New 11-plus does not solve equality divide

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The new ‘tutor proof’ 11-plus exam does nothing to bridge the gap between rich and poor children when it comes to who gets into grammar schools, according to a new report.

The study, by the Local Equal Excellent group found that despite claims that the new exams would rely more on children’s natural ability, 70% of youngsters from private schools passed as opposed to only 19% from state schools in Bucks.

Indeed, since the new tests came in, the amount of kids passing from Bucks state schools decreased by 4%,

Rebecca Hickman, who wrote the report, said: “Far from increasing social mobility, Bucks’ selective system is simply reinforcing existing patterns of disadvantage.

“The vast tutoring industry has been unaffected by the new exam, and the evidence shows that children from better-off homes still come out on top.

“It is a system of winners and losers that has created one of the biggest attainment gaps in the country – with the children who most need our help losing the most.”

The report showed that of the 4,811 Bucks state school children who entered the 11+ in the 2014 cohort 19.7% passed.

But from private schools 307 children of the 438 children who took the test (70.1%) passed and won places at grammar schools.

The report also highlighted the large number of children from outside Bucks who attend the county’s grammar schools.

Of the children from Bucks (state and private) who took the new test, only 24% passed, down from 28%. However, 39% of non-Bucks children got through, up from 24% before the test changed. It means nearly one in every three grammar school places in the country went to children from outside the area.

Speaking to The Guardian, Philip Wayne, headteacher of Chesham grammar school and chairman of the 
Buckinghamshire grammar schools, said: “We do believe the best preparation for the tests is to develop a child’s ability to read with understanding and to solve problems using their numerical skills: this is what primary schools are doing with their children.

“The term ‘tutor-proof’ is not in the lexicon of the Buckinghamshire grammar schools.

“What we have said is that it is preferable to use a test which reduces any impact, perceived or real, of coaching.”