Search This Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

Zen and the Eleven Plus

An eleven plus teacher saw five of his students walking into their lesson holding books, files and papers. When they arrived the teacher asked his students, “Why are you doing the eleven plus?”

The first student replied, “I am doing the eleven plus because my parents want me to go to a good school.”

The teacher praised the first student and said, “You are a clever boy! Making your parents happy is a good thing.”

The second student replied, “I love to do mathematics problems, and I really enjoy non-verbal reasoning.”

The teacher said, “You are a good student. You will go on to do well academically.”

The third student remarked, “When I do eleven plus questions I enjoy the peace and quiet in the house at home.”

The teacher said, “The quiet and gentle side of your life will make you a wonderful person in years to come.”

The fourth student replied, “When I am doing eleven plus questions I feel competitive and hungry to do well.”

The teacher said, “You have learnt to adjust to the pace of the world. Go well my student.”

The fifth student said, “I do the eleven plus to do the eleven plus.”

The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student.”’

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Multiple Choice Eleven Plus Questions

“When you find yourself near the end of the test, and you are running out of time, start guessing. You will have at least one chance of guessing the right answer.” This must be a familiar litany from the lips of a number of eleven plus parents.

What parents are trying to encourage their child to hold firmly in the `examination working memory’ is a set of rules and procedures to follow. “Dear, in the examination, keep asking yourself some core questions.”

“Have I made sure that my decision about the multiple choice answer is based on a logical decision?

I am allowed to remember, in the middle of the examination, that an intuitive decision may be as valid as a logical one.

Have I eliminated the answers that simply cannot be correct?

Do I need to go back to this question – or am I reasonably confident?

How can I keep track of time?

Will I leave myself time at the end to be able to go over some questions?

Will I remember to take my watch to the examination?

Mum said that I can guess the answers to some questions.

Dad said that I must keep trying to the end and cannot give up.

My sister said she did the same examination as me and passed – but she also said that she is brighter than me.

Do I really want to go to grammar?

Is there really only ten minutes left?

Oh dear – so many instructions about multiple choice questions – I wish the test was over.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fixing the Eleven Plus

'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

“Eleven plus teachers can make up their own minds about what they teach.”

The first statement fills us with a wry smile. The second has the ability to send shivers up our spines. There is no `Eleven Plus Syllabus’ for teachers to follow. There are books, texts and papers prepared by publishers and teachers which, however, we can follow religiously - when necessary. There is no one in supreme authority who can tell an eleven plus teacher what to teach and when to teach it.

Traditionally eleven plus pupils have been offered little choice in a curriculum. Children seem to understand that working through papers and eleven plus exercises will help. If their understanding is a little fusty – then their parents and teachers usually are fully capable of telling them what to do.

An eleven plus child may have a list of objectives:

Passing the eleven plus
Getting into a grammar school
Working hard at school
Listening to my teachers and parents

Parents, however, may see parts of the eleven plus differently:

Giving my child the opportunity to do well at school
Helping my child to learn how to work independently
Passing the examination

Naturally these lists cannot be applied to all eleven plus children and their parents. There may well be marked differences between aspirations on the part of both parties. (“To be with my friends,” for example – may play a part!)

There will always be some form of hidden curriculum in the eleven plus. Many of us will be eternally grateful that there is no great need for conformity.  Most of us will probably be reasonably happy with: “If it is not broke – do not try to fix it.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eleven Plus Technology

Eleven plus children, and their parents, who are `into’ educational technology, may possibly, enjoy an advantage over other children. The influence of modern psychology is strong. There was a Professor Piaget who influenced much later thought on the behaviour and capability of children. He was focused on the need for orientation towards the learner. Piaget (1896 to 1980) also emphasised the importance of maturational factors.

At around the same time professor Skinner (1904 to 1990) was working on learning. He showed the world what could be done with an objective approach and an emphasis on a reward in the learning situation.

We can see key words emerging that could apply to at least some eleven plus children. A great number of eleven plus children will need to be:

Motivated to work in an objective manner
Able to enjoy the fruits of rewards for good work

Some elements of the eleven plus syllabus do not seem to have changed much over the last fifty years. What has changed is the ability to apply present day knowledge of multimedia to techniques of learning and teaching. Today’s educational technology is not just about turning on the computer and linking to a web site. Is more to do with the relationship between hardware and software and the resulting emergence of new types of thinking.  

The teaching revolution is not missing the eleven plus – and it can offer some children new and exciting ways of learning and assimilating knowledge

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Eleven Plus Movie

You decide that you would like to keep a record of your child working on an eleven plus paper. You maintain that what you really want to do is to create a form of a travelogue – possibly with the help of sub titles. Your instinct, however, warns you that sub titles may be a step too far.

