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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eleven Plus Ceremonies

In what we call `savage society’ initiation ceremonies were used to conduct young people into man-hood or woman-hood. During this initiation specific training was given in adult customs and obligations. We know of many examples of initiation ceremonies as they often been portrayed in books and on television. Fairly high up on any list must be the initiation ceremonies of the Red Indians. I can remember reading with due fascination Margaret Mead’s `Coming of Age in Samoa’ where she highlighted difference in the attitudes of Samoans and Americans.

What would anthropologists have made of the eleven plus? Would they consider the examination to be a rite of passage from being a child to becoming a worthy member of a grammar school? What will parents think about the eleven plus in fifty year’s time?

Can we picture an `eleven plus camp'? We would see a group of boys and girls around a large camp fire. The children would be holding eleven plus papers in their hands. Suddenly there would be a concerted wave - and the papers would be thrown onto the flames. The children would then sing an eleven plus song.

We sometimes like doing papers
We just don't want to do them every day.
Please ask some challenging questions
So we actually have to think.


We are the best. We are the best.
Papers don't make potential
Thinking always helps.

What do parents think about the eleven plus right now?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eleven Plus Dynamics

Our eleven plus courses start next week. Children from a wide number of schools will be meeting each other. When they are at school the children will be very aware of a form of pecking order. It is easy for all the children in the class to recognise those on the top table along with those on the middle table.  

When children come on a course they meet likeminded competitors – all striving to do as well as possible. They become part of a group with a common endeavour but they remain individuals. The children will adopt, at different times, a number of guises and attitudes towards the others.

Some will be happy with a form of `fight or flight’. This is where the children will either listen to a virtual stranger’s views with respect or try to argue a point.

A second approach may be to break into pairs – possibly with the assumption that they are meeting with a like-minded `colleague’ and will continue to work together peacefully and purposefully.

There is also a third possibility where the children look for a natural leader. This may be a confident and able child with a strong personality.

Weaving in and out of the different dynamics there will a strong sense of purpose that if anyone says or does something `out of key’ then the group will show their collective will.

There will be many layers of attitudes towards the work the children will meet on the course. Different relationships between the children and their tutors will also emerge. If parents could steel themselves to sit and watch their children over the duration of the course the word `phylogenetic’ may spring to mind. For the most part the parents will see their children sitting quietly and seriously. They will see occasional flights of humour. But most of important of all they will see a steady pattern of extraordinary sophistication and intelligence. If the word phylogenetic is to do with evolutional development then parents will be able to reflect: “That is my child. A chip off the old block.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Oxygen and the Eleven Plus

“Mum, do you have any different last minute advice? What did Auntie Stella tell you before you got married? I asked Auntie Stella but she just laughed.”

“She said, as she pinned the corsage onto me, breathe deeply.”

“Why did she laugh?”

“I think we were all happy.”

“But why should I breathe deeply before I sit the eleven plus?”

“It is funny you should ask this, but I know the answer. I remember from my examinations at school, all those years ago. Air passes through trachea or windpipe. Contractions from the diaphragm help to push the air into your lungs.

In the lungs there are little air sacs or alveoli where oxygen is extracted from the air. The oxygen is carried off to the heart.”

“Your Mum knows everything, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, Dad, but how much oxygen do you need in a day?”

“Well we need about fifteen litres an hour. Before your eleven plus you may need more oxygen in your body.  The extra oxygen could help you to think.”

“Ok, thank you. I know what you are going to say. This is one of your silly eleven plus questions. How much oxygen do you need in a day?”

“Do you mean an eleven plus day or an ordinary day?”

“Don’t be silly Dad. You know what I mean.”

“Ask your mother. She is better at maths than me.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Venns and the Eleven Plus

At one Venn Diagrams were held to be `New Maths’ and the diagrams were embraced by teachers in Junior and Secondary schools. Times change, new brooms and ideas come in, and old mathematical concepts are thrown out. One of the problems with solving Venn diagrams is that there is an element of problem solving – and all concerned have to think!

A set of objects can have the property of two. There can be one fish in one pond and a second fish in the other pond. It only becomes complicated when we add the third fish. Does Fish Three warrant another pool or can that dear little fishy swim in number of pools? A Venn Diagram can help.

