The Labour Party debated Early Years, Education and Skills at conference yesterday, with Alexa Collins of a Beaconsfield CLP successfully presenting a ‘reference back’ motion calling on the Labour party to commit to reviewing 11-plus testing.

Alexa spoke passionately about the education divide in selective Buckinghamshire which she described as something from “the 1950s.” She highlighted the fact the Labour Party had committed to ending high stakes testing at Key Stage 1 and 2 but said, “Unless you scrap the 11-plus you’re not ending high stakes testing in primary schools.”

The reference back added a line to Labour’s policy document for ‘Curriculum and Assessment’ insisting that Labour review the 11-plus as part of a pledge to set up a commission to review SATs testing.

The paragraph originally proposed a review of testing in primary schools, stating, ‘These announcements form part of Labour’s 2017 manifesto commitment to set up a commission to look into curriculum and assessment, starting by reviewing Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs.’ The change supported by Conference yesterday was the addition of a line stating, ‘And ending obligatory 11-plus testing where it still exists.’

Alexa Collins said, “There are twelve local authorities stuck in the past and insisting children are tested and judged by the awful 11-plus. This test causes so much unnecessary stress for ten-year-old children, who can’t help but judge themselves by the flawed label it gives them. I can’t see how the Labour party can support this pointless high-stakes test, or the social inequality caused by the grammar school and secondary modern system in counties like Bucks.

“I was delighted when the motion was carried. The feeling in the hall was an overwhelming amount of support for ending this test, with speaker after speaker standing up to support comprehensive schools for all.”

Dr Nuala Burgess, Chair of Comprehensive Future said, “In a week where Labour has adopted policy to integrate private schools into the state sector it would make sense to adopt a broader policy  guaranteeing a fully comprehensive state funded education system open to all children. For this to be achieved selection must end.

Grammar schools   have become state funded ‘elite’ schools from which the middle classes derive the most benefit. They carry a status which sits uneasily within the  state sector. It makes no sense to phase out private schools while leaving grammar schools untouched. If Labour wants an education system ‘for the many not the few’ they must phase out selective education.”

The Reference Back motion was proposed by Alexa Collins of Beaconsfield CLP in the Early Years, Education and Skills debate at the Labour Party Conference on 22nd September.

The submission was as follows:

Reference Back Form

Policy Commission Area: Early years, education and skills

Policy Commission Sub-section: Curriculum and Assessment

Page number: 33

Paragraph text to reference back: Final paragraph

These announcements form part of Labour’s 2017 manifesto commitment to set up
a commission to look into curriculum and assessment, starting by reviewing Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs.

Please add

And ending obligatory 11+ testing where it still exists. (Bucks, Kent, and Lincs)

Reasoning for referencing back: There is no higher stakes assessment in primary schools (ref pg 32) than the 11-plus in the three counties where selection is still practiced exclusively and compulsorily. Bucks, Kent and Lincs.

It is a structural barrier of the strongest form which determines whether a child attains a place in a grammar or a secondary modern school.

The main determining factor in whether the child passes the test is whether or not they have received expensive private tuition, as state primaries are not allowed to coach for the test.

This two-tier system of educational segregation was phased out by a Labour Government in 1965, however due to timing issues, three counties never introduced the comprehensive system and no subsequent legislation has obliged them to change their system. Unless children opt-out, it is obligatory for them to sit the 11+ test to determine which type of school they go to.

In Bucks, Kent and Lincs, children do not currently have equal access to educational opportunities as the rest of the UK and are compulsorily subjected to more high-stakes testing than the rest of the UK.  (Ie KS1, KS2 AND 11+)

Without ending this practice in these 3 counties, it is not possible for the Labour Party to commit to principles 1,3 and 4 of the NES charter (Page 17)

Principle 1 “available universally”

– The very nature of compulsory selection means the same is not available universally.

Principle 3 “committed to tackling structural […] barriers”

– Compulsory selection testing to access schools and zero provision of comprehensive schools is a major structural barrier.

Principle 4 “will be inclusive and equitable” – compulsory selection is neither inclusive nor equitable.

Alexa Collin’s speech to conference.

“Good morning conference, my name is Alexa Collins, Beaconsfield CLP and that’s all the way back in Buckinghamshire… or as I like to call it… the 1950s.

Well, I’m glad that got a laugh, because frankly the Labour Party cannot, with a straight face, present a policy document which, in its charter claims will provide education that is available universally, commit to tackling structural barriers, and that will be inclusive and equitable whilst continuing to do nothing about ending selection in the areas where the 11-plus is still obligatory and there are NO comprehensive schools.  It’s great that you’ll scrap KS1 and KS2 tests, but unless you scrap the 11-plus you’re not ending high stakes testing in primary schools.

For these reasons, I reference back the last paragraph of the education policy document, and ask to insert the phrase, ‘And end obligatory 11+ testing where it still exists.”

The motion was carried through a card vote.