Talking into the eye of the camera is rather disconcerting at the best of times – but recording your child’s eleven plus lesson can either be fun or an ordeal. You may decide to pick the topic you are going to record very carefully. If you pitch the eleven plus exercise too hard then you may be in for a lengthy session. If the work is too easy, then you may not know what the outcome will be. There is a rule that eleven plus parents invariably follow – never ask a question if you do not know the answer.

Long Shot (LS) The room, the books, the child and your escape route. This is the whole of the scene.

Close-Up (CU) Take a close up of your child’s face as he or she looks at the first question.

Medium Shot (MS) Your voice could reiterate the well-known eleven plus truism: “Read the question, dear!”

CU Your child’s face as realisation dawns. “I can do it!”

LS Bring the range of the shot out to show a general shot of your child singing while answering the question.

LS If you wish to show the passage of time why not include the evening meal being prepared?

You could of course try for an ELS – which you know is an Extreme Long Shot. There is also a BCU which, of course is a Big Close-UP.

Parts of the eleven plus are packed with abbreviations and manipulating letters. If you can cope with filming, recording, speaking into the camera, preparing the evening meal and helping with an eleven plus question – you know you are a true eleven plus parent.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Careers Guidance and the Eleven Plus

Passing the eleven reveals a strategy for the acquisition, utilisation, improvement and retention of eleven plus information.

This statement brings out many of the features about what is good about the eleven plus. The words acquisition and utilisation show the wide scope of eleven plus information that a child needs to be able to call upon in the examination.

Of course there are going to be children who do not need to work through eleven plus exercises and papers. For other children financial restraints may make them less competitive.

We hope that the vast majority of eleven plus children will be able to enjoy life at university and will emerge as potential leaders. Some will be scholars, others business people and there will also be a wide range of young men and women with interests in the arts, science, technology, agriculture and the human sciences.

If only the eleven plus examination could help our bright ten year old children to explore and investigate some of these areas. The eleven plus relies heavily, in some areas, on reasoning topics – some of which are archaic and unwelcome.  

Is there no way some careers guidance can be woven into the eleven plus?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Post Eleven Plus

One day the present eleven plus candidate may want to hold down a job. This could be to pay for driving lessons, a trip to Peru or even trying to pay back university fees. The employer will look at your child (by now a young adult) and make a series of decisions.

How many employees do we need?

What qualifications are needed for the job?

Is there going to be a problem with age?

How important will the induction be?

Do we need to try to recruit from a wider pool?

Do we have the right people doing the interviewing?

Do we believe the C.V.?

Will this candidate want promotion?

Is twelve A* GCSEs and four A grade A Levels enough to fill this job of being a first class barista?

By this stage passing or failing the eleven plus may not really be of any major significance.  Some university students will pass many happy hours serving coffee, enjoying the banter and squirreling the tips. They may look fondly at anxious parents urging their precious child to complete yet another paper. They may hear a parent say: “If you do not pass your eleven plus you may land up serving coffee. Do you want that for the rest of your life?”

There could be a little pause in the hubbub of the coffee house while a rapt audience contemplated this loaded question. One student, studying `Early American English’ may whisper:  “Well Mark Twain knew the difference: `Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education’.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Eleven Plus Change

When working on eleven plus papers do parents simply need to explain how to answer a question – or is there more to it than that? When one parent feels that he or she can act as a chairman or a mediator – then does the `share of information’ become easier? Does it really take two adults to explain a truly complex topic?

Some parents may feel, at times, that they have reached stalemate with their child. Both parties have given as much as they can – but the penny still has not dropped. Do parents twist or stick?

An eleven plus child may sometimes find it easier to learn if he or she is provided with concrete examples as well as a fully blown oral explanation.

Parents and children have to share a mutual and lasting commitment to the eleven plus - wavering can cause unwelcome and untimely disturbance.

Parents who are prepared to be flexible and understanding are likely to be able to communicate with their `candidate’.

If change does have to take place within the family, as a result of the eleven plus, then all concerned may have to be innovative and dynamic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Pineapple Beer

Are these statements True, Partially True or Not True?

It is good for children to do eleven plus papers.

The grammar school is the right place for all bright children.

“Once you are at grammar school, you will find new friends.”

There could be endless debate about any of these `hot’ topics. There will be shades of opinion wherever eleven plus parents meet. Is the following recipe suitable for children?

Pineapple Beer

The skins are usually regarded as waste but they can be used to make a cool and refreshing drink. Just the thing for a hot eleven plus child on a baking day!

The skins should be well washed and then put through the mining machine, Place this pulp into enamel bath and pour water in the proportions of seven pints of water to the skin of four medium sized pineapples.

