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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eleven Plus Leadership

When parents are chatting in the playground about the eleven plus there is usually some form of fluidity about the composition of the groups. Sometimes, but not always, one of the parents takes it on to become the leader of the group. This form of leadership has little to do whether the `playground guru’ is liked or not - but it does seem to revolve around whether the leader can keep the group `task orientated’.

The eleven plus task could be the date of the examination – and how many weeks are left. An eleven plus task could be recounting what the highly recommended eleven plus tutor said about the child of the `leader’. A different monologue could be offered on the selection, by the class teacher, of key children to make up a high achiever `eleven plus group’.

Some parents may not want to hear the comments of others about the readiness of the class to start on eleven plus work. One or two may even drift away when the `natural leader’ is in full swing. To keep the group going, and to add credence to the leader’s opinions, there has to be some interaction. Without being able to participate, the leader simply becomes a lecturer. Not many people enjoy being lectured in the middle of an open playing field at 8.40 in the morning!

The leader needs to play on the group’s emotions to hold them together. He or she will be considering:

The cohesiveness of the immediate group

Their solidarity and agreement with the leader

The morale of the parents in the group

How efficient the leader is at getting the message across.

However, and there is almost always an `however’ one great thing about playgrounds is the potential for fluidity. If the playground leader becomes the playground bore there are always children about. It is always easy to leave a group: “Oh look, I must just tell `***’ that she has ballet tonight after school.”

The quacking sound of the bore recedes into the distance and your true eleven plus stalwart can leave secure and confident. Your child is as good as if not better than the bore’s child. Onwards and upwards!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Choice of Eleven Plus Parents

Does the emphasis on competition during the eleven plus year make some parents feel just a little uneasy about the all the hype? Are some parents actually made to feel inadequate about preparing their children for the examination by the tsunami of information that is unleashed during this vital year? Does the whole structure of the eleven plus year leave some parents feeling incompetent? What else could they be giving their children that other candidates are being offered?

Naturally there may be some parents who do not choose to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered during the eleven plus year. We once were asked to test an eleven plus child who did remarkably well on the battery of tests we administered. The parents were very upset with us when we told the child well done – and that she had an excellent academic potential. The argument was that they preferred their child to think that she `might’ pass the examination if `she’ worked very hard. The parents explained that they did not want their child to do any papers or examination practice – they just wanted their child to sit the examination. “It is not for you to say to our child that she has a good chance of passing – it is up to our daughter. We don’t want her to do any extra eleven plus work. If she passes, she passes.”

We must wonder why these highly educated and extremely well-spoken parents were even contemplating the eleven plus if they did not want their daughter to hear about the examination. At some time or another, their daughter has to become aware of the eleven plus. Her friends at school may, sometimes, talk about the examination. Her parents were certainly not apathetic about education and reiterated a number of times that they wanted their daughter to have the best possible future.

There will be some parents who will urge their children to pay attention and hope that `multiple exhortations’ will achieve good eleven plus results. Their children, however, may use words like `being nagged to death’. An eleven plus child, in the lead up to the eleven plus, is supposed to be attentive, as well as patient and polite.

It is possible, however, that some eleven plus children will want to feel that they are participating with their parents as the family shares in the eleven plus experience. The children may not want to be lectured. Some children may not want to receive packets of eleven plus largesse from their parents. Some children may want to be able to feel dignified and in control. Why should a child feel that he or she is failing the system if a requisite number of papers are not worked through?

After all these polemics it is wonderful to think that most parents are simply creative and imaginative about the eleven plus. They just want their children to do as well as possible. They don’t want their children to become too caught up in a pre-examination frenzy. In the final analysis parents have a choice about what they and their children are going to do during the eleven plus year. (The little girl -referred to above - passed!)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Eleven Plus Survey

An awful lot of information about the eleven plus is available. Who and what can parents believe? Wouldn’t it be useful if there could be a major study to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the dissemination of information? We could call the three areas: playground chatter, the internet and individual counselling.

Of course there would need to be a control group – a rather specialist group of mothers and fathers who did not really listen to others in the playground, did not do `Eleven Plus’ searches on the internet and preferred to keep their eleven plus ambitions within the family.

The researches may feel that a thirty question questionnaire would serve to provide sufficient information.

Parents do not use the internet

Parents do not drop their children off at school – or collect them

Parents do not talk about their child and the eleven plus

Parents are active members of an eleven plus forum

The scope and extent of questions seems to flow quite easily. What we will probably find, nevertheless, is that the results could prove to be inconclusive. At times each of the different methods will almost certainly be useful to parents. Most of us undoubtedly enjoy the benefits of a little one to one counselling every now and again. We also probably enjoy the cut and thrust of playground chatter. (Will Mrs. X still repeat that accusation?) The internet too is fun with the wonderful variability of the themes and responses.

We will probably never know if any of the three methods mentioned above are strong enough to change the behaviour of parents – it is likely that the sum of the methods adds to knowledge about the eleven plus. Poor children – imagine being bombarded with everything that Mum and Dad learns!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Survey of Eleven Plus Opinions

We are used to being bombarded with election forecasts every few years. The results are presented as drawing a picture of a country at war with itself. The key market forecasters can comment on the length of a party in power, attitudes towards political figures and even on the colour of a candidate’s shoes.

The raison d’etre of the surveys is to give information about how an electoral campaign is going. Every now and then a survey pops up to tell us about how the government is doing – whether the opposition is making progress. Sometimes questions are eased in that appear to be more predictive rather than reflective in nature.

It may be possible for a survey to change people’s minds. With a really strong results for one side then some may be tempted to `hop on the band wagon’ and change allegiance. We also have the typically British desire to sympathise with losers.

If ever an august body decided to poll feeling and attitudes towards the eleven plus, then some children could benefit considerable. Suppose the authors of eleven plus questions were told in no uncertain terms that the scope and nature of the present eleven plus questions were out of date and no longer fit for today’s eleven plus children? Would the integrity of the nature of the survey and its results be questioned? Is it possible that the results would be ignored?

There would be very little point in collecting data for data’s sake. Men and Women with copies of The Times on the 3rd of August 1955 will recall an article on children’s shoes. “Out of 1200 Somerset children, between the ages of three and fourteen, only two thirds were present when their shoes were bought.”

A blog of the 28th December 2011 stated: “Out of 1200 eleven plus papers bought in bookshops in December only one third of the purchasers were accompanied by their children.” This fact may be incontrovertibly true – but how could it be verified? How would it be possible to have an observer on hand day after day in the bookshops stocking eleven plus books and papers? Would it be safe to leave the gathering of the information to the shop assistants? Should children also be engaged in the act of buying eleven plus papers?

