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Monday, December 31, 2012

Eleven Plus and von Pirquet

We hear about some very strange eleven plus results over the years. We hear of children who pass unexpectedly – and of children who somehow do not reach the required standard. There can be little doubt that some questions suit some types of brains. Could there be an easy answer?

If we take a reasonably typical eleven plus question, aimed at an eleven plus high-flyer, we can expect a variety of responses. Do you remember attaching cardboard to the spokes of your bicycle so that as the wheel rotates you hear a variety of clicks and `burring’ sounds? Have you ever envied the freedom of the surveyors walking purposefully along pavements? These men and women are not bound by desks – but often have the freedom of the open air.

Back to our eleven plus question:

A sturdy surveyor is pacing out the site of a projected housing estate. A surveyor needs to know the horizontal distance between two points and uses a trundle wheel with a circumference of 50 cm. Each time the wheel turns it clicks. Two clicks equals one metre.

How many centimetres are there in six clicks?

How many clicks will there be in a typical `T’ junction?

This question requires a degree of calculation – but also shows the need for appreciation of the width of a road as well as car and lorry turning circles. How many eleven year olds have these skills? We can see that the centimetres question can be considered a `fair’ question – but what about the `T’ junction element?

Estimating answers to measuring questions can be highly personal. We know, for example, that a new born baby is measured and weighed on a regular basis. Some parents will even have kept these early records. Height, for example, is a linear measurement. Some earnest parents may have followed the course of testing the hypothesis that the relating height to the cube root of weight! Clemens von Pirquet was involved with the distribution of emergency rations after the First World War. He suggested that the cube root of weight could be divided by the sitting height in centimetres. A figure of 100 was considered normal. One below 94 indicated under-nutrition.

The problem was that if the height was measured just one centimetre too much or too little the whole formula was suspect. Please, if you have time, try this with your eleven plus child!

A child with just one mark above the `pass mark’ can pass the eleven plus. A child with one mark below can fail to win a place in a grammar school. Being one centimetre out can change a result – just as the appreciation of a few `clicks’ can alter a child’s future.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eleven Plus Functional Skills

Eleven plus children need functional skills. All eleven plus children need functional skills. Some eleven plus children need functional skills. Some eleven plus children may need functional skills. It depends, we must suppose, on what is meant by the functional skills needed by an eleven plus child.

The functional skills needed by eleven plus children lie in English, mathematics and information technology. Children who have good functional skills are probably able to maximum advantage of the opportunities allowed by the eleven plus. Children will use these skills to develop the aptitudes, attitudes and behaviour patterns need by the extent and scope of eleven plus work.

By now the question must arise – but why does an eleven plus child need sound information technology skills?

To help mum and dad with the computer and the internet when necessary
To be able to address the computer using the mouse and the keyboard
To have the skills, and the confidence, to be able to apply competence in information technology to new situations.

In English eleven plus children must be able to read, write and listen. They also need to be able to reason orally and in writing. In mathematics the children need, at the very least to be able to process information as well as perform concrete and abstract calculations.

A simple eleven plus question can illustrate using functional skills – along with verbal and numerical reasoning.

A girl sells chocolate to her brother. She sells two pens for the price she paid for three. How much is her profit?

Ask your eleven plus child explain to you why the profit is 50%.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The `Pre Eleven Plus Quiz'

How do you know if your eleven plus child will enjoy the benefits of an eleven plus education? You could try a little `Pre Eleven Plus Quiz’. We know that the ambition of parents will play a large part in the pre-examination preparation – but there are other factors as well. The eleven plus child has to have some degree of ambition, common sense and motivation. Naturally sheer ability also helps!

Ask your child to rate the following:

Wanting to attend the same school as friends

Enjoying Reading

Interest in computer games

An active sporting life


Tidy Bedroom

Asking about career opportunities

Visiting museums


Writing Poetry

Constructing Lego models

Looking after the sick

Planting and gardening

Visiting a cave


There are many options that can be used in the` Pre Eleven Plus Quiz’. Parents could devise their own with questions on sport, school, interests and aptitudes.

