Calls to ditch 11+ after Bucks test fiasco

Janet Downs's picture

Campaigners in Buckinghamshire are calling for the 11+ test to be abandoned after errors were found in an 11+ test paper taken last week by over 9,000 children in the county.

Katy Simons, a spokesperson for Local Equal Excellent which campaigns for comprehensive education said:

Thursday’s test was a fiasco.  Parents can have no confidence that this chaos, that has upset children and families, can be set straight.  Selection at 11 is already discredited.  It’s time now to abandon the test.’

The verbal skills paper contained two unanswerable questions which were not discovered until the ‘first sitting’, a joint statement by The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools and GL Assessment revealed.  The two questions have been discounted, Schools Week reports. 

 Angry parents and others took to twitter:

Total 11plus mess in @buckscc…A disastrous test, administered disastrously!

Seems there were errors in the #11plus question paper.  Imagine kids getting stuck on questions that can’t be answered wasting time.’

 ‘…apparently there was a cock up and two of the questions couldn’t be answered correctly!... How was this not checked thoroughly?!

GL Assessment had set 11+ papers for Buckinghamshire before 2013 but was replaced by CEM after heads complained GL Assessment papers favoured advantaged pupils.  CEM claimed its 11+ papers were ‘tutor-proof’ but Local Equal Excellent found CEM’s tests made no difference.  

In 2017, GL Assessment was re-employed to set the county’s 11+ papers from 2018.  This move was described by Rebecca Hickman, a spokesperson for Local Equal Excellent, as ‘shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic’, Schools Week reported.

Documents seen by Schools Week showed CEM ‘generated £1 million from its contract’ while GL Assessment’s contract was ‘worth more than £2 million, with in excess of £1.1 million going to the test provider.’

The Bucks blunder highlight what’s wrong with the 11+:

·          It’s unreliable even without errors in papers as it’s susceptible to tutoring.

·         It wastes money which would be better spent elsewhere in the school system.

·         It’s based on the false notion that ability is fixed at age 11.

·         It causes stress to children.

The system is wasteful and unjust.  In the words of a Tory schools minister in the early 60s, Christopher Chataway, the 11+ ‘tried to divide children at the age of ten into two types, which for all the tactful circumlocution might just as well be called for the clever and the stupid.’

Sixty years later, we are still having the same arguments.  Theresa May’s government wanted to reintroduce selection across England; the law against establishing new grammars can be circumvented by setting up distant annexes and we now have a prime minister who supports grammar schools.

It’s difficult not to think that England is hurtling towards the past to a system which may, I repeat may, give a small advantage to a few but harms the rest.


CORRECTIONS 12.28: Typos corrected.  Sorry

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