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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Eleven Plus Folk Song?

There is a little song called `The Chickens They Are Crowing’. It is an English Folk Song gathered by Cecil Sharp who collected this song in the Appalachian mountain during his travels between 1916 and 1918. The inhabitants of the mountains were the English, Scots and Irish who arrived with few possessions – but they brought their traditional songs.

Eleven plus parents want their children to grow up quickly and be as mature and `ready’ as possible on the day of the examinations.  An eleven plus child sometimes seems to hover between being a child and a thinking young adult. Parents, however, should not wish for too much too soon as this little folk song reminds us. As far as we know `The Chickens They Are Crowing’ was a true English folk song.

The chickens they are crowing, a crowing, a crowing,
The chickens they are a-crowing, for it is almost daylight.
My mother she will scold me, will scold me, will scold me,
My mother she will scold me for staying away all night.
My father he’ll uphold me, uphold me, uphold me,
My father he’ll uphold me and say I`ve done just right.
I won’t go home till morning, till morning, till morning,
I won’t go home till morning and I’ll stay with the girls all night.
The chickens they are crowing, a crowing, a crowing,
The chickens they are a-crowing, for it is almost daylight.

The whole eleven plus story may be there – mother worrying, father saying the equivalent of: `Boys will be boys’. The candidate remaining focused on anything other than work. 

“Good luck girls. Don’t stay out too late. Think of your mother and father. Be good and work hard!”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eleven Plus Reading

As teachers and parents we do tend to witter on about the need for wide reading as our children approach the eleven plus. Somehow children, in their ultra busy days, need to make time to read. But what should they read? Eleven plus children are naturally special cases as so much appears to hang on achieving the right examination results. But what should these children read? From the age of seven or eight they were probably on a free reading scheme – supervised by the teacher or librarian naturally – but still with the ability to choose their own books. Come the eleven plus year and suggestions about suitable books are often made. How will these high flyers react?

The basic beliefs of the eleven plus teacher or tutor are at stake. Should the books be designed for incidental learning or to be used for systematic teaching?

Parents have to try to maintain a balance between acting as counsellors and consultants in the background – or some may feel that they have to initiate instruction and learning. Should they leave these delicate questions to the teacher?

Should eleven plus children be exposed to a wide selection of books – or offered a select few to savour and enjoy?

What should parents do if their child decides to read a selection of `unsuitable’ books rather than worthy tomes?

Are children expected to read in the confines of their bedroom – before they go to sleep – or are they encouraged to read anywhere and anytime?

Should the books appeal to boys or to girls or should these eleven plus children be offered books that are gender free? There is a fascinating article about how many pages boys are prepared to read!

Does the eleven plus child really need to do lots of reading – or is reading encouraged because it is `politically correct’.

What about ebooks? Would devices like a Kindle or an Ipad help to encourage reading?
Will the books take into account intelligence, interests, home background and ability with words and ideas?

Are the books the right size and format to be able to attract eleven plus children? Are the illustrations, if any, appropriate?

And finally, how much will it all cost?  Is it really worth all the effort, expense and time?

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Eleven Plus Song

Is there a case to have one Eleven Plus test that covers the whole country? What happens if a child passes the eleven plus in one county and then finds difficulty in having the results accepted in a new county?

We know that people lose their regional accents when they sing. A singing voice is not the same as speaking voice. When we are singing our pharynx and mouth open wider to allow for better resonance and amplification. We therefore do not make words in the same way.

When we hear Madonna sing `Material Girl’ we are very aware that the melody of a song has a different set of vocal intonations to normal speech. Country and Western singers work hard to sound as if they were born and bred in Nashville. Where oh where do opera singers come from?

We meet children who are expected to be able to sit a number of different eleven plus tests. We are working with some girls who will be sitting four different eleven plus tests later on this year. One of our local schools is super selective and sets its own papers to select the type of child they want. We also meet children who are expected to reach almost full marks on all the papers. As soon as we delve into the details of the admission requirements it is possible to see just why there is such a variety of eleven plus tests.

The major publishers try hard to reassure us that their papers will work for most children. Years ago I had the opportunity of going to a salsa evening in a large entertainment centre. The floor above was a fascinating experience. There were about seventy young people in a large circle dressed in rather esoteric costumes. They were nodding their heads in time to the music. It was explained to me that the violent movements of their heads was called head banging.

So if your child stumbles on a question on a paper, why not try sitting with your family in a circle? You could compose a family song entitled: “It is like banging my head against a brick wall.” Your voices could rise and fall in unexpected patterns. One of the family could enter the circle and execute a little break dance.

How would this help your child in the eleven plus? You would know that your child was being prepared in a completely individualised manner.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

An Eleven Plus Rocket

You feel you want to give your child a rocket. You wonder if your goals and those of your child are actually going to meet on the day of the examination. You know that your child is remarkably able. You know too that he or she is possibly capable of more. You want to deliver a motivational speech. Before you start you feel the need for a `nice cup of tea’ – and a little something for your child. If you are going to give a rocket – why not offer a `pre rocket pick me up’?

