The following article appeared with an accompanying newspaper report in Kent on Sunday, October 30th. It was subsequently reproduced in full, in the blog of Medway Councillor Tristan Osborne.
The row about the shambolic Medway Test arrangements at two Test Centres, described by Councillor Les Wicks, Portfolio Holder for Education at Medway Council, as ‘a mortification’ - continues unabated. The Medway Eleven plus is held in a number of large centres (mainly schools) on a Saturday morning in September. There have been complaints about the operation of these tests for years, the Council agreeing nine changes in procedures with the Ombudsman in 2008 after a large number of complaints; last year the council admitted fault after another large number of complaints about one centre and agreed to put in a number of improvements to monitor the process. Sadly these failed to stop what the Council has now agreed were major faults at Rainham School for Girls, although it disputing the problems at the Chatham Grammar centre. At Rainham, the Council put in just one registration desk for over 200 children, with the result that anxious queues rapidly built up waiting long past the 20 minutes allocated, the tests starting 40 minutes late. Children were therefore on site for six and half hours. There were only three boys’ toilets, half the girls’ toilets were not working so many children spent the whole of their breaks in toilet queues. They had been told to bring a piece of fruit and a bottle of water to sustain them, which was evidently insufficient for the extended exam period. Any adult subjected to such chaos for an important exam would probably have walked out. As it was some of the children did not have the stamina to cope. I have just listed here some of the many problems at Rainham, and Medway Council has now acknowledged that no fault attached to the school, although at least two councillors alleged the problems were down to the incompetence of the school and had apologise for this later. I could go on about the problems at Chatham, sparked by the invigilators’ failure to provide the question paper for the first exam of the day, but you can read the details at www.kentadvice.co.uk. Medway Council’s astonishing verdict was that as half the children passed the test at Rainham, none were disadvantaged – apparently they didn’t consider the half who failed!. The Council promised to carry out a thorough investigation of the problems and make the outcome known to all concerned. However this has turned out to be a ‘management improvement report’, a single page document looking forward to stop such problems recurring, that does not address the issue of why the problems arose in the first place. One can only hope it is more effective than the promises of 2010 which were supposed to stop such problems! However, parents continue to be angry, not necessarily because of the original blunders, but because of council attempts to cover them up, and its ludicrous refusal to acknowledge some children were disadvantaged by the conditions to which they were subjected. We await the Ombudsman’s verdict on this one, but spare a thought for those children who will never know if they would have passed, if treated fairly.