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Saturday 6th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

by Felicity Collier

CHILDREN from the poorest backgrounds undergo “incredibly unreliable” testing when it comes to the 11-plus exam for entry to grammar schools, an education campaign group warned yesterday.

Youngsters who are eligible for free school meals are three times less likely to sit or pass the 11-plus exam because the odds are deliberately stacked against them, according to research by the Kent Education Network (Ken).

Those from less well-off backgrounds who sat the exams in the county scored particularly poorly in the reasoning element compared with others.

State primary schools in Kent were explicitly asked not to prepare their pupils for this area of the exams, according to the damning findings.

The less well-off achieved “significantly lower test scores” than those whose parents could afford private tutoring.

Ken chair Joanne Bartley said: “This research shows that our county’s test is incredibly unreliable, which means our school places are often being divided unfairly.

“If Kent County Council were to publish statistics for the accuracy of the test, then parents would be able to judge for themselves whether this test really works.”

Report author Rebecca Allen, the director of Education Datalab, said: “If the 11-plus is a dice, then the reasoning component contributes to the dice being loaded against disadvantaged children.”

National Union of Teachers head of education and equality Rosamund McNeil said the survey “makes a mockery of the arguments put forward by the pro-grammar school lobby that selective education helps to close the attainment gap between richer and less welloff pupils.

“At a time of huge cuts to school budgets, the focus must be on the funding of all schools for the many, not the creation of new grammar schools for the few.”

Grammars only exist in some parts of the country, but creating new ones is a flagship policy for Theresa May.

In 1997, Labour banned new grammars and now pledges to fully fund all schools and restore the role of local education authorities in overseeing them.