Pre-Rocket Fuel

1 Ripe mango
300 ml pineapple juice
The juice of half a lime.

When your child was three years old you could have offered a little sprinkle of `Hundreds and Thousands’ over the concoction. (A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.) At ten years old it is too late. “Drink it dear, it is good for your health.”

The Rocket

“Thank you for joining me for this little pre-eleven plus chat. I am sure the conversation will remain friendly. We are a bit worried about your eleven plus work at the moment. Let me try to explain this in my way. You know that you cannot play golf if you in the bath. You also know that you cannot write your actual eleven plus examination while you are swimming in the swimming pool. You also cannot work on an eleven plus paper in your bedroom if you are down stairs watching T.V.

Now the things you can do. You can earn a good living and have a happy life even if you do not pass the eleven plus. You can enjoy a happy relationship with the rest of the family if you do not pass the eleven plus. You can still go to a good school if you do not pass the eleven plus.

But dear, life and the eleven plus is like a sandwich. If you approach your eleven plus work in a mature and helpful manner - then your life should be happier and more focused. If you work in a vigorous and wholehearted manner you will feel more focused. If you do not stay focused and deliver of your best at all times – you cannot honestly say you did you best.

Correct your attitude to the eleven plus. Be realistic. Do not feel you have to accept a cheese sandwich if you actually want a hamburger.

You have listened without a word. Well done. This rocket is over. Have you anything to say?”

“Mum – can I have chips with the hamburger?”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eleven Plus Explanations

Why are some parents able to do all sorts of eleven plus questions?

It could be that they are older and wiser. Another reason could be that parents may feel the need to read questions a little more carefully.

If parents have all these worthwhile attributes, how can they explain, succinctly and crisply what gems they know to their eleven plus children? There is an old and wise eleven plus saying:

Keep close to experience; add as little of
Your own as possible; if you have to add
Something, be mindful to give an account
Of every step you take.

Initiates to eleven parenting will quickly find out that learning without achieving insight and appreciation is slow and painful. Parents will therefore want to try to keep their children full of motivation and enthusiasm.

Sometimes, however, in an effort to make sure their child has fully understood the ramifications of the topic, there may be a `tiny’ inclination to over sell expertise. “Be mindful to keep an account of every step you take.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Eleven Plus Vision

You have a vision. You enter the dream world. You can see your bright and able eleven plus child walking through the gates of the local grammar school. You can sense the excitement of your child – even though it is heavily disguised in the most laid back form. Few brand new Year Seven children will deign to kiss their parents good bye at the gates of a new school!

We may possibly, however, have a big problem looming in the eleven plus world. The more advanced and more involved parents are, the less likely are they to be able to feel that a prophecy or a vision should be taken seriously. It is possible, however, that a little extra eleven plus hesitation may stem from Jeanne of Arc’s story. She had wonderful visions – and they helped to put a King on the throne. Charles VII ascended the throne as a direct result of her intervention. This did not do her much good as the Burgundians sold her to the English – who burnt her as a heretic and sorceress in 1431. Perhaps eleven plus parents should not dream of fire and passion – because we just don’t know where it will all end!

Of course some parents may dream about their child passing the eleven plus, going to university and landing a good job and going on to make money. The making the money part of the dream may be characterised by a roulette wheel. If your child owned the roulette wheel in Monaco then all is well. If, however, your child was playing roulette then you may need to take drastic steps.

You need to explain to your child that every gamble on a roulette wheel is designed to help you to lose money. Some spins you will win but most you will lose. The important factor to keep in mind is how much money you are prepared to lose. When you bet on a single number the odds are one to thirty eight. You explain this to your child in exactly the same way as you would explain any eleven plus question.

If you bet £10 then your chances are (One divided by thirty eight) + (Thirty seven divided by thirty eight multiplied by minus £10). Your child’s quick eleven plus brain will work out that you will lose fifty two point six pence for every £10.

Now many of us would argue that losing fifty two point six pence is worth losing if the odds allow us to win £350. But will your child see it that way? After all you, and your family, should be saving for university fees not wasting the family heritage.

You just don’t want to be burnt at the stake for the sake of the loss of 52.6p!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eleven Plus Politeness

Some children seem to have an inbuilt ability to say please and thank you. Is this drilled into them by their parents or is the ability to be polite simply a part of the DNA?

You run through from your study where you have been grappling with the affairs of the world. You are sprinting in response to your child’s urgent cries for help. Your heart is beating and your brow is flushed. You fall panting to your knees beside your child and stretch your hand out. You gasp: “Yes dear. What can I do to help?”

“Is six times nine fifty four?”

Several thoughts flash through your mind. Then a fleeting thought enters your mind. It is a mere wisp of a memory. You recall the poem by Harry Graham called `Politeness’.

My cousin John was most polite;
He led shortsighted Mrs Bond,
By accident, one winter's night
Into a village pond.
Her life perhaps he might have saved
But how genteelly he behaved!

Each time she rose and waved to him
He smiled and bowed and doffed his hat;
Thought he, although I cannot swim,
At least I can do that -
And when for the third time she sank
He stood bareheaded on the bank.

