Posts Tagged ‘eleven +’

Piggy-back to the exam hall

Eliza

With one day separating two of the school entrance exams, L organises a treat for Eliza. We all go to JumpNation – the warehouse with a trampoline floor and walls. The kids bound around, racing across the trampolines. Eliza completes somersaults and back-flips. Their faces turn pink and their hair damp with sweat. Then we look up from our tea to see Eliza being carried by a steward. She’s twisted her ankle and receives immediate, thorough first aid.

The next morning, what was to be the easiest exam to reach becomes the most difficult. I drive mother and daughter close to the school. L gives Eliza a piggy-back to the queue waiting to be let in and then gets dispensation to carry her all the way to the desk. How it has affected her exam performance, we don’t know.

Gabe

Gabe is in the top maths set. At the end of last year they did some GCSE level papers. This year, he thinks, they may be heading higher. He does his homework at home – a new departure, perhaps signifying its difficulty. He asks me to help. Quadratic equations – we look at the examples. Without an explanation I don’t know how to approach them. Gabe remembers another technique and applies it. He’s successful with some, but doesn’t feed his answers back into the original equation to check. Were he to heed me, that would be something I could teach him.

Robin

Robin is annoyed that his new teacher is making him read books at a level below where he feels he reached at the end of last year. L and I emphasise the importance of reading them quickly if he wants to be issued more challenging books. The book he wants to read is an award winning account of Guardiola’s Barcelona, that he bought with his own money at Waterstone’s. It’s an adult read (by complexity, not subject matter), but he’s ploughing through it – preferring to be listener, but reading it to himself as well.

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Eagles fly

Gabe

Gabe flew this afternoon to Utrecht with his football team. 13 boys and four adults, none from his family. This short flight has been the cause of enormous anxiety for Gabe for weeks. The lost Malaysian airliner, being sick while flying have spiralled around countless conversations. It was almost a relief when the club ordered him a track suit for the trip that is far too large, as it introduced something else for him to obsess about. We don’t know if he kept himself together on the plane, but there’s been nothing on the Facebook page for the tour that would suggest otherwise. We will know in six days and one more flight’s time.

Robin

His older brother’s Friday night cricket commitments created a vacant slot for a piano lesson. Robin snatched it up eagerly. He’s had one lesson, where he explained he learnt to play ‘pieces’, and left as enthusiastic as he had arrived.

Eliza

The results of Eliza’s mock eleven plus are in. Her aggregate score was in the top quartile of the 300+ participants. Her English mark was the top score achieved on that particular test. Non-verbal reasoning appears to be the discipline at which she needs most practice before the real thing in September.

Young grammarian

Gabe

Two sets of results in three days, and two more comfortable passes, for Grammar South and Grammar Central, the secondary school of choice for Gabe, L and me. Gabe got the latter result well into the evening after football practice. He was delighted and ever so chirpy. All sorts of hopes and plans for the next phase of his schooling came tumbling out, suppressed up until now for fear he may not have achieved the pass mark. Understandably, he marvelled at his maths score, which, allowing for the inscrutability of the score normalisation process, looked a lot like 100%.

Eliza

Eliza’s skinniness makes her look fragile, but not frail. She showed her wiry strength when arm wrestling with Gabe. She pushed his arm to the carpet with very little struggle, despite his several years and stone advantage.

Robin

Robin has been a proper member of the football club since September, playing in its under 6 squad. With that comes the right to club kit. L took him to the local sports shop to order the kit (small, small and small), which was to be presented to the squad one Saturday morning. Each night and often in the morning and during the day, Robin asked how many days it would be until he got his kit (squad number 30). Naturally cautious, I gave long lead times, but several of these came and went. Finally, on Saturday the kits were handed out. Robin changed into his immediately he got home, wore it again on Sunday, after school on Monday and tomorrow gets to wear it at football practice for the first time.

393 and all that

Grammar School Central, our local selective school, held its entrance exam on Saturday – the third in Gabe’s autumn odyssey. This time his nerves were frayed, probably because this is the school he prefers and he sees the immediacy of the challenge if he is to achieve that goal. He showed some upset during the days running up to the exam and needed reassurance: that he should be confident, that if things didn’t go well he wasn’t letting anyone down.

Early on Saturday morning, L walked him across town. At the school, they joined the queue. Gabe became aware that he was rubbing his hands and asked L why he was doing it. ‘Is it helping you?’ she asked. ‘Yes’. ‘Then keep doing it.’ And then for L and me, three plus hours of detachment – a little like waiting for surgery to finish.

L picked him up and having wind of the publication of Grammar School West’s results, drove home, persuaded Gabe to stay in the car, unlocked the door and found the letter. Her plan to keep it secret if unfavourable was shelved. Gabe had sailed over the pass mark on his way to 393. Then quickly to a pizza lunch with friends and on to one of their homes to glory in the freedom from multiple choice tests and the baking October weather. Four examinees (and three little ones) burnt off their stress and frustration, and for Gabe maybe some elation, with an afternoon-long water fight with pistols, pool and slide.

