magpie may have developed from a contraction of maggot-pie or magata-pie. I am not sure what the reference to maggot-pie refers to. Is the bird alive or is it to do with the bird eating carrion?

I did Macbeth at school – and words still ring in the mind. We were made to learn great chunks of the story by heart both at primary school in Year 6 and when the English examinations came later on.

Act III Scene vi.
It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood.
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augurs and understood relations have
By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret'st man of blood. What is the night?

There are some eleven plus children who would revel in the thought of all that blood dripping steadily – but maggots in pies? That would be going a bit too far for most of us.

We are remarkably fortunate that we work with some extraordinarily bright nine, ten and eleven year old children. It would be fascinating to hear some of them give opinions as to why one magpie could summon sorrow to the watcher. It would also be interesting to introduce the story behind Macbeth’s preoccupation with blood – then ask for an analysis of the few lines from Act 111 mentioned above. For some very bright children a discussion of this nature may be far more invigorating than finding seventy percent of sixty. (And seventy percent of thirty, and seventy percent of fifty, and seventy percent of eighty and seventy percent of more and more.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Eleven Plus and elessons

Today’s Year 5 elesson lasts for 40 minutes and has three elements.

elearning lessons should start on time because there are usually a number of parents and children involved. Some parents stay with their child throughout the duration of the lessons. Others are confident to leave their children and walk away.

The elessons are aimed at allowing children use their computers to full effect. The lessons do not, at the moment, embrace games technology, as feed back from parents has indicated that they would prefer their child to simply get on with a lesson – and leave the games for a different occasion.

Some lessons revolve around one topic – especially when something new or demanding is introduced. Other lessons, like todays, cover more than one topic. There is, however, one common element – the lesson has to be fast moving. To day we are looking at:

Tally Charts
Area and Perimeter

The children will be able to write on the screen, chat to the teacher, draw pictures and make observations. This is classroom teaching with a little bit extra – the introduction of demanding and challenging technology.

We are using Microsoft Live Meeting as the vehicle. We looked at seventeen different packages and applications before coming back to live meeting. Some parents are very familiar with Live Meeting – as they use this at work. We wanted a universally accepted package. We have been able to integrate Live Meeting into our self built learning platform – to make the booking of the lessons and the delivery of the lesson as seamless as possible. We know of one remarkably able nine year old girl who manages the booking of the lesson and logging on to participate in the meeting with remarkably little input from her parents.

So far so good!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Eleven Plus Factory

Would a largely informal teaching session with an eleven plus child develop a child who is able to think divergently? Would it be also likely that a formal lesson, from a formidable eleven plus teacher, helps a child think in a convergent manner in the examination?

It is possible that any results of a major investigation into the effectiveness of eleven plus teaching would be largely inconclusive. Having said that there must be a reason why some eleven plus children do very well under one form of teaching.

In recent years the traditional picture of an eleven plus teacher arriving on a bicycle to teach a lesson - with a basket of books on the front handlebar – may have been superseded by an image of a savvy child surrounded by eleven plus videos, on line tests, computers, ipads and the like. Does the teacher with a basket get better results than a teacher who arrives with a wireless enabled laptop?

Once parents have made their choice about the combination they are going to use when preparing for the eleven they are not so concerned about good teachers versus bad teachers. After all their eleven plus child at times may need a firm hand – and other times the freedom to think, plan and scheme. Some parents may prefer a deep rooted formality in the lessons – others will hope for a freewheeling informal approach.

There must, however, be a striking difference between a child who is a receptive but passive learner when compared with a child who is prepared to `self initiate’ the learning process.

We can look back on our own educational experiences – and some of us may feel that a formal approach to eleven plus teaching is rather like the classrooms of yester year. A divergent approach to some eleven plus questions may prove wildly successful because the child feels that he or she can be adventurous and inspired. The `Eleven Plus Factory’ is then not turning out page and question turners – but lively and engaged children.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I have just downloaded this book onto my Kindle, having read this synopsis. It does seem a wonderful story. (Paste the ISBN into Amazon)

Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender 9780099538271
£11.99 55% P
The US bestseller comes to the UK - the unforgettable story of a girl whose magical gift becomes a devastating curse. On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade cake and to her horror discovers that she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice. Suddenly food becomes perilous - anything can be revealed. But as she grows up, Rose realises there are secrets that even her tastebuds can't discern. Profound and funny, wise and sad, this is a luminous tale about the heartbreak of loving those you know too much about. It confirms Aimee Bender's place as a writer whose dazzling prose illuminates the strangeness of everyday life.

