UP TO THE TEST: Is the new 11+ fairer to all pupils?
Last year a new 11-plus grammar test was introduced in Bucks. The new test was intended to be more fair, with expensive tutoring less likely to help richer children win a place in grammar schools. LAURA MOWAT finds out why heads of schools think it is too
HEAD teachers say that an 11-plus test can never be completely tutor-proof, but believe the new test lessens the effects of coaching.
The first test in the new format was introduced in September last year to try and ensure children from a range of backgrounds can benefit from a grammar school education.
But campaigners are far from convinced and think the test should be withdrawn until the grammar schools can prove it is fair for all children.
Head teacher of Chesham Grammar School, Philip Wayne, head teacher of Aylesbury High School, Alan Rosen, and Burnham Grammar School head, Andy Gillespie were questioned by the county council’s education select committee about the test change.
Mr Rosen said: “The test is designed to make sure it properly discriminates between the candidates.
“It is essential that we look at the results properly and don’t jump to simplistic conclusions. One has to dig deep into the data before being clear and confident about conclusions.”
The new test features verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths, which is designed to test a range of competencies rather than the single verbal reasoning of the previous test, which is easier to coach for.
There is less predictability in terms of questions, making it more difficult to train for.
Mr Wayne said: “It was an opportunity for us to take a look at the test.
“The key thing for us was to have a test that broadly mirrored the primary school curriculum so the test is largely based on English and maths.
“We will continue to make improvements, respond to concerns and fine tune it. We think that it is a good test.”
Committee member, councillor Paul Irwin, asked the teachers if the test really was fairer.
Mr Wayne said: “You can’t stop people having their children tutored.
“What we have to try and do it to mitigate the effects of it and that is what this test was designed to do.
“I have never used the word ‘tutor-proof ’ but it is less resistant to the impacts of coaching as it is a school-based test.”
The head teachers want to concentrate on studying the test results over the long term rather than focusing on short term outcomes.
Mr Wayne said: “It is too early to draw any conclusions.
“We are aware of our responsibility to make sure the test is a fair reflection of a child’s ability. We feel that this is the right test. At the moment, we only have two years of data.
“The feeling is that the test is doing the right thing, but we will continue to monitor the data.”
FAIR REFLECTION: Chesham Grammar School head teacher Philip Wayne with pupils