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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Do you need an Eleven Plus app?

Do you remember how many colours your child could recognise and name by the age of four? Suppose your child could remember twelve different colours or hues – would this show an acute sense of colour or would it be the result of many hours of learning? Presumably at some stage or another you would have supplied the colour tablets or colour strips to enable the learning. (There is probably an app for this today.)

Some eleven plus algebra may help. (If you get stuck just ask your child.)

Let P be the psychical factor (the factor outside of current human knowledge.)

Let I be the internal factors relating to the recall of colours. (The brain power.)

Let E be the external factors. (How much time you have spent drilling colours into the poor child.)

P = I + E (The sum of the factors.)

We then have to have the unknown – which is often called X. We don’t know the extent and nature of the internal factors so we then substitute X. This now gives us:

P = X + E.

If a four year old pre eleven plus child, however, has been brought up in an environment where there are limited colours – and no exposure to a spectrum of colours – then the feat of recalling twelve colours would pose a real difficulty.

Back to the eleven plus. Your child may be asked to substitute numbers for letters. Find P if I = 5 and E = 9.

P then is 5 + 9

P = 14.

Find X if P = X + E. Let P = 20 and E = 8.

20 = X + 8

12 = X

X = 12

The word psychical does not play a part in the eleven plus – unless the word is used in the sense of: “Capable of extraordinary mental processes, such as extrasensory perception and mental telepathy”.

If your child, in the middle of the eleven plus, could send you a little message telepathically (which is communication through means other than the senses) and say to you: “Mum, or Dad, what is the answer to number 34?”

You will have guessed by now the eleven plus question read:

Mary knew that that there were three primary colours. She knew too that that were three secondary colours.

A) How many intermediate colours would be formed mixing primary colours with secondary colours?

B) How many main divisions?

If you were able to beam back the answer `12’ your best `playground’ friend may ask you: How did you do that?”

You would be able to reply: “Thelma, my dear friend. Do not rely on any psychic phenomena – just encourage your child to read and keep reading.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Higher Eleven Plus Examination

Eleven plus children learn more than how to do verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises and mathematics. The children learn a little more about themselves. They learn, for example, that the limitations of their immediate memory can be overcome by constant revision and consolidation. They also learn how to solve a range of problems.

The eleven plus examination is, thankfully, more than learning strings of nonsense syllables – yet some exercises must seem to be rather too `fey’ to be useful. We expect children, for example, to be able to make sense of: `Happble uponed herete dooreta.’ Every bright eleven plus child will be able to tell you immediately is, `Happy opened the door.’ Your child will be able to tell you that the nonsense syllables build up into a sentence – and that we can easily identify the subject, the verb and the object.

If researchers from the world of psycholinguistics were let loose on the content of some eleven plus questions we may find a different type of question evolve. When we are teaching some verbal reasoning questions we sometimes ask the child to try to identify the root or roots of the word. The meaning of the word or phrase then becomes part an associative structure – and this sometimes can lead to recoding or re-evaluation.

The able eleven plus child could then be encouraged to look at new ideas and develop new strategies for dealing with complex problems. One of our eleven plus boys has been doing very well in lessons and was outstanding on the recent Easter Eleven Plus Course. Offering him yet another eleven plus paper to do seemed to be a rather retrograde step. He welcomed the chance of sitting the Edexcel GCSE Foundation Mathematics Specimen paper in his lesson. He reached 86% - and enjoyed the tussle with a few new and unfamiliar questions. He is just ten years old with an easy `C’ grade in his mathematics. It looks as if he could easily reach a higher grade if the lessons worked on Higher GCSE mathematics rather than 11+ mathematics.

The eleven plus examination should not seek to dampen the competitive nature of the very bright children – and it should not appear to be a stiff and mechanical exercise.

We prepare some children for schools where a Standardised score of over 130 is required – and many of these children achieve full marks or scores of 140 in the actual examination. It is almost as if we need a two tier approach to the eleven plus. The first would be an examination that could be enjoyed by the top 25% of the population. The Higher Eleven Plus would be taken by children who find the whole eleven plus an exercise rather than a journey.

A revised and expanded eleven plus where questions looked at language acquisition and the development of more abstract concepts may save some children the tedium of: `If ABC means 123 what does DEF signify?’

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Eleven Plus Friend

Your child has made an application, with your help, to enter the eleven plus examinations. Your son is used to discussing the examination and the implications of passing and failing in a mature and thoughtful manner. He is comfortable with being in the top sets at school. The teachers throughout his school career have both acknowledged and lauded all his different academic successes. The eleven plus lies ahead.

The examination will take place in the school hall – which is pleasantly removed from much of the rest of the classrooms. On examination day the hall will be a haven of silence – mixed with the sighs of a few anxious children, On entering the hall, your child will see the familiar face of much loved teachers along with one or two smartly dressed outsiders (probably invigilators). One subject your son will feel very confident with is mathematics. After all he started with some sympathetic tuition when he was just five years old.

When your child started school you told the teachers that he had a hearing problem – and was only picking up sound in one of his ears. His new school started work immediately to install a surround sound system in the classroom. He could hear his teacher – and his new friends at school. The wonders of modern science! What would Thomas Edison have thought of a classroom equipped with sound!

The boy thought all his life that it was natural to only hear out of one ear. After all he could hear his father when dad wanted to play football in the park!

When he walked into the examination hall he saw a familiar face from years gone by! The `new’ boy had only just joined the school – even through the two boys had played together at play school. There was immediate symbiosis – and great feelings of fraternal pleasure. Because they were ten year old boys they did not hug each other - they simply punched each other on the shoulder. They did not talk much either but promised to meet after the examination.

We know that children and their parents will react differently to the eleven plus. The reason is that we are all conditioned to think: ` If such and such an act occurs, such and such a response must (or should) follow.’ We know, for example, that an examination hall should remain largely silent. Parents would expect this – but some children may miss the familiar hum of the classroom. If the invigilator speaks in an unfamiliar voice will our boy be able to follow what is being said? Any mother or father – or grand parents worth their salt – will naturally want to have a level playing field. The boy enters the examination room with his identity already defined. He knows, by the age of ten, what is expected of him and what he can hope to achieve. He does not, however, have the same rights and obligations of his long lost friend. After all their lives must have diverged widely over the years between nursery school and the eleven plus.

Is there then a level playing field in the examination between the expectations of the two boys? In the one case our boy has had the best possible education the school can offer – from sympathetic and understanding teachers and the best hearing equipment available. The other boy has just entered a new school, days before an examination – with few friends. Those few precious moments outside the hall may have meant a lot to each child. However much their parents exhorted them to keep calm and do their best the reaffirmation of the bonds of friendship may have contributed to a sense of well being and confidence.

Both boys had much to offer each other:

“A friend in need, is a friend indeed.”

“Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Lovely Cars

It is not easy for some parents to decide where preparation for the eleven plus starts and careers education finishes.

