Selective authority admits the 11 plus test favours the better off

Fiona Millar's picture
Article from a local paper in fully selective Buckinghamshire where even the local council now acknowledges that selection both favours the better off and puts "immense" pressure on children.
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Hamish's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 13:46

Are you aware that Bucks are now planning to make their grammar schools even less accessible to the majority of families? They have a consultation running at present on their plans to remove free transport to grammar schools if there is a secondary /upper school nearer than the grammar school. Basically most families will have to pay to get their child to a grammar school if it is over three miles away and there is an upper school nearer. Their commitment to selective education (all Bucks kids take an 11plus) is falling apart. They even say we 'consider that an upper school is able to provide an adequate education for a grammar-qualified pupil'. The whole issues of school catchments is collapsing too because they won't provide transport if you live over three miles from your catchment school but there's another secondary school over the county border that's nearer.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 17:54

Very interesting - would someone be able to write a longer post for us on this issue?

Alan's picture
Sat, 17/12/2011 - 18:40

"They have a consultation running at present on their plans to remove free transport to grammar schools..."

This is long overdue. Transport policies and selection are driving our schools and communities apart at the worst possible time. Austerity measures should spread the cost of bus fares across all schools.

Lincolnshire's current policy on transport to grammar schools provides children with free school transport to their catchment grammar school. Those most able to pay bus fares are dropping their children off at bus stops in brand new 4X4s, while those least able to pay, attending our secondary modern school, have to find the money from somewhere (both schools are converter academies). In our area, if parents can't afford bus fares children have to go to a catchment school that doesn't offer GCSEs.

Annette Pryce's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 18:01

The fact remains that it isn't really bucks that are doing this, yes they have to save costs on transport as they are inordinately high ( 18 million high), much higher compared to comprehensive neighbours. Bucks only maintains one grammar as the rest are academies, and the grammars themselves will be the ones to aid in the 'falling apart' syndrome you've described, the second one or two of them gets even slighlty selfish. And that is already happening.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 18:16

Does that mean the selective academies should be funding the transport to their schools - are they refusing to do that?

Annette Pryce's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 16:12

Were you aware that two grammars are considering changin their admissions criteria to a 131 score on the 11+ thereby on taking the best of the best. elitism pure and simple.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 17:48

I am not sure we were aware of this - would you be able to post more information on the site and let us know how this is viewed by other local schools?

Nigel Ford's picture
Sat, 17/12/2011 - 14:54

My sister-in-law is a primary school teacher in Bucks but I have very little contact with her except to know that she has a profound belief in private education (certainly as far as her only child goes) and although she lived in the catchment area of RGS Wycombe she eschewed the 11+ exam for her son and he was sent to a public school where he boarded.

I happened to see my brother and his family last weekend and his twin daughters attend primary school in Tonbridge. I wasn't aware that there are 2 girls grammar schools in Tonbridge but only 1 boys grammar school (although nearby Sevenoaks has none). The 3 grammars are coeducational in the 6th form.

It appears that even within the grammar school system there is a pecking order with Tonbridge Grammar for girls being more elitist than the other girls grammar school in Tonbridge, Weald of Kent, which has a more narrow catchment area for pupils and lower benchmark for passing the 11+ exam.

My neices parents are having to play the system and pay for 11+ tuition in the hope of accessing the Weald. I would imagine the number of children passing the 11+ to gain a grammar school place without private coaching must be virtually zero. There are probably many other parents who go down that private tuition route but still end up with their children being assigned a secondary modern (in all but name) school. I should just add that 11+ testing is not on the primary school curriculum thereby disadvantaging poorer pupils even more.

And yet there is a large section of the public pining for the expansion of grammar schools under the misguided illusion they provide social mobility and an escape route for working class children, if indeed they ever did in a previous era.

Annette Pryce's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 17:59

We don't know how it's being viewed yet, but considering a higher proportion of lower test scores are from more disadvantaged backgrounds and minorities this would suggest they are weeding out those they don't want. If students are unable to get into those two grammars but their nearest is outside the new catchment for free transport, the parents will have to pay to send them to one further away.

