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Head teacher's wife 'tutors pupils through 11-plus', Kent County Council survey finds

By Danny Boyle
Pupils taking the 11-plus
Pupils taking the 11-plus

KCC is considering changes to rules on private tutoring for the 11-plus

by political editor Paul Francis

Head teachers across the county have expressed disquiet over the extent of private coaching for the 11-plus and say Kent County Council should be doing more to stop it.

Responses to a survey carried out by Kent County Council on possible changes to the exam reveal many now consider private tutoring and coaching in schools so prevalent that the tests are unfairly skewed towards those able to pay for tuition.

Among more than 100 responses was a claim one Kent head teacher even offers parents private tuition from his wife to help children through the exam.

That is a breach of the county council's instructions to schools they should not prepare or coach children for the test.

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

KCC said it was carrying out an investigation into the claim.

The survey results indicates broad support for the county council's aim of a "tutor proof" test but reservations about how it can be done.

And they leave county education chiefs facing no clear consensus among schools about the best way forward, with opinion evenly split on many of the proposals they have put forward.

On a key suggestion that practice papers be dropped to limit the amount of coaching, opinion was split with 65 disagreeing but 48 agreeing.

Many argued it would be impossible to stop practice papers being sold commercially and said dropping them could disadvantage some pupils.

On the issue of whether the tests should continue to be taken at primary schools, there was an exact split - 61 saying they should and 61 saying they should be passed to grammar schools.

Patrick Leeson, KCC's director of education, said that where there was evidence of coaching by schools, the council would act.

"Where there is evidence that schools are involved in this kind of activity, we will always look carefully at any evidence that is presented to us and will act accordingly."

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He added: "The council is concerned about the industry that has grown up
around tutoring and coaching for the test and the unreasonable pressure it puts on children. We believe this is unfair and should not be condoned.

"Reducing that pressure is something that I hope any parent or
school would welcome."

He accepted it would be hard to devise a tutor-proof exam.

"While no test of this type can be coach-proof, the council is
determined to reduce the degree to which coaching makes an impact."

Details of the survey responses were released to the KM Group under the
Freedom of Information Act.

'The whole system is flawed'

The survey drew responses from 135 of the county's schools, with the bulk - 108 - coming from primary headteachers and 25 from secondary heads.

Asked if practice papers should be dropped, 65 said no and 48 said yes.

On the idea of tests over one day, 57 disagreed and 63 agreed.

However, many were critical about the widespread coaching culture in Kent and the failure of the authority to tackle the problem.

KCC recently confirmed that it had taken no action against any school over coaching.

Among the comments were:

"It is disgraceful the 'rich' and 'richer' are at an advantage straight
away as their schools advertise the fact they coach for the tests and
parents are pressured into hiring tutors."

"Change the tests substantially each year to give children who are not tutored a fairer chance."

"The whole system is flawed and should be discontinued."

"It will be very difficult to find tests resistant to parental or external coaching."

"KCC needs to do more to stop the blatant coaching that goes on in
schools and undermines the process."

"We even have a headteacher who offers his wife's time to parents, at cost, to coach children."

"There is an imbalance between those children who do and do not have tutoring and this needs to be addressed."

"Monitor schools who cram and tutor to the test far more vigourously."

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