Here is an example:

A group of ten eleven plus students are preparing for the examinations. Six are studying mathematics, five study verbal reasoning and seven non-verbal reasoning. Three study maths and verbal reasoning while two work on verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. Four out of the ten study non-verbal reasoning and mathematics.

Every eleven plus child is working on at least one of the subjects. How many students are preparing for the eleven plus by working through all three disciplines?

This type of question seems to be coming back into fashion. Some eleven plus examinations now have numerical reasoning questions. Venn diagrams can creep into this mixture. How do people solve a problem of this nature?

Some will build a table. The combinations will be recorded.

Others will perform some sort of algebra – along these lines: (x – 1) + (3 – x) + x + (4 – x) + x + (2 – x) + (x + 1) = 10. As x + 9 = 10, so x = 1.

A few may even hold the combinations in their heads and come up with the right answer in a remarkably short time. These are probably the mathematical thinkers who realise that the three children studying maths and verbal reasoning are included in all three subjects.

(So the answer is still 1!)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eleven Plus Test Cycle

There is sometimes a fear in educational circles that projects which mean well, somehow disappear and leave no trace on the educational landscape. Will the New Style Eleven Plus’ meet the same fate?

We hope that advances in understanding of the term `ability’ will prove to be central in the tests. Sadly information about the nature and the extent of the tests seems, for the most part, to be hidden. Will eleven plus tests - with numerical reasoning items- help to select a different type of child to those who earlier gained entrance to grammar schools? Why is a comprehension question a better predictor of academic success than some forms of verbal reasoning questions?

Will these new eleven plus tests become national and permanent? Over the eleven plus regions in the country, we have a selection of tests for eleven plus children. In some ways it would be wonderful, for some, if children could pick and choose which eleven plus test they wished to take. A child good at reading may choose to take tests with a strong element of reasoning. Other children may want to sit tests where speed and accuracy counted.

We presume that `official’ eleven plus test have been through a cycle.

The Development
Steps that are needed
To provide information what needs to be tested, how it is tested and the accuracy or validity of the questions
Trialling questions with a select audience
Informing various authorities about the scope and the extent of a different style of question.
Showing how effective the tests are in selecting children who will do academically
Building a partnership between primary schools and senior schools
Making sure that the `New Style Eleven Plus’ is understood and recognised.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Eleven Plus Pressure

In certain parts of England there is considerable pressure on eleven plus places. We hear of stories of nine to ten children trying to fill one seat. Surely that puts a large onus on the successful candidate – who has successfully fought off the many hankering after his or her place?

There is a term: `Nine tailors make a man’. The theory was that a tailor was so weak that it took nine of them to make a man of average strength and stature. The story goes that an orphan lad, in 1742, applied to a fashionable tailor for alms. There were nine journeymen in the establishment – each of whom contributed something.

The orphan lad became rich, in time, and adopted the motto: “Nine tailors made me a man.” The orphan went on to help others less fortunate. A good story!

This story of tailors and orphans may not be entirely true – but it does have a nice ring.

There is another suggestion about the nine. When a man died the bell was rung three times – with three peals. A woman, however, was only offered two peals for the three rings. (Eleven Plus mathematics shows that 3 times 3 = 9 but 2 times 3 = 6!)

We are told that in some Lancashire parishes that there were nine knells of the clapper for the man, six for a woman and three for a child. (Is this where the words; “I feel clapped out!” come from? This is just a thought!)

Eleven plus parents can take heart. They may at times have to repeat something at least nine times – but there is a chance that their child could, in time, become rich and help someone else!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Eleven Plus Bees

Does the eleven plus ever leave the mind? Are there opportunities wherever you go?

We went to the Horniman Museum this morning. `Horniman’ was a great collector. “The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman, who had inherited his father's Horniman's Tea business, which by 1891 had become the world's biggest tea trading business.” (This is obviously a rather neat follow up to yesterday’s thoughts on tea.)

The museum has many nooks and crannies. We were fascinated by a woman telling stories to a rather large group of children and adults. If ever you are in, or near,South London then this is a `must visit'!

I wonder how many eleven plus children have been confronted by their parents by the question on bees?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cups of Tea and the Eleven Plus

There are quite a few facts eleven plus children need to learn – but one vital one is that a pound of tea makes between 150 and 200 cups of tea! Every time your eleven plus child offers to make a cup of tea it may be worth-while checking how many questions are left to do!

