Moving up to Secondary School

Posted by Chris on 05/07/2017

For a parent, your child's move up to secondary school can leave a hole in your life! Now that I have no more children at primary school I no longer walk my daughter to school every day and have very little face to face contact with school staff unless one of my children forgets a text book or their homework! There is also a lot less contact with other parents at the school than there was with primary school as you no longer see them at the school gate so it's more difficult to assess the suitability of your child's new friends. The rest of this blog post has been written my daughter who has recently moved up to secondary school.

moving up to secondary school

Although the consultation period does not finish until the end of January, it seems certain that the content of the eleven plus in Torbay will be drastically reduced, negating the need for the exam to be spread over two Saturdays. I am sure that any parents who respond to the consultation are going to approve of only having to take their child for an exam, spending the next three hours biting their nails, on one week rather than two, although most of the children seem to take the whole process in their stride.

The eleven plus in Torbay has changed ....... 

11 plus

Help, my son can't write!

Posted by Chris on 14/11/2016

Statistics, as well as my personal experience as a tutor show that boys often find creative writing much more difficult then girls do. Many eleven plus exams require children to complete a 30-minute writing task which might be a story, letter, magazine article or even a speech. Some boys I have tutored have had no idea how to start a piece of writing, even if it is a story about something they are interested in. So half the battle is just getting them to start writing. Many boys are creative and have some great ideas, but just do not see the point of writing, let alone including lots of fancy adjectives, adverbs and literary devices such as simile, metaphor and alliteration.

11 plus writing

Why an "untutorable" 11 plus is impossible

Posted by Chris on 09/09/2016

On BBC Radio 5 live this morning, Mark Pritchard, Member of Parliament for The Wrekin said that the government would get the "best brains" onto the task of devising an 11 plus test which is resistant to private tutoring. In 2012, Buckinghamshire Schools introduced the transfer test which was heralded as "untutorable" in the media. The CEM test was devised by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, part of the University of Durham and has now been adopted by 68 of the 163 grammar schools in England, in 20 of the 36 local authorities which have selective schools. My first experience of tutoring for the CEM test was when I tutored a child taking the 11 plus in Warwickshire; the test was introduced to Torbay in 2015 and I tutored 15 children for the test including my own daughter. I have another batch of tutees ready to take the 11 plus in Torbay in just over a week's time.

One of the positive aspects of what the CEM has done is that it has replaced the verbal reasoning questions used in previous 11 plus tests with verbal reasoning tests that rely on the meanings of words (e.g. synonyms and antonyms). Some of the previous questions involved codes, sequences and other systems which could be tutored for. However .......

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Super Saturday

Posted by Chris on 15/08/2016

We've just had "Super Saturday" followed closely by "Sensational Sunday" with Great Britain winning a total of 8 gold, 7 silver and one bronze medals over the weekend, not to mention the athlete who makes everyone want to be Jamaican, Usain Bolt, winning his third successive Olympic 100m medal. In about a month's time it will be Super Saturday for several thousand 10-11 year olds who will be taking their 11 plus exams. Youngsters in Torbay will have two Super Saturdays as their exam is spread over two weeks, whilst many children taking the 11 plus in London will have to take another test later in the year if they are successful in the first one. The Olympic athletes .....

Olympics and the 11 plus

Tutoring is not just about passing exams

Posted by Chris on 17/06/2016

Talking to a colleague earlier this week made me realise just how much tutoring I have done which has not been aimed at passing exams. Both of us could think of many examples of children who have benefitted enormously from a bit of extra help with maths or literacy. I have helped a number of children to improve their reading and writing ability, and mathematics is a subject where children commonly fall behind. It is so dispiriting to be sitting in a maths lesson to find that the child next to you has finished their set of 20 questions and you are still struggling with question 3. There seems little point in learning your times tables for a "times table shoot out" when Sid the swot has shouted out the answer almost before the teacher has finished asking the question! Children I tutor gain the confidence to...

11 Plus English Comprehension

What is the point of non-verbal reasoning?

Posted by Chris on 10/06/2016

That's a very good question and I was asked it by one of my tutees last year. The main reason I gave him was that it accounts for 20% of the marks in the CEM 11 plus test. For most children that's all non-verbal reasoning (NVR) is good for. Ironically, for this particular boy, his experience with NVR might be quite useful as he would like to become an airline pilot and NVR involves, among other things, being good at interpreting diagrams and symbols which are upside-down - a skill that I imagine would be quite useful for a pilot.