Leave overnight. The next day, strain the mixture and add in the same proportions two cups of sugar. Keep stirring the liquid until the sugar dissolves. The `beer’ is now ready for bottling, but should be left to stand for two days before uncorking.

Are these statements True, Partially True or Not True?

Eleven plus children should be offered little treats.

A little pineapple beer can do no real harm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is the Eleven Plus a Complicated Examination?

The eleven plus is quite a complicated examination. There are the desires of parents, the ambitions of the school and the goals of children. Some parents may even feel a need to shrink at the very thought of trying to help their child embark on such a winding path.

The first thing that parents need is information. They need to know about books, materials, teachers, tutors and the thoughts and feeling of other parents. The raw as well as the potential ability of their child is also a major factor. Parents also need to know about the pass rates in their present school, the entry requirements of the examination and the attitude of the school’s head and staff at school.

The eleven plus has a form of jargon of its own. Parents are not only involved with reasoning , for example, but also with the different types of verbal and non-verbal reasoning. As the eleven plus journey develops some parents may find that some of their friends become a little less communicative about some aspects of the eleven plus. The examination is a competition. Only the best and the brave will pass.

A man called Roger Ascham (1515-68) believed that children should be drawn to learning by gentle methods and not compelled to it by bullying.

Today, some parents may hope that their children are drawn to the eleven plus by a genuine desire for learning – and are not driven to it by didactic bullying.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eleven Plus Excuses

There is a theory that much of human learning takes place through imitation. In a great many eleven plus situations children will learn to solve a problem –not by being original or highly creative in their thinking – but by imitating someone who can solve the problem

When the eleven plus child writes an answer to a question he or she has often learnt how to cope with the topic in the company of others. Few eleven plus children will learn by being sent to their room to study a topic and then be expected to be able to apply this to an eleven plus question.

We hope that eleven plus children will imitate the work and actions of good role models. We saw in the recent riots that even very bright young people will imitate each other. When mob hysteria strikes, then people can be urged to commit horrendous crimes.

Who does the eleven plus child imitate if he or she is faced by a challenging question? We could look, for example, at a question that we hope will never come up in an eleven plus examination.

A certain number of pence is being shared among some children. If they have eleven pence each there are three pence left over. But three pence more are needed if they are to have twelve pence each. How much money is being shared, and how many children are sharing it?

When mum or dad is called to the table to help to solve a challenging question their eleven plus child may well be watching their demeanour and conduct with great interest. If possible parents should not show fear or trepidation but should read the question twice and then murmur quietly and confidently: “69p and 6 children.”

Their child will look up in awe and ask: “How did you do that?”

This is where an excuse to run and see to the rest of the family may be appropriate.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Effective Eleven Plus Teaching

How can parents try to ensure that their child is being offered effective eleven plus teaching? In one sense it is easy for parents – the outcome they want is for their child to pass the eleven plus. The bar is raised even higher in some areas – where children have to pass the eleven plus and be offered a place in the grammar school of choice.

Parents have to try to gauge whether their child is being attentive and receptive to eleven plus work – and to work out in their own minds if their eleven plus teacher is pursuing an appropriate course of action.

When the child ends the lesson it would an ideal scenario if the candidate could turn to the `eleven plus parent’ and say: “That was wonderful, I learnt so much.” The cynic would argue that the statement would need to be backed up by a range of `wonderful’ eleven plus work.

The eleven plus, as countless parents no doubt have found, is far more than the physical resources of books, papers, tests, internet based exercises and other equipment. Parents may well have found that they need to plan and help their child prepare for the examination. Some parents may even have found themselves being caught up in a setting where large demands are made on the family.

If, however, parents can feel that they are part of mutually supportive team – with the eleven plus teacher, friends, family, other eleven plus parents and siblings all working together – then it may be easier to determine the effectiveness of the eleven plus teacher.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eleven Plus Laws

Eleven plus parents may care, at times, to think about how their child is progressing in the even plus year. The eleven plus is not just about scores climbing but about discovering how, when expectancy is established, then it is possible to generalise this to a class of objects. Your child who expects to be able to work hard enough to be able to pass the eleven plus could, under certain conditions, be expected to transfer this to the necessary amount of work.

The expectancy, when it is transferred, may only be partial. There could possibly be a deep rooted antipathy towards reading – and this could impact on some types of verbal reasoning exercises. The child could then expect that it would not be possible to ever reach one hundred per cent on a paper. A lack of reading vocabulary, for example, could have a considerable impact.

Some children appear to find it difficult to differentiate between a mother trying to help her child do as well as possible in the eleven plus and a mother who needs to make her child work steadily and seriously. The child may be required to learn to differentiate between the different roles. The eleven plus throws up a set of peculiar circumstances – where anxiety, competition and pressure have to exist hand in hand.