Be civil, then, to young and old;
Especially to persons who
Possess a quantity of gold
Which they might leave to you.
The more they have, it seems to me,
The more polite you ought to be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Eleven Plus Group

A couple of years ago I was invited to an eleven plus centre. It was a most interesting experience. The teacher stood at the front of the class and went through an eleven plus paper question by question. The children were not expected to work on their own. The very able worked at the same speed as the less able. There were more than20 children in the group. I would love to know just how many passed!

We know that the size of a group has an impact on learning. As a group gets bigger, changes are likely to occur.

The resources of the group are made bigger in terms of knowledge, experience and approaches to problem solving. We can see this clearly at a family get-together where parents, relatives and children gather to try to solve a particular eleven plus question. Auntie Mable may have been written off by the family for being too child centred and being some-one who never wants to go back to work – but she may be able to solve a very complex question by simply applying common sense.

As the group grows bigger every-one has less opportunity to use and exploit opportunities. There may be less time to think out loud. Somebody may consciously (or unconsciously) try to dominate the proceedings. Other people may not want to offer an answer in case it is wrong.

The actual eleven plus candidate may feel that he or she is no longer part of the decision making elements of answering the problem. The eleven plus pupil may feel that his or her contribution is unrecognised.

The discussion may lose its focus. Instead of concentrating on the problem some members may start to digress. (At school we called this a successful red herring!)

The differences between the people may become more marked. It may be difficult to end up with a consensus answer.

And finally, the eleven plus student may be entertained for a spell – but as the discussion meanders through many arms – then he or she may wish for everyone to get on with the next question. The candidate may become tired from too much talk.

Is one to one the best answer? For some children it must be.

Is a small group the best answer? For some children it must be.

Is a large group the best answer? For some children it must be.

Is there a royal road? For some children there must be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sleeping Through the Eleven Plus

At some stage of the eleven plus year some member of the family is going to come out with these immortal lines:

“I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about the eleven plus.”

Insomnia, to some, is an inability to sleep. It can be a very tiring condition. We know that there are remedies such as covering the eyes to keep out light. Other people use different forms of earplugs to keep out noise. Traditionally, taking a teddy bear to bed to cuddle can help. Some people try to sleep sitting up supported by pillows. It does not look as if there is a golden rule. All we can do is feel real pity for the sleep starved.

When I was at school, as a ten year old, our class had to learn by heart long sections from Shakespeare. One speech was from Hamlet – the famous; `To be or not to be’ speech.  

To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream, ay, there’s the rub,
For in the sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off that mortal coil.

Passing the eleven plus is not a matter of life and death. It is also not an examination for parents to lose too much sleep over. Children do go on to enjoy successful academic careers in spite of not passing the eleven plus.

Suggestion One – To Try to Help with Insomnia
Work on an eleven plus paper just before going to bed. That could help to calm the mind.

Suggestion Two – To try to help with not being able to go to sleep
Work with your candidate to learn the `To be or not to be’ speech’ together.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eleven Plus Responsibility

Back in 1964, Austwick, in his book on `Teaching Machines and Programming’, maintained that programming led to a much more detailed study of subject matter. This then meant that there needed to be a precise consideration of the type of student for which the programme was intended. Austwick argued that children in primary schools, grammar and technical institutions would all need different programmes. “The work would need to be appropriate for the development of mental structures and abilities of children for whom the programme is prepared.”

The Eleven Plus examination tries to select children who are all academically around the same level – in spite of different backgrounds and foundations. The actual eleven plus test, however,  is a pen and paper exercise – so however much the child has been prepared with on-line exercises and tests – in the actual examination most candidates will have to pick up their pencils and start completing multiple choice tests. (There are some variations to multiple choice tests in some schools.)

After a child has reached a level of competence then much eleven plus work can become repetitive and rather mechanical. Some parents may strive to make work on papers and eleven plus exercises rather more palatable. In an ideal world an eleven plus child would sometimes want to study on his or her own. This would enable parents to feel that they were not drillmasters but were sharing in the eleven plus experience.

The wise old man called Skinner in an extract called `Teaching Machines’ (1961) wrote:

“In assigning mechanizable functions to machines, the teacher will emerge in his proper role as an indispensable human being”.

Some parents would be grateful for a paraphrase of Skinner’s statement:

“In encouraging my child to take more responsibility for eleven plus work I will emerge in my proper role as a parent and an indispensable human being”.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seeing the Eleven Plus Light

Plato, much loved by educationalists, philosophers and thinkers, used a rather complex simile to explain one of his more profound ideas. We need to imagine human beings dwelling in an underground cave – which is open towards the light.

They have been there since childhood with their necks and legs chained – and they are only able to look into the cave. There is a fire in the distance – with a bank between the imprisoned men and women. There are moving figures behind the bank who hold various objects – images of men and animals, ikons of stone and wood.

There are only shadows – and the sounds are vague, confused and fleeting.

If, however, the denizens are dragged up the slope of the hill into the light then they would be blinded by an excess of light. Only a few are able to make the transition from illusion to pure thought. The successful are required to return to the cave and save their fellows.

Helping an eleven plus child can be like this journey. You are aware that your child has nearly grasped a concept. You feel that you have almost explained how to do the process to the best of your ability. You know that before the actual examination you will need to do lots more revision and consolidation. You are just waiting for your child to `See the Light’.

