A challenge to Kent County Council : Review the Kent Test

New research shows that families who pay for private tutors are winning the majority of grammar school places.  

Researchers from the University College London’s Institute of Education (IoE) discovered that 70 per cent of those tutored secured a place in a grammar school. That compares with 14 per cent who had no additional instruction, relying purely on ability.

Kent County Council will offer a new format for Kent’s 11-plus test in 2019. The Kent Education Network believes they should review the test structure, and particularly look at the social inequality caused by test coaching.

Dr Alan Bainbridge from KEN said, “This research proves what we’ve all suspected – expensive private tuition works.

“The idea that the Kent Test is a true test of ability is nonsense, children practising maths and English with skilled tutors clearly have more chance of passing than those without any help.

“Kent will have a new 11-plus test in 2019 and we want the council to acknowledge the huge tuition problem and do something about it. Prep schools and test tutors are effectively rigging results for wealthy families.

“The test is fundamentally unfair for any child who has no coaching.”

The Institute of Education researchers reviewed evidence from selective areas and found wealthy families claimed the majority of grammar school places.

The poorest 25 per cent of families had less than a 10 per cent chance of attending a grammar school, compared with about a 40 per cent chance for children who from the top quarter of household incomes.

Alan Bainbridge said, “There is no such thing as a tutor proof test and the council need to admit this.

“A consultation on the new test would be a good way to review the obvious problems. It’s not ethical to mislead our children about what we are actually testing.

“It is dishonest to suggest this test is an accurate judgement of ability when a large part of it is about practice and coaching.”

KCC currently pay £178,000 a year to GL Assessment to operate the Kent Test with the contract ending in September 2018.

No plans have yet been revealed for the 2019 Kent Test, but when the test was last put out to tender in 2013 the review involved a consultation with Kent head teachers. Many of the heads were critical of the extent of private coaching, and there was even a complaint that one head offered the services of his wife as a paid test tutor.

Alan Bainbridge said,  “The last time the council reviewed the Kent Test head teachers said coaching was a big problem, but nothing was actually done about it. Now here we are again, five years later, with even more evidence of problems. I hope the council will be honest about the flaws of the test and not bury their heads in the sand.”

KEN would like Kent County Council to engage in honest debate about the problems with the test. We feel there is too mucy secrecy about how the Kent Test operates and no consultation with the public on the way our children are divided between school types at age 11.

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