The quiz could point to careers in veterinary sciences, becoming a doctor or a nurse.

Other questions could cover business, finance and economics

There are all the engineering options to follow.

Languages, psychology, physical education and beauty therapy could all play a part.

The one ingredient that may prove to rather useful is sheer self-belief. If your child believes that passing the eleven plus is both practical and possible then perhaps . . . . .

Friday, December 28, 2012

Eleven Plus Characteristics

Would it be true to say that the eleven plus examination brings out a spirit of competition in some parents? Would some parents like their offspring to become judges? One person who looked carefully into the characteristics that marked a judge was Francis Galton. He published the book `Heredity Genius’ in 1869. My edition is that of 1962 from the Fontana Library. It is necessary to point that that I was not alive in 1868?

Galton thought that judges played an important part in society. He felt that that judges were not men who were carried away by sentiment or who became dreamers. He decided that judges were often `vigorous, shrewd, practical and helpful men, glorying in the rough and tumble of public life’. He maintained that judges aimed at position and influence and desired to found families!

Galton held that the average age that a judge was appointed was 57 and the average age they died was 75. (“They commonly died in harness.”)

Did the sons of judges inherit the characteristics of their fathers? Galton thought so.

Parents of today’s eleven plus children may feel stimulated to look back through any genealogical tables that may exist in the family. Who knows, there may be the odd earl or two. Perhaps the family were all doctors and lawyers.  Galton felt that judges had `sterling’ qualities. Eleven plus children need `sterling’ qualities to put up with all the extra work and study – along with having to listen to earnest exhortations from teachers, parents and the rest of the family and friends.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Eleven Plus 80 - 20 Rule

A well-known man, V. Pareto, was an original thinker. He is well known for his 80 – 20 law. He discovered, back in 1906, that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20 of the people.  Would it be true that 80% of grammar school places come from 20% of the people?

Pareto talked about:

 `unknown’ incentives
 `residues’ – which are declared motives
 `derivations’ or accepted ideals.

He explained that people constantly feel the need to justify their actions in a logical way. He further felt that because many people are unwilling to recognise true incentives – they adopt `pseudo-logical’ residues and derivations.

Where does this fit into eleven plus parameters? Able children, with parents who recognise their ability and have the means to help their children prepare, are likely to do well in the eleven plus. Some parents will maintain that they simply want to give their children the best possible chance. Other parents will declare that their child deserves a place in a grammar school because their child is bright and able. All of these feelings and thoughts appear to be entirely logical.

Do parents really have to be accountable for striving to give their child the chance of passing the eleven plus? It does not seem fair for their motives to be questioned – because as a number of parents say: “You only get one chance.”

Most of us will recognise that originally the eleven plus was designed to give bright children from poorer backgrounds a chance of being able to enjoy an academic education. Just because some parents have the time and the money to be able to support their children it does not mean that the motives of these parents need to be questioned. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reaching Eleven Plus Potential

By the time a child moves to secondary school parents and teachers have a pretty fair idea of his or her academic potential. There are, however, some real surprises. A few bright children turn out to be high flyers – because they are called `late developers’. By the time the eleven plus examinations come along some children may have been allocated the dreaded `will possibly pass’ or the: `I am sorry, but it does not look as if it is going to happen’. With true late developers, however, a shake of the head can tell the whole story with any words.

Parents of very bright children may hear a range of remarks – and it possible that, at the time, they are all relevant.

“Yes, Mr. and Mrs. X. Some very bright children do face the problem of being able to finish work ahead of their classmates.”

“Please Miss. He is bored again and keeps annoying me.”

“Oh dear, you are day dreaming again. The rest of the class have already left the room. What on earth are you thinking about?”