Do you remember Rudyard Kipling (1885-1936)? He may have been talking about the eleven plus when he wrote in the `Law for the Wolves’:

Now that is the law of the jungle
As old and as true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper
But the wolf that shall break it must die.

Every eleven plus parent will need, at times, the strength shown in this final verse:

Now these are the laws of the jungle
And many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the law
And the haunch and the hump is – Obey!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Eleven Plus Children

There is one thing that parents are trained in right from the beginning. This is where a mother or a father says: “I don’t mind what he or she does as long as he or she is happy.” Obviously parents want their children to enjoy reasonable success – but not at any price.

One theory in vocational guidance is where an attempt is made to match a talent to a career. This is reasonably straight forward, in theory, but does it mean if a bright ten year old is good at skate boarding he or she should be encouraged to try to study this at university? (I am not sure if there are skateboarding degrees.) Carrying this a little further does an interest and an aptitude in fresh water fishing mean that a degree in land management is a good idea?

A different way of parents looking at possible careers is where a non-directive approach is made to counselling. Here the parent would try to help their child build as comprehensive picture as possible. The hope is that the insight the child gains over time gives the equipment to be able to choose a fulfilling occupation.

Naturally there are a number of factors a parent takes into account when looking fondly at their child.

Top of the list may be physical characteristics. This, of course, will be rubbished by some. Who knows?

General intelligence must also come into the equation.

Aptitudes and interests will also play a part.

Finally the child’s disposition must be taken into account.

All in all endless discussions, changes of mind and mood swings, will help to determine the path parents will follow as they maintain: I don’t mind what he or she does as long as he or she is happy.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Eleven Plus Aggression

When an eleven plus child reacts angrily or aggressively it does not mean that tension is natural before an examination or that the child is being `wicked’. It also does not mean that the work is too easy or too hard or just plain boring.

Aggression may be a way of solving a problem – when no other solution appears to be working. The eleven plus child, being bright and probably reasonably articulate, will not always see aggression as the only solution to a problem. There will be times when no signs of aggression will be evident. A child who sometimes rants and raves at parents may be able to treat a school friend with care and respect.

Some parents may try to record all the outbursts. Do they occur at the same time of day? Who else was present when the tantrum was offered? What was the reaction to the outburst? Was there an attempt to fight fire with fire? Did someone try to diffuse the situation? Did the aggression start with teasing by a sibling?

Was the child calling for attention?

Did a `time out’ help? Do any time outs help?

Will a contract help?

A great number of parents will never experience any aggression what so ever.  We wish them well!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eleven Plus Books

When you murmur, very quietly, that it could possibly be a good idea to `Go and read your nice book’ you may care to recall the story of the book shop owners in Australia. One day the two owners received a manuscript ostensibly prepared by a premier writer.

The pair duly invested in the book and started promoting and selling it all over the country. Naturally the book enjoyed a viral readership. There were even customers queuing outside the shop on weekends. The proprietors felt that their fortunes were secure.

The tumult grew until a national newspaper took up an option to serialise the book and the contents were discussed on cultural T.V. shows. The vendors were grateful for their good fortune – but were sad that no film rights were discussed.

Of course there was talk of a sequel. A nation-wide search ensued to find the author. Some newspaper reporters were more attentive than others – then one day there was a scoop. The book was written by two poets who strung together meaningless words and phrases at random. The police seized all the unsold copies and prosecuted the book shop owners for misleading the public. The poets stuck to their anonymity – which was covered by the `Freedom of the Press’.

It may be a good idea to dip into a few of the pages of books selected by bright ten year olds – with reading ages over fourteen.  You may never know unless you look!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Healthy Eleven Plus Children

Over the years there have been many influences on education in England. A philosopher called Ruskin had strong ideas. He postulated that there should be training schools for youth – at Government cost and under Government discipline over the whole country. He insisted on:

1.       Laws of health and the exercises enjoined by them
2.       Habits of gentleness and justice
3.       The calling by which he is to live.
Ruskin did not believe in a uniform system of education. He felt that schools should fall into three classes:

1.       For children who will probably have to live in cities
2.       For those who will live in the country
3.       For those who will live at sea.

The children who lived in the city needed to be taught mathematics and the arts, children in the country needed natural history and agriculture while the children who were to go to sea needed geography, astronomy and the natural history of sea fish and sea birds.

He wanted to see the schools in the `fresh country where the air was fresh’. He wanted girls to be taught courage and truth. He valued sincerity very highly.