“Auntie Jean, my sister, went to grammar school and then onto university. She then got a job in accounts in a large industrial company that specialised in supplying car parts all over the world. She thought about moving on and then she was offered the job as Human Resource Manger – with a Directorship.

She went on a series of courses and learnt about Psychometric Testing. Because she had been an accountant before this job, she loved the idea of testing to see where she could encourage her staff to find out what they were capable of and try to widen their horizons.”

“I know what a director is, because Auntie Jean drives flashy car, but I am not so sure of Psychometric Testing.”

“We will wait for Sunday lunch and then ask her. In the mean time let us get on.”

“Auntie Jean, what is psychometric testing?”

“It is used to try to find out what areas of work might interest you and what your skills and talents are. You like football, surfing, reading and your Sony Play station. You like work and school. There are some tests that you will not find in the eleven plus.

Verbal reasoning is a familiar topic because this looks as how you understand problems and concepts expressed in word.

Abstract reasoning is how well you grasp problems not related to actual problems.

Numerical Reasoning – how well you handle numbers

Three dimensional perception – what you visualise what an object looks like

Attention to detail – how you spot small errors and mistakes

Mechanical skills – how you understand how simple mechanical devices work

Manual skills – how well you can manipulate tools and equipment

Design aptitude – how good you are a planning a layout

These tests would give your grammar school a much better picture of who you are.”

“But Auntie Jean, we just do verbal reasoning and mathematics!”

“The questions you meet may well cover many of the different things we have talked about. Keep working hard. Follow the example of your mother and father. One day come and see me and we will see if I can organise some work experience for you.”

“Thank you. Now can I go and sit in your car?”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Milk Run, the Eleven Plus and a C.V.

If, and only if, the eleven plus had interviews as well as final scores to take into account then parents could also worry about the `Milk Run’. Schools could be presented with a list of children who did have the academic qualifications for grammar school – and then have these marks added to the marks gained in an interview.

Just think of the excitement that would generate in a family if their child was invited to an interview! Mum would need a new dress; Dad would need a new suit. All concerned would need new shoes – and some may even feel the need for a new hairdo or haircut. This could be an even bigger event than Auntie Edna getting married to that millionaire.

Then would come the rehearsals and the script writing.

Parents would sit down with their children to discuss how scientific the pre-selection techniques could be. There may even be a need for consultants to be called in. (Family G. could live in a six bed roomed house with an indoor swimming pool. Mum could be a Director of a bank hence the six figure family. Their house is only a mile from a wonderful independent school. The nearest grammar school is six and a half miles away across town. Should their child be offered a place?)

Parents would be able to point out to their children that past behaviour is possibly the best predictor of future success. Maintaining good eleven plus grades along with membership of the local gym with county level tennis lessons along with drama and piano lessons could be important points to make on a C.V. (curriculum vitae) If your child could throw in the ability to talk about at least three good books along with a keen interest in palaeontology then the interest of the interviewer may quicken.

General advice would include:

Your child should have looked at least at the web site of the preferred grammar school. A prior physical visit to the school could also help.

Your child should be able to state clearly why he or she wants to enter that particular grammar school – rather than just grammar schools in general.

The C.V. should attempt to excite the interest of a prospective interviewer. There must be something that can help your child to stand out from the herd.

Your child should think about speaking clearly and answering in groups of three sentences. Single word answers must be frowned upon.

Advise you child to give as much information about himself or herself.

What can parents do about the milk round? How will you explain this to your child? Is it to do with bottles of milk? Is it to do milk being churned to make butter? Will a good school record help in the milk round? Will the style and content of the C.V. help? What actually does take place when milk goes round and round?

Why not help your child to make a start on writing a C.V.? This could help to focus the mind on the desirability of working hard towards a goal. Show your child your C.V. Build a family C.V. You know that Curriculum Vitae means `course of life’ in Latin. Help your child to plan and map out his or her course of life.

The Eleven Plus Pigtale

Is the eleven plus like a pigtail to some children? They know that the examination is there but they are not quite sure what it is all about. The children know they have to pass the examination and go to grammar school and get a good university education and then a good job with a big house and two new cars. This is the dream. What happens to a family if the hope can not be realised?

Thackery may have been writing about the Eleven Plus when he penned `A Tragic Story’

There lived a sage in days of yore,
And he a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much and sorrowed more,
Because it hung behind him.

He mused upon this curious case,
And swore he'd change the pigtail's place,
And have it hanging at his face,
Not dangling there behind him.

Says he, 'The mystery I've found -
Says he, 'The mystery I've found!
I'll turn me round,' - he turned him round;
But still it hung behind him.

Then round and round, and out and in,
All day the puzzled sage did spin;
In vain - it mattered not a pin -
The pigtail hung behind him.

And right and left and round about,
And up and down and in and out
He turned; but still the pigtail stout
Hung steadily behind him.

And though his efforts never slack,
And though he twist and twirl, and tack,
Alas! Still faithful to his back,
The pigtail hangs behind him.

This is another of the poems we were encouraged to learn by heart in our final year of primary school. (Before we went to the Big School.)

Three of the children in that class, as far as I can recall, were orphans. The orphanage was a large white building with dormitories for the boys and the girls. The children wore shoes to school and were then encouraged to spend the rest of the day in bare feet – to make the shoes last longer. It is difficult to think that how the children ever had the time and the desire to learn poetry. Older children would have looked after younger ones. Dreams and hopes may have been cruelly extinguished. Yet some of the orphans must have gone onto bigger and better things. The Fairbridge Orphans were sent to Rhodesia to be given the chance of a better life. We can but hope that at least some of the orphans went on to lead happy and fulfilled lives.

A large number of eleven plus passes, we are told, go to educated families living in good homes. Yet children do pass the eleven plus coming from unhappy and stressful homes. These children would need incredible ambition and a burning desire to do well. These characteristics are not the domain of the middle class. Yet some bright children seem to view the eleven plus as an exercise in frustration. It is almost as if they can not find their pigtails.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eleven Plus Papers

One of the hats a good friend of mine wears that that of an antique seller. He and his good wife also sell wonderful jewellery. Their hospitality is generous to a fault as the lady of the home is a gourmet cook.

They took me to an auction one day where they were buying a set of swords on commission. It was not their money – but they had a valued customer and were buying on his behalf. There was nothing as exciting as a telephone held to the ear – because both parties had already agreed a ceiling.

My friend took the whole event in his stride. After all he made his living, in part, from auction rooms. He knew where he wanted to stand – and explained why he always stood in a similar spot. He wanted to watch the room without having to turn his head too much.

Just before the swords came up there was a collection of garden tools to be sold. The auctioneer started at two pounds and the bidding went up rather uneventfully. Various tools were held up at regular intervals include a weather beaten spade, a rusty fork and a giant pitchfork. The auctioneer did not tarry too much as the price was creeping up towards seven pounds as it was obvious that he wanted to move on.