Perhaps a different statistic could be gathered: “98% of mothers of eleven plus children, on Christmas Day, would rather swim the Channel than work through an eleven plus paper while basting the turkey.” Being Christmas some of us may have seen a few more daytime advertisements than usual. “78% of 146 women prefer this hair colouring.” What happens to the rest of the women? Why didn’t the manufactures collect data from 500 women? Why was it just 146 women?

With these reservations and caveats in mind we can now take a tentative step towards collecting preliminary elements of a survey questionnaire. (All the questions are on a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 is no and 10 is yes.)

Does the present structure of eleven plus examinations need to change?

Should there be a nationwide referendum on grammar schools?

Should a new style of eleven plus questions be developed – designed to test children’s thinking and aptitude rather than the ability to benefit from coaching and careful preparation?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eleven Plus Variability

Something that has perplexed men and women from time immemorial has to do whether there a sex difference in variability of mental traits between men and women. What we are looking at here is whether a group of eleven plus boys will behave differently to a group of eleven plus girls. In other words are all the members of one sex alike in tastes, interests and abilities?

The two groups may end up with a very similar eleven plus scores. Would one group have a wider range of scores than another? I cannot remember which anatomist from the Meckel family first postulated the theory because the grandfather, the son and the grandsons all followed similar careers and interests. I do recall, however, that Meckel, probably around 1800, thought that the human female was more variable than the human male. His thesis was that `since women is the inferior animal and variability is a sign of inferiority’ his conclusion was justified.

If this was the theory of the grandfather it is a wonder than he went on to have a son – and if it was the son’s idea – how did he, in turn, have sons? The women of the family must have looked with great interest at the men they married – possibly even commented to each other on the variability and inconsequence of their spouses!

The family was, however, looking at the anatomy of adult men and women rather than at ability, common sense and the potential to do well in examinations. The Meckel theories were challenged frequently – but it was not until Pearson came along in 1912 with his account of the measurements of two thousand new born babies that he was able to prove that there was very little variability between the sexes.

It may seem strange to dwell on anatomical data when we are dealing with eleven plus children in examinations. There are vague theories, which surface every now and then, that girls have the potential to do better in some eleven plus examinations than boys. This argument must be rehearsed and expounded in a variety of discussions on the eleven plus – but the premise must remain controversial.

Perhaps we can all call for a longitudinal study of eleven plus children. We need an initial group of around five thousand families. The offspring could all be measured at birth. In time their eleven plus scores could be compared. The final length of the ulna of every participant could be measured at the age of twenty. It would help if the experiment was conducted in an eleven plus area. It would not help much if there was no eleven plus for the children to write! The findings could be published under the title: “A comparison of anatomical and intellectual characteristics in Eleven Plus children”.

It would be a bit sad if, after all this work, there was not much difference between boys and girls in their ability to pass the eleven plus!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post Christmas Eleven Plus Blues

Christmas is officially over – it is Boxing Day. The last of the turkey has been eaten. The sprouts have been consigned to sprout land – which is far from any dinner plates. Stories of successes in the sales have been analysed and commented on. Welcome cups of tea have been poured and Christmas cake nibbled on. There is a general feeling of well-being. Someone, who will be nameless, brings up the topic of the eleven plus. Various children scattered around the room make immediate moves towards any available exit. The children are called back. This is now an official `Pre New Year Eleven Plus’ discussion.

In any confab between member of the family about the eleven plus and the chances of success, there must, at times, be some form of synthesis of ideas. Oh yes! Even in a family! It is possible through the course of the conversation that there will be some guiding questions, some suggestive clues and a number of sub-currents. The dialogue will probably cover at least some of the following ten points.

The intellectual ability of the eleven plus child
The amount, and degree, of energy the child will put into studies
How much self- assertiveness has been demonstrated – and what is likely to happen as the examination creeps closer
The nature of adaptability and the ability to cope with new situations
The child’s general habits
The breadth and extent of recreational activities
The usual mood and optimism
The attitude towards self
The attitude towards others
And finally, how realistic the different members of the family are to the chances of success in the examination

Of course other factors may play a part in a true eleven plus discussion. Some members of the family may want to bring up ancestry, heredity and a variety of environmental factors. Other parents, for example, may want to express their feelings of their child’s school, teachers and tutors. Books, papers and the value of the internet will also possibly weave a thread through the conversation.

The one person buried under a blanket of emotion is the candidate. Up to now he or she has enjoyed Christmas and had been treated as a regular member of the family. As the spotlight passes over the recumbent and almost lifeless form, a little mumbled mantra can be heard. “Please leave me alone. I promise I will work in the New Year. Please don’t talk about me in front of me. I am a member of this family. Please leave me alone. I just want to go to my room. Please?”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lost Eleven Plus Sleep

Eleven plus children , like other children, will probably welcome a sleep over. This offers an ideal opportunity for eleven plus parents to gather some information about the progress being made by other eleven plus children. You think that your child is doing reasonably well at this stage of the eleven plus year – but what is his or her progress like when compared with that of other children?

A little planning is needed. In that very pleasant spell between Christmas and the New Year only a few parents will be encouraging their children to do eleven plus work. It means too that other parents will not be too suspicious of your motives. You will need a core of six children. (In a proper experiment they are called `S’ for subjects.) You want the children to make a series of responses to simple and differential auditory stimuli. You will be exploring the effect of re-enforcement.

Try to ensure the room that the children will be sleeping in is electrically secure. You will be using continuous bipolar EEG recordings using a frontal lead. Tape a micro switch to the right hand of each `S’. Ask the `S’ to press the switch when a response is needed.

Start with familiar words: “Nine times two.” Ask `S’ to respond when he or she hears the right answer.

Build to “What is 15% of 200?

Develop to anagrams.

Reward good responses with some Vivaldi. Play the noise of a train going through a tunnel for anything that is incorrect. Repeat the series three times during the night. Record all responses. See if there is a pattern in the learning. Pay particular attention to your child’s responses.

What you are particularly trying to find is the degree of difference between your child and the other children. If the reinforcement is adverse (the train in the tunnel) – how long does it take for your child to stop listening?
Thank the children and their parents in the morning. If any child mentions the broken night then remind the family that the children went to bed late, they ate chocolate ice-cream just before they went to sleep and they were all squashed into one big room. Creep back into bed to make up for lost time. What can you take from the experiment?

Is it really worth-while nagging my poor child about eleven plus work on a regular basis?

Do we really need to be cruel to be kind?