We can see from this brief look into thinking over a hundred years ago that there were feelings, among some, that girls should be given as good as education as possible, that schools needed to be progressive and that health and exercise were essential. To some of us this is almost like the prescription for one of today’s progressive grammar schools. If only Ruskin had added an eleven plus test! We could have had our children tested for honesty and valour; we could have had a comprehension vocational guidance system for ten year olds and bunches of fit and healthy academics running around. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Eleven Plus Ambigram

We were working on tables today. One of our brightest had brought a table from school and wanted help with consolidating the table into a scatter graph. We went through why a table needed a title that described what the table was about. Our star told us about labels on the x axis and on the y axis. This had be learnt at school. We discussed why headings on the columns and on the rows needed to be descriptive – and that their spacing and size need to be appropriate. This led us to a general conversation around if it was possible to label a table in such a manner that one should not have to refer to the text.

We then essayed in the very dimensions of a table. Should a table fit the page, or when was it possible to allow a table to become part of a page. Are columns allowed to be longer than rows or should we look for symmetry?

We know that `a picture may be worth a thousand words’ – but only if the picture is accurate and a true representation of the data. It must be remembered that we started on a discussion on scatter graphs but went on to bar graphs, pie diagrams and trend charts. Some-one suggested that pictograms were useful because we could use cartoon characters.

The scatter graph was duly drawn and admired. A quick diversion followed into what could be measured and charted and this led to a spirited chat about the origin of a graph. One of the children turned the graph upside down and noted that the main heading could be read upside down. This is the sort of useful tactic used by children of all ages to fend off getting back to their own work.

Naturally, being the teacher, I was privileged to be able to demonstrate an ambigram. This is where if you turn something upside down it reads the same. All true eleven plus parents will be able to demonstrate to their children that ambigrams can rotate, appear as mirror images and even form a linking chains.

The lesson changed again and more eleven plus work was done on ambigrams. Will the children ever get a question on an ambigram? Is it possible that they could be offered a question to do with mirror images or rotational symmetry? Where does eleven plus work start and where does it finish? It would take an ambigramist to sort this out. (I could not find the word ambigramist in the dictionary – but you know what I mean.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eleven Plus Decisions

Is a ten year old mature enough to be able to do a bit of organisation? (How long is a bit of string?) Some are and others would like to be! In one way it probably depends on what the eleven plus candidate is being asked to do.

There is a lot of preparation to be done before we can expect a ten year to be able to make organised, informed and thoughtful decisions. Collect all the different eleven plus books and papers you think your child will need between now and the examinations. Layer in talks from past candidates, improvement lectures from interested relations and promotional speeches from the parents of school friends.

Once your child has gathered the `data’ then ask him or her to process it – exhaustively and protractedly. Allocate time for many thoughtful discussions and conversations. Then run through this pre-eleven plus checklist:

Has your child made a plan of action?

Is your child able to communicate a decision in a way that most people will understand?

Will all concerned `buy in’ to the proposals?

Does your child have a method of monitoring and charting the progress?

Is your child committed to the eleven plus?

Will empowering your child to make eleven plus decisions help to solve at least some eleven plus problems?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Well-Balanced Eleven Plus Child

It is a real pity that the eleven plus for most children is simply an exercise in filling in little boxes. Suppose your child could be asked to produce paragraph or two of handwriting? There would be no reason for a human to look at the writing – after all computers can read and verify signatures so it simply a small leap for a computer to be able to look at a passage or two.
The first thing that needs to be considered is the page as a whole. Did the candidate use margins effectively? Usually in an examination subjects are asked to leave a wide margin for comments and marks. But we do know that if no margins are left then the writer wants to fill every bit of his or her life. A well balanced margin can show a well-balanced life.

Now we come to the slope. Forget about slope being affected by the position of the paper on the table – we need to look at the nitty-gritty. Horizontal slopes show a clear and orderly mind. Lines that slope upwards show optimism and enthusiasm.

Large writing shows an ambition person. Slanting forward demonstrates a creative mind.

If we want a well-balanced eleven plus child, filled with ambition and enthusiasm, largely ambitious and certainly creative we need to look no further than a few lines of writing. Surely parents could help with this?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Delightful Eleven Plus Questions

At one it was thought that some girls could be taught home economics.  It was also thought that grammar school girls would be too busy doing their homework to be able to learn how to prepare `Sauteed Caramelised Fennel’. It was held that some girls who were not at grammar school could even be taught how to make an Iced Lemon Layer Cake.

Parents used to have to pay for the ingredients – and were more likely to pay for their girls learning how to make cakes and pastry. Of course it was essential that the food needed to be wholesome. Indeed girls who were not at grammar school needed to be helped to be as much like their mothers as possible.

The debates about intelligence testing and the inequalities of selective education did not seem to take much account of gender. Boys who were `unready’ for grammar schools were thought to be technically minded while girls were supposed to be given a vocational education – which really meant a domestic education. Some schools were even fitted with model flats where girls could practice their skills.