The next item was a bundle of books and papers. One was a Cassel’s French Dictionary and another was a John Grisham. It was not clear what the papers were to be used for – until, rather unfortunately, the porter dropped the bundle. He bent quickly to gather the collection and handed each one to the auctioneer. The room fell silent. It was obvious that in the auctioneer’s hands were eleven plus papers. An excited babble broke out. The whispers commented on the fact that there were eleven plus papers – and they were in this auction.

The auctioneer asked for a starting bid. He then said fifty the lot. I thought he meant fifty pence – but my friends explained that the first bid was for fifty pounds. The bidding grew and grew. There were only a few papers in the bundle but this did not deter the determined the mothers and fathers. Each family had to have the papers. The auctioneer made a comment when the bids reached over one hundred and fifty pounds. Hands kept being raised until the magic sum of one hundred and eighty five pounds was reached.

I ran over to the family who had bought the papers and asked why they had spent so much money.

“The auctioneer said the next eleven plus papers. We thought he meant the papers our child would be sitting this September. Some one near us said that they were the real papers. We just had to have them.”

I pushed my way over to the auctioneer and shouted over the hum in the room; “What did you say about the eleven plus papers?”

He bent down and said; “I said the next lot is eleven plus papers.”

Poor family – imagine their feelings when they arrived home and realised that they may have bought a mirage.

You may ask about the swords. The bidding went over the top commission price. We all went to dinner empty handed.

Eleven Plus Years

I can remember when my young master had time for me. He took me for walks where I could see my friends. My favourite spot was down by the river. We used to run along the footpath and play. He used to throw sticks into the water for me to chase. I would climb out dripping and shake my coat over him. We don’t have time for walks any more because he always has a frown these days.

My food has also changed. My master’s mother talks about special food. I can’t tell the difference between ordinary food and this new kind. I believe they get it from a farm down in Devon. One day, while I was half sleeping, they started talking about crop circles in Devon. Every one knows that a dog loves to run around in circles chasing its tail. I don’t know why they made such a thing of it. Any way I can’t remember the name of the special food but it is more expensive. My master’s mother thinks that he will study better if he eats the right type of food.

One of the biggest changes in my life is my master’s bedroom. There always used to be toys on the floor for me to play with. Now the room is neat and tidy with a new desk and a new bookcase. The book case is funny too it seems to be full of papers. There are piles of work that has been done and work that still has to be done. The worst thing about the tidy room is the star chart. Now who ever heard of a ten year old with a star chart? Are they trying to motivate him? Why can’t he work because he wants to work? Why does he need to be treated differently?

I used to like watching programmes like Top Gear. This is now out of the window. Top Gear is too late at night for a boy who is studying for important examinations. This is ridiculous. I love seeing the cars driven so fast – and the noise makes me quiver. I do doze off sometimes when Jeremy is speaking, I don’t mind the other two but the big one does talk a lot.

I always feel excluded when my master’s mother and father sit down with my master for a `serious’ talk. The whole house has to be quiet. The T.V. is switched off. My master’s sister is asked to be quiet on the telephone. My master sometimes has tears in his eyes – but then so does his mother. My master’s father has all those charts and scores and he keeps saying: “You have to reach 82%.” Sometimes the family have a joint hug after one of those talks. At other times my master comes to me, pulls my ears and says that I am his only friend.

I do care if he does pass – but I care more about chasing the next door’s cat. That cat will never pass our front door again even though it is eleven plus years old.

Eleven Plus Utopia

It may be important to keep some eleven plus children away from the work of Thomas More writing on Utopia. Some children may take some of his precepts literally.

The Regulation of Work and Employment.

More, writing in 1516, felt that it was important to regulate work.

“It is time to do some work.”

“But I did some yesterday. Sir Thomas said that work needed to be regulated. I am going to keep regular hours. Now is not the moment.”

More felt that useless occupations needed to be prohibited.

“Mother, when I get to university, after I have passed my eleven plus and gone to grammar school, I am going to study for a worthwhile degree. I want to save the world so I want to do a Save the World degree.”

“Yes dear, ask your father about useful degrees. He has two.”

“But mum.”

In the case of a season of unemployment More resorted to the simple device of shortening the day’s labours. Men and women only had to work four hours a day – thus allowing employment for more.”

“Today I am only going to do half my eleven plus work – so that I can do an equal amount on another day.”

“But, dear, we have many papers. You do not need to hold back. We can easily obtain more.”

“No no. We need to think green. I will not do a paper today. I will do just half today.”

One other suggestion of More was that when an individual visited a friend the work was the same as if he or she was at home. He or she did the same task as the friend was engaged in.

“No, I don’t need to do a paper today. I am going to see Sam today. We will do part of a paper together.”

“His mother may not like you doing that.”

“Well, Sam and I will be productive together.”

Finally Utopia is noted for its scarcity of laws.

“There is no law that I need to do an eleven plus paper.”

“But dear, practice makes perfect.”

“Show me the law and I will do a paper right now. I don’t want to be difficult; I just need to some time to myself. I will work when I am ready.”

“Yes, dear.”

Eleven Plus Reports 21/04/11

One subject that seems to offer topics of conversation in the play ground is how a child’s eleven plus progress is reported. Possibly this is a subject that is doomed to perpetual controversy. Some parents may not like what they hear and some teachers may find it difficult to produce an understandable and apposite report. A report is what it says on the box – it is a report from the teacher to the parents. A school report comes from the school to the home. An eleven plus report may possibly come from an eleven plus teacher – who may not be the school teacher. A school teacher and an eleven plus teacher may be looking to report on different characteristics.

At some stages eleven plus parents will want the report to discuss scholastic accomplishments. Parents may want to hear about their child compared to other eleven plus children and sometimes compared to children in general. The eleven plus teacher may be able to comment on your child’s performance compared to other eleven plus children he or she is teaching or has taught. Some eleven plus teachers may even know about the composition and performances of the other children in your child’s class at school.

To receive an eleven plus report equably, parents have to be able to feel confidence in the ability of the eleven plus teacher to be able to comment on their eleven plus child’s potential and progress.

The parents of a bright eleven plus child may fear that their child is coasting.

Other parents may be concerned that their child may not have the ability to cope with the eleven plus and grammar school.

Some `typical’ eleven plus reports may comment on grades, attitude and progress. A parent may want the report to look their child’s achievement relative to ability.

Should parents, as a matter of course, be told about initiative and work habits?

Would standardised scores be useful on an eleven plus report?

Should an eleven plus report be based on a child’s progress relative to the National Curriculum?

When a parents asks for a verbal or a written report with the words:

“How is my child doing?”

Could some eleven plus teachers be tempted to say?

“As well as humanly possible.”

Eleven Plus Acidity 20/04/11

Some children may occasionally feel rather pressured by some aspects of the eleven plus. It could be that their school mates `wind them up’, or a loving parent may spend a little too much time `talking up’ the advantages and disadvantages of the eleven plus. Some parents may feel that they may need to look back at their own education for possible solutions.