“You son (daughter) simply does not finish work on time. The work is remarkably untidy. I am sure he/she is capable of more.”

“No, I do not think that it is a good idea for your child to go to senior school a year early. Missing a year will remove your child from his/her classmates. You could be building up social problems.”

“Yes, your child is very mature for his/her age, and we all think that your child is brilliant, but working with children a year ahead can be a real struggle. The older children in the class may be more than a year older – and much bigger than your child. This could cause problems.”

“We are doing the best we can. Your child is already doing extra maths classes.”

“We think your child is reaching his/ her full potential. Please, just be a little patient.”

Parents of late developers can just try to offer as much stimulation as possible at home. It may, however, be hard work trying to keep up with a myriad of changes of interest.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Eleven Plus Looking and Listening

Ask any eleven plus mother or father and they will very likely give a remarkably similar answer. Some eleven plus children may be able to pay attention to something else while his or her parents are talking. Other children may pray for time. Mowbray, back in 1954, in: “The Perception of Short Phrases Presented Simultaneously for Visual and Auditory Reception’, may have agreed. He concluded that a division of attention was not really possible!

“Dear, please read the question again.”

“I have. I still don’t know what it is saying.”

“Now look at the question. Read it to me.”

“I can’t, you are still talking.”

“Please, just read the question.”

“What is the next word in this line? artist, paint, sculptor, stone potter ,,,, “

“What do you think?”

“I still am sure what I have to do. I know I have to find the next word but I am not sure what the next word is.”

“Let us read it together.”

“Oh Mum!”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eleven Plus Darts

It is not wise for a beginner to concentrate on the 20 sector, when playing darts, because it is all too easy to hit the 5 or the 1. It may be far better for the beginner to aim for the bulls-eye – after all you may, by chance, get a good score. Many players prefer the 19 sector because a hit and two misses can give 10 + 7 + 3 which makes 29. The 20 sector gives 20 + 5 + 1 which is 26.

Fairly Expert
Go for the trebles. Start with 20 then 19 then 18. This adds up to 171.

The sheer joy of hitting a treble 20 gives, I understand, a long lasting thrill. As I have never hit one I can only witness the unbridled joy of the dart thrower.

General Hints
Cold hands can easily cause the unwary thrower to miss vital shots. I have even heard of experienced player who bring a hand warmer to their games!

Winning the toss to see who throws first can be important – because the following player has to catch up.

The Dart Board
The dart board, in England, has twenty sectors numbered from 1 to 20. The board had doubles, trebles, an outer ring and a bulls-eye. The bulls-eye is worth 50 points. You have to throw a double to end the game.

Eleven Plus Mathematics

Ending on 9: 1 and a double 4
Ending on 29: 5 and a double 12
Ending on 39: 7 and a double 16
Ending on 180: Treble 20, Treble 20 and double 20

We can now see that the eleven plus candidate needs:

To aim for the bulls eye
Go for trebles when possible
Make sure you child’s hand are warm before starting on an eleven plus exercise
Let you child win at least some eleven plus arguments
Work on mental arithmetic exercises
End the exercise with a smile and a well done. You child may want to do double the amount of work next time.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Homer and the Eleven Plus

Will the eleven plus ever embrace at least some of the teaching of Homer? Homer was a poet and the Greeks believed that poets were the primary teachers of mankind!

Some eleven plus parents may feel a need to attend classes on: “How to help my child to understand my poems.”