In 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act became law. Classrooms, teachers and examination boards had to change the way they looked at education.  Naturally,90% of children selecting `home economics’ were girls – but at least boys could consider `taking’ an interest.

Eleven plus boards today do not publish the scores of boys and girls so there is no way we can know if girls find the eleven plus easier than boys. There could be, however, a further little test that could be offered to bright pre-grammar school children. As well as working through eleven plus papers the children could also be asked to prepare `a little something’. Parents all over the country could be encouraged to help their children learn some `useful’ and `practical’ skills. What about if all the children had to prepare one of Delia Smith’s Mascarpone Nutmeg Ice Cream recipes?

Think of the conversation within the family. “Mum, I really need to work on my Ice Cream recipe.” Better still the chat could be: “Dad, I really need to work on my Ice Cream recipe.” Even better still: “I love doing Eleven Plus questions. Please Mum and Dad can we all work together?”

75 ml of mile
Half a nutmeg
1 egg yolk
1 level teaspoon corn flower
75g Caster Sugar
250 g tub of Mascarpone
1 small tub of fromage frais

Instead of children having to work thorough eleven plus papers – all with remarkably similar questions – children could experiment with other fillings and toppings! Ice cream every day? Pure delight for some!

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Brief Eleven Plus History

We need to go back to 1926 when the Report of the Consultative Committee on the Education of the Adolescent (The Hadlow Report) recommended that there should be:

·         A separation between primary and secondary education at age 11

·         That allocation to either Grammar or Modern school should be by examination at 11

·         Modern School education should be similar to that of the Grammar school – but shorter and more practical

In 1931 another report was published – this was the Report of the Consultative Committee on the Primary School. The report supported the Hadlow recommendation that the age of transfer should be at 11.

In 1938 the Spens Report was called Report of the Consultative Committee on Secondary Education with reference to Grammar School and Technical High Schools. This report proposed three types of school – Grammar, Modern and Technical.

These reports all led up to the 1944 Education Act which changed the administrative structure of education – and the word curriculum was not used!

Of course more reports have been written and poured over since 1944. The eleven plus, however, has maintained a steady presence in a number of authorities. The education of many children must have affected by being able to attend a grammar school.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Clever Eleven Plus Parents

Is this one of the best eleven plus questions you have ever worked through?

Would you like the answer before you read the question?


“How did you get the answer?”

“I worked through the question.”

“Let us read this together.”

20% of the people in the street own a dog.
30% own a cat.
40% own a bird.
5% own a dog and a cat.
4% own a dog and a bird.
3% own a cat and a bird.
1% own all three.

What percentage of the street own at least one dog, cat or bird?

Before you shake your head at your child and wonder aloud why he or she has not completed the exercise in the required 54 seconds, think back to when your child was in reception. Do you remember the Christmas Party when your child was required to share sweets with the rest of the class? Do you remember how proud you were when your child was able to complete the exercise with minimal intervention?

Your eleven plus child will be able to tell you about populations and variables. You may even be able to help your child build a visual structure. A very clever man called John Venn (1834 – 1923) went to Cambridge and studied philosophy. He worked out a relationship between sets and subsets. Sometimes there will be numbers outside of the set – this is called the complement. Sometimes the sets may overlap – and this is the intersection.

Armed with all this information I would love to hear your child explain this question to you. It would also be fascinating to hear how you help your child understand.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Random Eleven Plus Questions


Part of a Random Numbers Table

Every now and again it is possible that your thoughts may have wondered if a certain type of eleven plus question was really going to come up in this year’s examination. You may have used the principle of randomisation to ensure all the different types of alternatives had an equal chance of occurring. Some of you may have used a well-known examination paper with eighty questions with your child.

You could select ten questions out of the eighty and do those topics with your child.

You could choose five questions and leave out five questions

You could suggest to your child that he or she does not work through the questions in a sequential order but that it was possible to jump around the questions and execute them in any order

You may want to suggest to your child that he or she works through the paper touching simply on random questions.

Could any of these methods of choosing questions help engage your child’s interest or should he or she work solemnly through the paper in a sequential order? When questions are selected at random you are trying to ensure that all the possible alternatives have an equal chance of occurring.

Of course if you have a number of random numbers tables then you will need to select the tables at random! This is often done by closing your eyes and stabbing at the page with your pencil to choose a starting point. You then drop the pencil from a great height and move up and down the table depending on which way the end of your pencil is pointing.

If you are trying to select ten numbers from eighty you could establish a starting point and then select the numbers in five sets of pairs.

You could maintain that you use only even numbers for the first five questions and then only odd numbers from your table for the next five questions.