Years ago, before their children were born a goodly percentage of parents will have studied elementary chemistry. They may remember fondly how a much loved but badly teased science teacher dealt with spillages of acids and alkalis. They may have remembered how litmus paper was used along with a number of universal indicators. One indicator was a solution in ethanol and the other was pH paper.

If an alkali is added to an acid, the alkali reacts with the acid and some of the acidity is neutralised.

Acids are substances which contain hydrogen. The names of the acids sometimes do not contain the word hydrogen. Hydrochloric acid could be called hydrogen chloride; sulphuric acid could be called hydrogen sulphate and nitric acid hydrogen nitrate.

We had to learn formulas like


We will all remember that Hydrogen Hydroxide is water and Sodium Chloride is common salt.

The general equation for neutralisation is


When an eleven plus child does not feel `in the mood’ for work it may be an idea to try to neutralise any negative thoughts. Try to avoid any acidic remarks. Try to water down any statements that may be misconstrued. If your child does give way gracefully then try not to rub any salt in the wound. A few neutral words may do the trick.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eleven Plus Brains

Many parents would be delighted to hear that their eleven plus child wanted to be a scientist. A few, however, would prefer their child to become a scientist who made money!

“Mum, why do Uncle William and Auntie Kat have more money than us?”

“Auntie Kat invented a new way of plucking eyebrows. She then expanded the idea into preparing the heads of injured people for emergency surgery. She goes all over the world to demonstrate her products.”

“What does Uncle William do?”

“He thought of a different way of packaging Auntie Kat’s work – so it could be used in war zones.”

Some scientists may be able to understand and appreciate music in a manner that is not available to the rest of the general public. (I do not know why, but that is one branch of a theory.)

“Auntie Kat does not like Justin Bieber, she prefers Def Leppard.”

A second strand is that some scientists see themselves `at one with nature’. It is almost as if the boundary between fact and fiction becomes merged.

“Uncle William is always off on his treks in the Lake District. He does enjoy the trees, the birds and the scenery.”

Some partners – be it mothers or fathers – may be able to offer an opinion on the next statement. “Some scientists are happy to live in the world of witches, gnomes, fairies and ogres.”

“Uncle William still reads books about witches and ogres. I can’t stand them. He says that he finds them fulfilling.”

Some parents of budding scientists may need to be aware that a number of true scientists can be creative in ways that allow them to see the world in abstract terms.

The parents of some eleven plus children may wish that they did not have look into the future and think of rising university tuition fees and a seemingly apparent inability to be able to save enough. “If we use our hard earned savings, will our child repay us?”

Who would want to pay the university fees back fastest? A chemist who looks at atoms and molecules as his or her friends or an artist willing to starve in the garrets of Paris?

“Will Uncle William and Auntie Kat lend us the money for university if I pass my eleven plus? How soon will I have to pay it back? How much interest will they charge? What a life we live as ten year olds with all this pressure on us. Woe is me!”

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Eleven Plus and an Egg and Spoon Race

Eleven Plus children are not born with a full awareness of the examination and all its implications. Consciousness of the examination emerges over a period of time. There may be some children who wake up one morning and declare to the world that they are bone fide eleven plus candidates but awareness for most children will emerge gradually.

It would be nice to think that gaining a more complete understanding of the eleven plus would lead to electrifying and deeply satisfying emotions. “Mum, Dad! I reached 82% on the paper. I am so happy. I just need a few more marks. Thank you! Thank you!”

Other children may find the eleven plus a rather depressing journey. They could experience continual and unjustified nagging from parents. They may feel that they can never ever live up to expectations. “Life is just reading, school, homework, eleven plus, more reading and then bed. I never have time to play. My parents are trying to make me into an adult. I am still a child!”

Most eleven plus children will be somewhere between these two extremes.

Very fortunately bright and able children are more likely to demonstrate early maturity and self understanding. We also hope that the majority of eleven plus children will display emotional stability and a bright social intelligence well ahead of other children of the same age.

Eleven plus children may be ready for self appraisal at a relatively high level. How many of us would be surprised at the ability of an eleven plus child to be able to cope with a discussion on strengths and weakness?

In the actual examination we want the eleven plus child to solve problems and make choices in a mature and thoughtful manner. For some children this is not easy as they are experiencing physiological and emotional changes. Other children may simply need to feel that they are managing a relatively balanced life.

According to Persian mythology at the last day there will be a huge balance as big as the vault of heaven. The two scale pans will be called light and day. In the former all good will be placed. In the latter all that is bad.

This may be a little too heavy a tool to throw at an eleven plus child. “If you get under 82% you go into the bad side of scale. If you are good enough to reach over 82% you jump into the good scale. But remember, you have to reach over 82% to get into a grammar school. If you reach grammar you go into the good scale. If you don’t then I am not sure what to do with you. I am not letting you go to that terrible school that is just down the road”

The eleven plus child does not need to feel that passing the examination is the most important thing in the universe.

Helping a child towards the eleven plus is sometimes like an egg and spoon race. Sometimes you feel you have a good balance. At other times you wonder if you have dropped the pesky egg.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Eleven Plus Leaders

Many years ago John Vaizey wrote: “It is worth spending money on education because it assists the economy.” He was writing in his 1962 book `Education for Tomorrow’ where he also argued that the traditions of leadership, as taught in public schools, was inappropriate in the modern world. He felt that the ideals of personal independence and initiative were becoming outmoded by the realities of twentieth century economics. “Detailed knowledge, research, and a clear recognition of the toughness of the competition are of greater value.”

Many of us will remember the 2010 Channel 4 story that over half of the Tory shadow cabinet had gone to public schools – and a further substantial percentage had attended a grammar school. There may be some parents, however, who would not wish the world of politics onto their children in any way what so ever,

We would probably expect a percentage of aspiring grammar school children to show qualities of leadership. Leadership does not necessarily have to be demonstrated through politics. A leadership role is taken when it involves organising others and making decision. Some of the discussions and arguments over the eleven plus may be children continuing to test their talents against the will of their parents.

Parents can look dispassionately at some of the arguments and wonder if their child is turning into an autocratic leader who may listen to advice but ultimately makes decisions on his or her own. It seems likely, however, that most parents would prefer a democratic leader – who will allow other members of the family to share in the decision-making process. There may be even some parents would prefer their children to approach the eleven plus decision making in the spirit of a coalition.

The ideal eleven plus child, to some, would have:

Strong personal independence

Sympathetic leadership qualities

Good organisational skills

An ability to withstand, at times, the will of the parents

A willingness to share in decision making processes

Pleasant, calm, bright and articulate

Demonstrate an enjoyment of work and a sane temperament.

(No where in this list is there the necessity of becoming a politician.)

If, however, you do feel that you need to offer a little bribe to the list then you will probably remember the following words:

"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought."
If the occasional bribe should enter the eleven drama then you may care to paraphrase:

"An honest eleven plus child is one who, when he or she is bought, will stay bought."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Napoleon

We have a vision of a statistician. He or she is very good at collecting data. We are then informed about how the data is distributed. We know, for example, that ability is predicted off a normal curve of distribution. The curve suggests that few people will attain full marks and few will attain very low marks. Children with good scores will probably pass the eleven plus. Children with average or below average scores may find the whole eleven plus experience a study in frustration.

