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Friday, May 31, 2013

Meryl Streep and the Eleven Plus

Could tapping into skills associated with Social Intelligence help with preparing your child for the eleven plus examinations? On the day of the examination you want your child to be gifted and unique. You want the finished article.

Instead of help your child concentrate on working through eleven plus papers what about trying to build confidence in the areas of empathy, resilience, curiosity and creativity? When you child sits down at the desk in the examination room you want your child to feel confident and positive.

“If you pass the eleven plus we will all go to Florida.”

“If you pass you can have a new bicycle.”

“If you pass we will go out for a nice meal.”

Some parents will resonate with the idea of encouraging their children to do well but other would prefer their child to acquire good study skills, sound pre-examination nutrition, learn when to take rests and how to enjoy recreation.

Suppose your child was able to enter the examination without feeling unduly anxious. Imagine a child who was able to say, “Don’t worry, I will just do my best. Thank you for all your support and hard-work. The examination, now, is up to me.”

The sceptics will argue, “How can we test the happiness of an eleven plus child?” A different question could ask, “Why shouldn’t we label a child as having grammar school potential?” The present state of the eleven plus can provide some of the answers – but cannot hope to satisfy everyone.


One remarkably powerful element of Social Intelligence must be empathy. A question for learned: Was Meryl Streep talking about the eleven plus when she said: “The greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Classifying Eleven Plus Questions

How much can we rely on the observations and thoughts of family, friends, neighbours and the school community? If children can be broadly categorised into three main groups – then we may be able to find potential grammar school pupils without having to test the children. The groups could be `bright’, `average’ and `not so able’. But can children be graded in such a manner or do we need to rely solely on tests?

Some teachers may possibly argue that any classification by non-professions must be suspect. Ask a teacher who is the brightest in the class – and it is likely that he or she would identify at least one child. Ask a grandmother to point out the brightest in her family and she would probably have remarkably little difficulty in pointing out the star of the family.

Of course we can change the classification of the children into: `grammar school potential’, `boarder line’ and `would not be happy in an academic environment’. This could please some of the observers – but some parents would be very upset.

Just think of the outcry – and the hurried rewriting of eleven plus papers and books – if questions along the following lines were recommended. Surely this is a vocabulary item?

“Dad, is an ox a sort of male cow?”

“Sort of, yes.”

“And equine means something to do with horses?”

“That is right.”

“Well Dad, what is an equinox?”




Classifying Eleven Plus Questions

How much can we rely on the observations and thoughts of family, friends, neighbours and the school community? If children can be broadly categorised into three main groups – then we may be able to find potential grammar school pupils without having to test the children. The groups could be `bright’, `average’ and `not so able’. But can children be graded in such a manner or do we need to rely solely on tests?

Some teachers may possibly argue that any classification by non-professions must be suspect. Ask a teacher who is the brightest in the class – and it is likely that he or she would identify at least one child. Ask a grandmother to point out the brightest in her family and she would probably have remarkably little difficulty in pointing out the star of the family.

Of course we can change the classification of the children into: `grammar school potential’, `boarder line’ and `would not be happy in an academic environment’. This could please some of the observers – but some parents would be very upset.

Just think of the outcry – and the hurried rewriting of eleven plus papers and books – if questions along the following lines were recommended. Surely this is a vocabulary item?

“Dad, is an ox a sort of male cow?”

“Sort of, yes.”

“And equine means something to do with horses?”

“That is right.”

“Well Dad, what is an equinox?”




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vocabulary and the Eleven Plus


Vocabulary plays a large part in parts of the eleven plus examination. A wide vocabulary is considered to be one of the signs of ability. It is difficult for most ten year old potential eleven plus candidates not to absorb new words and ideas. Some words, however, are a little more obscure than others.

Do you remember the story about the seven year old?

On Mother’s day, my seven-year old son couldn’t wait to present me with a book of poetry he had written for me. Part of it was an acrostic of my name – Victoria – with an adjective describing me next to each letter.

