More upheaval for Bucks parents and children as grammar schools replace 11-plus test with the old ‘discredited’ test

The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools* has announced the appointment of a new 11-plus test provider in Buckinghamshire – reappointing the old test provider, just five years after they were sacked in favour of a new test provider. GL Assessment, who provided the 11-plus test for Bucks prior to 2013, will replace the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) and be responsible for providing the 11-plus test for all Bucks grammar schools from 2018.

Five years ago, headteachers from primary and secondary schools in Bucks went on the record to say that the GL Assessment test was not working. But now The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools have decided to reintroduce the same test.

The current headteacher of the Royal Grammar School, Philip Wayne, said in 2013 when the new CEM test was introduced, “It certainly hasn’t been done on a whim, there’s been an awful lot of hours of input and expertise, wrestling and debate, and I think we have a very good system for the future.” In 2014, he told the Guardian newspaper that he was, “‘very confident’ that the new test will avoid the current situation, in which many pupils who won places at his school with the help of intensive tutoring struggle to keep up with lessons once they arrive.” And in evidence to Bucks County Council’s education select committee in 2014, he said that the CEM test would be, “more resistant to the impacts of coaching [than the old GL Assessment test] as it is a school based test.”

The same Guardian article quoted Ros Rochefort, headteacher at Bledlow Ridge primary school as saying that ‘the old test was widely discredited’: “Before, tutors could teach children the test technique, which would inflate their scores without improving understanding. Kids who we didn’t expect to pass were highly coached and did pass, and brighter kids who couldn’t afford tuition lost out.”

The 11-plus test provided by CEM has come under sustained criticism since 2014 for continuing the previous trend of giving unfair advantage to children from better-off homes. CEM claimed that their test was ‘resistant to coaching’ but four years’ worth of data exposed that claim as groundless.

Rebecca Hickman, spokesperson for campaign group Local Equal Excellent, said:

“This is a case of shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic. Bucks grammar schools are just replacing one discredited test with another. What’s more they have offered no explanation as to why they have reintroduced a test that they previously said was causing significant unfairness because of its susceptibility to tutoring. The inescapable conclusion is that it is impossible to produce an 11-plus test that is not coachable, and therefore all tests will end up selecting children on the basis of social background, race and prior opportunity, not on the basis of ability. That is why the selective system in Bucks is intrinsically unfair and has to go.”

Katy Simmons, also a member of Local Equal Excellent, said:

“It seems that The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools have had to stop making claims about the 11-plus test being tutor-proof. However, they have gone one step further by appointing a test provider who, unlike CEM, makes considerable money by selling a wide range of practice papers. This will naturally give further advantage to those families in Bucks who can most afford to buy the practice materials. So it seems that Bucks grammar schools are abandoning all attempts at fairness and that children from less well-off homes stand to lose out even more. Why David Johnston, Managing Director Children’s Social Care and Learning for Bucks County Council, should think this increased unfairness ‘benefits Bucks children’ remains a mystery. Which children does he mean?”


Contact:  Katy Simmons:  01628 661583 or 07970 656153


Note to editors:

  1. * The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools is the company set up by the 13 grammar schools in Bucks to manage and administer the 11-plus testing process.
  2. See coverage from 2013 and 2014 of Bucks headteachers’ views when the new 11-plus test was introduced:

  1. Local Equal Excellentsupports fair access to secondary schools for all Bucks children.  See

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