Some time back in the last century I took the 11+ exam, and my aunt, a teacher, gave me coaching. It was common then, and for those children who still sit the 11+ exam it is still common.
So now just 68 years after it was first introduced, plans are being drawn up to make the 11-plus tests “tutor proof”.
There are around 160 schools in England which still use the 11+ type entrance programme, plus many independent schools who use Common Entrance, and many schools in N Ireland where the 11+ is still commonplace. One survey found that about half the families who put their children through an admissions tests pay for tutoring to help them pass. I am surprised it is that few.
Kent county council a home of selective schools with over 10,000 pupils taking it each year has ordered a review of its test and is looking at whether selection should be based on assessment by teachers rather than just test results. They are also looking at stopping the sale of past papers.
Interestingly the test is still in three parts: maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning which is how it has been run for years. Those who argue against such a test (and I admit I am one) point out that there is no room in such work for regarding excellence in creative and lateral thinking – the two attributes craved by employers everywhere since the start of the digital revolution.
Mike Whiting, Kent’s cabinet member for education, launched the test earlier this year, the saying, “A number of people have said to me that the Kent test is not fit for purpose and could be improved, specifically because there is a sense you can coach for it and if people are willing to devote money to something, they can get an unfair advantage when it comes to getting a grammar school place.”
Proposals for changing the test are expected to be put out to consultation later this month.
Mary Boyle, the Principal of Knole Academy, a comprehensive in Sevenoaks, said: “The system is inherently unfair as passing the 11-plus is partly due to background and partly due to wealth.” This last point is a reference to the fact that a study revealed that one-in-seven places at state grammars are taken by pupils who have transferred in from fee-paying schools. Research by Prof David Jesson, from York University’s department for economics, found that at 25 grammars, at least 30 per cent of places went to former private school pupils.