Is is really worth it to lose sleep during the eleven plus year?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making an Eleven Plus Omelette

Making sense of some eleven plus topics can be likened, at times, to breaking into a foreign language. On first reading we can sometimes obtain a general idea of what is wanted – but the details, sometimes, have to be pored over. Sometimes we may need to read different questions in the same series before building a slightly more coherent picture. A little illustration may help.

These are two recipes written in Shona. I spent as many holidays as possible on my grandparent’s farm in what was called Rhodesia – now named Zimbabwe. The huge `bossman’ was an Ndebele – the only one on the farm. The rest were Chishona. There is a long history of conflict between the Ndebele and the Chishona – but that is for another day. The boys I played with on the farm spoke Shona. They learnt a bit of English from me – I learnt a lot more Shona from them.


Para chizi. Ita omereti isina chinhu. Kana yaibva, mwaya chipuna chikuru chechizi yekuparira pamusoro pe omereti usati wapetera mudishi.


Menya wokanga matomati. Ita isina chinu. Dira matomati pamusoro peomereti usati wapetera mudishi.

We can see key words that give some information.

`Chizi’ sounds like `cheese’ and `matomati’ like `tomato’.

Another word that is common to both recipes is `pamusora’. Now what do we do with toppings in an omelette? Of course we pour the ingredient `over’ or `on top of’.

A different word that may spring to our attention is `mudishi’. We have eggs and, being an omelette, they have to be mixed in something. By now you will have guessed `dishes’ and `mudishi’ are remarkably similar.

If the eleven plus going gets tough encourage your ten year old to ease you into a chair, offer you a refreshing cup of tea and then build you a nice omelette – made of course from cheese and tomatoes!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Eleven Plus Success

At this time of the year the thoughts of some people may drift towards perfume. A trip through the hallowed halls of any big department store shows immaculately clad and carefully coiffured women with skilfully applied makeup. The bottles, jars and packets are built into high piles – each with distinctive colours and logos. It looks as if a lot of perfume is sold around Christmas time.

Few wearers of perfume would want to think back to how perfume in the early days was often used to disguise interesting standards of personal hygiene. The Egyptians, however, were frequent bathers and used moistening oils perfumed with various herbs, spices and resins. Archaeologists have found perfume from around 3500 BC – which was made from imported conifer resin and vegetable fat. At times scent was used to play an important part in daily life. Sweet smells were believed to repel evil.

Local Authorities, when setting eleven plus papers, do not need to rely on coming up smelling of roses. An authority can choose the types of papers it wants to use to select children for grammar schools. Some authorities select on combinations of mathematics and verbal reasoning, while others look towards mathematics, English and verbal reasoning and some test on mathematics as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning. One large authority selects children for grammar schools only on the results of verbal reasoning papers.

It may possibly be too easy, however, to portray an authority as a villain because it tests children in a different manner to other authorities. At the moment Governments, for a variety of reasons, choose not to become involved in eleven plus arrangements. It does not seem as if there is much pressure for changes to be made through any legislative will.. For some years Governments have chosen not to become involved in the eleven plus affairs of local authorities.

We must imagine that there is constant pressure on the budgets of local authorities and some authorities must have more money available to test eleven plus children. In some authorities thousands of children are offered the opportunity of eleven plus tests. The cost in terms of time, money and effort must be high. Authorities engaged in eleven plus selection procedures need tested regulatory systems and must, at times, act in a bureaucratic manner.

It seem that some parents of genuine eleven plus candidates are prepared to commit considerable resources to developing an effective eleven plus campaign. Of course there will be some with ambitious but rather vague gaols – but the majority will be focused and purposeful.

There may be some parents, however, who tap some resin out of their real Christmas trees. They will be using the resin as part of an individualised eleven plus concoction. The ensuing perfume will be rubbed onto their children just before the examination to ward off evil. Parents will be willing their children towards the sweet smell of success.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Promoting an Eleven Plus Plan

This is a theme that parents and children return to every year. The circumstances and the families are different. The eleven plus children are not cast in one mould. Drastic and dramatic action is sometimes needed. This is called the `Preparing the Eleven Plus child for the New Year’.

The family need to meet on neutral ground. A visit to an art gallery or the aquarium may be indicated. A formal, yet family, approach is needed.

Part One
A chairperson is needed – to lead, organise and take responsibility. This does not need to be the candidate or the parents.

A note-taker or minute-maker will keep a record of the main points.

A reporter will try to assemble the thoughts and issues and offer them to the family gathering.

The `Eleven Plus Child’, hereafter called `The Candidate’, should be encouraged to talk about the eleven plus, what it means to him or her and what could be done in the future.

Parents should talk in turns – and not over each other – and recognise that their words are not laws but ideas to be evaluated and discussed.

Other members of the group should attempt to assess their own contributions towards the eleven plus.

Before the chairperson tries to draw all the treads together the candidate should be offered the opportunity of making a final declaration or closing statement. Encourage the opportunity to promote dreams, ideas and do not dwell on routes that should not be revisited. The chairperson should press for imagination and inventiveness.

The meeting should then break for ice-cream and fancies. The father should not be allowed coffee in case it makes him hyper.

Part Two
This is called `Building the Action Plan’.

The Action Plan is only needed in the New Year, a complete break is needed over Christmas.

Eleven Plus papers are not allowed in Christmas stockings.

The Eleven Plus should not be discussed on Christmas Day.

There should be a general recognition of the issues and areas of engagement for all parties.

The candidate should appreciate that self-awareness is necessary.

The written record of the meeting and the subsequent action plan should be distributed to all concerned.

Grammar school places should be made available to all families who are able to maintain the plan.

Hopping and the Eleven Plus 20/12/11

The present form of the eleven plus has been evolving over many years. Yet we still seem to hop between one eleven plus theory or idea and another. Until the closing stages of the nineteenth century English educators were deeply concerned with the curriculum, how to teach and how to organise school. The parents and tutors of today’s eleven plus children are probably concerned with rather similar issues. Once the eleven plus child is actually sitting at the table, it is unlikely, however, that there will be time for much educational theory and philosophy. The bright and alert candidate will probably want some action –`give me problems to solve. I need to be fed on questions and puzzles’.

