- Children will not be expected to take separate practice papers – instead, practice exercises will be incorporated into the main papers.
- There will be two main tests, one assessing reasoning ability and one assessing pupils’ attainment in literacy and numeracy. There will be scope to vary the exercises within the tests to keep the format fresh.
- All tests will be in multiple-choice format and will be standardised against the performance of a national sample.
- All candidates will complete a writing task under test conditions, which happens currently. This will not be marked, but will be available to local Headteacher panels that can look at borderline cases at the request of the primary school. The new writing task will be shorter than at present, so that all the assignments can be completed on one day
Parents whose children expect to take the tests in September 2014 will find out more information about the next Kent Test during May 2014. Information will be posted on the council’s website www.kent.gov.uk in time to allow parents to consider whether or not to register their children for the tests by the June deadline.
The new tests will comprise two main papers instead of three as in previous years, with an additional writing task to be used only where there is a headteacher assessment (HTA) as before. The first paper will probably have content similar to the previous verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, and will have elements of both, but test different aspects of the two reasoning types from year to year, and possibly in different proportions. We shall not know the exact make up and style until the first papers are set. GL Assessment refers to four reasoning types on its website, including verbal and non-verbal reasoning. However, it also lists Spacial Awareness and Quantitative Reasoning, both of which it explains as part of NVR. The second paper will be a combination of numeracy (which is the current third paper) but will also test literacy for the first time in many years. Again we shall need to see the first papers to be confident of content, but as it is to be a multiple choice paper, as is the first one, I anticipate it will be mainly a comprehension task, possibly with an element of grammar.
KCC hopes that the flexibility of the new format will reduce the effects of coaching and certainly the first year's test will be partly uncharted waters, but I anticipate the coaching industry and the obsessives will go into full speed to seek out possible examples of the new format, and by Year Two will be geared up. However, the very uncertainty of content and arrangement of it across the two papers will reduce the effect and hopefully provide a more level playing field, which should be applauded by all parents.
One school which will be a barometer of the success of the new tests is The Judd School in Tonbridge, our super selective grammar with the highest requirements in the Kent Test. Judd has made it clear it wants to attract the boys with the highest ability, not those most heavily coached and will be watching the outcomes of the 2014 Kent Test with great interest. It will then decide if it will stay with the Kent Test (assuming it worked!) or abandon it and seek its own test with a stronger element of literacy. Interestingly, both the Dover and now the Shepway Test which are run as an alternative to the Kent Test have a significant literacy element, which they claim enables them to select more children of grammar school ability with such strengths. Tests such as these can be administered by a small group of schools whoa re able to mark literacy papers by hand and ensure consistency of assessment. Sadly, this is not possible across the 12,000 Kent Test applicants, which is why the 'literacy' element is assessed by a multiple choice paper.
Another website contains many postings by parents across the country whose children have taken and passed the Kent Test with high passes. They are seeking advice on whether they will get places at the super-selectives and will then deign to consider moving to Kent to take up these places. Kent parents seeking places in their local grammar schools will and should be incensed by such practices.
The new tests are to be set by GL Assessment, who have produced KCC 11 plus tests for some years, which will come as a surprise to many, for this format is one that has been used by another organisation, CEM, a rapidly expanding assessment group. GL Assessment produce test papers for sale, but KCC made it a requirement in their tender that main test material must not be available for purchase. It therefore remains to be seen whether we will see practice material in the future claiming to be aligned to the Kent process, especially as KCC intend keeping access to test content restricted.