It is worth summarising some of the things that we have observed in the course of this analysis.
Relatively small changes to the rules that determine whether a child has passed or failed the 11-plus in Kent would lead to material changes in who is considered to have passed the test. And the complexity of the Kent Test pass criteria leaves high proportions of students on the cusp of passing or failing the test.
Headteacher panels may be no better at identifying the most academically capable children than the 11-plus tests themselves – most likely limiting the extent to which this part of the process corrects for issues that exist with the tests.
Children eligible for free school meals score particularly poorly in the reasoning element of the Kent Test compared to other elements – reflecting, perhaps, this being a component where some children’s scores are lifted by private education or tutoring.
Children eligible for free schools meals generally do have a better success rate at headteacher panels than those who are not eligible, but the gap may not be as great as we would expect, given other characteristics of these FSM-eligible children.
Transparency over test reliability
Kent County Council should ask its commercial test provider to publish full classification accuracy statistics following each round of admissions. Parents should have a right to know this statistic for their child’s test result.
Two straightforward changes to the 11-plus process in Kent might make it less time-consuming to administer and equally reliable:
- Kent should consider implementing a straightforward overall pass mark, as other grammar schools do, to reduce the proportion of pupils just one mark away from passing/failing;
- Kent should consider removing the headteacher panel and correspondingly lowering the pass mark on the test.
Improving access to grammar schools for disadvantaged students
In general, students who are FSM-eligible do not attend grammar schools because they have lower attainment at age 11. However, there is much that Kent could do to marginally improve the number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds securing places at grammar school.
- Allowing state primary schools in Kent to provide 10 hours of practice on reasoning-style questions to all students.
- Automatically awarding FSM-eligible students extra marks on the 11-plus – particularly the reasoning paper – in recognition of the disparity between their 11-plus marks and subsequent SATs grades.
- If headteacher panels are to remain part of the process, requiring primary headteachers to put all FSM-eligible students scoring over 300 in the 11-plus forward to the headteacher panel for consideration.
- Allowing primary headteachers to put forward to the headteacher panel any able FSM-eligible students whose parents did not enter them for the 11-plus, who will be considered on the quality of their primary school work alone.
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