What would happen to your management of your emotions if you understood that your eleven plus child could understand everything that you really meant? What would it be like if your child could comprehend the inner significance of your feelings?

You would not be able to say to yourself, even in jest, “Is this really my child?”

You would not be able to even think – much less show any frustration with your child – other wise you may give him or her the dreaded `eleven plus complex’.

You may, at times, need to slow down your ability to multi task. You can not think of the food shopping for tomorrow, the answer to Paper 3 Question 39, how you will be able to arrange the transport to a party on Saturday as there will only be one car and how on earth you got involved in this eleven plus lark. The wholesome food your child is nibbling on may become emotionally alive.

We just need to read the last line of this review: “a writer whose dazzling prose illuminates the strangeness of everyday life”.

These eleven plus musing may seem fanciful – but fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. If your eleven plus child reacts to your emotions in any way what so ever please let the rest of the world know. You may be onto something really good.

You could be the one who is supremely happy with your child.

You and your child may love the challenge of the papers.

You may really enjoy life at the moment. Success is achievable.

The eleven plus may prove to be the start of something rather wonderful for you.

Enjoy, and keep smiling, and, once again, please let all of us know your feelings.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Getting On with the Eleven Plus

Our family Doctor, many years ago, used to say to each of the members of the family: “What makes you think there is some thing wrong with you?”

This approach was used through malaria, dysentery and a broken leg to name but a few putative aliments and disorders..

Dr. Ritchen had strong views that man would, in time, heal themselves. Our family stayed with the good doctor for years and years.

Education recognises a branch called `Psychosomatic Development’. This covers, very broadly, the development of a child from birth to maturity. It attempts to indicate how a child progresses and matures as the body, language and the mind grows.

Parents of eleven plus children, hoping for examination success will also be aware of tremendous changes in their child during the eleven plus year. There is, however, room for just one more spoke to be examined in messy detail.

Side One

“What makes you think that you do not have to do any eleven plus work today?”

“What makes you think that you only need to spend ten minutes on eleven plus work today?”

“What makes you think that you need help with every question? Why can you read the questions carefully?”

“What makes you think that helping you is more important that putting the dinner on the table for the whole family?”

Side Two

“What makes you think that I actually want to do the eleven plus examination?”

“What makes you think that I can actually do these questions?”

“What makes you think that I want to go to that school?”

“What makes you think that I care?”

In any good relationship there is often the third element. We have learnt from psychosomatic medicine the value of positive thinking and mind over matter. An ideal situation could be a child thinking positively about the eleven plus. A further twist could be the child ignoring a need to take a break, collect a drink, check on the hamster and engage in a `mini eleven plus merits discussion’ to want to simply settle down to complete the task in hand and `get on with it’.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eleven Plus Attitudes

There is one kind of test that can be used to monitor the opinions of eleven plus children and that is the verbal stimulus test. For a test of this kind there is no need to arrive at the right answer – as only the attitude to the topic needs to be discussed.

Mr. and Mrs. Wilson enjoy a family of two children. They live in a cul-de-sac with open fields beyond. Their children are used to playing with their friends in the fields and within a small nearby copse. Three of the families in the cul-de-sac are involved with the eleven plus. Parents are split on the degree and amount of work that is needed to be done before the eleven plus.

Should the families work together?

a) Engage a tutor to meet the children on a regular basis
b) Share eleven plus papers and exercises
c) Create opportunities for the parents to meet on a regular basis.
d) Share transport and drive the children to a common venue for eleven plus tuition.

Should the families discuss the eleven plus?

a) Ignore the eleven plus and only chat about other common interests
b) Refuse to acknowledge that one of the three children is clearly destined for grammar school.
c) Seek to find their own tutors
d) Decide on a `do it yourself eleven plus’.

The questions are necessarily open ended – and are certainly not intended to be turned into a verbal comprehension exercise. The children can also be asked their opinions.

Should you work with your friends towards the eleven plus?

a) Should you work on your own or will the other children put you off?
b) Should you share papers?
c) Do you think that children should do extra work for the eleven plus?
d) How important is the eleven plus if you pass and they go to a different school?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nursery Schools and the Eleven Plus

The 1926 Hadlow Report on the Education of the Adolescent was concerned with the urgent need to make better provision for the education of boys and girls after the age of eleven. A school leaving age of fifteen was recommended. The Spens Report of 1938, which looked at Technical Education and Grammar Schools, suggested a school leaving age of 16.