Beside `I’ he had written “intelligent”
Next to `c’, “caring”
And for the `o’, “outstanding”.

I was swelling with pride until I came to the final `a’. Next to it my son has written: “able to scream”.


I am fortunate to have a 1912 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus of English words. The word `acrostic’ comes up in the section on `secrets’. Some of the other words are:  mystery, enigma, teaser, riddle, poser, conundrum, rebus, anagram and acrostic. 

When we see elements of the richness of the English language it is not hard to see why vocabulary is rated so highly in ability tests.

PLMA and the Eleven Plus

Every parent knows the rich meaning behind the letters `PLMA’. This could be your child texting you asking for some space. The letters could also be used when you feel that an extortionate demand is being made. You could, of course, involve your child in an erudite discussion on the difference between `Leave me alone’ and `Let me alone’. Parents of eleven plus children should never miss an opportunity.

Leave implies going, departing.` Leave me alone’ suggests that you want to be left alone.
`Let me alone’ seems to mean stop bugging me, stop irritating me.

Every good parent, however, never knows when to stop. From the benign discussion on being left alone you could go on to discussion the role of particularistic judgements. These, as you well know, are the judgements according to the relationship with the person being judged or discussed. A parent will judge his or her child by the relationships in the family. A teacher may judge a child on the grounds of the ability to fit into an academic school.

We know that grammar schools accept children who pass an eleven plus examination. Children with poor social skills or the `wrong attitude’ to school and education may, sometimes, be judged as being unsatisfactory. A teacher in a primary school may be drawn to a bright child who is precocious – but too immature to cope with the strictures on an eleven plus examination. The child may prefer to be left alone rather than try to conform.

When your child insists: “Just, please let me alone!” take heart the letters `JPLMA’ does not mean that your child is judging you, or does not want to go to grammar school, the letters may simply mean that your child needs a bit of space.


Time and the Eleven Plus

When is the best time of day for your eleven plus child to study? After school? Before school? In the morning? In the evening? Some of the time? All the time?

Do you remember the `Rime of the Ancient Mariner’? One foolhardy sailor shot the albatross and woe came to the ship:

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.


Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The rest of the crew forced the sailor to wear the albatross around his neck. When the ship reached land he was forced to wander the world telling all of his guilt.
No parent would want the eleven plus to become an `albatross around the neck’.  We certainly don’t want the eleven plus to lay a heavy burden of guilt on a child. That could be self-defeating and could, over a period of time, become an obstacle to success.

It is likely that there can be no one best time of day to study. The weather, for example, changes from day to day – and sometimes from hour to hour. The changes can come from the weather, day and night and from season to season.

Your child may have a good day at school or a bad day, friendships may grow or wither. You may approach your child with concern in your voice or determination. What is the best time of day for your eleven plus child to study?

It depends.


Eleven Plus Roles

I wonder what happened to Tiedemann’s descendants.  Tiedemann (1787) studied his son’s development for the first thirty months of the child’s life. He was interested in his son’s language and cognitive development.

Tiedemann noted when his son sat up, when he talked and how his child responded to speech and gestures. Tiedemann would possibly have loved Facebook where he could have documented his child’s development to the world.

Naturally other philosopher-psychologists followed his work. There was a theory, for example, that children enjoying playing with water could be connected with their fishy ancestors’ joys of the sea.


Cut to Scene Two.

A mother and her child are sitting at the kitchen table. The  mother offers her child a choice.)

Mother: Would you like to work through an eleven plus paper or go for a swim?

Child: Mum I have taken to eleven plus work like a duck takes to water. I think I need to explore my ancestral side.

Mother: Come on. Let’s go for a swim. You can work later.


Scene Two

A mother and her child are exploring an early theory that a love for climbing trees shows vestiges of life as a monkey.

Mother: Look dear, a lovely tree for you to climb.

Daughter: Thanks Mum. Can I go over thirty feet today? It is an old oak and should support my weight.

Mother: Naturally, but do not, on any account, try to climb into the branches of the next door tree.


