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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

Photo by Ais­ling Mag­ill www.buyapho­totms.co.uk NL201489092

FAIR RE­FLEC­TION: Che­sham Gram­mar School head teacher Philip Wayne with pupils

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