Hamish's picture
Fri, 16/12/2011 - 19:20

There are huge issues in Bucks with selective academies.
But keeping to the transport issue - they have a consultation out at present:

It is a complicated issue - kids get free buses at present to their catchment upper or grammar if the school is over three miles away. What is being proposed is to remove this if there is an upper school of any sort - non-grammar; not catchment; faith; out of county - that is nearer than the grammar. So they are saying that they will ignore catchments (how much money and time have they spent on fiddling with these in the last few years?), ignore whether a child passed their 11plus or not, and ignore whether the nearest school is in a neighbouring authority. Charges could be up to £20 per week if (and only if) there are spare places on buses, otherwise parents will have to work out some other way to get their child to school. they are suggesting making it retrospective, and certainly the vast majority of parents who chose schools for Sept 2012 aren't aware of what's going on. Individual schools don't get involved with transport in Bucks at present - they keep out of it.
So the council are helping Bucks moneyed get more places at the grammars, without the schools having to do anything to their admissions.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 17/12/2011 - 11:57

According to the consultation document, Bucks will continue paying for transport to the nearest grammar school for pupils that qualify:

"If your child is aged 11-16 years old (secondary school age) and...lives over 3 miles from their nearest secondary school which is a non-selective school, and your child qualifies for a grammar school place and you choose to attend a grammar school, under the extension to this proposal, we will continue to provide free home to school transport to your nearest grammar school"

My reading of this is that Bucks will continue to fund pupils to attend a grammar school which is further away than a non-selective school thereby creaming the non-selective school of high ability pupils. The non-selective school effectively becomes a secondary modern. That will not prevent its results being judged against those of the grammar school, of course, and the grammar school being held up as superior.

Hamish's picture
Sat, 17/12/2011 - 13:12

Thanks for adding that Janet. The key point is that the grammar transport option is an extension to the main proposal in the consultation. The way it is being presented by the council is that if the grammar school extension part of the proposal goes through, it will cost everyone else affected by the main proposal twice as much.
Anyone who passes their 11plus and is lucky enough to live nearer a grammar (but still over 3 miles) than to an upper will still get free transport to the grammar, but not if the schools are the other way round. There are going to be little geographical pockets who will benefit.
Just to make things even more complicated for parents they also currently use different distance rules for admissions and for qualifying for transport, and are in the middle of changing the rules for admissions for 2013 to straight line.
The non-selective schools in Bucks are effectively secondary modern schools anyway and even the best of them don't achieve comparable results to the grammar schools for more than a handful of pupils, if any.
One giant muddle due to selective education.

Alan's picture
Sat, 17/12/2011 - 15:52

“It’s difficult to know how much of an effect coaching actually has, in the same way as with driving tests or music exams"

No it is not:

"Coaching for a period of 3 hours did produce a statistically significant shift in the means, though the individuals maintained their rank order. The effect of sustained coaching over a period of 9 months is shown to be substantial" (Bunting & Mooney 2001).

The NFER 'responded':

"The research did not incorporate multi level modelling to take account of the hierarchical nature of the data. Also, without a comparison group it is difficult to know whether some of the long term benefits of coaching might just be attributable to normal child development."


How would they select their comparison group and what do they class as normal child development?

Using comparison groups to normalise data will induce bias because the environment has a larger effect on brain development than genes (Oliver James n.d) - genes just set the baseline. The ontology of neuronal structures in a closed system - the brain - is dependent on external stimulation (Allan Schore n.d). Moreover, stimulation is dependent on equality. Both rich and poor have better outcomes in societies that are more equal (Wilkinson & Pickett 2009).

In order to provide a more equitable education system there should be an acknowledgement of children's rights for allowing them to choose an education for themselves (after all they are criminally responsible at 10-years-old). This can only be achieved through the abolition of the 11+. It is no longer acceptable in the 21st century to administer this test without education having a clear understanding of changes in brain development around adolescence and the effects to self-esteem of passing or failing the 11+.

The expansion of selection and grammar schools are two separate issues and should be treated as such, they should not be passed to parents. No one wants to see the closure of excellent schools, but selection as young as 10-years-old is unethical.

mistemina's picture
Wed, 28/05/2014 - 10:17

As a Governor of a Secondary Modern School in Bucks, i am profoundly concerned about the inequality and inequity of our Selection System..

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