You could take time out to explain that tea is classified for popular distribution by the method of curing and the size of the leaf.

Green tea is from leaves that have withered and fermented.
Back tea comes from leaves that have fermented before heat treatment.
Oolong tea is only partly fermented.

The words pekoe and orange pekoe refer to the size of the leaves.

We all know that most tea is a blend of several  varieties and qualities. Wholesale merchants will buy their tea from many different plantations. I grew up in Zimbabwe where tea was grown in Chipinga and the Honde Valley. Both areas were close to the town where I went to school. A little eleven plus question springs to mind.

A wholesaler, some years ago, bought 20 kilo of tea at 60p per kilo, 50 kilo at 52p and 30 kilo at 44p. If the wholesaler mixed the three kinds together, what was the average cost of the mixture per kilo?

20 kilo at 60p costs 1200p
50 kilo at 52p costs 2600p
30 kilo at 42p costs 1320p

100 kilo of the mixture costs 5120p

The average cost per kilo is 5120p divided by 100 = 51p.

A kilo of tea should make about 500 cups! Ask your child to estimate what the wholesaler was paying for a cup of tea!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Eleven Plus Mistakes

Is it easy to convince an eleven plus candidate that it is possible to learn from mistakes? Naturally you will say: “When you learn something new, it is likely that you will make mistakes.”

Your child may then agree – but still want to move on and leave the battle field.

Your next admonishment becomes: “If you learn from your mistakes you may avoid making the same mistake again and again.”

At this stage there may a rather indistinct mumble.

You then ask the question: “What have you been told to do?”

“I must not jump to conclusions. I must read the question.”

“And the second suggestion?”

“Oh yes. You keep reminding me to consider all the possible answers before choosing the right answer.”

“Yes dear. Mistakes are not bad. They are bad only when you do not learn from them.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eleven Plus Tests

Parents use the results of eleven plus tests and papers to assess and monitor the progress of their children. Concentrating on the results of eleven plus papers, however, may not provide a full picture of a child. Sometimes test results are used in a diagnostic manner – where parents are trying to find out what needs to be done. Tests can also be used in a formative manner – to enable planning of future work. Summative marking of tests gives a score or a level.

There are some computer-adaptive tests which are sensitive to each pupil’s answers on the test. The computer selects and presents new questions that are matched, as far as possible, to the pupil’s performance.

Parents using on-line tests would probably expect instant analysis and results. Some tests will offer National Curriculum levels. Parents may have a variety of questions they want answered.

How is my child doing in comparison to other children in his or her age group?

Is my child reaching a reasonable level of achievement?

What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

Are there any areas I need to concentrate on?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pre Eleven Plus Behaviour

Some ideas on keeping happy before the eleven plus.

Communicate with your eleven plus child. Be gentle with yourself. Avoid other competitive parents.

Try, as best as you can, to help your child to enjoy as much restful sleep as possible and practical. Strive to enjoy the same luxury for yourself!

Go easy on strange foods. Keep it simple and straight forward.

Help your child feel good.

Keep family life as normal as possible. You don’t need to close off the rest of the family.

Help your child to try to achieve positive outcomes.

Challenge unacceptable behaviour.

Work together in the hard and low times. Try not to take it out on your child.

Work towards developing an independent child. (You won’t be there in the actual examination!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Eleven Plus Memories

In the eleven plus world we meet means every day. We watched a very able girl working on a `mean’ question where she was adding up a long list of numbers. She started doing the calculation in her head, then changed to breaking the long list into three parts. (One of us was checking her calculations on a calculator!)

The conversation drifted, as it does with the very bright, into other areas of means or averages. It was suggested to her that she may enjoy looking at a `working mean’ or the deviations of successive numbers from the mean. This naturally does not play a part in the eleven plus – but a deviation from a working mean can excite the imagination of a bright nine year old (nearly 10!).

Take the example where a teacher is trying to work out the ages of pupils in a class at school.

14.5, 15.2, 14.3, 13.9, 14.10, 14.11, 15.3, 14.6, 15.6, 16.1, 15.4, 14.4, 14.9 and 15.3

We asked our embryo mathematician to estimate the average age. She came up with the age of 15 years. This was very fortunate as it made subsequent calculations easier.

