Published: 15:04, 01 March 2021
| Updated: 19:04, 01 March 2021
Labour has called for the 11-plus Kent Test this year to be scrapped and for applications for a place at one of Kent’s 31 grammar schools be based on teacher assessment.
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The education secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that both A-levels and GCSE exams will not take place this year.
Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan, deputy leader of the Labour group at Kent County Council, said the same decision should be made about the 11-plus.
“It’s all about fairness. It is right that due to the impact that Covid has had on teaching, learning and the health and wellbeing of children the same rights as given to those in GCSE and A-level this year be extended to our 10-year-olds.
"So the 11-plus should be scrapped this year in favour of a holistic demonstration of ability that truly reflects the potential of the young person rather than an arbitrary set of written tests,” she said.
The call comes as it has emerged the government has suggested money it is allocating for catch-up classes be used by grammar schools to encourage pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply for places.
In advice sent out to schools about the fund, officials say: “An example of this activity might be for grammar schools to support families with targeted selection test familiarisation work and/or support in English and maths.
"Schools which select by ability will know their traditional feeder schools, and selective schools and feeder primaries are asked to work together to identify which disadvantaged children might be supported in this way.”
That has raised questions about the possible repercussions if schools focus on pupils who may be deemed as suitable for a selective school at the expense of other socially-disadvantaged children.
The government says its one-off £650 million catch up premium for the 2020 to 2021 academic year is designed to ensure schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time.
Joanne Bartley of the campaign group Comprehensive Future, said: “Children have had a very different learning experience this year. On the one hand you have those who may be having a private tutor twice a week and on the other, you have children trying to learn but have parents too busy to help.
“Although officers are already considering the potential impact of the lockdown on all areas of education, no decision has been made about the timing of the Kent Test for 2021.”
"Going ahead with a test as if nothing has happened is madness. This is a time for grammar school leaders and governors to look at what is the ethical approach in this situation. Children have had very different learning experiences so it can't be equitable to judge them on the same standards."
Pupils last year took the test in October. Because this meant the results were delayed, parents had to make school choices without knowing the test result.
KCC increased the number of schools that they could apply for to six, enabling parents to name up to two grammar schools without reducing the number of non-selective schools on their application forms.
The result of this has been a decline in the number of pupils being offered their first choice.
The council has said that it is aware parents would be concerned but was focusing on supporting schools through the lockdown.
David Adams, Kent County Council’s interim director education, said: “Although officers are already considering the potential impact of the lockdown on all areas of education, no decision has been made about the timing of the Kent Test for 2021.”