Comprehensive Future committee member, and father, James Coombs, is representing himself in a tribunal hearing on Thursday, challenging the secrecy of the company that sets 11-plus test papers.
More than 100,000 children sit grammar school entrance tests each year. James Coombs feels there is excessive secrecy about the test’s scoring method, so when 11-plus examiner CEM refused his Freedom of Information request he decided to fight the decision in court.
James Coombs said, “11-plus examiners provide standardised scores but the way these are calculated is a secret. The process of selecting who attends these state funded schools should be open and transparent.”
Melissa Benn, chair of Comprehensive Future, said, “We fully support James for taking this stand. He’s just an ordinary parent who will be up against an experienced barrister, but he has right and common sense on his side. The excessive secrecy with this test helps nobody. No child should be defined by a test score, but when the method used to arrive at that score is obscured then the whole thing becomes a farce.”
James said, “I’m not asking to see test questions, I don’t want to see children’s names or any sensitive information, I just asked for information about how they arrive at the final scores for the test. No one understands this process and the reasons for hiding it don’t make any sense.”
Melissa Benn said, “Parents put their trust in the 11-plus, but commercial test companies provide limited information and simply hope no one asks awkward questions. Test tutoring is a massive industry and savvy parents gain advantage by comparing notes on test scores in online forums. The whole process of getting to grammar school is skewed by money and effort.”
“We know children are judged with just a few quick questions in ninety minutes or so. It’s perfectly possible the test companies are hiding the true scores so no one sees how limited these tests really are. No one would ever judge a child’s potential using marks in a times table or spelling test, yet the 11-plus is little better. This test is unscientific and unscrutinised. We should end this flawed exam.”
“We wish James the best of luck with his tribunal hearing. Let’s hope the secretive 11-plus companies get bested by a smart dad who cares about transparency.”
James Coombs tribunal hearing versus the Information Commissioner and The University of Durham is on 25 January 2018 at 10am in Court H, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, 10 Alfred Place, London, WC1E 7LR.
The hearing is open to the public, please feel free to attend and support James’ case.
James made a video explaining standardised scores which can be viewed here.