You can simply start at the beginning of the table and choose the next ten numbers. You could start at the end of the table and choose the previous ten numbers.

The writers of eleven plus papers are following some form of a system in presenting questions to children. Not all eleven plus papers will follow the same ordering system. The questions on one paper could be very different from those on another. Naturally parents are not purchasing eleven plus papers at random. They are relying on the integrity, expertise and knowledge of the authors of eleven plus papers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Eleven Plus Recipe

It would be wonderful if progress towards the eleven plus examination was able to follow a straight and narrow road. If a parent could encourage their child to work through eleven papers and attend a mock examination set by their school then a pass would be reasonably secure. Unfortunately much of the eleven plus is experimentation.

There is no one recipe that parents can follow towards the eleven plus. The ingredients are rather complex. Parents have to factor in what is happening at school, outside activities, desire of their child to succeed and their child’s ability. The eleven plus is more of a cook book. One recipe can work for the family at one stage of the preparations while a different one may be needed later on.

If parents try to select a particular recipe they need to appreciate what the recipe is aiming at – and what that particular recipe is capable of achieving. There must, for example, be a close relationship between their child’s motivation to do well academically and future success in the examination. Can parents build motivation through sharing a `good talking to’ or is something a lot more practical needed?

In some ways parents of children working towards the eleven plus are offered a cornucopia of eleven plus materials and opinions. Parents can dip into different areas and experiment to try to find that elusive something that will help their child towards success. When the going gets tough – as it will over the course of the year – then parents can yell for help or can try another direction or another approach.

The Eleven Plus Recipe
6 Years at a good school – with lots of support and interest
2 oz of sympathy and interest from the family
3 finely chopped tests from a major supplier
15 detailed and kindly conversations with friends in the playground
Gallons of effort from `The Candidate’

The inclusion of a little piece of ginger can bring out the flavour of the eleven plus experience. Add some outside opinions from the internet. This brings us to the most important part of the eleven plus – time from the parents. Without time the whole recipe can fall flat. This is the time to go over papers together, time to look up processes in books and on the internet and time to cope tranquilly with the imperious demands of the eleven plus. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Eleven Plus Relationships

It is possible to draw an accurate relationship between success on eleven plus selection papers and passing the eleven plus examination? We hear of children doing very well with 70 – 80 per cent on some papers – and still passing. Some relationships, however, are hard to confirm. We all enjoy the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard. Those of us who have had the privilege of watching must be struck by the tall hats that are worn so proudly. We know that the headgear was once called a bearskin – but that the material has changed recently. Why do some guardsmen sometimes faint? Are the bearskins too hot and too heavy?
We know too that when the guardsmen go on parade they march with great precision. They also have to stand around a lot. Could there possibly be a relationship between the surface the soldiers are standing on and the number of guardsmen on parade? Perhaps the guardsmen faint because they have to stand still for so long. Perhaps the surface is too hard on the feet. Of course temperature may come into account. A very hot day, a weighty bearskin, standing around for long periods, up too early in the morning – all of these are factors could influence a relationship between being a guardsman on duty and fainting on parade.
Some parents may even be a little over optimistic about a worthy relationship between a mark on a selection test and a final mark in the actual examination. Some children may find day to day selection tests tedious and boring. Yet these children may have the ability to rise to the occasion on the day of the actual examination. Could there be a relationship between finding a test selection boring and enjoying the challenge of the real test?

Encouraging children to work through papers at home can never be a panacea but is probably the best method we know of estimating chances of success. The whole argument, however, falls apart as there are easy selection papers, medium selection papers and hard papers. How can a parent ever be really sure?

Is it possible that there will always be some children, with the necessary ability and motivation, who are not able, for one reason or another, to take advantage of all the gifts they have been offered? Somehow we need to try to help these children gain some insight into the complexity of the examination. We hope that children can learn insight through lots of practice. We hope, and presume, that familiarity with papers and questions will prove to be useful in the actual examination. It would be wonderful if there really was a relationship between 80% on some unnamed eleven plus paper and an elusive eleven plus pass.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Eleven Plus Work on Sundays

Sometimes it may be useful to be able to clear your child’s mind about what he or she is trying to achieve. Passing the eleven plus does not depend on being able to answer a single question on a Sunday afternoon. We know that in the eleven plus examination a child’s ability will be `measured’ and `judged’ – but this, thank goodness, is not the same as struggling over some obscure question.

Eleven plus parents will dip in and out of different teaching and instruction modes in the course of an eleven plus session.

Knowledge Objectives
Can you recall the number of degrees in a triangle?
Can you recognise the difference between a similarity and an opposite?

Inquiry Objectives
Can you apply the number of degrees in a triangle to a question on degrees in a triangle?
Can you recognise the questions where similarity occurs?

