The Department for Education has published guidance suggesting grammar schools should move 11-plus tests to late October or November. We do not believe that this fixes the problems of the unequal education children have experienced during four months of school closures. Most 11-plus tests judge English and Maths skills which are taught in year 5, yet we know that many children experienced problems with homeschooling in these key curriculum subjects. Some children lacked laptops and internet connections, some had busy working parents with no time to help with school work, while wealthier families could simply pay for one-to-one tuition online. If 11-plus tests go ahead as normal this year we are sure selection processes will be more unfair than usual.
We are keeping track of grammar schools response to the crisis on this page, monitoring how the 11-plus test will operate in the twelve fully selective counties, plus other areas where information is available.
Kent County Council will move the test date to October 15th. The results will be available in late November, so parents will make school choices without knowing the test result. KCC will increase the number of schools that can be named on the secondary school application form from four to six, enabling parents to name up to two grammar schools without reducing the number of non-selective schools on their application.
Kent’s selection system uses a ‘Head Teacher Assessment Panel‘ to select a significant number of pupils for grammar school. The Kent pass mark is set to select 21% of Kent children, with another 6% recommended by head teachers. The Head Teacher panels usually look at school work to make their judgements, but with work completed at home and online it seems unlikely this process can be fair – surely it will benefit pupils with a keen parent giving help with online school work?
Six Kent grammar schools in deprived areas offer their own tests because not enough local children pass the county-wide test. Most children sit two tests in these towns, even though one test could be used. It seems particularly harsh, this year, to expect children to sit two stressful tests, and nor does this meet DfE guidance that admission authorities should work together to ensure ‘complexities for parents are minimised’ and, ‘ensure that children can be assessed once for eligibility for a number of schools.’
The Bucks Grammar Schools have moved the test date for most pupils to 2-5th November, in line with the DfE guidance. Again, parents will make school choices without knowing the result of the 11-plus test.
The Birmingham consortium of grammar schools have announced that they are sticking with the original date of 12th September, but having morning and afternoon sittings.
Calderdale grammar Schools tests are going ahead as planned on 26th September.
The Trafford Grammar Schools’ CEM Consortium Entrance Test has been changed to 19 October 2020.
Slough Consortium of Grammar Schools has set a new test date on Monday 12th October 2020.
It looks like the Essex test will now take place on November 7th and 9th, the CSSE consortium are using two dates to reduce the number of pupils sitting the test at any one time.
The Selective Eligibility Test, due to be held on Tuesday 15th September 2020 has been cancelled. ‘This will allow candidates time to settle back into their normal school routines and for schools to plan the tests in light of imminently expected Government guidance.’ The grammar schools go on to say, ‘We will not be able to confirm a new date for the SET until the GCSE and A level examination boards publish their timetable for the Autumn Series as we will need to avoid any clash between the two. Our current intention is for the Selective Eligibility Test (and second stage tests for those schools who have these) to take place in November and we will confirm this at the beginning of the autumn term.’ Sutton parents will need to make school choices before the test result is known, but they will be able to make changes to their school options up until December 10th.
A statement says the council says, ‘In line with Department for Education guidance on coronavirus, the selective assessments for non-Catholic grammar schools are expected to be moved from September 2020 to October 2020. This requires variations to the published admission arrangements – a decision on this is pending, and we will update this website as soon as possible. Once the arrangements have been finalised, parents of registered candidates will receive an email with their child’s test date, venue and the arrangements for the assessments. There will now be unavoidable delays to progressing school admission appeals this year.’ Wirral’s catholic grammar schools run their own 11-plus tests, and will presumably also delay till October.
The London Borough of Bexley has confirmed that it is postponing its selective test dates from the 15 and 16 September to the week commencing 2 November.