While the eleven plus tutor is engaged with an eleven plus question, there is possibly little time, for example, to think about Pestalozzi or Froebel. Look at the tutor sitting with his or her pupil reflecting on a rather typical eleven plus question: “William was sitting his eleven plus examination and kept checking his watch every ten minutes. If he first checked his watch when he started the examination at 9.00 a.m., how many times will he have checked his watch by the end of the examination at 10.05 am?” But it was Pestalozzi who maintained: "The role of the educator is to teach children, not subjects." It was Froebel, who followed Pestalozzi, who wanted learning to be a `spontaneous, enjoyable experience for children’. (This was back at the beginning of the nineteenth century.)
The man who was appointed by Butler, following the Education Act of 1944, was a Mr Clarke who remarked on the need for `the freedom of individual schools to use and develop their own resources in accordance with their own expert judgement – and the freedom of parents, within reasonable limits, to select the schools to which they will send their children’.
The eleven plus examination does try to give parents a choice.
Would my child do better in a comprehensive or in a grammar school?
Does my child need a formal education or should there be more freedom of choice?
Can hard work and fun ever come to terms with each other?
Do I want my child’s tutor to work on papers towards the examination, or to try to help my child to think and fly?
Should I listen to my child if he or she complains about the work being boring and repetitious?
Children, however, irrespective of philosophers, educators, tutors, teachers and parents do have the ability to put life into perspective. Who cannot remember Eggy Peggy?
This is a duel between two hoppers – but with a set ritual for determining who shall be the second combatant. One person is called Eggy Peggy and hops up to the other children and calls out:

Eggy Peggy: Eggy Peggy has broken her leggy.
Children: What On?
Eggy Peggy: A barbed wire gate
Children: What do you want?
Eggy Peggy: A pair of stockings.
Children: What colour?
Eggy Peggy names a colour – and if a child has chosen this colour, he or she hops out and the battle begins. The winner, of course, is the next Eggy Peggy!
If it all this theory gets a bit too much for the family, and you tire of hopping from one eleven plus scheme to another, you could all enjoy a little game of Eggy Peggy!

An Eleven Plus Perspective 19/12/2011

Eleven plus children will have their up and downs – just like the rest of us. Robert Service, in `The Rhymes of a Red Cross Man’, dedicated the book to his brother Lieutenant Albert Service, of the Canadian Infantry, who was killed in action in France in 1916. One poem was called `Carry On’.
It’s easy to fight when everything’s right,
And you’re mad with thrill and the glory;
It’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It’s a different song when everything’s wrong,
When you’re feeling infernally mortal;
When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

Carry on! Carry on!

Looking at some eleven plus questions, a vague thought may flicker though a mother’s mind - `Are we trying to fit round peg into a square hole?’ Carry on! Your eleven plus child may be able to help you with a partial solution. If we carry the thought a little further – which fits better a round peg in a square hole or a square peg in a round hole?

Your eleven plus child may be able to help you to remember the work you did at school on ratios. Your mathematics teacher would have instructed you on the question. You are looking at the working out which is larger – the ratio of the area of a circle to its circumscribed square or the ratio of a square to its circumscribed circle?

You could ask your child to see if the following statement is true. It all revolves round the number 9. If the number is less than 9 a round peg fits better into a square hole.

When the tedium and the frustration of eleven plus questions creep up on the family, then some may care to consider the number 9. Some parents alternatively, may contemplate reading the verse from Robert Service to their candidate – and discussing the issues. This may help to put it all into perspective.

Eleven Plus Rewards 18/12/2011

It is possible, but I am not sure how likely, that the word `reward’ features in the vocabulary of eleven plus parents. There may be some who would advocate that studying towards the eleven plus is an end in itself. There may even be some parents who would advocate a continuous system of rewards.

The word `reward’ is common in our vocabulary. It is not some esoteric term dreamt up exclusively for eleven plus parents – rewards pervade the very fabric of our lives. A girl will reward her lover with a quick kiss for some thoughtful action. A dog will reward his or her owner by an ecstatic wag of the tail for a brief caress. An eleven plus child may even, at times, crave a reward!

The definition of the term `reward’ will be affected by many different factors. An eleven plus child may expect a reward for a correct answer. The reward could be a figurative or even a literal pat on the head – or possibly something far more tangible and lasting.

A reward that is associated with a change in the environment (an extra 10p for a correct answer) is designed to increase the likelihood of the action being repeated. In one section of non-verbal reasoning, for example, the section on codes can be challenging to all concerned. A bag-full of 10p coins, for every right answer, could, possibly, increase – or even decrease - the learning time.

It can be argued, however, that the reward should not be something that the eleven plus child should like or not like. One eleven plus child may crave a pile of 10p coins growing higher and higher. Another child may not welcome a more than a smile or a brief caress. Every eleven plus parent must dream for a candidate working towards the examination because the reward is voluntary learned behaviour in itself.

Of course some children may understand and appreciate the concept of a hypothetical reward. “Your reward for all this hard work will be a good and stable job.” A concept of this nature may be a little abstract for some eleven plus children. Ten pence in the hand may be better than ten thousand pence in twenty years’ time!

It may be a little difficult for some children to put the idea of a hypothetical reward to the test. Waiting twenty years for a reward may be a concept too far for a percentage of eleven plus children! Yet children and their parents do have access to something that called an `intervening variable’. These are variables that can trigger a firm and powerful reward or even one a little more watered down.

By the time a child starts on an eleven plus course most parents will have a pretty fair idea of what works and what does not. Renoir, the French Impressionist painter, may have, potentially, been a very good eleven plus parent when he maintained: “The only reward one should offer an artist is to buy his work.”

The Eleven Plus Examination 17/12/2011

It is a pity that Greece is being demonised for spending too much in today’s political and economic uncertainty. For centuries the Hellenistic culture spread out towards what was then the civilised world – and schools in Athens enjoyed a unique pre-eminence. People came to Athens from all over the world to learn. Of course schools grew up in the towns around Athens – but the top academics wanted to be in Athens. An important feature of all this emphasis on learning was the relationship between the master and the pupil.

Of course over the sea in Egypt erudite scholars had been building libraries for many years before the Athenians came along. Ptolemy had a library of over 200 000 manuscripts – which grew to over 700 000 during the First Century.

There was, however, a vital difference between the education system of the Athenians and of those in Alexandria. The Athenians had a freshness and vitality which came from impassioned discussions and debates. Over in Alexandria the Alexandrians were involved with translations and commentaries which were very academic but were not designed to extend and develop the mind.

Our eleven plus system, at times, seems to inspire a system where children are encouraged to work through unending papers and exercises. A visit to a large bookshop in an eleven plus area will allow parents to choose from a glittering display of papers and books. The books and exercises, however, are all remarkably similar. Once the eleven plus child has grappled with understanding the reasoning behind one type of analogy, then all the rest are simply endless consolidation. Any good Athenian tutor would, more than likely, have abandoned analogies as a rich source of `education’ and sought to challenge the pupil though extensive discussion, debate and argument.