The statisticians who look at all the eleven plus data do have to go through the process of harvesting the data. They then have to use the information in a meaningful manner.
Before questions are set in the actual eleven plus the type and quality of the questions have to be used with a number of children. This sample of data is then used to make inferences about how useful the data is.

If 98% of children were able to workout the answer to an easy question then the question may not be used in the eleven plus.

If the opposite of short is tall, what is the opposite of night?

We would expect a large number of bright children to answer this question with the right answer. The statistician may then be able to inform the co-ordinators of the test that the question should not be used because too many children would probably find it too easy.

All mums and dads will, however, remember the story of Napoleon. When he was banished to Elba he told his friends that he would return with violets. One day he broke his parole and reached Frejus. A group of women collected quickly with bunches of violets – which they then sold. The shibboleth was, “Do you like violets?”

If the answer was “Oui,” the person was known not to be a confederate.

If the answer was “Eh bien,” then everyone knew that he or she was an adherent or supporter of Napoleon.

We then could reach a question that may stretch a few eleven plus minds:

If the opposite of short is tall, what is the Napoleonic opposite of “Oui”?

The statistician may, possibly, need to advise the co-ordinators of the test that there was the odd question that may appear a little too complex even for seasoned eleven plus children.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Answering Eleven Plus Questions Cautiously

“How is my son doing in his eleven plus?”

The answer is: “Compared to what?”

Is the boy doing well compared to previous performances on tests? Do the parents want a comparison with other children in the school, or with other children in the rest of the grammar school’s catchment area?

“He reached 75 on his last paper.”

Is this 75%? Is this 75 out of 80 questions? Is this 75 out of 125 questions?

75% on an easy paper is of less value than 75% on a demanding paper.

In some areas 75% on a final eleven plus examination, on a particular paper, may contribute towards a place in a grammar school. In other areas the same mark would not help.

When your child sits the eleven plus his or her marks will be compared those of other children. Naturally there will be winners and losers.

One of the questions parents may ask their children after the examination could be: “Was the examination difficult?”

This is where your child can answer: “Compared to what?”

Some children sit county wide eleven plus examinations as well as examinations for particular schools. This could lead to some children sitting more than one examination.

“The first maths examination was easier than the second. I found some really hard questions at the end of the paper and I seemed to be rushed. The first examination was much easier.”

We prepare some eleven plus boys for one eminent school by offering sections of common entrance papers as well as traditional work towards the eleven plus. The common entrance questions are not harder – but are some questions presented in a most elegant form – the boys have to think to solve the problems. It is extraordinarily satisfying to be in a position to be able to observe a remarkably bright child pitting his wits against unfamiliar work.

There is one question that men are supposed to answer very thoughtfully when they are asked: “Does my _____ look big in this?”

Perhaps an eleven plus equivalent is: “How is my _____ doing towards the eleven plus?”

We are told that in courts of law a wise barrister never asks a question unless he or she knows the answer. Some eleven plus orientated questions may need to be treated with the same caution.

Eleven Plus Responsibility

There is a term used in education which some teachers use when talking about structuring what, when and how their children learn. It is called `pedagogical control’. Pedagogy, as we all know, is to do with the science or profession of teaching. Control, in eleven plus terms, is how we manage events or happenings.

“Dear, it is time to do a little extra work on your verbal reasoning.”

“But Mum, I have already done all the papers. I am bored of doing them.”

“We have already discussed this. Practice and repetition helps you to improve.”

We know that preparing for the eleven plus means that we all need to follow reasonably similar lines of development. Although some may want to be independent – in the final analysis we can not go off into random areas because we need to prepare impressionable minds for a highly structured, but remarkably narrow, examination.

“In the verbal reasoning papers you will be taking there are a set number of topics you need to follow. Don’t waste your time doing extra exercises.”

“But, Mum, it is fun to try something new. I have done all the different types of verbal reasoning questions. Is there nothing new and interesting?”

Of course there will be linkages and developments outside of the conventional path we all need to follow – but most parents helping their children towards the eleven plus do not need to feel that they are being supervised. They will know that their bright ten year old has to be treated as an independent learner.

“No dear, no one will look at the work we are doing together. I do not need to show this work to anyone at all.”

“But Mum, I am so proud of this work. I know you don’t want to talk to anyone about what we are doing but I am bursting to tell my best friends.”

With all this in mind it is the child who needs to feel disciplined about study – and not the parent. The parent’s role in the eleven plus journey is to manage and help their child where possible. Their ten year old needs to feel that he or she is able to control what is being learnt.

“You need to do the work. I have already completed my studies. I will help you – but you need to take full responsibility.”

However `progressive’ some parents may want to feel about matters outside of the eleven plus – under the umbrella of the eleven plus children and parents all need to follow a remarkably similar course.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Style Eleven Plus Tests

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a new type of eleven plus test could be devised that attempted to eliminate the need for ten year old children to prepare endlessly?

The eleven plus can be approached by children learning facts, methods, rules, sequences and examination technique. Intelligent teachers and parents will try to discover the fifty key topics their child needs to know and understand. Other parents will opt for more subjects – and some will aim for fewer number. We all hope that if we offer children a range of carefully prepared work they will be able to use at least some in the examination.

It would be easy to ask bright children an open ended question like: “What are the advantages of working hard at school?” The answers they offer would, to a degree, be reasonably predictable – but some would be able to demonstrate fresh, imaginative and intuitive thinking. Would an examiner be able to mark work that did not appear on the list of expected topics?

If two examiners read the same set of answers separately – each knowing that the other was going to read and mark the same answers then it is possible that the examiners may be a little more aware in their marking. A third colleague could be called in if there was any disagreement.

It is a lot easier for eleven plus examiners to set a collection of multiple choice questions. Parents and teachers can then hope to rely on their child, or protégée, to demonstrate a finely honed spirit of competition. This then brings us back to: “Should eleven plus results rely on a relatively narrow set of questions?” Parents who could offer cogent and workable solutions could find their child being offered a place! (Provided two or more examiners agreed!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Eleven Plus and `Me' (Or should it be I?)

At one time or another most of will have been on a course where a seemingly highly knowledgeable and cheerfully pleasant `tutor’ or `lecturer’ hands out pieces of paper.

“In the centre of your page please write, in capital letters, the word `ME’. Then add the other important people in your life for example, family, children, friends, schoolmates and workmates. Place the people into sectors at varying distances from the centre.”

There is no doubt, that in today’s world, some one will ask a serious question: “What about my Face Book friends?”

“How many do you have?”

“I’ve only got 138 – but some of my friends have more.”

“Place them in a special sector but try not to let Face Book overwhelm your `ME’ chart.

Your group is then asked to add the people who are near to them – but who you would prefer to see at a greater distance. (Perhaps Aunt Agatha - who never listens to what you say – but may leave you a hundred thousand?)

