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Parents reassured as 11+ test still planned

Buckinghamshire Council, the grammar schools & test provider are working together on a solution for September.

Published by Dan Gooding with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Oliver Sirrell at 5:42am 6th May 2020. 5-minute read.

Parents reassured as 11+ test still planned

Fears have been raised that several Bucks children could miss out on grammar school places because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘11-plus’ secondary transfer tests determine which secondary schools children will study at come September 2021.

The 13 grammar schools in Bucks admit children based on their performance in these tests, whereas all-ability schools admit any child regardless of their ability.

Despite GCSEs and A-levels being scrapped due to the pandemic and schools across the country closing, the 11-plus tests are still set to go ahead.

Labour councillor Robin Stuchberry has raised concerns this could mean dozens of disadvantaged children will miss out on grammar school places because they are unable to access resources online while on lockdown.

He said:

“In Buckinghamshire, quite a few children won’t have been in education for quite a period of time now.

“What we must try and do in education is ensure that all children in Buckinghamshire have the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions in education and I feel the coronavirus could handicap and prejudice many sections of our community in doing that.

“My concerns remain with very vulnerable and low-income families who do not have these resources to go online.

“It would be a great shame if the percentage of Buckinghamshire children entering into grammar schools was lower because of the coronavirus.”

School - Classroom

The councillor asked education boss Cllr Anita Cranmer what the council is doing about the possibility of postponing the 11-plus exams taking place in September, and if they do go ahead, what procedures are in place to ensure disadvantaged children are not prejudiced.

She said:

“I can’t give you a very clear answer but what I can say to you is the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools Group [TBGS] which are operating this testing process are co-operating and working with the GL assessment board to find some solution in this situation.

“It hasn’t been completed yet and none of us know what it will be.”

Cllr Cranmer confirmed a registration portal where parents apply for their school of preference has now opened.

She added:

“That does two things: first of all, it shows we are going forward in a positive way and on the other hand it shows us what numbers we have going forward into the secondary selection.

“There are very good online resources available to all so we would urge all parents to act as if life was normal and they were going forward into a selection process.

“We would hope that if there are families who do not have access to online learning, which is readily available, that they could alert us to that because there is a programme being put out whereby tablets are being loaned to students who don’t have access to them.”

Robin Stuchbury
Cllr Robin Stuchbury

The deadline for the secondary transfer test registration closes on June 25.

Children born between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010, who will be moving up to secondary school in September 2021, are due to sit a practice test on September 8, 2020.

The actual test takes place two days later, and results are confirmed the following month.

Reacting to Cllr Cranmer’s comments, Cllr Stuchberry added:

“The question about the eleven plus taking place is still there.

“Clearly, we are waiting for an answer on whether they [TBGS] believe it will go forward.

“The answers about equality and opportunity still remain.

“Hopefully they’re going to answer those questions to the cabinet member as she indicated she wished to know.”

Anita told Mix96:

"Our overarching aim is to minimise as far as we can the impact on the learning and outcomes for all Buckinghamshire children and young people as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. We are working very hard to ensure our disadvantaged and our vulnerable children still have access to good learning opportunities, both now and in the longer-term, as well as support for their wellbeing during this time.

"We recognise that Year 5 parents may be concerned about how the current circumstances may affect secondary transfer testing for their children. We are liaising with The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools (TBGS), who are responsible for the Buckinghamshire test. TBGS is working closely with the Council and the test supplier, GL Assessment, to find a way forward that is in the best interests of all concerned.

"We know we are not unique nationally on this matter, and we are in ongoing discussions with the Department for Education to understand the wider issues and impact."

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