Would you prefer your child to be challenged by an eleven plus examination based on enrichment and stimulation or one based on past papers?

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Eleven Plus Incentive

Your eleven plus child may, at times, feel a little concerned about the amount and extent of the work involved in preparing for the examinations. Various thoughts may, at times, drift across the conscious and the subconscious of the true eleven plus candidate.

I don’t think we have factored enough leisure times into my eleven plus study program. It seems to be all work and more work.

My time seems to be too interrupted by various `incidents’ for me to be able to settle down to work. My cat `wants’ to go outside, my dog `needs’ a walk, a program on television `has’ to be watched.

I have to work through too many different papers. I never seem to be able to settle down and specialise on just one thing until I have mastered it.

Some of the exercises are downright menial. Some questions, for example, are just plain stupid. I mean, once I have mastered a topic, why do I have to keep repeating the exercise?

I never seem to be able to do anything creative or constructive. It is all the same; a maths paper, a verbal paper, a non-verbal paper. Paper after paper! I ask you!

I never seem to be able to discuss my eleven plus work with any of my friends – or anyone one else who is doing the eleven plus.

I don’t really feel mentally alert all of the time. Some days I just do not feel like working. But I have to!

I do not really feel appreciated by the rest of the family. I know they have to be quiet while I am working – but they never say anything nice or ask if they can help.

I have told my mum and dad many times that there does not seem to be any opportunity to use the stuff I learn towards the eleven plus.

Sometimes I feel disillusioned about all the preparation. I know that I have been told one hundred times that the work is for my own good – but please!

Finally, I seriously think that I need a real or major incentive otherwise ……

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Slipping Through the Eleven Plus Net

One fear that possibly runs through the thoughts of some eleven plus parents is that they fail to prepare their child in the best possible way for the eleven plus. Could they have done more? Would another five papers have helped? Should the eleven plus work have started earlier? Will that silly argument about nothing at all affect their child’s chances? Should I have listen to the class teacher at the last open day?

This leads us to the question of what we can do to try to ensure that nothing slips through the net. To achieve this elusive, yet vital, goal it may be time to look at different types of nets. The main purpose of a net is, surely, to collect. A really simple net is one where an old nylon stocking is attached to a wire frame on a bamboo pole. But, like eleven plus preparation, collectors may want more than a simple solution.

The sweep net is a triangular or circular frame made for sweeping bushes for insects and other small animals. They are made from mesh cambric or nylon with a leather protective collar to prevent wear and tear. A butterfly net can be made from terylene or nylon – and the netting is usually white or green. (Eleven plus children with minds like butterflies need to avoid white or green test papers in case they get caught!)

Water nets are all shapes and sizes – and usually the net is pocket shaped so that the specimen can get be trapped and examined without being harmed. Mesh sizes can vary considerably – up to 180 to the inch for minute organisms. (The eleven plus equivalent is the child who works through a regular, sometimes daily, diet of papers to the extent that the child looks at a paper with resignation rather than excitement and anticipation.)

At this time of the year, with just ten days left to Christmas, some parents may be up ladders looking at the gutters – trying to ensure that the gutters are free in the event of snow falling on Christmas Day. Their children may be beside them urging their parents to make sure that no living organisms are crushed and swept away. Some children may even hand their mother or their father a small bottle with a magnifying glass to ensure that no `stone is unturned’. (This is the eleven plus equivalent of parents and children worrying about minute details rather than on broad sweeps of how to solve problems.) Some specimens collected off the roof may be damp. It is advised to place a paper label inside the jar in case the label outside the jar is inadvertently removed.

It can be seen from this rather brief foray into natural history that the eleven plus examination is more than a collection of esoteric and unwieldy questions. Ensuring that a child is properly prepared requires careful preparation of tools. Children need just the right number of papers and exercises. Parents need just the right amount of reassurance and support.

However much an eleven plus parent tries to ensure that that `no stone is left unturned', and that their child is prepared as well as possible, it just might be possible for the odd topic to `slip through the net'.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Boiling an Egg and the Eleven Plus

In what way can the preparation involved in boiling an egg be compared to the preparation for the eleven plus? Surely this is a question that mothers and fathers all over the country for the last fifty years have been pondering? I am grateful for our copy of `Woman’s Home Companion COOK BOOK’ published by Collier and Company in 1942. Our edition is the well used 1946 cook book. The preface points to a cook book by Eliza Leslie of Philadelphia in 1832 which pointed out the need for cook to demonstrate the art of writing recipes in which salient points can be grasped quickly. To quote Eliza Leslie, from a quote within the Woman’s Home Companion COOK BOOK, “The following receipts are drawn up in a style so plain and minute as to be perfectly intelligible to persons of the most moderate capacity.’ (A receipt in 1832 is today’s recipe)

The actual instructions for eggs cooked in the shell suggest that the length of time cannot be given exactly because it depends on a number of factors:

The size of the eggs

How cold the eggs were when they were placed in the pan

How many are cooked in the pan

Individual taste.

A soft boiled egg should have even coagulated white and yolk while a hardboiled egg should be tender and dry.

Bring the water to boil. Lower the eggs into the saucepan with a spoon. Reduce heat to keep water simmering.

Soft cooked 3 – 5 minutes

Medium cooked 7 – 8 minutes

Hard cooked 15 to 20 minutes

We can use the same instruction method for our eleven plus children. The instructions for helping a child towards the eleven plus must include thoughts on:

The ability of the child

How much the child wants to get into a grammar school

The amount and extent of help offered by the parents

To bring the child to the boil just before the eleven plus examinations:

Not too many papers and tests

Lots of revision and consolidation

An abundance of praise and support

Stick to these precepts and your child should come gently to the boil.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eleven Plus Challenges

The eleven plus examination demands an extraordinary degree of specialism. Children as young as nine years old can be directed towards studying a restricted range of subjects in great depth. All is not lost, however, because in eleven plus years life does go on. The children still attend school. They continue to enjoy access to outside activities. Extra-curricular lessons in areas such as music and swimming continue. The eleven plus year can mean that life just becomes a little busier.

Some children may approach their eleven plus examinations under the care of a specialist mathematics teacher. This could, for example, be a teacher with a genuine passion for mathematics – intent on expanding and broadening the horizons of the children in his or her care. A teacher of this ilk may guide the children towards problems solving techniques far beyond the remit of eleven plus papers.

Other children may be blessed by a teacher with a wonderful classical background. These children may be introduced to literature where reading and talking about books and ideas become far more than a recreational or educational activity.