Scene Three

A mother and her child are discussing whether the acts of riding bicycles and using a mobile phone can be attributed to early skill developments.

Mother: No dear, you can-not use your phone while you are riding your bike.

Son: I have seen you using your phone while riding a bike.

Mother: If you are going to get smart with me we will return to work through your eleven plus papers.

Son: Did ancient civilisations have the eleven plus?









Boarder-line Eleven Plus Children

If we were to ask one hundred eleven plus parents to why they want their child to `Go to grammar’, we may find an interesting set of results. How many would say: “To have the opportunity of being able to get a good job and be happy’?

The change from being a potential grammar school child and looking for a `proper’ job happens gradually. There is no rite of passage. Attending the right school may help some, and choosing the right university courses may help others.

Years ago some fortunate girls of eighteen made a formal entry to society. Some even had the privilege of being presented in court to royalty.  I must confess that I do not live in those sorts of circles so I am not sure the custom persists.

Young men were offered the `Grand Tour’ where they could work off their excesses far from home. Of course equality has made sure that girls now also have the ability to hitch-hike around the world and demonstrate their independence.

It is possible, however, that the present eleven plus continues to reflect the morays and cultures of earlier generations. It is easy to think that passing the eleven plus represents the doorway to future academic success.

Many eleven plus parents have to gird their loins and do the best they can to ensure that their child enjoys as good an education as possible. Many families have to endure financial hardship to give their child the opportunity to excel in an examination. The family can, in certain circumstances, feel that they are under pressure.


We know that eleven plus examinations are there to distinguish the children who are potentially high-flyers from the less able – but the children who probably suffer most are the children on the boarder-line. 

Eleven Plus Answer Sheets

Do left handed children need a different style of eleven plus answer sheets?


Now mark your answers in the multiple choice answer boxes.




Could the layout of some questions penalise some children?

There have been many studies on handedness. A variety of options have been looked at. Is handedness inherited – caused by the dominance of one hemisphere of the brain? Are there physical differences in the sides of the body? Do some children become right handed with hand preference being structured soon after birth?

We know that hand preference is usually pretty unstable during the first year of life. But how much do parents contribute? We could look at a short list:

Reaching for a toy
Reaching while sitting up
Using the cup to drink
Ringing a bell
Waving
Drawing with a pencil
Pointing at a picture

Should answering multiple choice questions be included in the list? Some children seem to adopt rather uncomfortable hand positions. Could these get in the way of seeing the full range of answers? We know that being `right’ is being right. We also know that the Latin word for left-handed is `sinister’. Sinister also has the meaning of evil or bad. 

Is an answer sheet that is not designed for a left handed child sinister and bad?

(You could try this at home!)







 

An Eleven Plus Subway

How often does the word `generativity’ come into your eleven plus discussions? We think of the word when we are discussing establishing and guiding the next generation. Of course there are parents who do not want their children to follow the same generational paths. There may even be grandparents of eleven plus children who do not want their grandchildren to follow the path to freedom that they followed.

So what can each generation hand down to the next?

Cut off the rind from bacon with a pair of kitchen scissors – it is much easier than trying to do it with a knife.

To keep cheese from becoming dry, wring it out a cloth soaked in vinegar and keep it in a covered dish. (Is the cheese or the cloth that is kept in the covered dish?)

The less liquid and the more fat you put into short pastry, the shorter it will be.

There may be some eleven plus children who would prefer to understand that:

Words involving Latin and Greek prefixes include:

Subtract
Subterranean
Subway
Subnormal
Hemisphere
Pneumatic

There may be some children who would prefer a tasty Subway to a lecture on short pastry!







Friday, May 24, 2013

Eleven Plus Publishers

By the time some parents have worked through eleven plus papers, and refreshed their memories of past glories, some may be tempted to enter the realms of publishing. There is obviously a relationship between publishers of eleven plus materials, parents and the candidates.

Publishing for the eleven plus is not a case of the `little people’ against the `experts’.  No one publisher has the ultimate responsibility or the trust or all parents. The eleven plus market shows a range of publishers of different sizes and shapes!