Your friends will look at you with envy and wonder as you describe how you and your family left the confines of the eleven plus cave and reached a state of glorious illumination. They will bow before you and look upon you as a true leader. In your heart of hearts you, however, will know that revision and nagging really did work!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eleven Plus Problem Solving

When you are urging your child to try to solve a problem you will, naturally, suggest that he or she should evaluate all the options. It will be a remarkably rare eleven plus problem where there is one viable solution.

You may try to explain this to your child in a practical way. You know that your child needs a new computer to cope with all the eleven plus work. There is also the problem that `best friend’ has just been given a new computer ostensibly for eleven plus work – but really to be able to take full advantage of all the new games and apps.

Option One
You buy a cheap and cheerful system. This will do the eleven plus job but lacks the bells and whistles.

Option Two

You buy a simple and ordinary system. It will do all the eleven plus work and more. It costs a bit more – but your child only has one eleven plus year so you can rationalise anything.

Option Three

You buy the best. It is far more than your child needs but `he or she will grow into it’. Naturally the price is £300.00 more than you want to pay. (Your brain emits a little murmur: “If you want the best – pay the best!”)

Now you ask your child to filter out the less suitable options. Which one would your child like, which one can the family afford? If you buy Option One – and it does not seem to work to your satisfaction - then it would be expensive to try to upgrade.  Option Two may be the most sensible. Does your eleven plus child think, however, with the head or with the heart? Option Three – this will meet all your child’s needs – but is there a real need?

You could then explain to your child that looking at all the options and rejecting the unlikely ones will certainly give the right solution.

(Please let me know your solution to this problem.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reasoned Eleven Plus Answers

When you were at school one of your careers teachers may have mentioned Karl Manheim. (1893 – 1947) He believed that there should be planned guidance in the lives of people and that this should be on a sociological basis – with the aid of psychology.

He saw society as a whole and integrated, and education was something that permeated all its groups and institutions. He thought that the training of teachers should not be concerned with the tricks of the trade and with method – but with the fullest possible education of the educator.

In eleven plus terms – would your child benefit more from a teacher who carefully explained how to do the different processes – or a teacher who was more involved with helping your child to solve problems?

“But sometimes you do have to tell an eleven plus child how to do something.” Of course, and who could argue with this statement? It you have to leave it to the child to try to solve the problem you may never complete the exercise or the paper or the task. A big change that could take place, however,  is trying to change the emphasis in an eleven plus session from instruction and learning to thinking and solving problems. Sometimes a parent could consider guiding their eleven plus child to an answer rather than telling him or her how to answer the question.

Jacks, writing in Total Education – 1946 - felt that the trained teacher was too often the untrained human being. He maintained:

“The era of the training of teachers is past; our business today is with the education of the educator.”

If this is still true eleven plus parents can rejoice.  It does not matter if they do not know all the answers to eleven plus questions. What does matter is that they help their child to find ways to reason.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Eleven Plus Shoe Lace

Ask your eleven plus child to tell you how to tie a shoelace. Watch his or her hands. Is it easier to demonstrate how to tie the shoe lace or explain the procedure? It is on just this point that some children may become frustrated by some forms of eleven plus questions. The children sit down with their parents who explain different examples. Being good parents they come back to similar examples on a different occasion. The eleven plus child may remember that the topic has been covered – but still may not be sure of how to do the work.

No eleven plus parent would ever dream of saying to their child: “You have done this before. Why can’t you remember?”  No – oh no – parents would simply make a mental note to return to the topic on yet another occasion. The third time arrives – after a suitable passage of time. Has there been any learning in the interval? Once again the parents have to bite their tongues and keep positive. Success is just around the corner!

The eleven plus child may not be able to cope with some topics until he or she has been able to come up with their own solution.

The first step would be to try to invent a solution to the problem.

The second step would be committing the method to memory.

The third step would be being able to apply the solution to subsequent and similar problems.

No matter how much something can be explained and revised if the child has been unable to internalise the problem and then categorise the steps leading to a solution then there may be gaps. One  obvious solution is revision and consolidation. Encouraging your child to explain the process in his or her own words can speed the process up. You could, of course, do a little experiment.

Ask your child to describe how to tie a shoe lace.

Encourage your child to go over the steps practically – asking your child to describe what he or she is doing.

Repeat the same process on another day.

Check that your child has been able to describe the sequence. Has learning taken place? We certainly hope so.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eleven Plus Phobia

When repressed fear is transferred to a particular object or situation the resulting fear is called a phobia.

Most of us have reasonably mild phobias – some people don‘t like spiders, others fear snakes and some hate vermin. It must be miserable to live a life with a fear of heights or the dark or even being frightened of birds or animals.

When the phobia reaches a certain proportion then a person’s life must be severely restricted. Years ago it was thought that fears associated with guilt or shame needed to be repressed. In some cases there appears to be an element of transfer - where the poor person tries to rationalise the phobia – and transfers the fear to similar but different object. This must be very confusing for the rest of the family. Everyone knows that grand mum hates leaving the house – but why does she actually hate dogs too?