Of course some eleven plus children may enjoy the privilege of attending an eleven plus tutor whose real interest lies in the child doing well in the examinations. The whole syllabus would then be geared around set papers, books and exercises designed to help a child to do as well as possible in an examination.

There could even be some parents who do not want their children to participate in a watered down eleven plus syllabus. They will want their child to feel that they are among the elite – destined for greater things. They will hope that their children feel anxious to do as well as possible – and to be considered to be responsible contenders. It is hoped that these children will feel themselves privileged to be able to have access to new and entertaining lessons and experiences.

It is possible, however, that the very great majority of eleven plus parents will hope that the rigors of the examination do not kill off intellectual challenges.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coping with Eleven Plus Questions

Do you ever look at some eleven plus questions and ask; “Why did they write that?” The `they’ is almost certainly a highly educated and supremely well qualified question writer. It is very likely too that the question has been used with other children and therefore the value and validity of the question verified.

Strange things do, however, happen in the world. I am sure your children will be able to remind you of the `Fireproof Lady’. Her stunts included putting melted lead into her mouth and spitting it out marked with her teeth!

She passed a red hot iron over her body, limbs tongue and hair.

She thrust her arms into fire.

And for a wholesome finale, she washed her hands in boiling lead, oil and water.

When you and your child are faced with a question like: `What is the first letter of the longest word in this sentence?’ does your child freak out or is the reaction calm, confident and relaxed?

Your child will, as a matter of course, run through the usual eleven plus check list:

By reading the question twice, have I gathered as much information as I can?

Am I approaching the question with an open mind – or am I suspicious that there is a trick in the question?

Have I looked at, and eliminated, the multiple choice answers that simply cannot be correct?

Have I worked out all the pros and cons of all the solutions – and developed an estimate of the probability of success for each one?

If all else fails, your child may even enjoy a little reassurance along the lines of: “With a brain and looks like yours, you will never end up a freak at a circus. You’re a bright and able. You do have the ability to put out fires and solve problems. Believe in yourself. We, as parents, believe in you. Enjoy the experience.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eleven Plus Candidates

An eleven plus child is far more than just a candidate. At any stage of the year he or she is a product of the genetic and environmental factors. The amount of work the child does, his or her reaction to pressure and stress and how he or she reacts to life on a daily basis, all play a part in the development of the `candidate’.

The eleven plus child may have difficulty in coming to terms with tests and exercises because of difficulty with diet and pressure. He or she may not get on well with a tutor because the home does not insist on good manners and appropriate behaviour. Some children may even be faced with over anxious parents.

It is possible that a highly significant reason why some children do better than others is to do with the ability to make abstractions. Naturally strong language skills must also help. A positive environment is also likely to help children in their quest for success in examinations.

The film `Crocodile Dundee’ springs to mind. Along with the powerful love story and the dramatic characterisation of `bad men’ we share the emergence of a man from the Outback learning to cope with the hustle and bustle of New York. The time frame of the film appears to condense the story line – but the hero wins the heroine and the final message is that all round success can be achieved.

Successful eleven plus children will come from many different social classes. In time the children will all have to adapt their behaviour to be able to cope with the competitive examination. The behaviour of parents, tutors, teachers, siblings and family and friends will all have some influence on the candidate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eleven Plus Matters

A group of twelve men and women are talking together at a party. Naturally the conversation revolves around the examination. One of the mothers, by chance, is working on a full time Social Science degree at her local university. She trusts that her husband will represent her family’s feelings – and so has time to observe the goings on. Her thoughts flicker over the stages of a recent assignment.

Step 1

Our intrepid social scientist tries to classify the group of potential eleven plus parents into segments covering marital status and age. She uses a twelve point scale.

Step 2

Following the above exercise an attempt is then made, through the general chatter about families and the impact of the eleven plus on families, at trying to classify the relationship of each member of the family to the candidate. At times our brave scientist wonders if she has it all straight in her mind – but she presses on.

Step 3

The exercise then enters a brave flight of fancy. How will she establish the income of the men and women and if she adds the incomes together will she have realistic total for all concerned? What does she do about the one person who did not arrive with a partner? (Our investigator decides to leave herself out in case she has the ability to influence the findings.) Does she share this woman with her husband? Problems, problems. By this stage the erstwhile researcher feels the need for a little extra gin.

Step 4

We now need to build the table. In one column we have names. Column two has age. Column three has the number of people in each family group. Column four covers income.

Step 5

We now meet the eleven plus question of today. Find the average for each column. Try to see if there is any observable difference between the income of the families and the number of children in the family. Are there any trends? Should the findings be shared with the group? Are there any oddities? Is this valuable eleven plus research or just a rather esoteric exercise?

Does the age of parents, the number of children in the family and how much each family has to spend on the eleven plus really matter? What really does matter?

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Endless Eleven Plus Loop

At one time or another some eleven plus parents may want to expose their children to elements of programmed learning. Sometimes some parents may feel that they are in a loop.

Paragraph 1

In this program eleven plus parents will learn the main features of eleven plus programmed learning and how objectives are developed. Teaching points are developed through linear frames – and comprehension is tested.

For information about programmed learning turn to Paragraph 5

For information about eleven plus objectives see Paragraph 3

Paragraph 2

Programmed instruction attempts to put learning onto an individual basis. When the step size between frames is large, it is possible to have branching frames.

Parents can help their children by buying a wide range of books turn to Paragraph 4

If more testing is felt to be necessary then go to Paragraph 6

Paragraph 3

Eleven plus objectives revolve around helping your child to earn a place in a grammar school. A programmer prepares a list of objectives to be covered. Further information for parents can be found in - see Paragraph 5

Paragraph 4

Eleven Plus books can be bought over the internet, in book shops and from tutors. Sometimes eleven plus children may need to work through a series of preliminary programs.

The is more information about which books to buy from other parents – Paragraph 2

Books and papers are cheaper over the internet – Paragraph 2

Paragraph 5

Grammar schools help children to obtain good GCSE and A’ Level results. The programmed learning has to anticipate who the program is aimed at.

To see who would benefit see – Paragraph 3

There may be a grammar school near you – Paragraph 5

Paragraph 6

Eleven Plus children can be tested over the internet or by working through pen and paper tests. The material in the tests has to be relevant.

Eleven plus tests help to pin point areas to work on – Paragraph 4

For further information on the eleven plus and how it can be taught, go to – Paragraph 1.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Finding the Right Eleven Plus Answer

When eleven plus parents look around their family and friends they must be proud of the number of worthy role models for their children to follow. Who can the candidate talk to about life in a grammar school? Are the stories about homework real? What should I do after university? A good role model will try to help.