Non-verbal reasoning tests are similar to IQ tests and, as the name suggests, are a way of testing reasoning skills without using words. This should ensure that children who do not ...

non verbal reasoning for 11 plus

Finding out about the 11 Plus

Posted by Chris on 03/06/2016

These days it's not easy for parents to find out about the eleven plus. There is a lot of information around, but much of it is both confusing and misleading. There are very few areas of the country where primary school children are entered automatically for the 11 plus so usually parents must enter their children to take the test, either at a grammar school or at a test centre. Here in Torbay, children must be registered by the beginning of September, but in other areas it is much earlier, for example in Birmingham and Gloucestershire, children have to be registered by the beginning of July. Most grammar schools hold open days around about now (see the 11+ in Your Area section of the Roots 2 Success website for more information), but some, notably in Kent, hold their open days in October, just after the children have taken the 11 plus and, ironically, just about the time that many children start preparing for the following year's 11 plus exam, even though the grammar schools will be telling you that there is no need for your child to do any special preparation for the test.

11 plus

The Eleven Plus Taboo

Posted by Chris on 27/05/2016

Earlier this week I sent a personal email to all the primary school headteachers in Torbay with details of the 11 plus information event I am putting on next week. So far I haven't received a single reply and I don't expect to, I don't even expect any of them to circulate details of my event although I rather hope that at least one of the will. They are busy people and are being bombarded constantly by businesses and charities who have come up with the brainwave that the best way of contacting children and their parents is through the schools - what an original idea! However, that's not the main reason why I expect to get no response, the reason is the eleven plus taboo.

11 plus taboo

11 Plus Verbal Reasoning

Posted by Chris on 20/05/2016

If you want to help your child with verbal reasoning you first need to find out which type of verbal reasoning (VR) he or she will be doing in his/her 11 plus exam. GL Assessment (i.e. "non-CEM") VR questions often involve some kind of system which your child will need to learn in order to get to grips with the types of question they will be answering. There are questions involving alphabet sequences and alphabet reasoning which require a thorough knowledge of the order of letters in the alphabet. There are also questions on number sequences and other numerical questions even though the tests are called verbal reasoning. Other questions involve spotting hidden words, making one word from two separate ones (either by combining the two words or taking some of the letters from each word), adding letters, subtracting letters or moving letters from one word to another.

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Children to take computerised 11 plus this year

Posted by Chris on 13/05/2016

The computerised 11 plus is on its way, in fact it's already here! In September this year, children hoping to gain a place at Folkestone School for Girls or The Harvey Grammar School (boys) in the District of Shepway in Kent, will be taking a computer-based test provided by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) accompanied by a 30-minute creative writing test (on paper). The test covers the same topics as the paper-based CEM test used in other parts of the country: English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. As far as I am aware this is the only computerised eleven plus test in ...

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11 plus preparation - when to start

Posted by Chris on 06/05/2016

If your child is in Year 5 then as Pseudonymous Bosch (or Drake for the rap fans among you) would say "if you're reading this it is too late". It's not actually too late for your Year 5 child to start preparing for the 11 plus, but I would recommend you to start today!

Ideally, for most children I would recommend starting a year before the 11 plus exam, this gives long enough to prepare thoroughly, but is not too long that your child will be totally sick of 11 plus preparation by the time the exam comes round. I would also recommend....

11 plus


Posted by Chris on 29/04/2016

Well done for actually starting to read this post after a title like that! So what is etymology and why is it important? The online Oxford Dictionary  www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/etymology defines etymology as "the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history." When I was teaching Biology in Ghana most of my students did not have English as a first language, they then had to learn a whole new language, as Biology seems to be possibly the science with the most scientific terminology. I tried to explain to my students the origin of some of this terminology

Biology lab in Nkroful in Ghana

Eleven plus maths hints

Posted by Chris on 22/04/2016

The good news is that the maths in any 11 plus paper will be based on the primary school curriculum; the bad news is that it will be at a significantly higher level: the 11 plus is taken at the beginning of Year 6, but some of the maths questions on the paper will pose a challenge to Year 7 and even Year 8 pupils at grammar school. Those of you who have been following my previous blog posts will know that one of the essential items in an eleven plus candidate's toolkit is a thorough knowledge of times tables up to 12 x 12, this will help with, among other topics, multiplication, division, factors, ratios, mean, median and mode, perimeter, area, square numbers and square roots.

