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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 17:05 GMT
Ongoing testing may replace 11-plus
tes room
Tests would be on top of national testing
Children could be "banded" into ability groups by continuous testing in primary school, under plans to reform the contentious 11-plus system in Kent.

Such a model would ensure that throughout their child's school career, parents had clear information about their academic performance

Consultation document
Kent - the biggest remaining area of selective secondary education in England - feels forced to act because of a series of rulings by the independent national admissions adjudicator.

New legislation also obliges all authorities to co-ordinate admissions procedures within their areas.

So the Conservative-run education authority is considering using progress tests for primary pupils "to determine a child's suitability for entry to a grammar school".

Campaigners for comprehensive education say it would simply replace one unfair system with another.

Need to get agreement

The Education Act 2002 requires education authorities to co-ordinate and get agreement on the admission arrangements for all maintained schools in their area.

So Kent must get agreement by 31 March 2003 for a scheme starting in September 2004, otherwise the education secretary could use new powers to impose a solution.

Under the proposals just published for consultation, Kent says it does not aim to replace the 11-plus with continuous assessment by then, but wants people's views on the principle of changing.

It says a lot of testing is done in primary schools already, and this could be standardised.

"Such a model would ensure that throughout their child's school career, parents had clear information about their academic performance, how it related to the profile of performance of all Kent pupils and whether the child was exceeding expectations or otherwise," it says.

"This information would help parents make informed choices for their child's secondary education as well as allowing them to support their child more fully in school."


The data could be used to put children into ability bands - it suggests there might be four of these - in a process it calls "fair banding".

Can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare that it would create?

Anti-selection campaigner Martin Frey
The head teachers and officials who came up with the proposals felt "no community or community of schools is served well by having a mainstream secondary school that almost entirely provides education to pupils of below average ability".

Banding might tackle this by obliging schools to take a cross-section of pupils from the ability bands, reflecting the proportions from each band which had applied for admission.

Martin Frey of the Stop the Eleven Plus campaign group said: "I think it's an appalling document."

"Selection would continue, it would just happen a lot earlier and under even more challengeable, disreputable procedures.

"Can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare that it would create?"

He thought banding would force all the non-grammar schools to be "bog standard secondary moderns".

Two goes

Kent's selective system - it retains 33 grammar schools - has had a troubled recent history, bringing it into conflict with the admissions adjudicator.

It says these rulings "have made the transfer process increasingly difficult for parents to navigate" - although anti-selection campaigners say it is perfectly straightforward for most people.

Kent was told to stop the "unfair" practice of having the 11-plus test before parents had to express their preferences for which secondary schools they wanted their children to attend.

This had been giving people two bites at the cherry, the grammars and the best of the non-grammars.

Forced to choose

But another ruling meant parents who had been offered their first preference non-selective school could - once they knew the 11-plus results - apply for an unfilled place at a grammar school.

This let people apply for the best of the non-grammars then - if their children passed the 11-plus - "change their minds" and opt for a grammar.

But the adjudicator has also upheld another principle which forces people to choose.

Some over-subscribed schools, which try to be comprehensive, in effect stop people applying to them if they take the 11-plus - and by definition would actually rather go to a grammar.

Testing goes on

It was confirmed that a simple preference for a school could be given more weight by the school than a preference that was conditional on the outcome of the 11-plus.

So people cannot say 'I want to go to a grammar but if I can't I want to choose your school first'.

Fifteen voluntary aided and foundation schools - which decide their own admissions arrangements - have now adopted this practice.

Meanwhile, pupils doing the 11-plus this year take a reasoning test on Tuesday and a maths and writing test on Wednesday of this week.

The results are delivered to schools on 28 November.

See also:

01 Jul 02 | Education
27 Jul 01 | Education
10 Mar 00 | Education
04 Nov 99 | Education
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