The internet has allowed teachers to demonstrate their expertise and produce materials that some children may find very useful. Eleven plus papers and exercises do not just appear – someone has to sit down and plan and prepare the content and the method of delivery.

The putative parent publisher has many roles to fill. On the education side the content of the eleven plus needs to be considered. Will the materials fit all types of assessment? Is the work aimed at all children in all examinations or a carefully selected target audience?

The act of publishing eleven plus materials can be exciting and rewarding. The aspiring mother or father will need, however, to act as the `Commissioning Editor’ and make decisions on content, design, distribution and financial control.

There may be a need for external help with artists, printers, the internet, web sites and general promotion.


Above all the final production of a commercial eleven plus exercise must have taken into account creativity, organisation and efficiency. This must be a bit like preparing a cook book. It is potentially dangerous to publish a selection of recipes without trying them out!

An Eleven Plus Nuance

As elements of the eleven plus revert back to the `old days’, children are finding that they need to be a little more aware of nuances of the English language. We may tell our children, for example, that `shall’ is used in the first person and `will’ in the second and third.

I shall go.
You will go.
He will go.

But suppose that one day the eleven plus is taken up by different nations? The Scots, for example, say: “I will go.” We can recall the story of the Scot who was drowning. The English people watching him struggle did little to help as he called out:

“I will drown, and no one shall save me!”

Should we expect our eleven plus to know the difference between `nauseous’ and `nauseated’? A sentence could read: “I feel nauseous.” A different sentence could read: “I feel nauseated.” Both meanings revolve around feeling sick or disgusted but one is a figurative meaning and the other literal.

Is there time to explain the difference to an eleven plus child?


The Speed of Reading Eleven Plus Questions

“Slow down. Slow down. Read the question.”

“You just need to skim the passage the first time you read it.”

These appear to be contradictory statements – but they apply to different types of eleven plus questions. Encouraging the eleven plus child to slow down suggests that the content needs to be read word by word. The second command appears to promote reading with a slightly wider eye span. Some children may find it rather difficult to speed read the following question:

“Which is the odd one out?”

Strolled walked ran flew trudged.

We then come to different type of reading:

The Caterpillar and Alice
looked at each other
for some time in silence:
at last the Caterpillar
took the hookah 
out of its mouth,
and addressed her 
in a languid, sleepy voice.
'Who are you?' 
said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening
for a conversation.
Alice replied, rather shyly,
'I—I hardly know, sir, 
just at present
at least I know who I was
when I got up this morning,
but I think
 I must have been changed
several times since then.'

The eye span will be able to accommodate this form of presentation reasonably easily. Some people find that it is possible to skim passages with few words on a line.

Some parents may find that they actually have to point out the differences in the styles of reading. I will never forget the very bright nine year old child who maintained that she did not know that she had to read the passage in order to answer to answer the questions.   



Preventing a Sinking Eleven Plus Bubble

When I was at school I used to be fascinated by the story of the `South Sea Bubble’. This is the name of a scheme which resulted in one of the greatest financial disasters in English history. The South Sea Company was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1710. The company was given the monopoly of trade in the Pacific Ocean.

Parliament, despite the warning of Robert Walpole, allowed the company to take over the national Debt in 1720. The value of the stock increased very quickly. There was a wild orgy of inflation and speculation – and then the inevitable crash.

How can eleven plus parents avoid putting their children into an Eleven Plus Bubble? This is a bubble where the child is expected to think `Eleven Plus’ and little else. There is a saying: `Too much work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’  Could an eleven plus child be encouraged to do too much preparation? This must be a matter for individual choice.

Money and the eleven plus seem to go together. 

Like the investors of years ago is seems that we are naturally drawn to wanting to belong. We want our child to belong to a grammar school. We want to belong to the group of successful eleven plus parents.


Parents can make some form of financial provision for their children – in case their child does reach university. This is sometimes called a `Sinking Fund’. A certain amount of money is taken every year out of the bank and invested in a deposit account. With university fees around £9000.00 a year for some students access to a `sinking fund’ would be most welcome.



