Like many parents in Kent I am unhappy with selective education in our county. However I accept that this is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and liked by many, especially parents whose children go to the excellent grammar schools!
I am trying to avoid the left/right, comprehensive/grammar debate but try to find practical ways to campaign for improvements to secondary education in my county.
I have a few ideas, but I'm really looking for feedback and suggestions from parents, teachers and anyone who cares about fair admissions.
Here's some thoughts.
1) Convert the 11 plus test to a Cognitive Ability Test to be used for Fair Banding admission as well as grammar school entry.
A few local comprehensive schools use Fair Banding admissions and offer their own tests. If KCC offered all primary children a CAT test instead of the 11 plus it would be less of a harsh pass/fail, because the test would be used for more than just grammar school judgement.
It would also ensure all children were tested, at present the 11 plus is optional and it is possible some bright disadvantaged children are missing the opportunity to go to grammar schools. Anything that redresses the balance and helps avoid the social inequality of our county's school system would be good.
I wonder if fair banding in Kent schools could even be used to create excellent setting for high ability children (possibly some schools linking with grammar schools) to try to reduce the need for the grammar schools.
2) A parent rating for Kent secondary moderns to highlight the unfairness of Ofsted ratings
The exam culture of results and Ofsted ratings is particularly harmful in an area with academic selection. Ofsted don't seem to take any account of the different ability intakes. 76% of grammar schools are 'Outstanding' and just 13% of secondary moderns. I assume this is because the inspection criteria is partly based on pupil achievement.
Secondary modern schools are always going to get worse exam results because the top 25% of academically able pupils go to grammar schools. But perhaps a parents' group could set up a rival rating system? This could look at different criteria, and reward schools with a report based on things like depth of learning, a broad curriculum and extra curricular activity.
Parents know schools are about much more than exams, it would be good to have a way to highlight alternative strengths in the best schools.
Just a couple of ideas... But I welcome more if any Kent parents have ideas to help modernise our awful old fashioned school system.