There is only one good thing about a phobia and that is the names that are offered. These names commonly come up in quizzes and the like. “What is a fear of snakes called?” “What do you call a person who hates heights?”

Is it likely that there are phobias associated with doing extra work towards the eleven plus?

What do you call a mother with three children – each having activities on the same afternoon in three different locations - with a car that needs a service? (Carservicephobia?)

What do you call an eleven plus boy who has to choose between playing football for the school and working with a tutor towards the eleven plus? (Elevenplustutorphobia?)

What do you call an elder sister who has passed the eleven plus but won’t help her sister because they have had a falling out? (Siblingphobia?)

What do you call a fear of your child not passing the eleven plus?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Investors in People and The Eleven Plus

A question that must cross the minds of prospective eleven plus parents could be to do with the qualifications and experience of the teachers.

The Extra Tuition Centre had always been involved in training and development of staff. New ways of doing things were coming and the change was in the air. The Extra Tuition Centre chose Investors in People as an aide to the mechanism of change. The partners believed that Investors in People would help them to develop a strong and sustainable business. The first aim was to try to help the teachers and administrative staff feel that Etc had a strong commitment towards them. The teachers and staff had to feel that their input was valued.

There was also the very important consideration that parents would be sent a strong signal that training and development of staff was considered to be vitally important. The Extra Tuition Centre also wanted parents to feel that there was a genuine desire to deliver excellence.

Investors in People has a three year audit cycle – an external auditor arrives and helps the people who are interviewed to understand their role in the organisation – and also how they feel that they are appreciated and involved. The three year cycle helps the Extra Tuition Centre to continually identify areas that could be developed – and have been developed following the recommendations of the previous assessment.

The development of young A Level students is an essential ingredient. They are all bright, able and articulate young people. For the children attending tuition to make progress the A Level students have to understand their influence as role models. Our A Level students have to feel appreciated – and this is a continual challenge.

 Investors in People is the heart of the Extra Tuition Centre. The owners have passed the mantle of developing its people to two gifted leaders. Their insight and drive will help thousands of children in the years to come.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eleven Plus Aims

Will this happen to your child – or did it happen to you? In 1963 Musgrove wrote about the `Migratory Elite’. This title was drawn from the regular migration of grammar school pupils from the home communities where they lived to where they could find professional employment.

The other great treatise on grammar school leavers was reported in Jackson and Marsden’s 1962 `Education and the Working Class’.

It was felt that pupils in `secondary modern’ schools would be more likely to stay close their home routes.

The 1944 Education Act allowed the escape of children from social and geographical bonds. A bright child from a rural community could be offered a place in a local grammar school.

Taylor in 1963 showed that children used external examinations to claim a right to a range of occupations.

Some children will find that a grammar school education will offer higher job aspirations.  Most parents will hope that their children will aim as high as possible.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Physical Fitness

Your child is about to enter a competitive examination. You have been duly concerned with developing mental agility and building topic knowledge. You need a fit and healthy child on the day of the examination. Somehow, into the busy day and week, you may find that you need to do a little fitness training.

Your much loved child may suggest a Wii – along with the fitness package. “Mum, I promise I will never play a game until I have done my eleven plus work and my eleven plus physical work out.” Another option could be to hire a personal trainer for your child. Failing these two options you may find that you need to develop a Do It Yourself fitness training program.

Your child’s profile

Reasonably fit and healthy.
Swims three times a week.
Play football.
Rides bicycle.
Like exercise
Would welcome extra attention

Goal Setting

Would be willing to give up some pen and paper eleven plus work to develop physical fitness eleven plus work.
Will be realistic and understand that you are doing your best.

The Weekly Program

Will adopt warm up and cool down exercises


Would be willing to evaluate the effectiveness of each session
Will accept your feedback (To a degree)
Will demonstrate understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

If your child is able to develop and show sustained progress then you should be able to award a Level 3 Eleven Plus Physical Fitness badge. You just hope that this badge is the equivalent of ten eleven plus points. This could be the difference between pass or fail.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Eleven Plus Sleep

“Go to sleep dear. It is past ten o’clock. You have school tomorrow. Sleep dear.”

“But mum, I don’t feel tired.”

“But tomorrow is a big day, and you need your sleep.”

In theory, fatigue calls for sleep. It is very difficult to try to deny the demand for sleep. If we all understood how the mechanism of sleep works we could, possibly, wander around feeling a lot more refreshed – and un-sleepy.

During sleep the blood pressure, pulse rate, metabolism, temperature and respiration are all greatly reduced. We know too that digestion continues normally. Different people, however, need varying amounts of sleep. Many people who are famous for being able to get by on little sleep have naps during the day. We just hope that the eleven plus candidate does not choose to enjoy a little nap at the start of the examination!

There is a common belief that we need eight hours of sleep a night. The ten year old, mentioned earlier, would enjoy ten hours of slumber if he or she did not wake too early!

The unusual case of the twins born in Moscow, Galya and Ira, gave some insight into sleep – but no real solutions. Galya and Ira had one body – but there were four arms, two necks and two heads. The twins survived for a year under expert care and attention. One twin would sleep while the other was awake.