The ensuing discussion should then make you enthusiastic enough to want to apply this to your eleven plus child.

“In the centre of the page write the word `ME’ in capital letters. Around the word write all the influences you think maybe affecting your eleven plus progress.”

“But what do I write?”

“You can put parents, siblings, relations, and teachers at school, books, papers and the internet.” (“And there is always Uncle George who says that you should give all this study malarkey and go to sea to see the world.”)

In the spirit of the eleven plus Mother and Father then draw up a list of positive actions:

“You see you are not alone in your eleven plus. There are lots of people around you.”

“There is a lot of work to do – but all you can do is to try to fit it all in.”

“We, your parents, are still very close to you and want to help however we can.”

Your child will listen with a keen and attentive ear. Then the question will come:

“Did Uncle George really go to sea to get away from Aunt Agatha?”

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Eleven Plus Prediction

“My child achieved 76% on a mathematics paper. Is this good enough for her to pass the eleven plus?

“It sounds as if she did very well at this stage. Was this the first test she did?”

“Oh, no. She does a paper every week. Her scores are about the same – but she is improving a little each week. I think she still has a long way to go.”

When the correlation between two tests is known, a child’s performance on one test can be predicted from his or her performance on another. We hope, for example, that the one test that is offered at the eleven plus stage will correlate highly with thetest or examination marks at the A Level or International Baccalaureate level.

The predictive ability of the eleven plus is never certain. The only way to be able to use the eleven plus as a true prediction tool is to have a perfect correlation with later examination results. We then reach a grey area. What about absence from school? What about your child joining a band? What happens if the school does not suit? There are many and varied variables that can affect the ability to use one set of results to be able to predict another.

We need to assume that there is a rectilinear relationship between the tests – in other words every thing has to be in a straight line. A normal curve of distribution is used in the eleven plus to find children with above average ability levels. Children of average or below level ability find it difficult to win a place at a grammar school. If there was, however, a perfect relationship between the tests then we could say that the predictive ability was `1’. With no correlation the score is `0’. Parents working on probability on eleven plus mathematics will recognise the use of `1’ and `0’.

One of our local grammar schools is Dartford Grammar. Mick Jagger (Seven O levels and three A levels) went to the school and became a famous person who played in a band.

Suppose we try to establish a correlation between passing the eleven plus and playing in a band. We may not achieve a perfect score of 1. Suppose we go a little further and try to correlate passing the eleven plus and going on to become an international rock star – who plays in band. Our chance of a perfect correlation may be even smaller.

When we are asked to predict future academic success in the eleven plus based on the results of an eleven plus practice paper – then the chances of a perfect correlation seem to slip into uncertainty.

Some of us, however, may be supremely grateful if our star pupil who reached 76% on a standard eleven plus practice paper went on to become a international star with seven GCSE passes and 3 A Levels..

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eleven Plus By Laws

In September 1982 a new bylaw was passed by local authorities in an Oregon town. It decreed that at least one joke had to be told at every meeting of the town council!

What scenes of relentless tedium must have prompted this desperate act of legislation? Some of the authorities must have been human – and let their fancies free.

It would, however, strain the imagination of most of us if we had to offer a joke every time the words `eleven plus’ were mentioned.

Knock Knock

Who is there?


Eleven who?

Eleven plus!

Knock Knock

Who is there?


Verbal who?

Verbal Reasoning!

Eleven Plus By Law 1
Humour is often used to diffuse situations As parents will know, and will have used the tactic successfully, it can sometimes even be used to divert attention or the beginnings of an argument.

Eleven Plus By Law 2
We do know, however, that behaviour that rewarded (from the learner’s point of view) is more likely to recur.

Eleven Plus By Law 3
We also know that sheer repetition without any reward is a poor way to learn.

Eleven Plus By Law 4
We know too punishment is not the opposite of reward. If, for example, we take away an eleven plus child’s paper as a punishment - we may in fact be rewarding the child!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Relevance of the Eleven Plus

We know that many years ago psychologists had a strong bearing on the development of the eleven plus. There are many people today who are still deeply suspicious of the eleven plus and all it entails. We know too that some psychologists are viewed with an element of suspicion – especially when their ideas and theories seem to be removed from common sense. Of course there are many different kinds of psychologist – and each would have a different interpretation on the value and significance of the eleven plus.

The analytical psychologist, for example, would be able to tell use about our instincts and emotions as we react in our different ways to the eleven plus. There are also the experimental psychologists who developed all the early theories on learning processes, transfer of training and the testing of ability. The psychologists who contributed to the development of the eleven plus may well have had opinions on the most economical and effective methods of learning and teaching. We can only surmise that these early pioneers may have been invited to venture into the content of the eleven plus examinations. These psychologists may have been credited with being able to comment, on psychological grounds, on particular questions and groups of questions.

When we look back at questions that were put to children fifty years ago we can still see traces of these questions in today’s eleven plus preparation papers. We must hope that some of the development of the questions has taken place in a non rational manner other wise some of today’s question papers are simply a conglomeration of interpretations. It would be a rash eleven plus teacher, tutor or publisher who would be able to take a stand and say that their method is the best or only way.

The whole eleven plus examination has developed into focusing on statistics, methods, measurement and content. There is a danger in outsiders seeing elements of the whole industry as being self serving. The wonderfully gifted teacher working on a one to one basis with a deserving child may feel lost in welter of discussion on the best papers to use. It is a sad day when questions on eleven plus papers, and the number of correct questions, can be considered, by some, as being more important than the nutritional development of gifted brains. If only the eleven plus could be looked at again in terms what constitutes ability. We would be able to look then at the relevance of today’s examination in terms of tomorrow’s future.

As it stands the eleven plus is relevant because it selects children for grammar school. The system works – and, therefore, why change? Is there, however, a need for a timely look into the present examination and the course it should take? Are we missing something?

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Non Verbal Reasoning

In 1905, in the British Journal Psychology, W. H. R. Rivers made some observations on senses of the Toda people. Rivers used the Muller-Lyer Illusion to look at the ability of the Toda to be able to describe illusions.

The Toda must be among the most interesting people living today. The current Wikipedia article is very well written – and is presented in a style that may well invite further research. There are usually about 700 Toda living in Southern India. The families attracted attention because of their uniqueness and their isolation. I can remember reading about the Toda years ago – well before Wikipedia came along.

The work by Rivers on the illusion came to mind yesterday as we were struggling with a rather esoteric series of non verbal reasoning exercises. In the Muller-Lyer illusion we are asked to work out if two lines are the same length – even though the arrows at the ends of the lines are pointing in different directions. One set of arrows, on one line, points inwards – and the other set, on the second line, point outwards. The whole point of the illusion is to work out if the equal lines, when laid beside each other, appear to be the same length.

