‘NUCLEAR ARMS RACE’ FOR GRAMMAR PLACES
Report slams inequalities and industrial tutoring
THE battle to get kids into grammar schools in Bucks has been described as a ‘nuclear arms race’ using tutoring on an ‘industrial scale’.
A study jointly published by one of the country’s top universities and an education pressure group has described a selective process that heavily favours those with the funds to pay for private help to get their children through the 11+ exam.
It says that process has led to such inequalities that an estimated 10,000 pupils in the county receive a substandard education.
But the county councillor responsible for education claims the report has its own agenda and Buckinghamshire’s exam figures speak for themselves.
The report by Nuala Burgess, a doctoral student at King’s College London blasts the county’s two-tier system stating: “Buckinghamshire is not just another county. When you enter the world of education, it feels like another country”.
The study, published last month jointly with the group Comprehensive Futures, focuses on Bucks and compares it with Hampshire which chose to abolish grammar schools in the 1960s and 70s.
The report states: “Talking to Buckinghamshire parents reveals that what is expected or assumed, is that every middle class child will be tutored for the 11+, despite the adoption of a supposedly tutorproof standardised testing system in 2013.”
The author goes on to reveal that competition for the best tutors can be so tough that there are waiting lists and covert league tables.
One parent, Adam, described the 11+ process as a ‘nuclear arms race’ adding that even parents who are normally uncomfortable with ‘buying advantage’ will intensively tutor their children.
Most pupils who do not qualify for grammar schools go on to attend secondary moderns, of which 13 out of 23 in Bucks were rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. This means 10,000 Bucks pupils receive a below satisfactory education.
In a recent speech Sir Michael Wilshaw, outgoing Ofsted chief inspector, also highlighted Bucks’ attainment gap of 39% as “far in excess of” the national average of 28%, describing it as an “appalling injustice” and an “inexcusable waste of potential”.
Zahir Mohammed, Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member for education and skills said the county has a well-deserved reputation for education. He said: “We are one of the few authorities to have continued with a strong tradition of supporting excellent