Published: 08:46, 08 January 2021
| Updated: 12:42, 08 January 2021
The Kent Test should be scrapped this year if schools are to be shut for a prolonged period because of Covid-19, say campaigners against selection.
The test, which used to be called the 11 Plus and is sat by about 16,000 pupils each year, is scheduled to take place In September. But last year the date was moved back to late October amid uncertainty over the impact of the pandemic.
Questions were raised about a delay to a later date with some expressing concerns it would favour children who received extra coaching and tuition.
Joanne Bartley, from the Comprehensive Future campaign group, said: “The eleven plus is exactly the same as other exams which are being disrupted because of inconsistent teaching times that children are getting at the moment. So much depends on family circumstances; some schools are doing live teaching because all the children have laptops or some other devices. But in others, there may be one laptop shared by three children and one adult working from home, so circumstances are very different for children. It is not a level playing field.”
It was very hard for brighter children from poorer backgrounds to compete with those who had private tuition, she said.
“It’s a real problem - middle class, advantaged children are claiming grammar school places and it is very hard to shift that.”
She said both Kent County Council and selective schools should plan ahead.
“It would be brilliant if grammar schools decided that the test was not going to work in September and made a plan now based on that rather than waiting. We all hope that schools will go back in September but if they don't, we are in the same situation where children have had the best home circumstances and tuition, will get the places.”
Alan Brookes, chairman of the Kent Association of Headteachers, echoed the concerns about the impact of a delay on those from poorer backgrounds.
He said: “There is an expectation about most headteachers that we will be back in full operation mode in September but we will have the same challenges as this year, particularly with the disadvantaged students.
"If they have missed a lot of time in school, how is that test going to be fair? And are we going to have the same problems we have every year because there is a significantly smaller proportion of children on free school meals in grammar schools?”
On Tuesday education secretary Gavin Williamson bowed to pressure by announcing cancelled GCSE, AS and A-Levels would be replaced by teacher assessed grades and not the flawed algorithm which cause chaos last summer.
David Adams, Kent County Council’s interim director of education, said: “Kent County Council is currently busy supporting schools with the immediate task of continuing to educate all of their pupils, and keeping whole school communities safe, during the national lockdown. Therefore, 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.
“Any decision will be influenced by Government guidance, which is not yet available, and we will follow correct protocols if we believe any aspects enshrined in legislation, such as test timelines, need to be altered. Parents, carers, schools and other interested parties will be kept updated about any changes that might affect them.”
Kent teachers will grade summer exams