We simply want the sun, the moon and the stars for our eleven plus children!


Is there a secret to maintaining an eleven plus balance? Is there a way to provide for your child’s future without your sinking fund being blown away in the inflation of a `South Sea Bubble’? Sadly it appears that the more your child does the better he or she gets – within reason!


The Eleven Plus and the New Microsoft Xbox One


Your eleven plus child may find some elements of digital technology advantageous. Technology can be used to support assessment, for example, in a number of ways. There is a place for the results of on-line tests to build or even prescribe activities to learn. On-line technology can help to track the progress of what your child is learning.

We have to imagine that there is a set eleven plus syllabus. This can be a remarkably difficult task – almost as difficult as Hercules trying to round up the cattle of Geryon. When I was a child I used to wonder about Geryon who had three heads and three sets of legs all joined at the waist. If you see your child doing a little doodle – and there are three heads and three sets of legs - then you know that he or she is going trying to find a solution!

A set eleven plus syllabus? How can there be one all-encompassing syllabus that will suit all eleven plus children? One `authority – the expert eleven plus teacher’ will maintain that he or she will teach in the right and only way. A different `authority’ will offer another solution. Technology can help some parents and children with a supply of reassuring feedback and assessment.

We know that self-assessment is an invaluable tool because it requires reflection and self-awareness. Some children may find it easier to reflect on on-line results rather than pen and paper achievements. To some the computer and the internet allow a degree of dis-association.

I used to think that `Minecraft’, for example, was yet another computer game. Having had the privilege of watching bright ten year old children building structures, learning coding and discussing their work, I can’t help think that questions on coding should be part of a `modern’ eleven plus syllabus. Programs like Scratch and Makey Makey also help to teach coding and desirable computer based outcomes.

I have not, yet, seen the new Microsoft offering to children – but can’t help feeling that some good will come of these advances in technology. This new Xbox has improved voice recognition, built in Skype and a wonderful sounding `Snap Mode’ which will allow a child to do more than one thing at the same time. Suring the eleven plus `syllabus’ would be richer for these potential learning tools? 

An Eleven Plus Rotation


Summer is here – or at least the strong signs of summer have arrived. Children, and their parents start thinking of what they can do over summer. Some lucky eleven plus children will go away and leave all thoughts of the eleven plus behind. Other children will go on holiday – along with their eleven plus books and papers.

What do you do if your child says that he or she would like to take up diving? Naturally you will embrace this idea with joy. “My child is a diver!” You then start thinking of logistics.
How far is the nearest pool with a diving centre?
When are the classes? How long will each class be? What will I do while I am waiting?
Who will teach? What are the qualifications?
Will my child follow an agreed syllabus or just have ideas plucked seemingly from the air?
What will the other children do? Will I have to go into the pool as well to look after the rest of the family?

You phone a friend.

“That Is great. I can-not recommend diving enough. There is the most divine diving teacher with such a honed body. You will be in raptures!”

“Forget all that. I left honed bodies behind years ago. What will my child learn?”

“Forward dives - - rotating forwards. Back dives – rotating backwards from a backward take-off. Inward dives – rotating inwards from a forward take-off.  Twisting dives – any of the previous four but spinning as well as rotating.”

“There seems to be an awful lot of rotating!”

“Rotating is easy! Just look at my new shoes!”


“You are kidding me. We are back on the eleven plus. How did we get from diving to your new shoes to the eleven plus?”

“We rotated!”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interests of Eleven Plus Children


“Why was the glow-worm unhappy?”

“I don’t know. Why was the glow-worm unhappy?”

“Because her children were not very bright!”

What would happen if the eleven plus was broadened to cover questions on the interests of children?



Imagine if there were specialist questions on areas of interest. The question paper could have a reduced number of eleven plus type questions – but the children could then be offered a wide selection of questions.

Questions 56 - 60 : Modern Dance
Questions 61- 65 : Telling Jokes

Questions 66 – 70 : Cycling

Questions 71 – 75 : Swimming

The list goes on. 