We wrote down two columns of numbers – one marked `+’ and the other `-‘. The deviations are written in months.

Average Age15.00






The average age is 15 years 0 months less 1.2 months which is 14 years and 10.8 months or rounded up to 14 years and 11 months.

Our eleven plus girl will certainly meet up with deviations from the mean when she is studying advanced mathematics a year early! I wonder if she will remember this lesson.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Eleven Plus and the Army

“If you want to do well in the eleven plus you will need to fight for it. The eleven plus is not handed to you on a plate.”

This is indeed fighting talk! (Is this called pressure on the child?)

There are units in the army where fighting is all important. These days the army usually fights against another country or against rebels. The army, however, is not only made up of men and women who are the actual fighters – there are the equally precious teams of cooks and bottle-washers - because without logistics those involved in the act of shooting would not even have the bullets.

All ranks and stations in the army are aware of the great need to work together. This is sometimes called character building. Men and women in the front line need to be disciplined and, at times, disregard danger.

The army prides itself on offering a heritage that soldiers are invited to embrace. The newest squaddie is taught to be proud of his or her squad – and mindful of responsibility towards others. A those joining the army are expected to be loyal and not let the `regiment’ down.

The army emphasises the need to have standards of behaviour that everyone adheres to. This helps to keep as many as possible alive!

All this emphasis on bonding and care for each other can be a little daunting to an eleven plus child! The family, however, has to work together during the eleven plus year. The rules of engagement may, however, be reasonably simple:

Law 1: No fighting with siblings
Law 2: No fighting with parents
Law 3: No fighting
Law 4. No fighting.

Bright eleven plus children will be able to understand the difference between no fighting and no fighting.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mean and Lean Eleven Plus Questions

When is an average an average?
When it is not mean!

A mean is popularly called an average. Why did Caesar not call for people who were `mean and hungry’? He wanted people around him who would listen to him.

Caesar asked:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Suppose he had asked for someone who was `average and hungry’. Then he may not have feared that Cassius was plotting against him.

The word `mode’ has a number of meanings – one is how often something happens and another is a method of travel. Is it likely that the word `mode’ comes from the Latin `modus’ – or a manner. Is this from the Fourth Declension?


Of course there is a different meaning altogether. Modes are the way scale are ordered. Scales used to dominate music in Europe for a thousand years. The plainsong of the Church has continued to be `modal’.

A very bright ten year old asked me today, “Why is an average called a mean?” I gave the short version. She then asked: “What is the difference between the mean, the median and the mode?”

I am sorry to say that I waxed lyrical – indeed her eyes glazed over!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lakes and the Eleven Plus

You have a very bright child. You would like your child to be educated in a high achieving environment. You whisper to yourself: “I would like my child to attend a grammar school.”

Because you are a mother you are allowed to be sane. Your much loved child finds it difficult to work though eleven plus papers. If the papers were offered orally then your child would be able to demonstrate skills and competence. The eleven plus examinations seem to concentrate on the ability to answer pen and paper questions. You realise that to pass an eleven plus examination a child has to be bright and hardworking – but you feel that your child has other attributes. You are naturally very aware that other eleven plus children may be just as good at as your child in the areas you wish to highlight.

You would like to tell the authorities to jump in the lake – but this could, possibly, be rather self-defeating. You child is good at picking up languages so you concentrate on developing this skill at home. Your child can say:

iTirate de cabeza al lago!
Vada a farsi friggere.
All vous faire pendre ailleurs.
Hang Dich auf!

They all mean the same thing: “Go jump in the lake.”

Will this help towards the eleven plus? Probably not much – but you could feel much better!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Eleven Plus and the Digital Revolution

There is a school building in Victoria – London – which is pretty old. The Blewcoat School was built to cater for poor children to teacher them to read and write.

Back in those days there was a strident debate about school. On the one hand there was a strong feeling that education should be offered in the same way it had been taught over the past thousand years. The opposition wanted new ways of teaching children where artistry and inspiration were highly regarded.

Schools and universities could break away from the medieval tradition and take up the study of literature, philosophy and science. Many, however, felt that learning about life from Greek and Roman literature was the only way to educate the young. (At that time Latin was still a living language – spoken and written by scholars and men of affairs throughout Europe.)