These pesky non verbal reasoning questions were not clear – and the illustrator who designed them should possibly have looked at the work of Rivers, and others, before presenting them in a non verbal reasoning eleven plus book!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Eleven Plus Examination

There is a distinction between an educational examination and a competitive examination. No one needs to pretend that the eleven plus examination is educational. The competition for an eleven plus pass will begin, in some cases, well before the eleven plus year. It is not hard to imagine, for example, a reception class teacher casting a baleful glare at a parent asking if their child is eleven plus material!

The eleven plus is an external examination where the teaching and examining functions can be completely separate from the school’s concerns. The examination papers are prepared by examiners who can be external and outside of the school system. Some individual school prepare their own eleven plus entry tests. This enables these schools to look at different types of ability. External examiners can revise papers and add or substitute questions to try to make the papers as representative as possible.

In internal examinations teaches can set their own tests and examinations. They can also revise and adapt questions but would possible be doing this to cover the needs of their class rather than a group of eleven plus children.

All eleven plus parents will want is justice for their child. The chances and consequences of accidental problems and problems occurring during the hours of the actual eleven plus examination are probably greater during this examination than during a test or examination set within an individual classroom. Eleven plus invigilators, as do class room teachers, have to be vigilant, thorough and fair.

If an eleven plus child does not do well in an examination parents can look at the school, the eleven plus preparation, the materials, the quality of the eleven plus teaching and at their child’s ability and willingness to work hard. There is very little scope for originality in the eleven plus on the part of parents, teachers and the examiners.

Any reform of the eleven plus system must come slowly and painfully. We must be heartened, however, that must of the most thorough, but least progressive, work with ten year olds has been through the system of eleven plus preparation and examination.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Eleven Plus Excellence

Can we ask a typical teacher to write eleven plus materials?

Can we ask an experienced eleven plus teacher to write eleven plus materials?

Should we expect an educational psychologist to write eleven plus materials?

Who can write eleven plus materials?

The eleven plus is a rather specialised examination – covering a remarkably narrow field – but in great depth. It may be felt by a minority that a classroom teacher lacks the special skills and training which is outside of the reach of most classroom teachers. This is, however, patently untrue. Thousands of parents quite rightly trust the training and expertise of the classroom teacher. Understanding the entire process of writing extra curricular materials and developing a strategy to assess the value of the materials to eleven plus children does, however, become an important consideration. What is the right tool at the right time?

The worthy men and women who prepare eleven plus materials do not need to question the criteria which determines the selection of content. The content of the actual eleven plus is prepared by eminently qualified and experienced psychologists and educators. It is not the role of the examiner to look at the preparation a child needs – their task is to set fair and proper examinations that do the job of selection. No more or no less than the selection of fit and proper grammar school children is demanded of the examination.

When a parent ask asks the class room teacher – how well is my child doing? Where else does my child need to do to fill missing areas? The teacher, in one sense, is being asked to come up with a list of topics where the child may need immediate help, long term assistance or even a few kindly pointers. One wonderful aspect of the eleven plus year is that the eleven plus child is changing at an astonishingly rapid rate. The carefully prepared list, supplied by the teacher, may be out of date or redundant in a few hours or days.

Once the teacher has supplied the list of topics to be covered to the parent – then a lot of different criteria need to swing into place. Do we have the right materials at home to cover the contents of the list? How well will the highly respected eleven plus teacher take to being told what to do? Some parents will welcome the challenge and set out gather the information and work out what their child needs. The problem comes when the following sequence takes place:


Scene 1

A teacher and a mother are standing outside the classroom.

My daughter will be taking the eleven plus later this year. What does she need to concentrate on? How is she doing?

She is doing well. She is on the top table for most subjects and she works hard.

Thank you. Are there any gaps we need to go over?

I can prepare a few sheets for her to do after school if you like.

Oh, thank you. And thank you for your time.

A pleasure.

The teacher and the mother part. The teacher walks into the classroom to find suitable materials before she forgets. The mother to greet her daughter – and say that the teacher says she is doing well.

Has the mother heard what she wants to hear or what she needs to hear?

To do the eleven plus job well a family needs time, love and money. Sadly excellence always costs money as well as effort.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Passing the Eleven Plus

In the lesson today a boy became very excited.

He felt that his marks had improved – and that he was able to do a lot more on the papers he brought from home.

He explained that he was at the top of the second group and wanted to climb into the top group. He went on to say that there were two groups in the class but he was better at maths than his friend who was in the top group. He also offered, without prompting, that he was more confident.

Naturally the teacher will make the final decision on which group he will enter after the April holidays. The test takes place this Thursday. The class, we understand, will be given their results on Friday and all will know which mathematics group they will be in after the holidays.

We presume that the teacher will mark all the papers, collect the data and then abstract the information that she requires. She will also be able to make her own observations on how well our lad will be able to cope in the top group. There is no doubt that she will go on to make inferences about the probability of him being successful. Inferences, however, are not finite – they can be wrong. We can make an inference, for example, that a woman who wears no ring on the third finger of her left hand is unmarried – but this could be hopelessly inaccurate for many reasons.

We do know why the teacher is referred to as a woman – because this piece of information was offered as part of the conversation!

The teacher could place all the children who are at the bottom of the top group and the top of second group onto one table. She could the gather information about the mathematical output of the children. Was the improved score a `one off’? Has there been steady progress or has do some of the children still seem to lack confidence? We know that the results of the children will vary from day to day so how long does the teacher need to observe the children?

If some of the children in the second group do better, on the same test, as some in the top group can we infer that this position will continue for the rest of the school year? The teacher can look back at performance and results over the whole year – or can take a sample or snapshot of the present position. Logic seems to tell us that the larger the sample the more likely the correct decision will be made. A problem lies in the inherent difficulty of a `one off’ teacher constructed test – the test may not be testing to see whether the child should move from the second group to the top group. The test may be testing something quite different.

If the teacher took two samples or snapshots and looked at the data from both tests then the boy may be able to feel that he had a fairer chance of moving to the top group. If the first sample was very different from the second then the actual act of blending the results may make any decision markedly unreliable.

The obvious excitement of the boy seems to suggest that his enthusiasm is legitimate. We all hope he does well and that he moves up a group. Think, however, of his poor teacher. For him to go up another may need to go down. All we can do is hope and pray that the right decision is made.

One question – can a boy from the top of the second group (of the two groups in the class) improve enough to win a grammar school place? Answer – we have seen it happen!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Is the Eleven Plus too Specialised?

We presume that one of objectives of education before the age of eleven is to give children as wide a spread of individual interests. In the economy of specialisation within the eleven plus we can not assume that the examiners have the same attitude to education. Some parents may still rely on a single publisher or web site or tutor. Naturally there will be as many exceptions at the other end of the scale. Most of us will fit somewhere between these extremes.

A child may fail the eleven plus by simply having difficulty with a single topic. Suppose mistakes on made on three out of five analogy questions – and a pass at the eleven plus remains a dream – then parents can blame almost every one. A child can not fail on the analogy questions alone, however, as the candidate must have had some difficulty on other questions. The analogy questions may, however, stand out in the parent’s mind. “What went wrong? We did them over and over. Oh dear. I wish we had worked through a few more questions.”

