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Tuesday, 19 May 2020 18:55

The Kent 11 Plus and Coronavirus: Part Two

Index

Preparation for the Test
One grammar school headteacher wrongly argued on BBC SE last week that there is no need for a change of date, as the Kent Test measures Cognitive Ability and so does not depend on school learning. Back in 2014, following pressure from several quarters, including memorably the head of The Judd School, who threatened to withdraw his school from the Kent Test selection method unless alterations were made, it was changed to give more emphasis to curriculum assessment. This altered the balance of assessment with two thirds of the marks now being awarded for performance in  English and Maths, and one third for reasoning tests, as explained here. The Medway scheme which awards 80% of the marks towards English and maths performance is outlined here. 

This change places greater importance on school work in these two subjects, or an alternative such as tutoring, whether through family, friend or commercially. Professional tutoring will certainly assist some pupils near the pass level, those looking for places at super selective schools and provide comfort for families that they are doing all they can for their children.

Unfortunately, the absence of schooling this year, especially for disadvantaged children, is inevitably going to make a difference in performance for many. Online or remote learning through school is critical, with teachers in most state schools working tirelessly to support their pupils. However, lack of the whole school experience will inevitably take its toll. This can be compensated for by parental support but where this is less effective or lacking children’s progress will inevitably suffer. Conversely, for many private schools, parents are paying to ensure their children receive explicit support for the Test, with commercial tutors surely enjoying a boom year. I am personally aware of the additional stresses being placed on some children as parents seek to compensate, and have serious concerns these may be too great for some.  

The Effect on Disadvantaged Pupils
There is plenty of research emerging showing that pupil involvement is less for many disadvantaged pupils. A BBC SE item this evening (19th May) highlighted the problem of many such families having limited or no access to online education. you will find a definition of Pupil Premium, an annual sum paid to schools to support such children, below

Kent County Council promoted a policy of encouraging social mobility via grammar school through supporting children on Pupil Premium in 2016, in which I became involved. However, it appears to have had no overall success at all since then, the proportion of disadvantaged pupils being admitted since then remaining constant at 10%, although hiding some remarkable swings with Simon Langton Girls admitting over three times as many Pupil Premium children as five years ago, at 27 and Dartford Grammar a third as many at eight. The 10% figure is far higher than many other grammar school areas or individual schools,  including a 4.5% from 80 grammar schools selected with care by Comprehensive Future, and a claimed '22 grammar schools that failed to admit a pupil premium child in 2017',

It is surely inevitable that this year a much more sizeable gap will open between the haves and have nots, and I can’t see a way through it. The evidence is that in most years the Headteacher Assessment has compensate for the gap to an extent, but success here depends to a great extent on the quality of schoolwork over the previous six months which will be lacking this year. Sadly, I don't see the 10% Kent figure replicated for 2021 entry, although Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education is quoted in SchoolsWeek as saying:  "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.” I look forward to learning the strategy to achieve this, although I would be amongst the many who welcome such an initiative. 

Next: Is the Kent Test Necessary and Final Thought


Last modified on Sunday, 24 May 2020 20:03

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