We just hope that your candidate sleeps comfortably and peacefully at night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Is There an Eleven Plus Personality?

“The eleven plus is not in his personality.” This could be familiar refrain in the minds of some parents. Why does this bright and able, intelligent and warm’ child who is always kind and thoughtful struggle with these confounded eleven plus papers? Why does his behaviour deteriorate so much when he is confronted by a paper? We never had problem with him learning to read, his swimming teacher said he was a star and he learnt to ride a bike at phenomenally young age. Why?

There are a number of points of view when looking at personality.

The ten year old child’s personality is defined by behaviour. This, however, is only true if the child’s eleven plus intentions are the same as those of his or her parents.

The eleven plus child’s personality is demonstrated in the different roles he or she is able to play – the serious student, the likeable dilatant. Of course the attitude of the parents may have a part to play. Parents who are too anxious may not achieve the results they want. Conversely the laid back parents who allow a state of near anarchy may also not allow their child to achieve his or her potential.

Finally, but probably not exclusively, the personality of the eleven plus child is, to a degree, rather a matter of a ménage of subjective concepts.  This means, in part, how the child views himself or herself and how the same child views the immediate environment. If mum and dad expect an eleven plus pass – and this is based on sound suppositions – then the eleven plus may well be within the `personality’ of the eleven plus child.

Parents will be very aware that their child’s personality can be as variable and changeable as the wind on a wind farm. We can just hope that the eleven plus wind blows strong and steady towards the examinations.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

An Eleven Plus Solution

When your child’s face crumbles before you at the idea of doing any eleven plus work you may need to wind the conversation back.  You could, if you so desired, do a little self-analysis. Was the problem to do with you asserting your authority or your child’s unwillingness to show due application to work?

If you felt that your authority was being challenged your child may show alleged symptoms of:

If you felt that the problem lies in difficulty in application to work – then you would look for:
Lack of Interest

In your heart you will know that your child is good, normal and healthy. You will also know that the sign of disquiet is but a momentary aberration. You will also know that your child does not challenge you very often – and usually wants to work. You will know that harsh words will not necessarily solve the problem.

The solution? It is easy. Simple fall back on those well used words:

“Just wait until your mother gets home.”
“Just wait until your father gets home.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Multiple Choice Eleven Plus Questions

Do you remember being told about Yerkes when you were at school? He is an important name to remember when you are working through multiple choice eleven plus papers with your child. His findings have probably played a significant part in understanding what happens when a `subject’ is confronted by a multiple choice puzzle. Yerkes published his findings in 1908 – over a hundred years ago – so there is nothing much new in education!

He conducted a historic experiment on human problem solving. He used a box where twelve keys were extended towards the subject. On any given trial only one of the keys is the correct key. The subject must discover which it is – in other words its relationship to the other keys. Of course the correct key was changed from trial to trial! The subject had to discover by what rule the change was made.

In the first test the key could be the second from the left.

The next rule would have the key appearing in the middle.

The third key from the right.

The right hand key and the left end key.

The first key to the left of the middle and the key to the right of it.

We hope that our eleven plus child would be able to solve these problems. We know that any eleven plus parent would manage them easily. Mothers and fathers can do anything!

When helping your child to reject the multiple choice answers that simply cannot be correct then remember Yerkes. He showed that it was possible to work out strategies for coping with multiple choice questions. For example: If the question asked for the answer in kilometres then a multiple choice answer that had millimetres should not be selected.

Children of course know better. You have told your child to guess the last few answers if time is running out. “You have one chance in four in getting the answers right.” One child will choose all the left hand answers. Another strategy could be to choose all the answers second from the right. A third option could be to choose answers at random. Yerkes, however, showed us that it was possible to develop a method of working out how to select the right answer. Why not sit with your child and look closely at the answers. You may find that, sometimes, you simply need to read the question and look at the answers without doing the working out. You then reject the answers which cannot be correct. You then do the working out to confirm the correct answer. If this works for you it may work for your child.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

An Eleven Plus Walk in the Park

You are walking, surrounded by your loving family, down a lovely wooded path in the middle of a gorgeous little forest. There are very few people around so your eleven plus candidate is prepared to allow you to hold hands for a few seconds. (Do you remember that trusting three year old hand that automatically held tight?)

There is a bit of slush and mud around – but you don’t mind that – you are wearing the hat and gloves given to you so loving by your family for Christmas. (You love it even through you do not own one other green garment in your entire wardrobe. Green is not your colour.)

A dog, off a leash, comes bounding round the corner. The dog stops and exhibits hostile-suspicious reactions. The head is raised. The tail is erect. The hairs are bristling. There is a low warning growl. Your hand tightens on your child’s grasp. The instinct to protect and nurture kicks in. Your adrenaline heats up.

Gloria Gaynor’s  “I  will survive!”  throbs into your mind.
First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side.

The dog’s erstwhile owner comes ambling round the corner. “Sit Jasper! Sit!”

The body sinks low, the tail falls limp, the hair lies smoothly. Large pants erupt – and slobber falls to the floor. The dog, the owner, you, your eleven plus candidate and the rest of your family are now all friends. There is laughter and chatter. You bend down to pat the dog’s head. The tail wags more and more. Your candidate smiles. The world is set to rights.