The debate about the value and importance of a Grammar School education continues. Some Grammar schools, we hear from anecdotal accounts, still stick to rather traditional ways of educating their boys and girls. Some schools now offer the ability to specialise in areas like Mathematics, Languages and Sciences give parents and children a degree of choice.

What would the founders of the Blewcoat School have thought about the eleven plus in its present form? Are Grammar Schools still for the poor?

I passed the school today while walking to hear a briefing by John Bevan - Head of Strategic Partnerships at Mozilla. Could a Digital Revolution help to change the 11+ and make passing the examination more accessible to a wider range of children?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Probability, Percentages and the Eleven Plus

It has been known, we understand, for parents to compare schools when talking about eleven plus passes. “Oh, dear! School A only had eleven Eleven Plus passes this year. I am glad my child is not there!”

This could be a little misleading! School A may only have had fifteen true eleven plus candidates so for eleven children to pass could be considered to be wonderful.  This could be 73.33%! (How one has 0.33 of a candidate is rather hard to imagine!)

School B, however, may have had far more passes – but may have entered a lot more children. Twenty children passing out of seventy five gives 26.66 per cent. We could of course round the 0.66 up to a whole number suggesting 27 per cent of children passed.

Some parents may feel a need to be a little conservative about accepting the percentages – without knowledge of the actual numbers involved.

It may be a little more accurate to talk about the proportions of children passing. Some eleven plus children will know that the probability of getting a six is one chance in six.

Eleven Plus Question

What is the probability of a child in School A achieving a place in a grammar school?

What is the probability of a child in School B being offered a place?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eleven Plus Ranges

If your child passes an eleven plus test offered by one authority – should he or she be given the same privilege in winning an eleven plus place at a grammar school in a different authority?

Two groups of eleven plus children from different authorities may obtain the same pass marks. We would like to think that both groups are as bright as each other. We would also like to think that the children received similar education, coaching and preparation. One group, however, could have had an eleven plus range of ability between 105 and 125. The ability levels of the other group, however, may have ranged between 85 and 135. It seems possible, therefore, that there is a difference between the two groups in variability and dispersion of brightness. (A score of 100 is average.)

The first group appears to be more homogeneous.
The second group more heterogeneous.

A homogeneous group is made up of largely similar elements. A heterogeneous group, however, can be composed of unlike parts.

The first group, in theory, should assimilate eleven plus information and work through eleven plus papers at roughly the same speed. In the second group the children at the top end of the ability scale may be frustrated, at times, by the speed of the slower children.

An eleven plus child, studying mathematics at school and in eleven plus exercises will be able to explain range.

We have not found out, however, about the number of children attempting the tests. Could one sample have had far fewer children? If one group had had three thousand children and the other only one hundred and twenty attempting the test we would need to be very careful about relying on the range. Would an eleven plus child understand this concept?

If a bright and able child passed comfortably in one county but could not `go to grammar’ in another – how would this be explained to the child? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eleven Plus Nursery-Thymes

Some children may be given a good start towards the eleven plus by their mothers and fathers reading or singing nursery-rhymes or lullabies. Some parents may even have relied on:

Hush a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

The rhythm suggests a rocking movement. The words draw a little picture. But how many parents put their children to sleep at the top of a tree? But what happens if the baby is a baby bird? Then this turns from a nonsensical account to a story of real drama. Poor little birdie!

Is this one nonsense?

Eaper Weaper, chimbly sweeper,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her.
Had another, didn't love her,
Up the chimbly he did shove her.

Was Eaper a a bad man who stuffed his wife up a chimney? How sad for the poor wife!  Is the story of Eaper Weaper a sound story to tell to a little child? After all the words and rhyme may stay in the tender mind.

At what age do parents take it upon themselves to try to explain about poor little birds dropping off the top of trees and a man getting rid of an unwanted wife?

And what about politics? There is no doubt that `Georgie Porgie’ was not a very worthwhile man!

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

This last account was a sort of code about King James and the Duke of Buckingham! The general public could not mock the King so sang about him instead. Solving codes is considered, by some, to be an important component in ability tests. A rich diet of rhymes and lullabies may have helped! 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eleven Plus Inflation

A. E. Housman had the right idea in 1896:

"When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me."

