Published: 12:36, 16 March 2021
| Updated: 14:35, 16 March 2021
The number of children from less well-off backgrounds taking the Kent Test dropped last year, according to figures released by Kent County Council.
The decline raises questions about whether efforts to encourage disadvantaged children to enter the test are faltering and may have been impacted by the coronavirus.
The data is based around extra funding schools get from the government to help them improve the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.
Known as pupil premium, it is measured against the numbers on free school meals and other factors, such as the number who are in care.
According to the county council, 10,743 children were entered for the test in 2019 of whom 1,750 were in receipt of pupil premium.
Of those who passed the test automatically in 2019, 271 or 8.7% were pupils who were eligible for pupil premium. Those who secured a place through the appeal system brought the total number to 460 or 10.2%.
In 2020, 10,116 pupils entered for the test of whom 1,503 qualified for pupil premium money.
"This reverses recent trends, which have seen increases in Pupil Premium and Free School Meals representation in Kent grammar schools..."
Of the 1,503 the number who passed automatically was 251, or 6.3%. That figure rose to 379 once the figures for successful appeals were added in, the equivalent of 8.6%.
Matt Dunkley, the county council’s director of children’s services, said the decline was disappointing and came after a period in which there were signs that more disadvantaged children were taking the test.
“While early data suggested Covid-19 had a minimal impact on the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils through the selective process, analysis of National Offer Day intake disappointingly shows a reduction in the proportion of disadvantaged pupils securing a grammar school offer.
"This reverses recent trends, which have seen increases in Pupil Premium and Free School Meals representation in Kent grammar schools.”
Further analysis would be needed to establish whether or not the decline was disproportionate when compared to the wider educational outcomes of this group of pupils, he added.
Last year’s test had been adapted “to include impact statements for each school and referred pupil, so that the individual effect of Covid-19 could be considered”.
There have been calls for this year’s test to be scrapped and replaced with a system of teacher assessment because of the length of time pupils have been out of school.
Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of Comprehensive Future, said it was “scandalous” that the tests went ahead last year and called for tests for 2022 entry, due to take place in September, be scrapped.
KCC says it is monitoring the situation and as things stand, the test will go ahead in September as planned.
Last year’s test was delayed for a month to take account of the impact of the lockdown.