‘NU­CLEAR ARMS RACE’ FOR GRAM­MAR PLACES

Re­port slams in­equal­i­ties and in­dus­trial tu­tor­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by Qasim Per­acha qasim.per­acha@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @QasimPer­acha

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

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