He knew all about the value of money.

We need to move forward to Joan Wheeler in 1932 – her `New Home Encyclopaedia’ was by Odhams Press. The book suggests that while a list of disbursements tells the spender how much he or she spends during a period, it does not really explain how the money is spent.

Some words do stand out on the page: “Systematic accounting prevents the mysterious melting away of cash, and the inward questions as the fate of the five pounds which was so recently available.”

It is almost as if an eleven plus question is coming up. “If the rate of inflation between 1932 and 2013 has a factor of about 16, then what is the 1932 £5.00 worth today?” (That bit is easy your eleven plus child will do that in his or her head.)

The second part of the questions will read: “Taking into account fluctuations on the currency market, what is a range of value we can rely on?”

Your properly prepared eleven plus child will announce: “It is likely that the range will be between £80.00 and £90.00.

A BBC News article reported on children who were good at maths.  

( Good mathematicians will earn more money in later life.

Based on the early parts of the question, if your child can now estimate the possible value of money in 20 years’ time – when they are around 30 years old – then you know you have a tiger in your family!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Eleven Plus and Motorbike

I was driving back home down an `A’ road this afternoon. A motorbike passed me on my passenger side. I had over taken the motorbike a little earlier – as it was peacefully sitting behind a small red van. The bike, with a pavilion passenger, suddenly accelerated and swept off ahead of my car down the road.

The passenger moved and bent her head. At least I thought it was a lady passenger because of the long hair swirling in the wind. She then twisted a little more and shifted her position on the seat. A quirk of fate slowed the lane the bike was in. I drew up beside the bike. The passenger was a lady and she was on her phone – either texting or dialling a number.

It is sometime difficult to see motorcyclists when they come up on a blind spot. Motorbikes sometimes, as happened today, overtake on the near side.  I have, however, never seen a passenger sitting almost sideways on the rear seat of a motorbike travelling at around sixty miles an hour working on a mobile phone!

Eleven Plus Question

A motorist starts from A at 11 o’clock intending to lunch at B, 100km away at 13.00. After half an hour he is held up by an accident involving a lorry and a motorbike – which delays him for 18 minutes. How fast must he then travel in order to arrive at B at the right time?

There is a cycle track beside the A road. A cyclist leaves B at 11.45 and rides towards A at a steady 20 km an hour.

Areas for your eleven plus child to look at:

What is a suitable scale as the `x’ axis covers time and the `y’ distance.
What is the point of origin?
Take into account the straight line between the origin and the arrival at B – but exclude the delay.
Now note the delay.
Does the car have to travel at around 62.5 km per hour or is there any need to speed?
Start the cyclist at 100 km away at 11.30.
Will the car wave at the cyclist at around 12.42?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Eleven Plus Instincts

How does this work?

Kittens, brought up with rats, may never have seen their mothers kill the rat. These kittens are reasonably likely to get on well with the rats and even play with them.

Kittens brought up in a more traditional environment where they have seen their mothers killing rats, almost always develop into rat killers.

Does this mean that kittens killing rats is an acquired response? Are adult cats supposed to feel instinctively that they want to kill rats?

It was felt, at one time, that people reacted instinctively to certain activities like hunting, collecting, rivalry, co-operation, teasing and play. This is not an exhaustive list of supposed instinctive behaviour by any means but it does seem to miss out the key area of desire to do well on eleven plus papers.

An eleven plus child, chosen at random from a group of one thousand, may have a mental age of twelve, the social intelligence of an eight year old, a reading age of fifteen and the weight of a nine year old. How does a child develop a `killer instinct’ when working on eleven plus papers? Is this from learned behaviour from the parents? Would a child develop a `killer instinct’ by working in a class of bright and highly motivated children? If a child did develop a `killer instinct’, what are the chances of him or her retaining that drive during the GCSE and `A’ level years? Does a child need a `killer instinct’ to be able to well on eleven plus papers?

The last thing any one of us would want is a child to be approaching eleven plus work in a frenzy.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Eleven Plus Passes

Let us take the case of three different eleven plus pupils.