Why should a child `win’ a place in a grammar school through a single `Pass or Fail’ figure?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alpha and Beta Eleven Plus Tests


An advantage of working with your child on multiple choice papers is that you have the opportunity to talk about examination technique. Eleven plus questions are designed to have one correct answer. Naturally your child will be faced with distractors but this is where you can help.

Of course you will encourage your child to do a modicum of working out before looking at the answers. Your child, after a little practice, should enjoy trying to find the multiple choice answers that simply cannot be correct. You may need to be very positive as your child may feel a little defensive.

You may make the point that multiple choice answers offer the opportunity of being able to guess. If time runs out and there are still some unanswered questions you will, no doubt, suggest guessing the final few answers.

Sometimes children may spend too long on a particular type of question.  You may have covered the topic in great detail but – on the day – help may still be needed. Sometimes it may be better to leave the question or questions and come back to these later on.

One thing is sure – there will be disputes and unhappiness about the actual eleven plus questions and format.  Some parents and children may be concerned about how the tests are put together, others may want to question what is being measured.

During the First World War the Alpha and Beta tests were developed. The Alpha tests were designed for adults who could read and were literate and the Beta tests for the non-readers. One reason for the tests was to try to find the leaders or officers.

The First World War was between 1914 and 1918. The period of 2014 to 2018 is approaching. Will one day there be Alpha and Beta Eleven Plus tests?


Monday, May 13, 2013

An Eleven Plus Fire Alarm


There was a fire alarm this afternoon. The whole building was evacuated. We were told that there was no fire – but the fire department had to turn the fire alarm off. We left the building – and remembered to pick up the register!



There was a slight drizzle and a little sharp wind. Swimmers were in their costumes, gym stars in their brief outfits, football players in short sleeves and dancers in little costumes. Some of our pupils picked up their outside wear but others were in their school clothes.

We were allowed back in again after around twenty minutes. The children seemed to go in first.



What would happen if there was a fire alarm at a school while the children were sitting the eleven plus? What would be the impact on the children?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Eleven Plus Rules


There are some children who may possibly have an advantage during the eleven plus examinations. These are the children who are encouraged to sit more than one examination.

Some parents may, at times, want to speak to the Head Teacher or another senior member of staff. A fair proportion of parents will want to present as good a case as possible.

Rule One: When speaking to the school authorities try to stay cool.

Rule Two: When talking to other parents try to avoid any sensational `news’. It could all backfire.

Rule Three: Think of a title – as a title can offer a succinct summary.

Rule Four: Say what you would like to happen.

Rule Five: Abide by the results of the discussion – unless you feel strongly. Do not give up!

Rule Six: Rules are only any good if they actually work.



Friday, May 10, 2013

An Eleven Plus Write Off!


I was given a copy of `The Backward Child’ by Cyril Burt by my first and only headmaster Mr W.W. Wilson. The book was first published in 1937. My copy is the 4th Edition of 1958. In Burt’s discussion on General Intelligence he writes about `The Undiscovered Genius’.

He maintained that Newton, Darwin, Goldsmith and Sheridan, Watt and Stevenson as well as Wellington and Clive were all `duffers at lessons who proved a genius in disguise’. If this is true is there hope for an eleven plus child who does not particularly shine at school?

Burt quotes statements made by friends and family who may be biased.

“He will grow out of his dullness as he grows older.”
“He will be all the better for not developing too fast.”
“The slow boy is usually the sure boy, he goes further in the end.”
“When he comes to the turn of life at seven, at fourteen or at twenty one – he will put on a spurt and make up for what he has lost.”

Does this mean that if a child is not doing well on a set of eleven plus papers there is no chance of passing the eleven plus?

We must all sincerely hope not. Some authors of eleven plus papers may write in a style that is hard to follow. Some eleven plus children may do well on one type of paper – but struggle with another. And there are exceptions to the rule!