The Next Step was the 1927 Report trying to raise awareness of the needs of the pre school child. In those days there appeared to be little willingness to feel that the needs of children under the age of five were important.

The Next Step felt that the educational system should look beyond the physical welfare of children. It must be recalled that some areas in England were, in the late 1920s, veritable slums. There were many people, with a social conscience, who felt that the price of civilisation must encompass the education and development of young children.

To achieve changes in the nursery school The Next Step wanted the Education Act of 1921 amended to make it compulsorily for Local Authorities to provide nursery schools. It was also mooted that nursery schools should be removed from the category of special school. A further big change was suggested in that nursery schools must provide some form of outside play areas. Teacher had to be trained and medical inspections carried out.

Naturally there was a cost to the provision of nursery education, Cost has always been a large priority in education. Today there is talk of Free Schools and cut backs to the Building Schools for Education program. The cost of a nursery school for forty five children was: Land £1000, buildings £5500 and furniture £300.

The average cost of school day was 3d per head. Parents were expected to pay 2d towards the cost.

A good number of parents are prepared today to pay for the education of their children towards the eleven plus. The cost of tutors, books and assessments is not cheap. It would also be very interesting today to find out how many children contemplating the eleven plus who did not attend a well regulated and properly constituted nursery school.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eleven Plus Plan

“Have I left it too late?”

“Oh dear, I’m afraid that I have left it too late.”

These could be the reflective thoughts of some parents as they contemplate the eleven plus and its impact on their child. Parents do like to worry. We all envy the children who pass the eleven plus without opening a paper. We feel respect for the parents who are able to maintain that if their child has the ability to pass then he or she should go to grammar school – but if success is fickle and the examination is a disaster, then `it was meant to be’.

For many parents the fabrication of a successful eleven plus candidate begins as soon as possible. For some children, however, the eleven plus journey is a long and tedious process – interspersed with glimpses of elysian joy. (Oh, well done dear, off you go now.) Other children seem to sail through the whole process unhampered by doubt. Parents can only work with the material they have – their much loved child.

The eleven plus examination encompasses a broad band of ability. There are the high flyers and at the other end of the scale the children who have to work hard to get there. Some parents need to throw all their resources into trying to fabricate a structure that will support and lift their child.

There is no doubt that many children achieve a certain status during the build up to the eleven plus. Some will be cosseted and shielded. Apart from the very fortunate `exceedingly bright children’, very few will be left to work on their own.

Parents, in many different ways, are continually trying to asses the potential of their children. Few parents will be able to maintain a blind and unwavering faith in their child’s ability to pass the examination. Some parents will want to maintain a steady pressure while others will be content to develop and adapt to their child’s sensibilities.

Many parents would love to be able to show an inscrutable face to the world.

“It is not too late. I have done the best I can. If my child passes then grammar school is an option. If my child does not pass then we will make another plan.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Eleven Plus Analysis

There is a select group of people who needed to be revered and held with considerable esteem. These are the architects of the `eighty twenty’ rule. There is not an eleven plus mother in the land who does not subscribe to the rule. The proportions may change but the end result is the same.

The 80-20 rule is simple. Twenty percent of the time is spent on analysis and eighty percent in implementation. What the rule does not recognise is that after implementation considerable resources within the family have to be allocated to maintenance and further development. As any mother dealing with the eleven plus will know – much time also needs to be spent determining whether the original analysis was incomplete or even possibly faulty.

The little explanation may help. It is Sunday evening. The family are relaxed and replete from a pleasurable day where togetherness was the keystone of all activities. There have been no arguments, upset discussions or even one little mini tantrum. This draws a picture of a complete family. A fundamental decision is, however, about to be made. The implications are far reaching.

“We are here this evening to talk about the eleven plus.”

“Listen to your mother. This is important.”

“We are going to discuss the eleven plus. Your school marks are good, the grammar school is close by, your father and I would like you to go to grammar, and your teacher at school has indicated that you have a reasonable chance.”

“I am so pleased. My friends all want to go to grammar. What can I do to help?”

