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Kent Liberal Democrats call for 11+ Test to be cancelled

May 14, 2020 9:51 AM

Trudy Dean, the Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, has written to Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, asking for this year's Kent Test (11+) to be scrapped. Trudy Dean

Trudy's letter follows below:

Dear Roger,

As you will be aware, Rosie Duffield has raised the issue of cancelling this year's Eleven Plus tests due to the effects of CV19. I had already placed an item onto the list of those for discussion at Cabinet Scrutiny for next Tuesday, as parents of year 5 children will need to decide very shortly whether they feel it is safe to send their children back to school in June. I am aware that the test process must be agreed in advance by schools, some of which already set their own additional entrance tests. Whilst I don't think that cancellation is the only way forward, there are clearly a number of issues of concern which need to be discussed with schools and parents urgently.

Firstly, if parents feel a return to school in June is not safe, and choose, as they are able to do, not to send their children to school until September, the experience of many children may be that they have to undergo the tests only a few short weeks later. It cannot be right that a parent should be forced to choose between the safety of their child from disease, and their future education path in Grammar or non selective school.

Secondly, for those children not in school since March, there will have been a wide range of experience of home education. Differences in study conditions at home in terms of suitable accommodation, IT equipment and parental ability is resulting in some children successfully following work provided by the schools, whilst others have done little or none. This will result in large differences between children in terms of curriculum covered, and knowledge forgotten.

Thirdly, these differences will have been even greater for children whose parents are not able to coach or provide home tutoring in preparation for the tests. Whilst Kent has made efforts to find tests that are not affected by coaching, you will recall that in fact the attempt failed as the ability gap widened even further when new tests were used. Most educationalists agree that any testing process is by definition affected by coaching, since it is widely known what body of knowledge is being tested.

The overall impact of these three effects of lockdown is almost certain to further enlarge the ability gap, already worryingly large in Kent, between children from relatively wealthy backgrounds, and those from poorer parents with fewer educational qualifications.

Secondary schools must however have a basis for the eligibility of pupils to enter their schools in September 2022. This points to the need for teachers to have a much greater say in the assessment of pupils' ability, and potential than is normally the case. Since social distancing will still be necessary in September, the simplest, and I would suggest the fairest, way forward would be to cancel the test. This is the way already chosen for 2020 GCSE and A level pupils. The County Council would then use pupils' past performance in school, and the experience of teachers to provide assessments of all children, which would determine the choice of schools available to them.

If KCC in consultation with schools decides nevertheless to continue with the tests, then there must be additional weight attached to input from teachers to compensate for wide unfairnesses listed above that will have resulted from lockdown.

I would appreciate your views on this issue, which is an urgent one for parents of year 5 children right now. For that reason, this letter to you is an open one being shared with the press and public.

Many thanks,

Trudy