Think back to one of the most famous role models of all time. The great King Arthur. He was wounded in battle at Lyoness – the fabled land submerged between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles. He was borne by barge to be buried at Avalon, which we all know is really Glastonbury.

Sir Bedivere was entrusted with Excalibur to return the sword to the lake. You will, no doubt, remember the story how the sword was raised above the water by an arm that was dressed in silk. Tennyson wrote about the last journey in `Morte D’Arthur’.

So all day long the noise of battle roll'd

Among the mountains by the winter sea;

Until King Arthur's table, man by man,

Had fall'n in Lyonness about their Lord,

King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep,

The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,

Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights,

And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,

A broken chancel with a broken cross,

That stood on a dark strait of barren land.

Eleven Plus children must, at times, feel that they too are in a battle for higher marks and better scores. Could there be a mother in the whole of England who would not utter a little sigh if their child achieved 99% on a paper instead of the fabled 100%? Some parents may even be inclined to study the mistake to see if the answer book could be wrong!

We think of King Arthur sitting at the round table accompanied by his knights planning, plotting and discussing the future, the present and the past. Is this much dissimilar to the eleven plus family gathered around the dining room table planning, plotting and discussing the future, the present and the past?

As the exceeding bright and able eleven plus child looks to summon up the answer to one wrong question – their minds may fleetingly hark back the sword being drawn from the stone. Because if your eleven plus child could work out how to answer that one really tricky question on the paper – then eleven plus success can be assured.

We always seem to have a number of eleven plus children who want to achieve full marks on all the eleven plus papers. To reach this goal there has to be considerable work from the teachers, parents and the candidates. The work has to be focused and dedicated.

There is, however, one big and real difference between King Arthur fighting a losing battle with is enemies and our eleven plus children. King Arthur was searching for the Holy Grail. Our children may only be searching for the right answer.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Eleven Plus Information

Some of us tend to think about grammar schools as institutions that can solve any problem pertaining to a bright child. Yet a number of grammar schools now have specialist functions. One could be, for example, specialising in mathematics and languages while another could look to develop mathematics and science. What is also rather complicating for some eleven plus parents are the different types of rules about entering a grammar school. Some seem to have legislation about how close a family have to live to the school while other maintain that a `first past the post’ system is fairest. Some grammar schools seem to obtain better marks than others at GCSE and A Levels.

“Do we go for the school that is just three miles away, but specialises in science (which my child hates) and has seldom had a child at either Oxford or Cambridge?”

“Should we, however, push for a school that is further away – a rather long bus ride – but specialises in languages and get super results with lots of Oxbridge passes?”

It is just that eleven plus parents – and their children – do not appear to receive much careers guidance. Is it too early for your ten year old to want to do physics at a good university? Can your primary school teachers be expected to know what happens on a physics degree – especially as there are an incredibly wide variety of combinations of subjects? (Do parents know, for example, that there is a course at Manchester University where their child can do Physics with Mandarin?)

We know a sixteen year old girl who wanted to do International Law – with an Arabic flavour – so that she could concentrate her career on the property market in London. Her grammar school did not offer Arabic so she intended to do a booster course in learning to read and write Arabic while she was working on her degree.

Could a boy even think of becoming a doctor if he had taken languages in the sixth form of a language specialist grammar school?

Suppose the parents of a bright girl had been to university in another country. To some degree university educations must be rather broadly similar – but the route onto a course may be very different in this country. How do they ask the right questions of the teachers at their daughter’s primary school about differences in grammar schools if their perception of a university education is not the same?

What do parents do if their child’s teacher does not approve of selective education? “Which school should my child apply to?”

It is obviously highly impertinent to wish careers guidance and help with choice of grammar school onto the shoulders of every primary school teacher. A Careers Guidance counsellor may also be a rather expensive option for some schools to consider. There may even be some grammar schools that would prefer to be able to mould their new eleven year olds to a `grammar school’ way of thinking.

What seems to be needed is a series of information leaflets aimed at ten year olds covering selection of schools, what happens in a grammar school and how to choose the right university.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Eleven Plus Change

Does the eleven plus depend, to a degree, on a stubborn resistance on the part of the examiners to change? Visualise the scene. The meeting is in progress.

“Is there a need for change?”

“I am not sure. Let us look at a question together. If A = 10, B = 8, C = 2 and D = 4, what is D + A divided by C + D?”

“But we used a question like that in 1963.”

“But it is not out of date. There is no need for innovation for the sake of it.”

The eleven plus seems to maintain a steady state over the years. We appear to take it for granted, for example, that one organisation can claim that their selection papers are the official ones used in the actual examination. Anyone teacher or parent who would want to question the proprietary of the advertisement would have to expect remarkably little sympathy – because the advert – and the intention behind the advert – is not misleading.

Some parents seem to be expected to fill a stylised role. It is anticipated that they will provide their children with the ritual of papers and exercises – all remarkably similar in both intent and content. There seems to be little need for any eleven plus parent to feel the need to step out of line. “Start with these papers, continue with these and finish off with this pile. Our family followed this routine and all my children passed.”

The structure of eleven plus preparation appears to depend on children achieving key grades at pre-set intervals. It looks too as if parents need to follow a structured command line with remarkably similar objectives and goals. But it does not look as if there is time for parents to be unpractical or innovative. The date of the examination marches remorselessly forward.

The eleven plus, however, is about far more than parents, papers and examination dates – it is also to do with children. Is there a set description of the eleven plus child?



Hard working – loves doing papers

Capable of intense concentration

Reads widely and extensively

Pleasant peers and friends

Good at school and examinations

A delight to teachers and parents alike

Is this the stereotype of a fortunate clean cut eleven plus pupil? With a target audience of this nature why would examiners want to change?

Monday, December 05, 2011

An Eleven Plus Haystack

Parents, working with their eleven plus children, will be very aware that there are a number of different facets to understanding and answering some types of questions. A statement that their child loves books may be very true – but does he or she have the reading skills to be able to cope with a wide range of eleven plus questions?

In one sense reading embraces the skill of transferring the letters of words, in the right order, into sounds that have meaning. Your eleven plus child looks at a group of letters taken from the alphabet – and transfers these letters into ideas, thoughts, questions and answers. Of course there is the visual component of reading. The eleven plus child has to be able to interpret words using forms of visual analysis. Another element used in reading is the ability to associate sight and sound. We can see this very clearly in exercises asking to build a word out of jumbled letters. SSLAGSE “Some see better with these:” The successful eleven plus child must also be able to make an auditory analysis of the sounds within a word in an efficient manner.