Move forward an hour or two.

“It is time now for us to do some eleven plus work.”

The head is raised.
The smile leaves the face.

The ipad is relinquished - albeit unwillingly.

The words: “Why me?” are snapped out.

There could even be a little flounce as the `candidate’ slinks towards the unwelcome and unfriendly work.

The Eleven Plus Conundrum – how to make your child approach the work, smiling, eager, positive and happy. You could try a few pats on the head. You could try adopting a non-threatening approach.  You could try a conciliatory smile. You must, however, never ever offer a little bribe -unless the situation warrants a little treat.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Europe

Last weekend was the opening salvo of the Six Nations Rugby tournament. Six countries come to try to win a prize. Results are recorded and pored over by pundits and the rest of us alike. There are winners and losers.

I thought of this because I remembered the story of Gaston Vareilles who was selected to play for France against Scotland in 1911. When the train arrived at Lyon he jumped off to buy a sandwich. Exactly how long the train was supposed to stop remains a mystery – but by the time Gaston had ordered, bought and paid for his bread the train had left. There was no alternative form of transport. (This was well before the days of Easyjet and Ryanair.) The poor man missed the match. He was never again picked to play for France!

Is there an eleven plus moral to the story?

Leave plenty of time to get your child to the examination.

Buy your food and drink the day before.

Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.

Remember not to offer `choice’ words in front of your children if a problem should arise.

Have a back-up plan in case there is a problem with transport!

But suppose we have a Six Nations Eleven Plus tournament? Can you imagine the pride of a mother being able to say that her child had beaten the cream of five other countries? Think how that self-same mother would feel if a letter arrived saying that in spite of being in the top three per cent the local grammar school did not have a place for her child!

In England we have an established system of appeals covering different types of eleven plus problems. Can we imagine the bureaucracy involved if we could mount an eleven plus appeal to the European Court of Human Justice? We can look back at poor Gaston and wonder, in today’s world, if France would have dared to drop him for simply missing a train. Instead of the eleven plus being an examination that has to be passed (or failed) we could add rivalry with other nations, complex systems of appeal and possibly a European law covering a poor mother having a puncture while taking her child to the eleven plus examination.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Eleven Plus Motivation

At some time or another some eleven plus parents may need to sell the idea of the eleven plus to their children. Of course advertising about eleven plus products is aimed at parents – it would, probably,  be a remarkably rare child who would take hard won pocket money to buy an eleven plus book in the face of parent disapproval.

Parents cannot continue to present the same arguments: “Passing will be good for your education. You should achieve a better job and make more money.”  At times children may need a rather more subtle approach.

A major greeting card company became curious why people really bought greeting cards. The company wanted to make more sales. One thing that puzzled the company was that year after year one of the best sellers was a barren, gnarled tree standing alone on a wind-swept and snow covered hill. It was not a cheerful picture – but had great pulling power. People bought the picture – and kept on buying year after year.

The company naturally looked at motivation. The key factor in the buying of the card was loneliness. It would be a remarkably sad and misguided parent who thought that preying on the emotion of the fear of loneliness would help a child to come to terms with the eleven plus.

Do you also remember the toothpaste company that began to outsell its rivals? The company promised that people did not have to brush their teeth after every meal. Of course this rang a bell in the minds of many people. “No dear, you do not have to brush your teeth after working on an eleven plus paper. Tooth bacteria is not the same as adverse feelings about extra work!”

No matter how parents present the advantages of sustained eleven plus work – children have to feel the same excitement as their parents. There is little need for most children to feel gloomy about the extra work involved in preparing for the examination. Many parents will simply rely on the highly reassuring and well-meant words:

“Don’t worry dear, just do your best. “

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Great Ball of Fire - It is the Eleven Plus

When Jerry Lee sang the famous `Great Ball of Fire’, a whole generation rocked to the tune and the sentiments.

"You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, but what a thrill
Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!!"

The next time your candidate sits down to a paper try humming the tune into the `listening ear’. You could then progress to the actual sentiments of the stanza. Take, for example, the first line:

You shake my nerves and rattle my brain

This could easily be a formidable rallying call for eleven plus parents. You want to paint a picture in your child’s mind of a mother or a father in need of help and support. Your child NEEDS to understand that the eleven plus is a matter of give and take.

The third line is also highly significant in eleven plus terms. Parents do not want to break their child’s will – and children, we hope, will let up, occasionally, on the pressure on their parents. “Yes dear, the eleven plus is a matter of give and take. I am so pleased you recognise that.”

But when you come to the line dealing with `Great Balls of Fire’ you could offer a little bonding. Why not try sharing the preparation of meal before you start on the paper?

Great Balls Of Fire

455 g hot sausage meat
280 g tomatoes – chopped
2 green chillies – chopped
910 g cheese
1 fresh eleven plus paper

Brown and cook the sausages in the frying pan. Drain and place in a small slow cooker.

Stir the tomatoes and green chillies

Cut the cheese into chunks and add.

Start on a timed eleven plus paper together.

Cover and cook for one hour.

