Bid to make 11-plus test 'tutor-proof' amid review by Kent headteachers
Many children receive
academic coaching before taking the 11-plus in Kent
by political editor Paul Francis
The 11-plus test sat by thousands of children each year in
Kent could be revamped to counter concerns widespread coaching
favours those who can afford to pay for private tutoring.
County education chiefs are to outline reforms later this month
after a review by heateachers.
The review was aimed partly at trying to make the tests
"tutor-proof" and address complaints many children are
over-coached and subsequently struggle in a grammar school.
The KM Group revealed earlier this year how independent
accounted for close to 500 places offered to Kent's 33
In some cases, pupils from prep schools were taking as many as a
third of places available.
A widespread coaching culture has developed, matched by a rise
in the pass mark at the county's most popular selective schools,
notably in west Kent.
"You can be taught to pass any exams. And if you can afford to pay for tutoring, your chances increase. The whole premise of the test is flawed...” – ex-headteacher Nigel Utton
Among options considered by headteachers was whether there
should be some form of continuous assessment to complement test
The group also considered if there could be a ban on
the sale of practice papers and a rethink on the test's main
components - maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.
The changes could also see a standard test for all selective
The 11-plus is not popular with many state primary headteachers,
who feel it has become outdated and places both schools and
children under too much pressure.
Cllr Mike Whiting (Con), cabinet member for education at Kent
Council, said: "A group of heads, including representatives from
primary, secondary schools, and grammar schools met three or four
"While they did not make specific recommendations on a preferred
test or testing arrangements, they were clear that they wanted a
test which was not
commercially available and which limited the opportunity for
"They also wanted to explore whether practice papers and
familiarisation tests were a suitable way forward, and they
preferred to see all tests sat on the same day - currently Kent
sits over two days."
He added he would consider options that were "legal, affordable
"My only two stipulations were that I would be looking for a
test that was less coachable than the current one, and that Kent
should retain a universal test because I didn't want to subject
children being trawled around the county to sit a number of
different tests in different schools.
situation exists in some London boroughs, for example, and it was
not one I wanted to see in Kent."
Some headteachers say it will prove hard to change the 11-plus
in a way to make it tutor-proof.
Nigel Utton, former chairman of the Kent Headteachers'
the test was outdated and skewed towards those who could pay to
"You can be taught to pass any exams. And if you can afford to
pay for tutoring, your chances increase. The whole premise of the
test is flawed.
"What we are trying to say is 'these children are academic and
these are not' and ignoring everything we know about the way how
childrens' brains develop. It is not about whether you are academic
Kent County Council has twice before reviewed the 11-plus, but
on each occasion has decided against change.
The proposals will go out for public consultation later this
month and, if agreed, could be in place by next year.
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