Course One – the difference between doggerel and poetry.
Course Two – how to appreciate epic poetry
Course Three – understanding my child’s eleven plus teacher’s comments on my child’s eleven plus poems
Course Four – poets of the Fourteenth Century
Course Five – an abbreviated history of modern day poets
Course Six – the relationship between poems and verbal reasoning questions
Course Seven – understanding long division through the eyes of a poet
Course Eight – Homer and the eleven plus – Part 1
Course Nine – Homer and the eleven plus – Part 2
Course Ten – Homer and the eleven plus – Part 3

By now you may be asking – why Homer? Remember the Spartans? They were inspired by Homer.  It was the prowess of the Spartans that gave rise to the early Olympic Games. The Spartans were leaders. So if you want your child to be a champion – then read some poetry to him or her!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gifted Eleven Plus Children

Dr. H. J. Eysenck obtained his Ph. D. degree in psychology at London University. He became an influential researcher into fields of personality. In his 1953 book `Uses and Abuses of Psychology’ he was concerned with loose thinking under the guise of psychology.

“As compared with unselected children, these highly intelligent boys and girls were less inclined to boast or overstate their knowledge, they were more trustworthy when under temptation to cheat; their reading preferences, character preferences and social attitudes were more wholesome; on the whole set of character tests, the gifted child of 9 tested as high as the average child of 12.” (Pg. 72)

Now we know that the parents of every aspiring eleven plus child will feel that their child has all these worthy character traits. The majority of parents are, however, remarkably realistic about their children’s personalities and ability.

Eysenck summarised data about the gifted from a variety of sources:

90% of gifted men and 86% of gifted women entered college.
Less than 10% were found in the slightly skilled trades
71% of the gifted were classed in the two top grades of the professional ladder.

Of course many of his conclusions were held up to scrutiny but few will argue with his statement that gifted men and women occupied much better jobs and earned far more money than others.

The parents of the very bright eleven plus children will hope that their children are happy at school and at home. They will also hope that their child grows up to enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career. Passing the eleven plus, with remarkably good grades, does not automatically slot a child into the gifted category – but this may be a reasonably good start!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rousseau, Emile and the Eleven Plus

There are, we understand, big changes mooted in the world of the eleven plus. Will the changes be brought about by one man or woman of some stature or by committees? Many people acknowledge that Rousseau, for example, was the inspirational source of every great reformer since the eighteenth century.

Could Rousseau have been thinking about eleven plus children when he wrote:

“The wise physician does not hastily give prescriptions at first sight, but he studies the constitution of the sick man before he prescribes anything; the treatment is begun later, but the patient is cured, while the hasty doctor kills him.”

Do the august and eminent, when consulting each other about the `true' nature of ability and intelligence, enjoy fresh thinking and definitive ideas – or are they simply reacting to the thoughts and theories of others?

The `new style’ eleven plus papers, in some areas, will include comprehension, vocabulary and numerical reasoning. We need to go back some forty years to find eleven plus papers with elements of these `new’ ideas.  When Rousseau had `new ideas’ his books were burnt and warrants were issued for his arrest.

All we can do is hope that the purveyors of the `Revised Eleven Plus’ have done their homework and have found the secret of true ability!  I hope your child is successful. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Eleven Plus Allegory

I have a book, previously owned by the Rev. G.E. Bussell. I have no idea who Rev. Bussell is, why he bought the book and what use he made of the content. My copy is the `Cheaper Edition’ of 1937 by Alfred Adler. The book is called: “Understanding Human Nature”.

Adler maintained that the book was an attempt to acquaint the general public with the fundamentals of Individual Psychology.  I remembered a passage when I heard a mother talking about her eleven plus child the other day. She mentioned his eighteen year old brother. The older brother had started off very well at the grammar school and then stopped enjoying school in Year 13.

Adler wrote about (Page 104) the history of a very capable young boy whose father, a teacher, constantly spurred his son on to be first in his class. Alder described how the young boy kept having victories – and was always the conqueror. The story developed to where the boy was now eighteen and depressed, distracted. He described how he went to great lengths to withdraw from the world. His father, however, hoped that his shut in life would enable him to concentrate on his studies.

There was no happy ending to Alder’s case. The boy was ruled by the idea that his father was to blame for his misfortune, and their relationship became worse day by day. Alder maintained that the boy was judge, claimant and defendant all in his own person.

