New figures show how grammar schools are shutting out local children from less affluent areas

Figures published by The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools last week show that children attending state primary schools in Bucks’ two biggest towns, High Wycombe and Aylesbury, are doing much worse than other Bucks children in the 11+ exam.

The latest figures come just days before grammar schools heads are due to appear at County Hall to answer questions on the impact of the new exam.

Overall, one out of every four Bucks children who took the 11+ exam last year (for 2014 entry) passed. However, in High Wycombe, only one in eight children passed, and in Aylesbury, the figure was even lower, with fewer than one in ten children passing.

At ten of the twelve primary schools in High Wycombe town that entered children in the 11+, six or fewer children passed the exam. At nine of the thirteen primary schools in Aylesbury town that entered children in the 11, five or fewer children passed the exam.

Rebecca Hickman of campaign group Local, Equal and Excellent said:
“The reality is that the 11+ exam is testing for social background, not ability. And this means that grammar schools are effectively shutting out children from poorer homes.
“At next week’s meeting, Councillors should be asking the grammar schools why children from less advantaged homes and from Pakistani and African Caribbean communities do worse than other children, under the 11+ exam.
“They should also be asked why in 2015, 42% of children from Chiltern District have passed the exam compared to 17% of children from Aylesbury Vale District? How can this be the case if the 11+ exam is a fair test of innate ability, as the grammar schools claim?
“And of course the big question that the grammar schools need to answer is the one that no-one wants to ask. If you cannot develop an 11+ exam that is fair, then can the selective system itself ever be fair?”

The results of the 2015 exam which have also just been released, show that the gap between the achievement of children from the more and least affluent districts in Bucks has increased still further over the last year. In addition, the pass rate for non-Bucks children has increased by seven percentage points, to 46%. The effect of this has been to raise where the pass mark falls, meaning that local children who would have passed the exam in previous years, failed this year.

Local education campaigner, Derek Berry, said:
“It seems entirely wrong that through tutoring, parents are able to purchase an educational advantage for their children, while bright children from poorer backgrounds lose out. The big 11+ achievement gap between children from more and less affluent areas just reinforces existing patterns of disadvantage. The selective system doesn’t enable social mobility – it stops it in its tracks.
“It is about time that Bucks County Council recognised that Buckinghamshire is no longer the predominantly agricultural, woodturning and paper mill economy of the 1950s era. Our children deserve to have a modern comprehensive education system that allows all children to develop to their maximum potential during these critically important secondary school years. By trying to maintain a 60-year-old selective education system which fails to deliver the results attained by comprehensive education areas, we are failing the majority of Bucks’ children.”

Dr Katy Simmons, Chair of Governors at a High Wycombe school, said:
“There seems to be no evidence that the ‘new’ test is any fairer than the old one or that the effect of tutoring has been in any way reduced. Quite simply, the test continues to favour children from wealthier homes. Maybe the grammar schools and the Local Authority can explain to parents exactly who benefits from this test.”

For interviews and comment, contact Dr Katy Simmons on 07970 656153 or at katy@nashdom.dircon.co.uk, or Rebecca Hickman at becks_hickman@hotmail.com

Notes to editors:
1. Last week, under pressure from the Information Commissioner, TBGS was finally forced to publish the full 11+ data for 2014. There are currently five cases lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office relating to the withholding of information on the Bucks 11+ exam by TBGS and Bucks County Council.
2. All original datasets can be accessed at:
www.buckscc.gov.uk/education/schools/admissions-and-moving-school/policy-hub/
3. The borders of High Wycombe town and Aylesbury town are as defined by BCC.
4. Approximately 25% of children in Bucks attend grammar schools, with the other 75% attending ‘upper’ schools.
5. The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools (TBGS) is a company established by the grammar schools to oversee implementation of selection in Bucks. TBGS spent £77,000 of public money on developing the new 11+ exam, and £295,000 on delivering it for 2014.
6. Local, Equal, Excellent supports fair access to secondary schools for all Bucks children. See www.facebook.com/localequalexcellent