The Department for Education has released updated guidance for 11-plus tests in 2021. Although SATS, GCSEs and A Levels are all cancelled, the 11-plus will go ahead in September.

Comprehensive Future’s Chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “For the Government, it’s business as usual with the 11-plus despite the fact children have had an unprecedented year of severely disrupted education. The guidance issued avoids any mention of the huge disparity in children’s learning experiences, which is bound to affect preparedness for the test, and mostly focuses on social distancing

“This year more than ever, the odds are stacked against disadvantaged children. While children from more affluent families have had access to online 11-plus coaching twice a week, many from poorer backgrounds haven’t even had a laptop to work on.

“It’s like making children run a race for which some getting the best running shoes while others have a ball and chain around their ankles.”

The Government guidance suggests only that selective schools, ‘review how any outreach activity focused on disadvantaged children has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak’ It proposes that grammar schools target potential applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and prepare them for the test using ‘catch-up’ funding or the National Tutoring Programme.

Dr Nuala Burgess said, “The logistics of targeting disadvantaged pupils for test preparation are hugely complicated. We would like to know how grammar schools, who have very little experience of working with disadvantaged pupils anyway, plan to do this.  It’s a particularly messy picture this year. Thousands of children have experienced extremely difficult learning circumstances but they are not officially classified as ‘disadvantaged’. There is also the problem that when you select children for tuition to boost their chances in the test, you leave other children behind.”

“Grammar school admissions cannot be ‘fixed’ with a generous dose of extra tuition for the lucky few.  This is the year when selective schools have a real opportunity to plan for fairer schools admissions.”

Comprehensive Future sent Freedom of Information requests to 12 authorities that administer 11-plus tests asking how disadvantaged pupils performed in tests in October 2020 compared to 2019. So far, 7 admission authorities have replied to say they do not hold this information. Kent County Council provided data which showed Pupil Premium passes were ent County Council provided data which showed Pupil Premium passes were

County Council provided data which showed Pupil Premium passes were down 16%, while in Medway pass rates for disadvantaged pupils fell by 27%.

Dr Nuala Burgess said, “It’s scandalous that grammar schools ran tests during a pandemic. It’s even worse that they never bothered to check how poorer children fared in those tests. Figures provided by Kent and Medway show quite clearly that disadvantaged pupils’ results suffered. You have to question how any local authority, and any grammar school, feels able to run tests this September. Selective tests decide children’s entire secondary school career. As always, it will be poor and disadvantaged children who lose out in the race to bag a grammar school place.”