There is, however, a special kind of reading skill where your eleven plus child seems to need, at times, almost superhuman skills – that is when coping with a multiple choice answer. “Where do children play games?” [concourse, memorable, degree, abandoned]. How easy is it for an eleven plus child to be able to associate the word `playground’ with the possibly more unfamiliar word `concourse’? Chance or luck may come into the equation if the eleven plus child can select the right answer without knowing what a concourse is. It is likely that the ten year old will be able to read the words correctly – but may not be able to cope with what the words mean.

An eleven plus parent can check that their child can read the words `concourse, memorable, degree, and abandoned’ – simply by asking their child to read the words aloud. This is a form of a word recognition test. A different reading skill is that of comprehension – can the candidate explain the meaning of most of the words – and then apply this information to trying to supply a correct answer to the question.

When an eleven plus test is standardised the words used will have been tested rigorously with a sample of eleven plus – and other – children. The examiner will have made certain that a proportion of children who go on to pass the eleven plus examination can read and understand the words. If the word `memorable’, for example, was not read and recognised by a certain proportion of eleven plus children then the word would not be used in the final test.

When eleven plus children are urged to read parents are hoping that the books will contain a wide variety of graded supplementary words – some of which may come up in the examination. Is this a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Oxidation and the Eleven Plus

Some of us sometimes feel short of breath when the going gets tough. In some cases this is possibly the body trying to fill our lungs with air so that we can carry on breathing. We also use the words: “burn out’ – and this is the dreaded fear that all systems will shut down. As your child walks towards the examination hall you may feel inclined to call out: “Deep breaths, dear. Deep breaths!”

Your eleven plus child, being naturally precocious, may slow his or her stride and turn to you. “Mum, breathing is like burning. We know that burning uses oxygen – well so does breathing. I know my examination is close – but I would like to put you straight. A burning candle produces heat – because of oxidation. The oxygen we breathe oxidises my breakfast. It is this reaction that produces the energy I will need in the examination.

The other children are moving towards the entrance so I must cut this next bit short. When you made me eat those extra carbohydrates at breakfast this morning I had extra carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These were, as you know, oxidised to form carbon dioxide and water. I also breathed out the unreactive gases and the oxygen that I did not need.

I will need to cut this short now. The examination is about to start. Some other children are filing in through the door. But when you tell me to breathe deeply I may be taking on too much oxygen and so may hyperventilate. I don’t have time for this.

Last thing, Mum. Drive home carefully. I am going to be all right. I want to go to grammar so that I can go to a science orientated school. I love science more than mathematics. Please mum, just leave me now.”

(There is a mumble from the car.)

“Yes Mum, I will remember. Bye Mum.”

Saturday, December 03, 2011

An Eleven Plus Skirmish

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.

‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.’

‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover'd with sheep.’

‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd, and shoutèd, and laugh'd
And all the hills echoèd.

It looks as if Blake, back in 1789, understood the needs and desires of some of today’s Eleven Plus children. There may, possibly, be times in the lives of a number of eleven plus children when playing outside with friends could be infinitely more desirable than sitting down to an eleven plus paper.

In the first verse we can see the contented mother – happy that she has done as much as possible towards helping her child prepare for the eleven plus. She calls her children in to work and of course the eleven plus child appeals for a little more time outside. Who wins in the end? The eleven plus child, of course.

Children have to be able to win some battles – even if they are only little wars or skirmishes.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Eleven Plus Anticipation

Do you remember the play by A.A. Milne called The Princess and the Woodcutter? My version comes from the 1922 `Eight Modern Plays, (Nelson) and snippet is drawn from the 1934 reprint.

Woodcutter [taking off his hat]. Pardon, your Majesty. I am a woodcutter, who lives alone here, far from the courts.

Queen. Well, you’ve got more sense in your head than any of the princes I’ve seen lately. You’d better come to court.

Princess [shyly]. You will be very welcome, sir.

King. Isn’t that going a little too far, dear?

Queen. Well you wanted kindness of heart.

King. Well if you insist. The great thing is that our darling child should be happy.

Princess. I will do my best, father.

King. Then the marriage will take place this evening. [With a wave of his wand.] Let the revels begin.

Can you anticipate the conversation in your house when the eleven plus results come in?

[The Telephone rings]

Mum. Hello. This is our household. Have you any news for us?

Voice on Phone. I have some news. Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

Candidate. Please, please let me know.

Voice on Phone. No problem. I will read the results to you.

Dad [Hurridly]. Please speak up.

Voice on Phone. You have passed. You have a place in the grammar school of your choice. Well done.

Candidate [Almost in tears]. Wow! Great news. Thank you.

Mum and Dad {Speaking together]. The party starts now. Let the revels begin.

If you don’t practice the good news with your child before the results come out, your child may not be sure what to say. Practice makes perfect! Think of all the rehearsals the king had to face before he allowed a woodcutter to marry his princess of a daughter!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Best of the Eleven Plus

Every eleven plus child, in the eyes of loving parents, is a miracle of sweetness and goodness. Of course there are occasional slips – but, in general, few eleven plus parents can find much fault with their children. Quite right too!

What some parents will hope is that the eleven plus experience contributes to personal and social growth as well as intellectual stimulation. Ideally the eleven plus curriculum should be broad and stimulating. Many children seem to find the eleven plus year an exciting ride of the old fashioned carrot and stick. “If you do this, we can do this.”

Naturally there is a minimum amount of work eleven plus children will need to do. Some children will be blessed with enough ability to be able to pass the eleven plus with remarkably little extra work. Other children will find that they need to study virtually day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute and second after second. Most children, however, will work somewhere between these two extremes. Parents may find that they have to help their child establish a routine that will fulfil the demands of the examination.

The examination is examined externally. This allows parents to feel secure that whatever their child does on the day the result is not being affected by too many outside distractions. In one classroom the candidate may come across a teacher who champions the eleven plus. Across the corridor, in the same school, could be a teacher who is not as sympathetic to the concept of selection. Once the children are in the examination hall, however, every child has the same opportunity.

It is possible that there are other influences than the school’s on a child’s performance in the examination – for example the attitude of the rest of the family. A child spends far more time out of the school classroom than he or she does in school. The starting points of eleven plus children are wonderfully diverse. The language that parents use at home could, for example, be a decisive factor. Other children may benefit from the mother or the father sitting beside them each step of the way. Other children may flower under the: “Go to your room and don’t come down until you have finished the paper.”

One lasting benefit of eleven plus work, whether it is a pass or a fail, is the development of self-respect and the capacity to work independently. When your child emerges from the examination room, looks up at you and murmurs: “I did my best,” you can only say, “Yes, we all did our best.”