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Tuesday, 19 May 2020 18:55

The Kent 11 Plus and Coronavirus: Part Two

Index

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education (see below)
 
"We’re going to be looking at working with local authorities who have grammar school systems in their area as to how best we can ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not disadvantaged as they look at taking the 11-plus in the future.”
 
It sounds as if a masterplan could be in incubation. But is it true?
Answer came there none two weeks later. So, not true! 

I do not see how ANY alternative date can be set with confidence whilst the possibility of subsequent waves of the pandemic exists. Is it likely that, for example, by December we shall be free of it, but what if not?

If the Test were to take place whilst the pandemic is in full flow, perhaps in a Wave Two, is it reasonable to expect all potential candidates to assemble to take it? If not, can it really go ahead as arranged?

The physical conditions for pupils to take the test will at present require social distancing along with other essential precautions. This may be achievable in most Kent schools, but becomes completely impracticable for around 5000 out of county applicants expected, nearly a third of the total, and from well over 500 different schools across the country. These normally take the test in large school halls in Kent where they can be properly invigilated. Will schools still want to host them? Just 400 of the OOC candidates were offered places in Kent grammars last year, less than 10% of the total who sat the test, but KCC still has an obligation to cater for them.

The turn around time from Kent Test on September 8th this year to result publication currently takes five weeks, including Headteacher Assessments (In Medway the Test across 17/18th September sees results arrive three weeks later, but then there are two more weeks whilst the Review process takes place). Realistically neither of these allow an alternative date that would allow decisions to be provided before the national closing date for secondary school applications, of 2nd November.

The School Admissions Code of Practice comes as close as possible to require Admission Authorities to ‘take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 2nd November so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school’. However, whilst it can clearly be argued that this year is an exception, a later Test date carries its own problems, even assuming (which is not a given) that it is fairly virus free.

The later testing date requires most potential grammar school pupils to hedge their bets across the four schools applied for, not knowing whether they have passed the test or not, applying for both grammar and non-selective schools. It would make sense if this is to be the case if the number of choices could be increased to six, as in Medway, but this would require a further change in the regulations which may not be possible   

The three months that follow 2nd November see a vast clearing operation as Local Authorities across the country work in a co-ordinated scheme with every individual secondary school to arrange for offers of a school to go out for every applicant, including the 18,000 in Kent and some 1,200 across the county boundary. If the Kent Test results are not known by 2nd November then affected families will split their four secondary applications between grammar and non-selective schools, and somewhere along this process, around 5000 children will be awarded Kent grammar school places which would require the whole scheme to be re-worked. This may well be possible in theory. I don’t believe Government is going to change the national admissions scheme for the sake of Kent grammar schools!

Next: Preparation for the Test and Disadvantage


Last modified on Tuesday, 16 June 2020 23:48

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