We had a child a few years ago who really struggled on a course. He found almost everything very hard. If we had been asked at the end of the first day, of a three day course,  about his eleven plus potential we would have to have said that he would struggle. It transpired that the boy was a recent immigrant. He had not been to school in England. He had done no eleven plus preparation.

His loyal mum just wanted the best possible start for her son. We met the mother a few years later with a different member of the family. The first born did make grammar school – but only in the 6th Form.

Can you ever write a child off?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Eleven Plus R & R


The approach to the eleven plus has to be purposeful. Parents need to be motivated. Children need to be ambitious. Every now and then, however, there has to be a little R & R. For many years R & R has been used as a slang term for short periods of rest and recuperation.

Some children will respond quickly to the feeling that the pressure of the eleven plus has been eased. Other children may simply need a good night’s rest. There will also be children who need care and attention during their break from their studies.

Some will earn their rest through cycling, climbing, skating and swimming. Other children may prefer top paint or draw. There could even be some who want to make things.

Why not try your child on making something with balsa wood?



The end product does not need to be perfect. Blemishes are allowed. The waxing of the `finished’ shelf does not have to be uniform. What is important is the ability to create, build and complete a task. The `worker’ will need to dream up a project.. There must be some form of ratio between the length, width and height. Measuring and cutting the balsa will need to be reasonably accurately. Rough edges can easily be smoothed off using sandpaper!

Of course finding precious objects to place on the shelves will offer considerable pleasure. Oh! To do something where there is a result! The eleven plus is a long drawn out process. There is the preparation. Then comes a few hours of pressure in the examination. There is a long wait for the results and then another wait to hear about schools and offers.

A little multi-shelf unit may help!


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

An Eleven Plus Mortgage


It is almost time. Parents of past eleven plus children will know that the approaching May Bank holiday is traditionally the weekend for `doing up the bedroom’. Some people call the holiday the Spring Bank Holiday. But `Doing Up The Bedroom’ seems to have a much classier ring.

Space is vitally important in a bedroom. There is nothing to difficult to manage as an eleven plus candidate in multipurpose bedroom. Some children need their bedroom as a bedroom and a study. I wonder how many eleven plus children have their own study?

Naturally parents will be aware that there is a great need to make the best possible use of the floor. A similar concern must apply to the walls. Are their built in cupboards? Do the walls need to have areas for display of eleven plus timetables and study routines?

Some parents may be guided by their children about a colour scheme. Concertina display units will offer many possibilities for co-ordinated colour schemes. Many children, however, may be rather wary of too much labelling in their bedrooms as labels could remind them of school.

And now we come to the important bits. There must be space for the computer, the xbox, the ipad and the phone charger. This requires a desk of a certain size. The height and depth will need to be considered carefully. The eleven plus child will not stay eleven for ever! Will it be possible to alter the height of the legs of the desk?

Has this left room for the bed, the clothes, the toys and knick knacks we all seem to need?

As new eleven plus parents will see – the budget needs to be large. A new bed will need a new bed linen. Fresh walls will need a new bedside rug. A new computer desk will need a new computer chair. A new book case will be needed for new eleven plus books.

Just think of the please you will have at work. “What did you do over the weekend?”

“We did up our eleven plus child’s bedroom.”

“How did it go?”

“We managed to take out a second mortgage.”






Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Our Eleven Plus Calendar


Back in 1752, before the Eleven Plus examination was a twinkle in the eye, the British government instituted a calendar reform. The measure required that September the 2nd be dated September 14th. Many people imagined that they had lost eleven days of their lives.

Imagine what would happen if a similar decree was made today!

Think of the ensuing eleven plus question:

A family wanted an eleven day holiday to fit in with the end of the school holidays. The tour company accepted the money – and the all-in holiday was booked. To the family’s horror their holiday ended before it started.

Should the tour company have accepted the booking?

A             Yes – the family should have planned around the date change
B             No – any reputable company would not have taken the booking
C             The family should ask the dates of booking to be changed
D             The tour company should accept the date change and offer different days and times

Should the eleven plus candidate have to continue to do eleven plus papers during those eleven days?