The test dates have been moved by around one month. The new test dates are October 10th-18th, with most Medway primary schools offering the test on October 13th-14th. The Medway results will be sent to parents on November 2nd, with reviews of the grammar school decisions taking place up to November 24th, and parents final school place decisions needed by November 30th. The letter to year 5 parents says, “The format of the test papers will be the same as originally planned however the test day will be slightly different. For instance, schools and test centres will be following the social distancing guidelines and we will continue to follow government advice.” Medway council appears to be the only authority to move the school application deadline by a month, while everywhere else still has school applications set for October 31st.
It appears the tests for Bournemouth and Poole grammar schools will change from Saturday, 26 September 2020 to Saturday, 17 October 2020.
An update says, ‘We are also looking to spread the testing over two sittings to reduce the numbers on site at any one time, given the present Covid-19 pandemic. Subject to DfE confirmation, we are therefore provisionally planning to hold the test on Saturday 17th October, with the day divided into two testing sessions with each child attending just one of the sessions.’
The seven grammar schools in Gloucestershire had been due to run an 11-plus test on September 12th, but the plan now is for the test to be taken by children on October 17th.
‘The Council has been liaising with the city’s three grammar schools and together, are proposing to move the exams for the 2021/22 academic year from Saturday 12 and Saturday 19 September to Saturday 7 and Saturday 14 November.’
Caistor grammar school has moved its test dates to October 3rd and 10th. The results will be sent to parents on October 21st, shortly before school applications are submitted on October 31st.
The 12 grammar schools that are part of the Lincolnshire Consortium of Grammar Schools have not adjusted dates since the DfE guidance was published, with test dates only moved a week to 18/19th and 25th/26th September.
We asked the LCGS why they are out of step with other schools, and received the following reply.
We had been discussing the timing of the 11+ with our 11+ provider, GLA, long before the announcement by the government. We took a balanced view on the merits of moving the 11+ to later in the term. The issue for us is that the government would not move the 31 October deadline for parents to submit their school preference form. We felt it was more important for parents to have the result of the 11+ before this deadline than for parents to choose a school without knowledge of the 11+ result. This might have led to children missing out on a place at their preferred non-selective school.
We have moved our tests by one week from the original dates and have moved them as far as we can and still provide GLA with time to standardise the results and for us to inform parents of the result before 31 October.
The 11+ is different in different parts of the country. We have worked with GLA to ensure our 11+ does not require curriculum knowledge and is focused entirely on Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning skills. This means that the Year 6 students taking the exam in September will not be disadvantaged by not being in school for the summer term and they will not require any curriculum knowledge or skills that might have been taught in the summer term during school partial-closure.
We worked with GLA to provide free materials for all students to work through in preparation for the exam in September and communicated this to our prospective parents and students where they were known.
Primary schools do not generally prepare students for the 11+ and so leaving students in primary schools for longer in September would not necessarily lead to any greater advantage or disadvantage.
The standardisation procedure is designed to always ensure that the top 25% of students in Lincolnshire qualify. This means that if results are slightly lower than previous years, students will not be disadvantaged as the standardisation procedure will ensure the same proportion of students in the cohort will still qualify.
We felt that the new COVID-safe arrangements in school were likely to last at least until Christmas and so would be no different later in the term than earlier. There is therefore no benefit to be gained by moving them later. Also, moving them later would potentially mean students preparing for the 11+ when they should be focused on their primary school work. Having them earlier means that the 11+ is completed by the end of September leaving students to focus on their primary school studies.
Finally, the government announcement was at the start of the summer holidays. There has been too much change and confusion already for these students and parents. A change of date at that late stage could have led to a lack of clarity amongst parents and students, in turn leading to raised levels of anxiety.
In summary, we carefully considered the dates of our tests and moved them as far as we could whilst still maintaining the principle of parents having a result before submitting their school preference form by 31 October. We took the view that the nature of our 11+, the standardisation procedure, the need for students to focus on primary school and the need for clarity meant that students would not be disadvantaged by carrying out our tests late September.