Posts Tagged ‘eleven plus’

Pass mark missed 


The postman arrived minutes before Robin and I were due to leave for his football match. L gathered the letters and took them into the study. She opened them, “He’s not passed. Shall we tell him now?” We did. He nodded, seemed to expect and accept it. 

He was quiet in the car. From across the pitch he looked preoccupied as the team warmed up. With the match underway, he had a distraction. “He seems ok,” I whispered back at home. 

But that afternoon, he sobbed and sobbed with L. Upset, embarrassed not to be following in his brother and sister’s wake to the Grammar school. 

Monday, back to school and facing his classmates, some who had achieved the pass mark, most hadn’t. He stayed close to L in the playground. Vulnerable, as he hasn’t been seen for years. Late in the afternoon, his teacher called. He had been crying at lunchtime: Gabe & Eliza said he was stupid (what he imagined or feared, rather than what was actually said, I believe). 

Within a few days, he’s steadier. We’re thinking about which school to opt for. His priorities are existing friends, ease of getting to school, the layout of the dinner hall and the look of the uniform. L & I are looking more at which school will engage and stretch him, but not discounting travel to school. We decide this week. 

Gabe & Eliza

Both are on notice to treat Robin gently; not to make off-hand remarks about the schools we must consider, which could easily sway him. They seem to be managing this. “I gave him a hug when the programme got scarey for him,” Eliza explained when I made my case to her for being kind to him. 

Eleven plus (for the last time)


The last few weeks in the run-up to Robin sitting the grammar school entrance exam had seen some progress in his practice tests: faster working, more reliable calculations, better understanding of maths problems. But to some extent it felt that L and my efforts were focused on building his confidence. He still seemed some way short on the verbal reasoning paper, in particular. 

L took him to the grammar school for the test. He coped with the crowds and the tension waiting to be admitted and then he was gone. Three hours later, L & Eliza collected him. 

“How was it?” 


He seemed happy with his efforts; he completed all the tests (on the practice tests he rarely was able to). But no detail was offered, or sought. He went to school, reluctantly, that afternoon. Now we wait for the result. 

In the meantime, he has owned up to L that he really, really wants to go to the same school as Eliza & Gabe. Two nights ago, Eliza and I found him wearing her blazer. The only insight he’s offered on the test was when he heard the word ‘eavesdrop’ and chuckled – he’d remembered what it meant when it came up in the entrance exam. 


Gabe’s yearning for a new iPhone has forced the issue of him receiving a monthly allowance. Immediately, he converted his new income into an iPhone 5 and ordered a Beatles themed case. When he first had a phone, his obsession was taking selfies. He’s moved through stages of YouTube addiction, Instagram and now his phone, and speakers, give him a perpetual soundtrack.


Eliza and I began reading ‘To kill a mocking bird’ on holiday. We have both enjoyed it greatly. We’ve tried to adopt the accent, we’ve paused to look up words (‘scuppernong’) and ridden the wave of the narrative with Scout. Twice, during the most gripping passages, though, Eliza has fallen asleep wile I’ve read. Once during Tom Robinson’s trial, and then again when the story reached its climax on a dark night in Maycomb. 

Smashed it


Robin’s preparation for the 11+ exam, begun in earnest around Christmas, has not been smooth. He often resents practice sessions, slumping on the table when asked to attempt some questions, and he has shown no real breakthrough with his results. He sat a practice exam at a local tutorial college. When I picked him up he had his fixed, stony look. He walked past me and headed towards the stairs out of the college. On the stairs, he turned fist clasped, “Smashed it!” he said with great satisfaction. 

His results arrived later that week and he had indeed performed well, exceeding the average and scoring in the ‘likely to pass’ range. Since then, propelled by this confidence boost, his attitude at home has improved, but he’s still prone to sighs of complaint when summoned for a little practice and can dash off his answers to hurry back to screen or ball. 


Gabe sat his first GCSEs – part one of his science qualification. He finally engaged in some revision activity, although only with any real commitment if he was being quizzed by L or I. He felt he did OK in the exams. Interestingly, he spoke enthusiastically of the ceremony of exams, the build-up and formality of taking a public test. He had found that exciting – which bodes well given how many times he’ll be doing it in the coming years. 


Eliza has finally got her way: she no longer walks to school with Gabe. Her release has come about because she has come to an arrangement where her friend walks an indirect route to school, a mirror image of which Eliza follows, so they can meet outside the park and from there make their way, chatting, to school. 

Success (and tears)


Three letters from the three schools where Eliza had sat entrance exams arrived on the same day. One-by-one, L opened them: Pass, Pass, Pass. A clean sweep and a free choice for Eliza.

A couple of hours later a text arrived from her best friend’s Dad. E had failed by six marks. The best friends wouldn’t be going to secondary school together. Eliza went silent, cried quietly and stayed upset for the afternoon.


I was walking Robin to football when L called us with the news. Robin danced for joy and hugged Eliza when he saw her later. At school, he made her a present in art class to mark her achievement.

Walking with L a few days after Eliza’s news, Robin said he would like to go to the same school as Gabe and Eliza. L said he would have a good chance if he worked hard. Robin said he knew he could work hard, but wasn’t sure he could pass the exam.


Gabe has become the guru of grammar school, offering advice and answering Eliza’s questions. “Do girls wear cardigans?” is my favourite. When she was at her most upset at her friend, E’s, exam result, he did the most to reassure her: “You’ll make new friends at school and still have a best friend out of school.”



Gabe celebrated his 13th birthday with pizza, with us his family and two days later, with five friends, who were assembled for a FIFA14 party. They played football in the garden and sat around the dining table laughing, although L and I couldn’t tell at what. Gabe was very satisfied with his birthday.


Robin played football in the morning of his brother’s party. At lunch he said he couldn’t see properly with one eye and went to bed with a migraine. He woke as Gabe’s friends arrived. Although not part of the FIFA contest, he remained in their midst, played football in the garden with them all and laughed along at tea (perhaps as clueless as L & I about what was funny).


Eliza’s build-up to the 11+ began in earnest with a practice test at a local secondary school on the morning of Gabe’s party. She thought she coped ok with two papers, but less well with the third as she was waiting to have a query answered for a long time. She kept in the background during the afternoon and claimed her right to a reward stating that for not annoying the boys at the party she should have a treat on Sunday. I took her swimming.