The first one M (Mary) is a dream of a grammar school candidate. She is able, articulate, has an easy personality and is attractive to look at. She works hard at her papers and prides herself in not arguing with her parents and teachers. As the examination grows closer, however, M ‘s attitude to work and the eleven plus examination seems to make a little shift. She does not become critical or argumentative but her artistic side seems to want to take over.  She becomes more interested in dance. M is also offered a part in play where singing and dancing is required. So is dressing up and bits of makeup! M keeps saying that she wants to do the eleven plus – but she no longer really enjoys the preparation.

The second eleven plus candidate is rather different. She may make some of the more subject orientated grammar school members of staff feel a little discombobulated. Her primary school teachers will note that she is `verbally highly active’. Her head teacher will offer the words; “J (Jackie) has grown out of our school.” J is not interested in working on eleven plus papers. She wants to do things – but not the things her parents want her to do – she is more interested in `doing her own thing’. J may be able to pass the examination – but will she be happy at the grammar school?

The third candidate K (Katherine) is at good at her eleven plus work. She usually achieves around 70% on eleven plus papers. Her teachers at school usually describe her as `border-line’.  In K’s case this is not a euphemism for a lack of ability but is a true statement – K may pass or may not pass the eleven plus. The one really sound factor K has going for her is her desire to pass the examination. She is happy to do her corrections. She asks for help all the time and is unfailingly cheerful about fulfilling her pre-examination obligations.

All three girls achieve the same final scores in the eleven plus examinations. Which child would benefit the most from a grammar school education?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Eleven Plus Involvement

Some parents will have already started a serious count down to the amount of time left between now and the eleven plus examinations. There are some basic calculations to be done. The number of days in a year is equal to 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46.06 seconds.

Eleven Plus Question
Would you round the 365 days to 370 or 360? The advantage of 360 is that 12 goes into 360 very neatly to make 30 days in a month. Dividing 370 by 12 can look rather messy.

A)     Which number is the most useful in calculating days to the examination – 360 or 370?
B)      Should even plus parents work on the around average number of 30 days in a month in order to say: “Around five months to go!” – or would it be better to calculate the exact number of days?

Some parents may care to take the time to look at the story of Karl Friedrich Gauss. He was a child prodigy and went on to enjoy a successful career. I am indebted to the website for the stories about his relationship with his parents and how he became involved in his work. This article suggest this account is true:

Famous Quote:
'Ask her to wait a moment - I am almost done.' Apparently said while working, and being informed that his wife was dying.

I hope your eleven plus child does not become this involved in an eleven plus question!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Eleven Plus Oral Assessments

Children preparing for GCSE examinations in languages are faced with an oral assessment. Some children can expect an almost unstructured assessment with a reasonably flexible oral test. Other children will have been prepared for a highly structured examination. In this case the assessment may be broken down into areas of competence. The examiner could provide almost pre-set questions in narrow areas.

If eleven plus children on the fringes of selection were to be offered a supplementary oral assessment then the examiners would need a remarkably clear cut set of objectives. The examiners would need to be highly trained and very professional.

The assessment would need to reliable. There would be little place for examiners who would offer uneven assessments.

Because the oral assessment would be working with ten year old children there could need for period where the examiner tried to relax the child. Some children, however, may take longer to relax than others. Some children may be amenable to `chit-chat’ or a little gossip while others may prefer to get straight on with the `real’ questions.

Few parents would want their child top win a place in a grammar school through `learned’ questions. This would place considerable responsibility on the child – but rightly so. An oral assessment would give children on the waiting list a chance to showcase their ability.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Healthy Eleven Plus Parents

One way for a teacher to keep up to date is to attend Education Shows. Last month the BETT 2013 show was held in London. As usual it had all the predictable big names along with some smaller vendors.

Eleven plus children need elements of direction towards the examination – some more than others. Some eleven plus children need to feel enriched and extended as well focused on the `examination’.

I was fascinated by the enthusiasm of the team at who offered 1500 short films to bring curriculum subjects to life. The films cover science, geography and mathematics.

I also enjoyed the stand at . They offered an interactive interface with film-making and story-telling potential.  It was easy to see how a bright eleven plus child could become hooked and start wanting to develop his or own films. Steven Spielberg – you need to be on-guard a new generation are on the way!