Attitudes and Values
I can see that you are able to understand that there are one hundred and eighty degrees in a triangle and that you can apply this information.
You have shown good understanding of the questions with opposites.

Trying to build a list of objectives for an entire relationship with parents and children working towards a competitive examination would be demanding. Parents need to be able to evaluate the work that has been covered together. Repeating the exercise could give immediate feedback. Some eleven plus children, however, may begin to wriggle if everything they do is examined and re-examined.

For some the most difficult aspect to test will be that of attitudes and values.  Every time, however, that your child looks at you with a smile and a `Thank You!’, you will be able to reflect that perhaps everything will come right some day.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Eleven Plus Assumptions

The family are sitting round the table discussing the Eleven Plus.

Mother: I think we need to summarise. We know that you need some free time and you need to be able to meet your friends, but your education should be given a fair chance.

Father: What were your main areas of concern? Do you think that passing the examination will be beyond you? Are you worried that your friends will forget you if you do not meet them every week?

Candidate: It is not that. I know that you two are biased and that you want me to pass the eleven plus, but I am allowed to raise an argument. I know that the eleven plus is important, but so am I. I just do not think that I should have to do so much extra work every week.

Father: Your teacher at school predicted that you would probably do well in the eleven plus. What if we said that we will try to work with you to build an eleven plus schedule?

Mother: I can see you raising your hand ready to argue, but we have had some projects where we have completed our tasks on time and under budget.

Candidate:  There is no budget for me in this round of any eleven talks. You have never promised me any reward for working hard at eleven plus work.

Mother: Now you are making assumptions. Passing the eleven plus should be a reward in itself. We should not have to pay you to do any extra work.

Candidate: (Reverting to a natural state) See? I told you that you would never just listen to me.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Eleven Plus Plans

We have had the pleasure today of hearing of the triumphs of some of very good eleven plus children – who have been offered schools of their choice. We can only commiserate with the unsuccessful. The pain and anguish that some parents must be feeling can only be imagined.

Helping a child to adjust to a potentially difficult situation can be a complex operation. We know quite a lot about adjustments to bodily needs – because when we are hungry or thirsty it is not easy to conjure up a substitute for eating and drinking.

Ideally we would want to inform the children as much as possible about the remaining choices of schools. We want to try to help them to make informed decisions. Our eleven plus children should be able to look at quite complex situations and make decisions that are understandable. We recently had a girl who passed her grammar school entrance tests, reached the school of her parent’s choice – and then flatly refused to go to the grammar school. Her argument was that she would prefer to be at the top of the local school rather than have to work hard all the time at grammar school. This is a girl who was able to weigh up and evaluate intermediate and long term plans.

Some children and their parents may be forced into decisions – where they may feel that their choice has been taken away from them. In the end all concerned may have to adapt their plans. If parents are prepared, once the decision has been made, to throw their weight wholeheartedly behind the `new’ school, their children may be able to come to terms with an unlooked-for change of plans little more gracefully.

One mantra that parents may be prepared to offer on a regular basis is, “You will get there in the end. We know you tried your best.”

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Eleven Plus Intelligence

Spearman, back in 1904, wrote on `General Intelligence’.  He was writing well before the eleven plus emerged – but some of his observations seem to be relevant even today.

He felt that the first part of intelligence was to do with mental activity - as shown at school. He was concerned with the relationship between subjects.  The eleven plus also revolves round examining a relatively narrow field of reasoning ability.

Then Spearman was concerned with school order. He looked at the difference between a child’s rank at school and the child’s age. He was concerned with absolute rather than relative differences. A boy who was 20th in the examination and 22nd by age would be placed just above one who was 15th in the examination and 16th by age. The former was two better than the latter who was only one better. If eleven plus parents think that this is unfair – then listen to some eleven plus stories!

The third kind of intelligence was to do with the general impression produced upon people. Teachers, for example, used to classify children as being `bright’, `average’ and `dull’. No politically correct teacher would dare to go down this route today. Would, however, opinions of grandparents be excluded?

The fourth and last sort of intelligence was to do what is known as `common sense’. Does an examination candidate really need to be able to have common sense? A child with oodles of common sense would probably do very well in an eleven plus examination!

What Spearman did was enter all the results into a great and complex equation. He tried to eliminate irrelevant factors. In the end Spearman wondered if there was something like a General Sensory Discrimination and a General Intelligence. He thought that there was common fundamental function which unified intelligence.

In the end, way back in 904, he felt that measuring mental activity depended on:

The accuracy with which a test can be conducted
The rank of the test
The rank of the intellectual duties within the test.

Eleven plus children and their parents want and need:

A fair test
To know which test result is more important
To understand exactly what the test was measuring.

Nothing much changes in time does it?