Call for an end to ‘unfair’ 11 plus entrance exam…

    Hundreds of ‘failed’ pupils taken into county grammar schools

    Tonbridge Grammar School

    A quarter of pupils accepted into Kent grammar schools have failed the normal 11-plus entry exam.

    That’s the claim of an education campaign group that is now pressing for the abolition of the Kent test.

    The Kent Education Network (KEN) is opposed to the selection system because they say it creates inequality and a two-tier system in schools across the county – and especially in West Kent – which leads to them falling short of government targets.

    KEN has called for the county’s education authorities to scrap the 11-plus in order to bridge this ‘unacceptable social divide’.

    The group was set up in January in response to plans for establishing an ‘annexe’ in Sevenoaks to the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge.

    KEN spokesman James Parish said: “It is fundamentally unfair that some children who fail the test get a ‘second chance’ while others do not.

    “Some primary schools routinely recommend 90 per cent of their ‘failed’ pupils for a result reassessment, while others recommend no children at all.

    “The Head Teacher Assessment process only highlights the inadequacies of the Test itself. It costs KCC £348,000 a year to commission the test, but they choose to select seven per cent of grammar school children another way.”

    He also claimed: “Kent has more schools failing to reach government targets than any other county.”

    The questioning of the selection methods comes as a response to a report by Kent County Council’s Commission for Social Mobility.

    KEN explained that while 28 per cent of the county’s students attend grammar schools, seven per cent of those are nominated by head teachers despite failing the exam, or by parents appealing against a result.

    The KCC commission concluded that access to grammar schools ‘is not solely based on academic ability but is impacted by family income’.

    The finding is in line with current concerns that richer parents are able to pay for tutors to ensure their children pass the examination and avoid going to failing schools.

    “The commission does not face up to the problem of widespread coaching,” Mr Parish added. “While independent schools are permitted to train children in taking the test, coaching is forbidden in state schools, and recent attempts to make it ‘uncoachable’ appear to have failed.”

    The problem is being exacerbated by the government’s plan to turn schools into academies beyond the control of the local education authority. “The county council is losing its powers to enforce anything on schools
    whatsoever.”

    The social imbalance is illustrated by the statistic that ‘disadvantaged pupils’ – those who qualify for free school meals – make up 27 per cent of the total in non-selective schools, while in grammars the figure is only six per cent.

    KEN controversially describes the education system in Kent as ‘a discriminatory form of social engineering’. It claims: “The reason why many schools fail is because they must compete with selective grammar schools, reducing the average success rate of students overall.”

    The Skinners' School

    Local schools include: Tonbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School and The Skinners’ School.

    KCC were invited to comment but had not done so by the time the newspaper went to print last night.