The other show I attended recently was the London Bike Show. This is not strictly an Education show – but some of the stands were very educational! There was far more to the show than bikes – but this demonstrates how parochial my thinking is. There was a stand about Hadleigh farm – where the Olympic mountain bike cycling took place. The farm would be a wonderful place to work off a little energy.

There was a stand about the Circe family of cycles. A bike called the Morpheus was shown. The bike could act as a child transporter, it could carry the weekly shop or even a heaped pile of eleven plus books to your child’s lesson. To see pictures of the remarkable bikes and gain a small hit of the potential, a visit to the website could prove fruitful.

One other stand was organised by the Surrey Human Performance Institute at the Surry Sports Park at the University of Surrey. You could indulge yourself with a full cardiopulmonary exercise test, strength and conditioning advice, nutrition assessment, a blood pressure test and a flexibility work-over. Some eleven plus parents may find that over the year they need healthy bodies and minds. These ingredients may well be all part of the paraphernalia or baggage that some eleven plus parents crave. (email

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Your Child's Eleven Plus Teacher

How do you know if your child’s eleven plus teacher is offering the best possible eleven plus lesson? You know that your teacher, somewhere along the line, has studied some aspects of psychology.  You also know that at one time your teacher must have thought deeply about becoming a teacher. It is also probably reasonably true to surmise that your teacher of eleven plus children must feel incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity of working with bright and motivated children – and supportive parents.

Your teacher will be very aware of the need to take into account individual differences – and readiness to learn a new topic. Sometimes it is important to be able to back off and not put pressure on the child to learn. Mum and Dad must recognise this.

The great majority of eleven plus children will probably not need much motivation to learn. A few well balanced and structured pep talks will often be accepted seriously by the children. Like many things in life - if they are offered too often - then your alert eleven plus child will probably feel a degree of suspicion. (“Not that pep talk again. I have had heard that one often enough!”)

The interests and attitudes of your eleven plus child will probably change over the year. These changes have the potential to alter behaviour. Your child’s teacher will probably be able to pick up on these changes – and may be able to offer suggestions, advice or even just a listening ear.

Eleven plus children need to revise and consolidate new work. This is, however, not advocating soulless repetition. We all hear allegorical stories of children in lessons working through paper after paper and lesson after lesson. Eleven plus children need to be challenged.

No matter how excellent the teacher of your eleven plus child is the will be times when your child may quite simply not feel like doing much work. At the best he or she will go through the motions. It is likely, however, that any rebellion will only last a short time. 

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Eleven Plus Progress

A mum this morning explained how she was maintaining a star chart for all her child’s eleven plus successes. The mum said that the horizons and scope of the chart were wide and all embracing. Did she mean that this meant tidying the bed room earned a star as well as success on an eleven plus exercise? I will need to leave you make up your own mind.

I reminded her of the basket-ball coach in America who used a form of a star chart with his high school basketball team. The majority of the team were poor shooters. The coach decided to give all his boys one hundred free shots every day. The coach found after a few weeks that the boys did not improve very much at all.

He then made a huge chart with every member’s name and the number of daily successful throws. He angled the results at improvement rather than correct throws. Almost every one made steady progress!

This is a bit like expecting an eleven plus child to benefit from doing paper after paper. The progress may not reflect the effort! Practice alone did not help the sports people to improve. Progress was made when each player noted and recorded his progress rather than how many correct shots he achieved.

Is there a moral here?

Friday, March 01, 2013

After the Eleven Plus

Thousands of parents Year 6 children will be receiving their offer emails and letters about their allocated senior schools. We wish every family well – and hope their children, whatever the school, achieve the best possible education.

There must have been parents hundreds of years ago who were in a similar situation. “Will my child make the school of our choice?”

Years ago parents will have hoped that their children would be offered a school where Latin was taught. The teaching of Latin often used to start with rhetoric and this was developed into learning the more formal elements of the Latin language. Latin was the language used by scholars to communicate with their European contemporaries. In certain circles the ability to speak the language was stressed.

For years grammar schools used to teach Latin through text books – where declensions and syntax were paramount. Many children may have found learning Latin slow and tedious. I think that I learned from `Latin for Today’ where we read whole sentences – and had to translate them from Latin into English and from English into Latin. We also had to learn vocabulary.

If your child is able to join a senior school where Latin is offered – then some parents may be tempted to advise their children to at least give Latin a go.