Bucks 11-plus test provider admits they have no evidence that their test is ‘tutor proof’

In the week when thousands of children across Bucks will sit the 11 plus test, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (providers of the Bucks 11 plus test) have admitted that they have no evidence that their test is in fact ‘tutor proof’. The revelation comes as new data shows that even bright children from poorer homes are disadvantaged by the Bucks test.

The new 11 plus test was introduced in Bucks in 2013 amid claims from both CEM and local grammar schools that the new test would be fairer because it was ‘resistant to coaching’. However, extensive data collected by local campaign group Local Equal Excellent over the last three years show that the opposite is the case, and children from poorer homes are still doing far worse than their better off classmates.

In response to pressure from LEE, in May CEM withdrew a brochure from their website claiming that their 11 plus test could assess ‘natural ability’. Just weeks later in an email responding to a freedom of information request from LEE, CEM stated:
“Without extensive and expensive research, it is not possible to quantify the impact of coaching on the results from our tests, since we currently have no access to information regarding the levels of coaching that children have received.”

This was the first time that CEM had conceded that they have no evidence that their 11 plus test is, as they have claimed, resistant to coaching.

In Buckinghamshire, over 8000 children sit the 11 plus every year. But in 2014, just 10 children on free school meals passed the test. The pass rate for children at private schools is around 60% compared to 22% for state school pupils. The pass rate for children from the wealthier districts of the county is around twice the pass rate of the poorer districts.

Dr Neal Skipper of LEE said:
“We’ve found that among children classified as high ability according to their KS2 SATS results, the children from lower-income postcodes do worse in the 11 plus than their better-off peers. The gap is around 20 marks, which is substantial when you consider the pass score is 121. Yet these are precisely the children who supporters of grammar schools claim the system helps. The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools have met with senior representatives of CEM to discuss these issues, but the minutes have been so heavily redacted that it is impossible to know the extent to which grammar school heads understand and are taking seriously the deep problems with the test.”

Rebecca Hickman of LEE said:
“There isn’t a shred of evidence that the 11 plus is resistant to coaching. And if the test is unfair, the system is unfair. Given the overwhelming evidence that the test disadvantages children from certain backgrounds, it seems indefensible not to withdraw it immediately. Instead the grammar schools are choosing to keep reproducing the unfairness.”

Rafiq Raja, Chair of the Muslim Parents Association, said:
“As things stand the 11 plus is a legalised form of discrimination. There is no real effort being made to understand its far-reaching consequences for certain sections of the community; as a result the attainment gap in Bucks is one of the largest in the country. We need an education system in Bucks that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Neal Skipper: 07792454844 or at nealskipper@gmail.com
Rebecca Hickman: 07748 905101 or at becks_hickman@hotmail.com

Notes to editors:
1. Local, Equal, Excellent supports fair access to secondary schools for all Bucks children. See www.facebook.com/localequalexcellent

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