TIP: This works best if you do not add the eleven plus paper to the pot.

Server with warm hugs and lots of praise. Sing the verse again – and see how well received it is after your gentle `working togetherness’. Say with great passion: “You achieved over half marks on the paper. Goodness gracious – great ball of fire!”

Friday, February 03, 2012

Will Anyone Remember Some Eleven Plus Questions?

When you were at school you were taught that nouns are inflected for number and case. There are two numbers: singular and plural. There are six cases Nominative, Vocative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative and Ablative. There three genders: masculine, Feminine and Neuter. There are five declensions distinguished by the endings.

The First Declension is probably the one many of us will remember with affection. It was all to do with a table.

Nom. Mens-a (fem) a table
Voc. Mens-a O table
Acc. Mens-am a table
Gen. Mens-ae to or for a table
Abl. Mens-a by, with or from a table

Your child opens a verbal reasoning book.

“In the first exercise one letter can be moved from the first word to the second word, thereby making two new words.”

“For these questions, fit the same letter into both sets of brackets to complete the words in front of the brackets and begin the words after the brackets.”

Latin has been around for a thousand years. The Eleven Plus has been around for around fifty years. Will the eleven plus still be around in a thousand years? Will anyone in fifty years’ time remember: “For these questions, fit the same letter into both sets of brackets to complete the words in front of the brackets and begin the words after the brackets.”

In fifty years’ time your child will be in the prime of his or her life. Would he or she be more likely to remember mensa, mensa, mensam, mensae, mensae, mensam or “For these questions, fit the same letter into both sets of brackets to complete the words in front of the brackets and begin the words after the brackets.”

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Could Tom Sawyer pass the Eleven Plus?

Just before Easter in 1989 the police mounted a special patrol in London’s Oxford Street and in four weeks eleven officers picked up three hundred and thirty three children between the ages of seven and sixteen.  We must wonder where the children came from and why they were there.

It is obvious that discipline with a school is important – and must be crucial to the level of truanting. It must be difficult for some parents to spot if their child is playing truant. A truant will often stay away from home during the hours that he or she is supposed to be in at school. Schools have to keep a register of all children in the classes. Some schools have amazing systems to allow children to `clock in’ and parents can then notified of absences by text messages and the like.

As a child I used to envy Tom Sawyer who was able to go floating off down the Mississippi with his great friend Huckleberry Finn. When I became a teacher my view of truancy had to change.

I was given a book called The Backward Child by my first headmaster – Mr. W. W. Wilson. I had been given the top class of the year group for my first three years of teaching and Mr. Wilson offered the fourth stream for the fourth year – hence handing me on his copy of `The Backward Child’. My edition is the 1957 edition (The book was first written in 1937.) Sir Cyril updated the book to take into account some of the consequences of the 1944 Education Act. This was the act which tried to make provision for different types of children. In part, the act lead to the development and extension of the eleven plus examination.

Page 562 gives one of Sir. Cyril Burt’s interpretations of truancy:
“At school the dull child feels a hopeless failure. His life may be one humiliating round of rebuke, disgrace and punishment. He soon comes to dread the daily journey. He is tempted to play truant. Truancy brings freedom and opportunities for enjoyable mischief; and so little by little he drifts into crime.”

It seems possible that some bright children may also come to dread the daily journey. There could be some able children bored by school and all that school offers. The challenge of the eleven plus may be welcome to some children.  These could be children who love solving problems and feeling that they are being extended and enriched.

Parent could test this `theory’ themselves. They could offer their child the choice of a new and innovative eleven plus exercise – or the ennui of yet another eleven plus paper. Some children would find this an easy choice to make.

Excuse me – but would the innovative and energetic Tom Sawyer have passed the eleven plus – if he had had the opportunity?  

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Is the Eleven Plus a Fair Examination?

There may come a moment during the day when your mind may think of dinner. Of course you will want your child to have a proper meal – sitting at the table – without the benefit of the T.V., ipad, phone and other ancillary mobile devices. In other words you want your much loved child to have a proper meal. To do the meal full justice you will need to set the table.

A Formal Dinner Setup (Or, the family unites during the eleven plus year.)

It is easier to describe the setting from right to left.

3 5 7 (Service Plate) 6 4 2 1

1. Oyster fork (Normally forks are on the left – but if you are serving oysters then the fork is far right.)

2. Soup spoon

3. Fish fork

4. Fish knife

5. Dinner fork

6. Dinner knife

7. Salad fork

If your dinner is a little simpler then all you have to do is leave the odd fork or knife out. (If there is fruit for the first course then a spoon will replace the oyster fork.)

Eleven plus mothers and fathers may need a little help with the serving of the meal. If you have helped with eleven plus questions, completed a service run to drama, prepared the meal, cooked the meal, heard reading, set the table and called the family together – then you may feel you need a little help with actually serving the meal. What do you do? You call upon your eleven plus child.

“Not now, please, I am struggling with question 35.”

“Please get off the chair, stop watching T.V. and help with the jellied soup.”

“Oh please, not again.”

“We can do a deal. You help with the meal and I will help, afterwards, with question 35 while the rest of the family wash up.”

“It is not fair!”