If the eleven plus could be opened up to cover more than a narrow range of topics then possibly we could look at other attributes than reasoning ability. There must be hundreds and thousands of trait differences. Why can’t a willingness to work hard count towards a pass? What about a happy, sunny smile – surely that should rank? We could look at physique. Would a responsible grammar school want us to leave out all the children who do not fit a normal curve of distribution of height and weight?

There are other traits like honesty, energy and aggression which could play a part. Should only honest children be offered a grammar school place?

Then we come to the day dreamer. An aspirant could look with unfocused eyes at a paper while the world goes by. When we are day dreaming, time does not play a big part in consciousness. Do day dreamers go on to become intellectuals? Do day dreamers become inventors? Will a day dreamer ever grow out of day dreaming? What percentage of children in a grammar school should be day dreamers?

Finally we need to come to decision makers. Some forms of industry needs decision makers – as do men and women who go into management, banking and a host of other professions.

The roles of an eleven plus child must change on a day today. On one day a child may be able to do analogies, work enthusiastically and be happy and cheerful. On another day a child may not even think about day dreaming and be able to make decisions and be positive and confident.

Finally, the parents of even plus children must hope that a diet of eleven plus exercises does not force their child’s interests to become stultified and restricted.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Eleven Plus Reasoning

Parents working with their children on non verbal reasoning exercises may be captivated by the article in today’s Observer. The article is about finding new ways of looking at familiar settings.

At one time or another most of us will have played with magic squares but it took an original thinker to visualise a different way of understanding basic precepts and permutations. The wonder of magic squares lies around the fact that it must be possible to prove the answer. Eleven plus children seem to have to take a lot for granted when they are working through exercises. Some eleven plus questions seem to need an act of faith rather than a calm logical and reasoned solution.

As the article develops we are drawn into new ways of looking at algebra. There may be some parents who may want to try out some of the topics mentioned with their children to look at their logic and reasoning and ability to comprehend new concepts.

There are also revealing comments on the article – and these make fascinating reading too – and it may be worth while having a look at the comments to see the views of others.

A search on 'geomagic squares' on Google gives more information. The link to the gallery shows how the human brain can take an idea and run with it.

Some of us involved in the eleven plus have felt the need to have new and fresh questions in eleven plus papers – not so much to challenge the premise behind the eleven plus but offer bright children wider options and more variety. Trying to solve 'geomagic squares' could cause a few tears – but offer magic moments to some.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Eleven Plus and the Neolithic Child

To put the current eleven plus into perspective we need to look back in time. The men women and children of England used to be hunters and gatherers. Life passed by relatively peacefully for thousands of years.

One day some enterprising parents said to their fist born - a child of around ten years old: “You seem an intelligent child. Take these few seeds and plant them over there beside the river. Build a little fence to keep out the wild pigs. When you grow up you will be able to support your family because you have specialised and have learnt things that other ten year old find difficult.”

The child said, “Thank you mother and father for this wonderful opportunity. I promise to water my plants every night. I will go down to the river to collect water. I will not watch the other boys and girls playing in the water. I will collect my water and do my duty.”

Mum and Dad were so proud of their child and said: “When you get to eleven plus years you will be well known because you have specialised. You will have learnt that life at eleven plus years in no easy sinecure – you need to keep working and doing your extra crop work. We have faith in you.”

“I know that I am just a Neolithic child – but I have great aspirations. I want to be the best Neolithic child in our neighbourhood. I want to learn tool making, growing crops and one day I hope to understand how a wheel works.”

“You can aim higher than that my child. You may need to learn a little algebra – but your Uncle Sam is good at that. He can show you why two huts plus one hut makes a little village of three huts. He will show you how you can abbreviate this to 2h + 1h to make 3h.”

“I am so pleased. I had hoped that when I reached eleven plus years I would become more educated.”

“But dear, Neolithic education comes at a price. Books have not been invented so you have to use traditional paints. If you draw a picture of a man and beside it you draw a woman you could be asked to complete the analogy `man is to woman as boy is to …. ‘ Do not paint the picture of the girl so that the Ancient Britons, when they come along, will have a little problem to solve.”

“Oh this will be fun. Do you think that there are any holiday courses?”

“Well dear, when you were only eight you used to say that holidays were for having fun and playing with your friends in the river. Now that your eleven plus years are growing closer I am delighted that you do not seem to mind giving up a little time to spend on revision of crop rotation, tool making and drawing. It is a pity that writing has not been invented otherwise you may have enjoyed writing a story about what you are doing over the holidays.”

“This really is amusing. I feel I am having a grown up conversation for the first time in my life. I am looking forward to my eleven plus years. I know that civilisation marches on relentlessly. I hope that my children enjoy the eleven plus as much as I did.”

“Well done my child. As I said earlier – we are proud of you.”

“Thank you so much - it makes me so happy when you praise me. Once again thank you for this eleven plus opportunity. I am off to be a happy little Neolithic star.”

Friday, April 01, 2011

An Eleven Plus Camel

There is an old saying: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Would it be true to say that the eleven plus is an examination developed by compromise?

Compromise is about finding a middle path. A White Russian is not a compromise. Take five ice cubes, one measure of vodka, one measure of Tia Maria, one double cream and three chocolate dragees.

We would expect the mother of an eleven plus child to know the word dragees as being a decoration applied to little cakes or chocolates. If your eleven plus child asked to have the word explained you might say that the word dragee comes from the Greek word tragêmata meaning "sweets, treats".

“Is it like hundreds and thousands?”

“You might say so.”

A degree of compromise has been reached.

“We need to celebrate your reaching 75% on that hard paper. Your mother and I will drink champagne.”

“Please can I have some too – like we had in France when you let me drink some wine mixed with water?”

“No dear, much as we are pleased with you champagne is a drink too good to be mixed with anything – it is best left unadulterated.”

“Dad, that is not true. When Uncle William got married the whole table, except for us kids, drank Back Velvet. You told everyone that Back Velvet was the only way to drink champagne as it is champagne mixed with Guinness.”

“All right, all right, we will compromise. If you reach 75% again on the second paper we will think about it.”

The first person to write an eleven plus test paper was an originator. Much of the rest of the eleven plus practice exercises are adaptations with slight alterations. For a new form of an eleven plus paper to come along we need to have a fresh type of question on the actual eleven plus papers the children will sit.

If this required a worthy educational psychologist to evolve a new fresh look at the present form of some ability tests then we could all rejoice and celebrate. He or she could be offered a month’s holiday a year in a peaceful location where a camel was a necessary form of transport. He or she could also be provided with an unlimited supply of Vodka, Tia Maria, fresh cream, chocolates, ice, Guinness and champagne. The compromise may need to come if we left instructions on how to mix the lot into one super question.

Complete the analogies:

Vodka is to Tia Maria as champagne is to ____________

A camel is to a horse as the eleven plus is to _________________