Category Archives: Blog

Launching Tutor Quest

Opening ceremonyI have just launched my new website today which is designed to be non profit. It is called Tutor Quest. It can be used to link students to tutors, agencies and tuition centres. The site has been built for the last 6 weeks and today is its first day of operation, it has already had tutors and tuition centres registering on it.

Take a look at the new site.


Image Copyright © 2013 yummyfoto

Essex 11 plus changing!

Football goalEssex 11 plus exam is changing again. The goal posts are on the move.

Copyright © 2013 ,





From September 2015 there are a number of changes:

There will be no discrete verbal reasoning paper. Also, there will be a new English and Maths paper. Both of these will be more in line with key stage 2.

English paper will last 1 hour with some extra reading time and is valued at 60 marks. It will assess comprehension, grammar and vocabulary as well as two pieces of creative writing. In addition there will be a verbal reasoning section

The maths paper will be based on content from the Key stage 2 curriculum. The paper will also have applied reasoning which includes mathematical and non verbal. This maths paper will last 60 minutes.

What does this mean?

Well traditionally, the Essex 11 plus maths paper had a lot of Key stage 3 maths content. The English paper was based on 19th century English. CSSE will be releasing a specimen paper in January. We will have to see what that looks like. It seems to be making the exam easier from the surface. However, maybe they seek more students within the catchment area of the school. Already some students have journeys of an hour to get to school. If more students in area now pass, it means that there will be less places for those outside. A lot of parents will be keen to move to be nearer to the school and within the catchment zone.

For those parents outside the catchment area, the children will need to be prepared to an even greater extent. As a professional 11 plus trainer I am happy to share ideas on where to obtain great resources for creative writing. Stephen Curran has written some great books on creative writing. Another good choice is Guinea pig education. If you already have older siblings in a grammar school for Essex, preparing them for creative writing is perhaps something that you previously did not do. However, it is now essential.

Scientific and Medical images

I was browsing on the web and found a site that offers scientific images for sale. I saw these and saw great potential to use them for my own site to enhance the learning of students. and offer for sale highly accurate images that are suitable for professional or medical use. I decided to use quite a few on the site to brighten it up and make it more appealing to others. The owner of the site was extremely helpful and even changed the labels on the heart diagram so that they matched the UK curriculum.

Mixed groups or sets?

Schools often tend to either use mixed ability teaching or sets. There are advantages and drawbacks to each type. I’m going to try to explain the logic in both.

Schools are under huge timetable constraints with such a range of subjects and many other things going on. To put a school under even more strain to split the children into various sets would cause a lot of problems. Therefore, from a timetabling prospective mixed ability groups are a better option. The problem with mixed ability groups is that the teacher often pitches the lesson at the children in the middle of the group. So, the higher ability children tend to lose out and the lower ability children often can’t understand the lesson. Some teachers say that it makes the room more competitive, but I think it is far from ideal.

Sets are better, because it allows the teacher to target the level to the ability level of the child. This means that the group makes a lot more progress. However, it often causes time table problems with the school. Also, parents always want their child in the top set. Top sets are often taught more advanced work at a faster pace, whilst the bottom sets are taught the work at a slower pace. The lower ability children are often given colouring in to do.

In both cases the teacher should provide differentiation to cater for the needs of all children. There are several ways that differentiation can occur. Differentiation by outcome is where the children are all set a task e.g. a worksheet. As they work through the worksheet, the questions become harder. So this will provide a level of differentiation and it is what most teachers will use. The alternative is differentiation by task, this is where the teacher gives the students different tasks to do. The lower ability children will have an easier task than the higher ability children. This is more problematic to use in the classroom as it makes it difficult to go through the work as a group afterwards. However, differentiation is the key to targetting childrens levels effectively. I often use differentiation in my group teaching and when I tutor children on a 1 to 1 basis.


Advantica stock photos

I’m writing this blog post to thank Advantica stock photos for supplying the desk image that is on the exam technique page  . They even went the extra mile to see if they had any other images that were similar that I could use on the site. They also wrote an interesting blog article on the history of stock photography and talked about my science tuition site within the article. The article can be found here. The article actually makes quite an interesting read.

New images

Images on site

Whilst I was building the site I thought it would be great to have some images on the site to make it more attractive and friendly. The images on this site have mostly been supplied by the Symbiostock network this is a network of independent photographers and illustrators. They sell their work direct rather than using an agency where the commissions can be as low as 15%. The prices within the network are affordable and by supporting them it will help them to produce more images. In addition it will support them to earn a reasonable living from their work. I found that Christine Nichols work particulary useful for my biology section. She specialises in nature photos. One of her images can be found here in the environment and feeding relationships for key stage 3. Christine Nichols was so pleased about her work being chosen that she even wrote a blog on it.

11 Plus results

SchoolwearIt’s that time of year when I get my Essex 11 plus results. Once again I have successfully managed to get students to pass the CSSE 11 plus exam and gain entry to a grammar school. This year it was tougher than ever,

Every year the exam gets more competitive and more challenging. However, I have still managed to achieve a very good success rate. In order to be successful the 11 plus needs to be started as soon as possible. Also, please remember that the 11 plus is not part of the national curriculum and so it will not be taught in primary schools. I have 15 years worth of past papers that I use to prepare the students. I also invest very strongly in resources to make sure that the students I teach get the best possible preparation!