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Concerns raised that Kent Test delay fails to bridge gap between less well-off pupils and those from more affluent areas

Controversial plans to delay the 11-plus test in Kent until October have been described as "disappointing".

Kent County Council's Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Cllr Trudy Dean, said the proposal would fail to breach the gulf between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more affluent areas.

KCC's scrutiny committee has been asked to look at the plan to delay the Kent Test
KCC's scrutiny committee has been asked to look at the plan to delay the Kent Test

The Tonbridge and Malling councillor has asked KCC's scrutiny committee to review the plans amid concerns the proposal does not fall in line with County Hall's pledges to reduce the student deprivation gap.

Questioning the move, she said: "I am very disappointed with the decision, which I do not think helps to bridge the gap for those children who have been receiving very little tutoring throughout the lockdown period."

She added: "I aim to call the proposal in for scrutiny."

The Kent Test, a grammar school entry exam which usually takes place over two days in September, is likely to be pushed back until Thursday, October 15 for Kent pupils. Those outside of the county would be tested from Saturday, October 17.

Under the plans, parents would be allowed to name six schools, rising from the current four, on the Kent secondary school application form for 2020 prospective pupils.

Cllr Trudy Dean
Cllr Trudy Dean

A head teacher appeal stage is also being considered, which will allow further consideration to be given to pupils where schools feel their test scores do not reflect their "true ability".

Cllr Richard Long (Con), KCC's cabinet member for education, said in a virtual public meeting earlier today that around 64% of Kent's 431 primary and junior schools had given their support to the move.

He told his nine cabinet colleagues and senior officers: "It has recently become clear that Year 5 pupils, many of whom are due to take the Kent test, are no longer expected to return to school before the start of the new academic year.

"It's important that schools, children and families have adequate notice of any adjustments we make to the Kent Test process, so we have announced our intention to take a decision regarding changes to September testing."

KCC’s corporate director for children, young people and education, Matt Dunkley, described the proposal as County Hall's "preferred plans" when the idea was publicly announced three days ago.

"The safety and wellbeing of all the pupils and staff involved has to be our overriding priority."

Speaking last Friday, he said: “We are mindful of how much classroom time students have missed and want to give all those taking part the opportunity to settle back into school life before the Kent Test."

But Mr Dunkley warned that KCC could be forced to make drastic changes should there be an increased infection rate of Covid-19 or Government guidance amendment.

He added: "The safety and wellbeing of all the pupils and staff involved has to be our overriding priority."

A final decision on the proposal will be considered in mid-July by KCC's education cabinet member while Medway Council has also announced plans to delay the Towns' 11-plus exam until October.

However, families have been told they must register their interest to KCC to take part in the grammar school exam process by Wednesday, July 1.

KCC's Labour group was contacted for comment.

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