“The eleven plus is a complex affair. We need to break it down into component parts. We need to look at all the parts and then reconstitute them into an effective eleven plus plan.”

“You know children with your mother master minding the project she will be approaching the eleven plus as an art not a science. We have never done this before and will probably make some mistakes along the way. All we can do is the best we can. Your mother has never let us down so far.” (Here Dad pauses as he remembers the second bottle of white wine that was enjoyed in the Maldives.)

“The first thing we have to do is to gather information. Then we need to allocate jobs and responsibilities. We will need to pull together as a family.”

“Look Mum, of course I will do my best. I know I have to change. I will only play on my XBox three times a week. I will read improving books every day. I will stop arguing until after the examination. I promise to keep my bedroom tidy. Mother and father – I pledge that I will watch less T.V. and not hit my brother as often.”

“Thank you for your offer. You don’t need to make all those changes. Remember your grandmother? She used to say. `Moderation. Moderation in everything.’ We will all try to follow the eighty twenty rule. We will try to analyse all potential problems and then we will only implement changes after reflection and full discussion. This is a new era for all of us. As a family we can and must pull together.”

“Can I go now?”

“Can I go now?”

“Can I go now?”

Mother is left sitting at the table – happy but anxious. How will she keep her little brood on track? Will it all work out? What lies ahead?

“Can I go now?”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Eleven Plus Reading

Some parents will spend critical periods in their lives encouraging their children to read.

An old English phrase has become refined to: “You can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink.”

A more modern Eleven Plus phrase is: “You can give your child a book but you can not make him read.”

Parents will use every form of warning, enticement and sheer forcefulness to promote reading. An argument that children can put up is that sometimes it takes a long time to read a book. Parents could present their children with a little eleven plus problem.

Eleven Plus Exercise One
How long does it take an adult to read a book?

Slow Reader
Reading at 150 words a minute means that it could take a week to read three quarters of a book, a month to read three books, a year to read thirty six books and ten years to read three hundred and sixty books.

Good Reader
Reading now at 350 words a minute suggests that one and three quarter books could be read in a week, seven and a half in a month, ninety in a year and nine hundred in ten years. (The eleven plus is over well before the ten year limit is reached.)

The mathematics presupposes that an adult has enough time in the day to be able to read for at least an hour a day, six days a week.

The other variable to take into account is the length of the book. Some adult books will average around seventy thousand words. Some books will be considerably shorter – and others much longer.

Eleven Plus Exercise Two
How long does it take a child to read a book?

First of all finding an hour a day, six days a week would be rather demanding for an eleven plus child. It does, however, make for an interesting debating point.

The other immense variable is the length of a book aimed at ten to thirteen year olds. It is possible that an average of seventy thousand words may be too many words. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, aimed at nine to twelve year olds, however, has around a quarter of a million words! This would upset any average!

Reading on a Kindle may affect reading speed – as it is possible to manipulate the size of words and the orientation of the screen. By now the variables have grown out of control.

“Dear, please try to read the books you were given for Christmas. It is now the middle of February and you have only read ……. “

Monday, February 07, 2011

Eleven Plus Papers

A group of mothers from one class at school were discussing the eleven plus. Some maintained that one type of paper was more valuable for eleven plus preparation than others. The mothers decided to go out for dinner and settle the discussion through good food, superb wine and animated chat. The hot topic of the eleven plus remained the glue that held the evening together.

One of the mothers was a born organiser. She pulled out her ipad and asked the mothers for eleven plus scores on two different but popular papers. Each mother was able to respond immediately – after all eleven plus scores are imbedded into every waking thought – transcending even the need to provide the next meal on the table.

Score A 43 59 76 28 53 55 81 49 38 47
Score B 67 82 75 48 91 63 67 51 44 54

The mothers discussed the scores and tried to draw conclusions. Just as it all became a little heated the daughter of one of the mothers arrived to take her mum home. She listened for a moment and then remarked quietly. “We can sort this out statistically.”

(One proud mum nearly turned a somersault.)

The girl suggested:

Draw a scatter graph to illustrate the data. Wine was forgotten for a moment as all the heads came together.

Calculate the value of the product moment correlation between Scores A and Scores B.

The girl, by now in her stride, asked the assembled mothers if they would be kind enough to comment on how they would expect the scatter diagram to change if all the children were given the same help and assistance.

