Home   Kent   News   Article

11-plus shake-up plan sparks war of words

ERIC SPEAR: "The one thing I am sure of is that the existing system is unsatisfactory"
ERIC SPEAR: "The one thing I am sure of is that the existing system is unsatisfactory"

PLANS to scrap the 11-plus in Kent appear unlikely to put an end to the controversy over the county’s selective system and could prove equally divisive.

In a clear sign that KCC faces an uphill battle to win over doubters, both teachers and anti-grammar campaigners this week expressed misgivings about replacing the test sat by thousands of pupils each year with a system of continuous assessment.

There were warnings such a system would increase red tape and place both staff and pupils under even greater pressure.

Cllr Paul Carter, KCC’s Conservative cabinet member for education, stressed no final decisions had been reached but hinted change was on its way.

He said: “Any system we can move towards which will give parents knowledge of their children’s ability prior to them choosing their school has to be a good thing. All the options are being looked at and we have ruled nothing out."

He added: “At the moment, there is turmoil in Year Six and the situation is very unsettling for all concerned, including those parents who may not know whether their child has got a place at an over-subscribed high school."

Eric Spear, the president of the National Association of Headteachers and head of Staplehurst Primary School, said: “The one thing I am sure of is that the existing system is most unsatisfactory. Even if we accept the selective concept, the 11-plus test is an extremely blunt instrument.

"The reason most education authorities abolished selection was because of the unfairness in a system in which children sat a test which determined their whole future in education.”

However, he warned teachers could face an even greater workload while pupils faced even greater pressure as schooling became more focused on grades and marks.

“This may well put heads and teachers under increased pressure from parents and it will add to the burden of pressure on children, too.”

STEP, the Kent campaign group dedicated to ending selection, was highly critical.

Spokeswoman Becky Matthews said: “The effect of children being divided into four bands by the end of Year Five will be to ensure all non-selective secondary schools become secondary moderns, catering for children in the lower bands and SEN [special needs] children.

“The enthusiasm and desire to learn that primary school children will be crushed out of them by the end of infant school. Primary schooling will become one extended process of testing and labelling.”

Eric Hammond, the chairman of the pro-selective campaign group Support Kent Schools, said he had doubts about the value of continuous assessment. He commented: “SKS is always willing to look at new ideas although I personally am in favour of testing which measures a child’s ability.

"Having said that, one of the difficulties of having a single test is that it does depend on how a child performs on the day – this idea would give them the chance to be viewed over the longer term.”

Chatham and Aylesford MP Jonathan Shaw, a member of the Commons select committee on education, said: “The important thing is that there is an open process which parents can easily understand and I want to see more detail.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More