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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:43 pm 
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http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/local ... _1_3341774

Published on Thursday 15 December 2011 15:50

CHANGES to the 11-plus system could soon be made in a bid to prevent wealthier families from giving their children at unfair advantage.

Bucks County Council cabinet member for education, Mike Appleyard, met with the authority’s scrutiny committee yesterday about ways in which to discourage children receiving coaching for entrance exams.

This system, he claims, gives children from higher economic backgrounds an unfair advantage.

Mr Appleyard says he feels especially strongly about the subject having attended a grammar school himself, despite coming from a council estate in the West Midlands.

“The idea is to find a test which is less easy to be prepared for,” he told The Bucks Herald.

“There’s a lot of coaching goes on for these exams, and it’s putting less financially stable families at risk.

“We as a council must do our bit to find a test that doesn’t put families with less money for coaching at a disadvantage. Nobody’s got the perfect answer, but we must strive to do our best.

“All secondary schools are very much in favour of getting this right, – particularly the grammar schools.”

Thousands of children put through the entrance exam – or 11-plus – system each year in the Vale as part of a county-wide scheme in all junior schools.

And in a bid to better their children’s chances many parents throughout the county seek further support from private tuition and group coaching sessions.

A website which offers 11-plus advice and mock papers to parents, www.bucks11plus.co.uk, states: ‘Many parents are now using of private tutors or extra summer classes to make sure that their children attain their highest potential.

‘Sadly, we seem to be at the stage when many of those children who haven’t had extra tuition or practice at home will stand little chance of getting through the selection procedure and entering a grammar school.’

Alan Rosen, headteacher at all-girl selective secondary school, Aylesbury High School, said he would welcome any positive changes to the 11-plus, although he claims that no students who may have been coached for the exam ever fail to keep up with others.

“Once they come to us they are ours, and we make sure they flourish,” he said.

“It’s difficult to know how much of an effect coaching actually has, in the same way as with driving tests or music exams.

“I find it very difficult to pass judgement on coaching, as I cannot criticise parents who have their children’s best interests at heart.”

But Ali Khan, headteacher at Griffin House School, a preparatory primary based in Little Kimble which costs parents around £2,500 per child each year, claims the system does not favour the more well-off, but does put the children under an immense amount of pressure.

“I think it would be a great idea to review the papers, and make the system into a completely level playing field,” he said.

Mr Khan added that despite the children being prepared for the exam at the private school, parents are still forking out even more cash for private tuition – even against the advice of the teachers.

“Coaching schools and the like prey on the fear of parents, and parents continue to get their children extra tuition, even if we plead with them not to – everyone panics.

“But the problem is it’s just too much pressure for the children sometimes.

“There’s been an explosion of these coaching clubs recently.

“These groups can make a difference to a certain extent, but it’s all about timing – the questions aren’t actually that difficult, but many children simply run out of time.

“The most important factor in passing the 11-plus is the foundation education which a child receives up to the age of seven – such as reading from a early age which builds up a good vocabulary.

“If parents want to get their child into a grammar school, they will stop at nothing and parents who must make sacrifices in order to afford extra coaching will do so – so it’s not just the wealthy parents.

“We need to find a way of testing children without putting them under such immense pressure and can test their ability without giving the opportunity for so much preparation.”

Meanwhile, the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust is offering free extra tuition services, including 11-plus training, named Flying Start, to its residents in a bid to bridge the wealth divide.

Rhonda Bagley, whose son has benefited from scheme, said: “This unexpected investment is very welcome with so many statistics pointing at deprivation and poor academic standards for children living in social housing.

“This is not a mere gesture of the importance you place upon your tenants, it’s a positive approach to addressing inequality often arising from underprivileged backgrounds.”


Last edited by Guest55 on Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:13 pm 
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He obviously has a big chip on his shoulder...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:18 pm 
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Good to see this "elephant in the room" being addressed- more power t his elbow!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:41 pm 
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I would love to see a move towards a more level playing field. I just don't know how it can be achieved.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:48 pm 
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maybe a sliding scale linking household income and pass mark to get into selective state school. The higher the income, the higher the pass mark. This concept is used for age, why not income.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:10 pm 
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I'm all for a level playing field but you can't seriously be suggesting penalizing children for their parents' income? That's just as bad as the other way round and nothing like age standardization. I presume you are either joking or hoping to provoke a reaction?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:27 pm 
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poiuyt wrote:
maybe a sliding scale linking household income and pass mark to get into selective state school. The higher the income, the higher the pass mark. This concept is used for age, why not income.
Aside from anything else, it would be completely illegal under the Admissions Code.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:46 pm 
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The easiest way to make it a level playing field would be for primary schools to acknowledge that children sit for it and to offer after school coaching free or subsidised, for the exams to be more, not less open, and for schools to provide free materials for practise to anyone who applied for them.

In our area (super selectives only) state primaries frown on 11+ which means that only children who are tutored stand a chance. This may not be true in areas where grammars are the norm, but the way forward is surely to make info easier to come by. the mother of one of my pupils (I tutor English, not 11+) asked me this week why there was no VR and NVR teaching in schools. If there were, the panic and mystique would be reduced.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:50 pm 
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Having just been through the 11+ process with DD1, I've been reading this forum fairly regularly. Usually I'm a reader not a contributor, but this particular thread gets me more than a little animated. For the record my DD did have a tutor (1hour / fortnight / 6 months) and me helping with various bought / downloaded papers. We are also OoC.

There are a couple of issues in play here: Firstly, as is touched on in the article, most people consider some tutoring a reasonable idea prior to taking any test. So why would the 11+ be so different? Secondly, the idea of only 'rich kids' having access to tutoring is a bit simplistic. With the quantity of free 11+ test papers available in the web, surely all a motivated parent needs is time with their child not a heap of cash to give to a tutor. Maybe the Mr Appleyard will be advocating the removal of this information from the web and a halt to the printing of any coaching books (these too are inexpensive) as this would be the only way to ensure a level playing field. Once we head down this route maybe we should discourage parents speaking to their children in case there are other kids in their class who don't have this resource available to them. :D

Ultimately, I want the best education for my kids and I'm prepared to help them along the way - mostly be giving them the thing they really need, my time.

I think that most parents reading this forum would agree that preparing your children for the 11+ is a sensible thing to do. If you choose to have a tutor, or you choose to tutor, it's all the same. We can all offer our kids the opportunity to qualify.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:11 pm 
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Also we must not assume/stereotype that all kids from wealthier families are bright, they may not be. I'm sure we will all know people who have had paid for tuition for their dc, whether they were wealthy or not and still didn't make it.

I remember someone telling me a family had 3 siblings in GS and the 4th one was having tuition 4 times a week and still didn't qualify. Obviously they had the money, but the child may not of had the ability/potential. Hence it would be incorrect to penalise wealthy families, but I do believe there could be a fairer system so that the underprivileged are not at a disadvantage.


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