The mothers all agreed that there was a positive correlation between the scores. They felt too that the evening had been a success and they wanted to repeat it next month. Two mothers promised to look out their A Level Statistics notes from years ago – and come armed to the next meeting.

The mother of the girl was so proud of her daughter that she had to be helped down the stairs. (Was this aided by the amount of the wine and her deep satisfaction with her daughter?)

The wine waiter, who was a mathematics graduate from Cambridge, asked the girl out for a date. (Only to discuss ` product moment correlation’ – not for any other ulterior motives.)

The sanctity of the eleven plus was preserved for another week.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Eleven Plus Progress

A few words from Lord Alfred Tennyson can be used as a rallying cry from all involved in the eleven plus.

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Teachers want to be able to say: “Your child has made progress.”

Parents want to hear: “My child has made progress.”

Children want to hear: “You have made progress.”

The Ofstead report demands that progress is made within a child’s school.

School reports, from unhappy teachers, can no longer say: “Albert is working to the best of his non existent ability.”

Even Macbeth whined: “Bring me no more reports; let them fly all: Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane I cannot taint with fear.”

Progress in eleven plus terms can be relative. A child could have been getting 45 out of 80 on a test – and moves up to 48 on the next test. This could mean three lucky guesses – or that a skill has now been mastered.

Eleven plus progress can be a child working at Level 4C at school in mathematics and moving up to 5A. This could be fantastic teaching at school – or it could be down to the intervention of eleven plus teaching. Perhaps the progress could have taken place because of hard work by everyone concerned at school and at home.

Tennyson, the parents of the unknown schoolmaster and Shakespeare have very little in common with the eleven plus – other than a respect for change and an unwillingness to hear an untimely report.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Eleven Plus Pressure

How well will your eleven plus child do under pressure? By the time their child is around ten years old parents will have been offered many opportunities of being able to make judgements about their capabilities of their children.

Some eleven plus children will naturally emerge as leaders.

They may try to take an ascendant role in their relations with their school mates, friends and parents.

They will often try to be persuasive and promote their viewpoints assiduously.

Other children may often look to them for leadership, help and advice.

Some eleven children who emerge as leaders will be naturally ebullient and expressive.

These ten year old leaders will often be self reliant and able to think for them selves.

Other children may wish to display far more conforming behaviour.

These may be children who wish to conform – and do not wish to stand out from the crowd,

Some of these rather more conforming children may find it difficult to make decisions without vacillation and delay.

Questions you could ask your eleven plus child?

When you are working on eleven plus papers, do you prefer to work on your own?

Do you think that you display signs of being a little bit of a show off?

Do you usually follow the eleven plus instructions that you are offered or do you prefer to `do your own thing’?

Do you spend much time worrying about other people’s opinion?

Do you wish you were not doing the eleven plus?

In a discussion of this nature there can not be any right and wrong. Quite rightly most eleven plus children will fall somewhere between these two poles. At some time there will need to be total conformity. At other times parents may wish for a bit more dynamism and leadership.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Eleven Plus Thoughts

We have this impression of California as being the home of the sun and the surf. We are fed pictures of sun kissed orange groves and beautiful people. We know too that in recent years California has built a huge budget deficit. Terman, and his Stanford Associates, were in California when they published their Volume 1 of the Genetic Studies of Genius in 1925. It is hoped that the early protagonists of the eleven plus were aware of this research. In fact elements of the thinking behind the studies of genius may have influenced the early stages of the development of the content of the present eleven plus examination.

Terman looked at 1500 California children with I.Q.s of 140 and over. He looked at:

Racial origins
Sex ratio
Anthropometric measurements
School progress
Specialised abilities
Intellectual, social and play interests
Character traits

These findings formed the core of scientific knowledge about intellectually gifted children.

In our little world of the eleven plus we work with around six hundred children a year in lessons and on courses. Naturally we see children who are aiming at full marks on the various eleven plus tests. Would anyone find it interesting if a comparative study was done on very bright children? The results of the best and the brightest of 2011 could be compared with the best and the brightest of 1925.

If some `sleeper’ questions were mixed in we could find out just what our very bright eleven plus candidates think about the present form of the eleven plus. The phrase `out of the mouth of babes’ may be highly relevant.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Eleven Plus Reasoning

Some time ago we bought the Penguin Collection of Sherlock Holmes. This is a series of eight books that bring together the novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I started looking through them to try to find where Sherlock Holmes uttered those famous words: “Elementary my dear Watson!”

