Kent's headteachers tell us what we all know about the eleven plus

Kent's headteachers tell us what we all know about the eleven plus

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 8 2013

It ought not to be that much of a shock that headteachers in Kent, notably from primary schools, feel that coaching for the eleven plus is now so prevalent that they are unfairly skewed towards those that can afford private tutors.

Survey reveals mixed response to planned 11+ changes>>>

Nevertheless, comments made by some of those who responded to Kent County Council's recent consultation over possible changes to the exam aimed at countering coaching underline just how serious a problem it is.

The council carried out its consultation shortly before the end of last year, when many schools were pre-occuppied with other matters.

So that fact that 125 headteachers and others took the time to respond indicates the level of interest in the issue.

What is quite clear from the comments made is that while there is broad support for KCC's efforts to come up with a test that is less susceptible to coaching, many feel the authority has, until now, simply turned a blind eye to the fact that children are not just being privately tutored but that extensive preparation goes on in some of its own schools.

If true, it is frankly staggering that one headteacher even allegedly offers private tuition through his wife to parents anxious about getting a grammar school place.


READ what Kent headteachers said about the eleven plus here:

11+headteacher comments.pdf (1.43 mb)


The comments corroborate the feeling that the race for grammar school places has become so intense that those with the money are at unfair advantage.

Many argued that judgements about whether a child ought to go to a selective school ought to be based on their SATs results or through teacher assessment.

The enduringly divisive nature of the exam was reflected by the fact that there was no clear consensus among headteachers about any of the key proposals put forward by the county council.

In fact, they were pretty evenly split on virtually all of the ideas.

Of particular note were the responses to the question of whether practice papers should be dropped. KCC has spoken of a desire to try somehow to ban their availability commercially, which is probably impossible.

Several rightly pointed out that doing away with practice papers might actually have a perverse effect on those unable to afford private tutors who deserved to have some opportunity to familiarise themselves with the exam.

The county council's belated efforts to tackle the issue of tutoring and coaching are laudable but you get the feeling that whatever alternative education chiefs come up with, it will not ultimately be capable of curtailing the widespread culture of coaching and tuition.

As one headteacher put it: "More affluent parents will continue to pay for extra tutoring and practice papers whatever the nature of the tests."


For another analysis of the survey, see this blog post by the Kent education adviser Peter Read who considers the responses to all the questions KCC asked.


DID Thanet North MP and uncompromising opponent of gay marriage Roger Gale suggest that same-sex marriage could lead to incest or was somehow comparable to incest?

The MP has issued a statement simmering with indignation about certain press reports saying he did indeed tells the House of Commons as much.

The allegation, he asserted, was "what is known in journalism as a 'lie'". Strong words indeed. 

It is unarguably true that the word "incest" was never actually uttered by the MP. It was a word used by others, notably on Twitter. So, on one level you can understand his anger.

It was the interpretation of his remarks which prompted all sorts of unwelcome headlines and Mr Gale felt forced to issue a second clarification (following the first sent out on Tuesday as the debate raged) today. 

In it, he repeats that his comments about replacing civil partnerships with a civil union were nothing to do with incest but about giving protection to siblings who were not provided with the same law and property rights as those who entered into civil partnerships under the legislation.

Mr Gale says: "I appreciate that sections of the find this disappointing but this has nothing whatsoever to do with sex or incest at all."

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the straight-talking MP rarely leaves anyone in any doubt where he stands on any issue.




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Categories: election | Freedom of Information

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