Entrance exam

Gabe

Two eleven plus entrance exams to local grammar schools down, one (or two) to go. Gabe’s month of proving his intellect through extreme multiple choice testing is in full flow. He began at grammar school west. There the streets were throttled with cars parked on pavements. L walked with Gabe up the road to the school. He walked quickly with fixed expression and was swept away from L into the school with around 1,000 other ten year olds. Three and one-half hours later, L picked him up. His sincere wish was that we didn’t ask him how it went and so, when we met at pizza hut for a celebratory lunch, we talked around the subject.

Then yesterday at grammar school south: the roads were choked and L and Gabe had to get out of the car and walk to arrive on time. All week, he has shown no sign of stress, only for the journey there to tense him, just as it certainly did L and me. Again, no clear line on how he has done, but he has appeared self-possessed. L treated him on Saturday to an afternoon of emotion and peril at the latest Harry Potter movie.

Robin

While Robin has eschewed crying for straightforward pain, he can be moved and scared to tears.  He fidgeted through most of a Lassie DVD, then became gripped when the dog disappeared, possibly dead. Two tears escaped and inched down his cheeks. L had to switch off an episode of Dr Who, which frightened him into sobs.

Eliza

Eliza harnessed Robin, with a long-scarf around his mid-riff. Holding the two ends, she sets him running, pulling her along on her roller blades, like a pony and trap.

 

School visits

Gabe

Summer of year 5 and L & I take Gabe on visits to five secondary schools in two weeks. With L at All Boys Grammar South, Gabe frets at its serious academic air, won’t participate and pesters to be taken home. At Grammar North, he’s tight-lipped and anxious to keep moving, his warning to me not to talk to teachers futile. Outside, he regains his fluency and slams to school for trying to be too perfect. At Grammar West, we meet his friend R on the way in who tells us it’s a great school. Maybe freed by this approval, or simply because it is a great school, he relaxes enough to play keyboard in the music studio. For the understandable reasons of its distance from home and that his friends won’t be going there, Gabe isn’t keen. Then to Grammar Local for an over-crowded tour of its unimpressive estate. Gabe gushes – what a great school. It is, but his senses while looking around the schools haven’t been allowed to challenge his preconceptions. Finally, to Secondary Modern Local, and Gabe concludes he wants to go to a grammar school.

Eliza

I took the kids to Crocky Trail, a health and safety-free park featuring large rides made from decommissioned industrial machinery and a long trail that follows and crosses a muddy stream. While the boys ran ahead, Eliza paddled in the mud, traversed the stream on chain bridges and savoured the experience. But in quick succession, she was kicked on the hand, dumped by Robin from a wobbly barrel into a puddle and dived face-first into a roundabout. Upset and asking to go home, I assessed the degree of her discomfort with the ice cream test. A vanilla cone, with flake and raspberry sauce, was an effective remedy for a sore face.

Robin

Robin’s reception year report was full of positive comment from his teachers: ‘always motivated to explore new activities and resources.’ ‘contributes well to group discussions and is keen to share his broad general knowledge.’ ‘he has shown he can persevere with even the most challenging activities’. ‘He is always proud of his achievements.’ ‘Robin has excelled in phonics’. Across 13 dimensions of attainment, Robin scored 109 out of a maximum of 117.

25m badge

Robin

Robin has moved up to the yellow cap swimming class. No flotation aids are used. This week, the teacher began by pacing out 10 metres along the side of the pool and asking his charges to swim to the marker. Robin managed it. The kids were sent back and challenged to do it again. This time as Robin reached the marker, the teacher encouraged him to keep going. Robin was heading to the deep end, with the teacher’s metal pole waving ahead of him. Robin moved with a mix of paddle and breaststroke. He stopped every couple of metres to breathe and then sank below the surface as he pushed himself forward. And so, at his first effort, Robin swam a full length. At the end of the lesson, the teacher shook Robin’s hand and gave him a form, which we cashed in for a 25m badge and certificate. Robin said it was his first trophy.

Eliza

Eliza went to school on tuesday dressed in a white ankle-length skirt and with a woollen shawl wrapped around her. It was Victorian Day. Eliza and her classmates had a special assembly, held by the headteacher sporting a moustache to make the point that women didn’t fill such roles. In class, the children played with slates and baked Victorian biscuits.

Gabe

Gabe has begun preparing for his 11+ exam next year. We spend an hour each week looking at test papers. He enjoys the test, scoring highly but is quickly discouraged if he doesn’t know the skill being tested.  He also tends to rush into a question, falling into traps laid by the question-setter.