A             The change from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar was not the child’s fault
B             Eleven Plus papers do not need to done on missing days
C             Will an extra eleven eleven plus papers make all that much difference?
D             Would a Leap Year have helped the family?


Monday, May 06, 2013

An Eleven Plus Bore


We have just enjoyed a warm weekend. We know that outdoor plants – as in trees, shrubs and perennials benefit from a heavy soaking during dry summer spells. We are also told that a heavy soaking twice a week is much more satisfactory than driblets of water every day. A smear of water draws the roots to the surface leaving them more exposed during hot days. We are also advised to never water plants when the sun is on them.

Having your own bore hole must help. My grandfather used to be a water diviner – and would walk fields and open areas in search of water. He had a forked stick which quivered when found water.

What happens when an eleven plus child meets the word bore in a question on unrelated words?

A bore can be a hole in the ground.

A bore can be a tidal wave which appears in certain rivers at the period of high or spring tides.

A bore can be a cylindrical cavity in the barrel of a firearm.

A bore can be a person who talks too much about uninteresting subjects. A tedious person!

To bore can be the act of a person who pushes his or her opponent to the ropes.

We can remember Buckingham in Henry VIII who said:


Think of the brain of a poor ten year old who has to try to apply all these different meanings to one word!





Sunday, May 05, 2013

Chances of Passing the Eleven Plus


There are about four months to go to the 2013 eleven plus examinations. A question that many parents will be asking could, possibly, be: “Will my child pass the eleven plus?”

If a horse wins four races in a row then there is a good chance that it will win a fifth.

If a coin comes up heads twenty times in a row then we would feel that the coin probably has two heads rather than a head and a tail.

If an eleven plus child answers four questions correctly – in a row – then is it likely that he or she will answer the fifth correctly?

If an able eleven plus child answers twenty questions correctly in a row – it is very unlikely that he or she will have two heads – the star could just be a good candidate.

Today the sun was shining at Camber Sands in Kent. What are the chances of finding an eleven plus child working on an eleven plus paper on the beach?



We know that the chances of the same six numbers coming up twice in a row in the National Lottery are about 1 in 200 000 000 000 000. This is an easy number to remember – about two hundred million million! We all know that the odds of winning the National Lottery are about fourteen million to one. So is there any point in keeping the same numbers week after week?

 Discuss this logic with your eleven plus child and see if he or she wants to continue working on eleven plus papers!






Saturday, May 04, 2013

Eleven Plus Assessments


Does every eleven plus paper form a part of an assessment? Papers are there to assess what children know and to give practice in working through papers. It may be a very bad paper if a good candidate can-not score reasonable marks. It would be an even worse paper if the questions provided the answers.

There should be a purpose involved when an eleven plus child works through a paper. An able and well prepared child may enjoy parts of a paper – but feel in deep despair about an unfamiliar section. An eleven plus paper can-not be a good paper if the purpose of the paper is immoral. To pronounce an eleven plus paper as immoral suggests that a judgement is being made.  A lot depends, naturally, on who is stating that the purpose of the paper is corrupt.

When an eleven plus child sits down to do a paper we must hope that he or she is enjoying a positive experience. Is then a good paper one where the eleven plus candidate comes away feeling pleased and uplifted? Do children have to obtain 100% on a paper to feel happy?

When an eleven plus child works through multiple choice questions, and the results are added up, then a measurement is being made. There could be a comparison with a similar paper completed earlier. The child could also have to cope with results on one paper being compared with results on very different papers. 56% on one paper could be much a much fairer result than 78% on another paper.

If we look at a ruler used by an eleven plus child we may see one edge where inches are used and the other with centimetres. Same instrument – but different units of measurement are being used. I saw a ruler today with one side with the measurements in centimetres and the other in millimetres. There were no centimetres marked on the millimetre face – just lots and lots of little lines. In theory it does not matter if a ruler is measuring in inches and the centimetres. If the ruler illustrated on a question paper only shows inches, and the eleven plus question is about centimetres, then is the question corrupt?