‘Rolling a loaded dice’: the verdict on the 11-plus in Kent

The Guardian reports that a study claims parts of the process to select grammar school pupils make disadvantaged children less likely to gain places.

New research into the way the 11-plus operates in Kent, one of the few remaining authorities in England that is fully selective, likens the process of trying to get into one of the county’s grammar schools to “rolling a loaded dice”.

The research, by the Education Datalab thinktank, says success in the examination is to some extent arbitrary, but the dice is loaded because parts of the selection process act together to make disadvantaged children less likely to pass.

The research is described as the most detailed examination of how the 11-plus operates in a single part of the country and is pertinent as the Conservatives finalise their plans to extend academic selection to other areas of England if they are re-elected on June 8.

The Kent test is made up of three components: English, maths and reasoning. To pass, a child has to achieve an aggregated score of 320 or above and also exceed 106 in each paper.

According to the research on the results from 2015, 400 children – about 8% of those who passed – would have failed the 11-plus in Kent if they had dropped a single mark on one of the three papers.

Research into children on free school meals, who are less likely than their wealthier peers to win places at grammar schools, finds that they score particularly poorly in the reasoning test. These results are likely to be more affected by access to private education or tutoring than other parts of the test.

Education Datalab director Rebecca Allen said: “If selection by ability is to be rolled out nationally, there are some important lessons that need to be learnt from how the 11-plus operates in Kent. Passing or failing the 11-plus is a life-changing event and so parents deserve much greater clarity about the extent to which the system risks misclassifying their children.”

Read more ‘Rolling a loaded dice’: the verdict on the 11-plus in Kent

Train a child how to pass an exam and it obviously has more chance of a place. Shouldn’t extra tutoring be made available to all and not just to those who can afford it?  Please tell us your thoughts in comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin

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