The great detective used the words, to Watson’s utter frustration, when he was demonstrating reasoning to solve a perplexing case.

He drew logical conclusions from certain premises – and these are known as `deductions’.

He made brilliant generalisations on the basis of specific details – and these are called `inductions’.

Children working towards the eleven plus will sometimes make deductions and at other times inductions. Sometimes parents may find it difficult to see which route their child is following.

In the analysis of an answer a parent with a supremely tuned logical mind may prefer to answer some types of questions by following careful and predictable steps. Their eleven plus child, however, may prefer to read the question remarkably quickly and throw out an inspired induction.

Take the hoary old question.

Three policemen, two on foot and one with a motorbike, picked up three robbers. The policemen feared that the robbers would flee as soon as they (the policemen) were outnumbered.

The motor bike would only carry two.

The policemen could not be put into a position where they were outnumbered.

In what order should the robbers be transported?

Traditionally the answer is that the two robbers ride off to the police station – then one robber rides back. This won’t always work – as the robbers may take off at high speed.

One kind of brain will continue to try to analyse the question – even though it is simple nonsense. A different kind of brain would suggest the policemen call immediately for backup. At this stage, however, it is difficult to work out which conclusion was reached by deduction and which by induction. Please help!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Eleven Plus Rewards

How do parents reward themselves when their children do well on an eleven plus exercise?

First of all they have to tell someone. The `someone’ can range from a loving grand parent to a fierce playground rival.

Secondly they have to reward the child. The `reward’ can range from a quiet `well done’ to the promise of trip to Disneyland Paris.

Thirdly parents have to reward themselves. The reward can range from a satisfied smile to the anticipation of a serious food reward.

Out of all the options the food reward may sometimes seem the best option. I can recall a banana soufflĂ© being presented with due pomp on some extra special occasions. Banana leaves are sometimes hard to come by in some of the major supermarkets – but you can but ask. (For the un-initiated the banana leaf acts as a platter – not a loin cloth.)

Slice six bananas and boil with half a cup of water, juice of one lemon and two liqueur glasses of Van Der Hum. Allow to boil until the fruit is mushy and the liquid reduced. Rub through a sieve and sweeten to taste. Add two yolks and heat mixture over steam to prevent curdling.

Line a buttered pie dish with slices of pie cake – slightly moistened with Van Der Hum. Arrange the banana mixture on top and cover with another layer of cake and some chopped walnuts.

Beat up whites with five tablespoons of sugar, pile on top of the walnuts and bake in a moderate oven for around thirty minutes. Allow to cool and the garnish with cream and cherries.

The distribution of the rewards is easy. Your eleven plus child earns one slice for providing the excuse. Your much loved partner is offered one slice for just being with you.

Grand parents can share a slice – for their unstinting love and support.

You started with half a cake, cut it in half and then in half again. You `gave away’ three slices. What percentage do you get? Is the overall angle of your share obtuse or reflex?

Of course there will be some who do not agree that their child should be offered alcohol of any kind. The reward, however, is for you. Just eat your child’s share. You really are worth it!

(Advanced eleven plus parents will be able to work out the percentage increase that will accrue to you if your child is forced to maintain sobriety and wholesomeness.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Grammar and the Eleven Plus

There must have been many influences on the men and women who formulated the early ideas of the eleven plus. The idea of catering for bright and deserving children was not new after the Second World War – but it was a time of change and evolution.

At that time a lot of time and effort was being put into the teaching of grammar. There was little evidence then that primary school children would profit from an early introduction to terms such as noun, verb and `phrases in apposition’.

Macaulay wrote about the `Difficulty of Grammar’ in the British Journal of Education Psychology XVII back in 1947; He reviewed the grammar syllabus for Scottish school. At seven and a half children started on a grammar syllabus which involved a period of around thirty minutes a day. He tested a number of groups of children after five years of grammar on the recognition of:


No group reached fifty percent on the test!

Children did even worse on:


There is no place for grammar in today’s eleven plus but rote learning without full comprehension must still play a part in some eleven plus exercises.

I have a 1992 book on Reasoning Ability (ISBN 0340487836) and it has this gem:

In a certain code the word GET is written as COL and the word HOLD is written as APIN. Write the code word for THE.

It is difficult to know if learning, by rote, how to cope with a question of this nature will leave a lasting impression on any one!