Published: 09:14, 25 January 2008
THOUSANDS of primary school pupils could be taking the 11-plus test in September under plans for a major and potentially controversial shake-up in admissions arrangements in the county.
Kent County Council is to push ahead with its plan to bring forward the tests to allow parents to know the outcome before they apply for a place at secondary school. If approved, it would start this year.
The move is in line with new Government guidance on when pupils should take tests in areas with selective schools and is likely to be welcomed by some parents.
But county education chiefs are already facing a backlash among some schools, who say it is too early for pupils to be sitting the test and will place teachers under further pressure.
KCC will also have to ask Ed Balls, the Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, to decide on the plan as not everyone who responded to its consultation supported the idea.
Under the county council's proposals, pupils will sit the tests, which are currently held in January, almost immediately after the summer holiday in mid-September.
In other selective authorities like Medway and Bexley, the test has in recent years been brought forward to November. Kent County Council says the numbers involved - usually in excess of 10,000 - would make holding tests in November impossible.
One headteacher, who did not wish to be named, described the plan as “crackers.” “It will ruin the summer holiday for pupils and mean some parents having to take decisions before their child is ten. Teachers will be under even more pressure than they are now.”
Cllr Mark Dance (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for schools, said: "This is what people wanted and was the reason why we consulted. It has to be September if we are to follow the statutory regulations and allow time for the appeals process. We have been asked if it could be put back a week or two but it is just not possible."
Asked if he thought it was too early, he said: "It will still be a level playing field for all pupils."
In a survey conducted by KCC as part of the consultation, 60 per cent of Year Five parents favoured taking the test in September but only 18 per cent responded.
KCC also says "most" schools supported the move although it is understood a signficant number, including all Kent’s Catholic schools opposed it.
A report setting out the plans will be presented to KCC’s Conservative cabinet in February.