11 plus maths hints

Dealing with exam nerves

Posted by Chris on 15/04/2016

This is a subject that is very pertinent to me at the moment as it is mock 11 plus exam season, and 'A' levels and GCSEs are about to start. In fact children in year 11 seem to have been doing GCSE exams since September what with mock exams, speaking exams, ISAs, and preparing for preparing for the speaking exams and ISAs. Going back to the 11 plus mock exams, some children are doing mock exams on two Saturdays a month.

11 plus mock exam

The new CEM test - what's the idea?

Posted by Chris on 08/04/2016

The CEM test is provided by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, part of the University of Durham. It was first used in Buckinghamshire and Bexley in 2012 and since then it has been gradually introduced to other areas, for example Torbay and Devon in 2015 and Wirral in 2016. So why was it introduced? The CEM 11 plus (or transfer test as it is known in some areas) is supposed to be "un-tutorable" so more and more schools and local authorities are taking it up in a bid to make the process fairer for those who do not have tutoring.

CEM 11 plus test

...but maybe you do! I regularly tutor the children of qualified teachers (often primary school teachers) so why are they paying a tutor to teach their children when they undoubtedly have the skills to do it themselves? One important consideration is time, not just the time spent tutoring, but the time spent gathering materials and preparing the lesson too. Engaging a tutor means that a set time each week is programmed into a busy schedule. In addition, parents with more than one child often use the tuition time to do some work with another child.

11 plus preparation

Why should my child learn their times tables?

Posted by Chris on 25/03/2016

If you are a similar age to me you will no doubt remember having to learn your times tables at school and those inevitable tables tests to see if the learning had gone in. Since then learning times tables seems to have gone in and out of fashion several times.

times tables help with 11 plus

Eleven plus mock exams

Posted by Chris on 18/03/2016

Although the eleven plus is about 6 months away you may have noticed that the 11 plus mock exam season has started, so what is an 11 plus mock and is it a good idea for your child to take one? Like other mock exams, the 11 plus mock attempts to replicate the conditions that children will be likely to encounter in the real thing. A key difference is that there are no 11 plus past papers as schools and other test providers don't publish them.

11 plus mock exam

Earlier this week, a parent asked me about how they could help their child improve their creative writing skills. It is important to keep the plot of a story simple, otherwise the child will not get anywhere near finishing it. It is also a lot easier to write about something you have experienced or know about.

11 plus writing

Allocation Day - what next?

Posted by Chris on 04/03/2016

If your child is currently in Year 6 you should now have received an offer of a secondary school place, either by email or letter, from your local authority admissions office. You should also have received a letter from the school asking if you would like to accept the place. If you have received an offer from your first choice school then presumably you will accept the place. I say presumably because your circumstances may have changed since you applied in October.

Secondary School Allocation Day

Posted by Chris on 26/02/2016

The School Admissions Code (2006) was devised to ensure co-ordination and fairness of school admissions across the country and came into force in February 2007. Appendix 3, Section 10e [referring to Secondary Schools] states that: "Places must be offered on 1 March in the year during which a child will be admitted to school by the home local authority." This means that ALL offers of a secondary school place are made by all local authorities in England on 1st March (or the first weekday after 1st March).

Secondary School Allocation Day 1st March

Does anyone reading this remember the BBC Computer? It started to appear in schools back in the eighties when my mum was a primary school teacher. At the time I had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (remember them?) and spent a lot of time writing programs for it in BASIC. This is how I came to write what I think is the first 
educational software used in the primary school where my mum taught a Year 3 class.

ZX Spectrum

My eleven plus journey

Posted by Chris on 12/02/2016

My eleven plus journey began in a corrugated iron hut with peeling green paint. The hut was our school hall and I remember the green paint well because I used to spend hours picking it off the wall at break and lunchtimes when I wasn't being chased by the girls or playing football, in fact often when I was playing football as I was usually in goal, standing next to the hall!