Would the Rev. Bussell have preached that it would be fine to offer a reward for coming first once or twice? Would the Rev. Bussell have approved of a measured and thoughtful approach to the eleven plus? Would Adler have loved to have had the ability to interview and study a few of today’s eleven plus children?

Would it be preaching to say that the moral of the story is that eleven plus children do not need to be put under too much pressure?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eleven Plus Acceleration

It looks as if some of our eleven plus children may have to do some different types of mathematics in the years ahead. Do you remember doing these little equations at school?

V2= u2  + 2as

Can you recall your science teacher, garbed in a white coat, holding a piece of chalk explaining acceleration to the class? Did your teacher take you, and your class, up to the roof of the school to demonstrate the speed of a body falling? (No – not a classmate falling but an inanimate object!)

You are given the following information:
The body (u) falls at 30 metres per second
It accelerates (a) at 2 metres per second
It takes (t) 10 seconds
To reach a velocity (v)

To find velocity:
V = at + u = (2 x 10) + 30 = 50 metres per second
To find speed:
S = ut + ½ at2 = (30 x 10) = (1/2 x 2 x 102)

Your eleven plus child will tell you in a few seconds that:
300 + 100 = 400 metres

So the average speed is the distance travelled (s) divided by t.
100 divided by 10 = 40 metres per second.

Now for the eleven plus question:

If the body starts travelling at 30 metres per second what speed will the body reach?

A 50
B 70
C 20
D 80

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Rupert Brooke

Do these words from Rupert Brooke remind you of your examinations? Can you imagine your child sitting the eleven plus and experiencing at least some of these emotions?

Remind your child – if the sun is shining in his or her eyes while the test is on – then ask to have the curtains drawn!

Do not hunch over the paper – sit comfortably – but do not slouch.

Say quietly to your child that if others in the room keep working until the last minute it does not mean you are going to fail.

We know that a `gyre’ is a vortex. Remind your child: “Keep calm. Keep steady.  Don’t panic – most of the rest of the children will also be struggling.”

In Examination 10th November 1908

Lo! from quiet skies
In through the window my Lord the Sun!
And my eyes
Were dazzled and drunk with the misty gold,
The golden glory that drowned and crowned me
Eddied and swayed through the room...
Around me,
To left and to right,
Hunched figures and old,
Dull blear-eyed scribbling fools, grew fair,
Ringed round and haloed with holy light.
Flame lit on their hair,
And their burning eyes grew young and wise,
Each as a God, or King of kings,
White-robed and bright
(Still scribbling all);
And a full tumultuous murmur of wings
Grew through the hall;
And I knew the white undying Fire,
And, through open portals,
Gyre on gyre,
Archangels and angels, adoring, bowing,
And a Face unshaded...
Till the light faded;
And they were but fools again, fools unknowing,
Still scribbling, blear-eyed and stolid immortals.

A final word to your child: “The light may fade on the eleven plus but you just need to do your best. That is all we can ask for.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Numerical Reasoning and the Eleven Plus

Some eleven plus children are tested on numerical reasoning. There may be some eleven plus parents who could, possibly, want their children to have an edge in the examination. One attraction of numerical reasoning is that some elements are hard to coach. The following table may help some parents revise a little used mathematics lesson from years ago. Do you remember your teacher drawing up this table on the black board? Do you remember the squeaky chalk? Do you remember the dust and the smell? Did any teacher ever throw a backboard rubber in a lesson?


“Mum, thank you. But what is a cardinal number?”

“That is easy, dear, it is a simple number – or an absolute number.”

“Wow! Did you learn that at school, Mum?”

“I remember lots of what I was taught at school.”

“Mum, what is an ordinal number?”

“Well that is a number that forms part of a series.”

“What a good mathematics teacher you must have had!”

“Why do we learn Arabic numbers and not Roman?”

“You know, dear, I really do not remember. We will have to ask ….”