Joined: Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:12 am
This was a standard response sent to many parents who had complained, no further communication as far as I know. At two council meetings the issue was raised, they initially asked for evidence (for PR Purposes probably) and parents provided various evidence and childrens witness statements. Since the official statement of asking for details of names they were then quite threatening at the council meeting for parents not to brand names around. Contradictory as names were only provided to the council itself.
It is clear Redbridge have swept this under the carpet. It is not worth appealing if any child did not get a place at Redbridge, no one has ever won an appeal at this LEA. The whole Redbridge process is a sham, I would not put my child through this again. Guaranteed they will tweak something this year so people think that everything is sorted out like last year when they decided to put it on one day and put a statement that it is unfounded allegations.
I have spoken to a parent who got places at Woodford and Chelmsford desperately trying to change their order of preference to get into Chelmsford, so I would not say it is sour grapes of children who did not get in.
A very sorry state of affairs.Thank you for your email of 18 January as copied to Councillor Bhamra and Councillor R Cole regarding your concerns about the Authority’s recent 11+ tests.
The concerns that you raise in your email are reflected in a petition received by the Authority. In the circumstances, I give below the response as now sent to the petitioners.
“As stated in the petition, a number of concerns are in circulation. We take allegations about the probity of the 11+ process very seriously indeed and investigate wherever there is sufficient evidence to enable us to do this.
We are also concerned about the real anxiety that this matter is causing to families. I have therefore written a comprehensive account of all the information that we have available to us at present.
You may be aware that there were also claims made about last year’s tests, used to assess entry to the selective schools for September 2010. The Authority was made aware of a small number of expressions of concern from parents over rumours of cheating at the 11+ examinations of which the vast majority were repeating the same two issues. Contact was received from 20 families out of a possible 1500 and none were able to provide first hand evidence of cheating.
The principal concerns raised last year were firstly: that the test papers were used multiple times. This was not true. The same tests were used on the Saturday test date as was on the Sunday test date. (Two dates had been allowed for those children whose religion prevented them from attending on either the Saturday or the Sunday.) Only the small number of children who were sick on the test day and those children with special needs were tested later together with some children who had newly moved into the Borough.
The second rumour last year was that a tutor was getting questions from Saturday children to coach Sunday children. However, the difficulty of the questions set, the speed with which the candidates needed to work through the tests and the stress that children being tested are under makes it highly unlikely that children would have been able to remember and repeat the questions several hours later. It was also questioned as to why the parent of a child would allow them to do such a thing, which would only serve to disadvantage their child in favour of a child taking the test the following day.
Parents were asked to let us have any first hand information if their child had been asked to pass questions onto their tutor in writing so that we could pass the information onto the examination company, GL Assessment. This is the nationally recognised examination company that designs the tests specifically for the London Borough of Redbridge. Parents were also advised to complain about any
specific tutors to the tutor company and the police direct.
We passed the information we received onto the police and the examination company. However, the information was insufficient for further action to be taken by either body. Without evidence it is very difficult to investigate further and no concrete evidence was actually supplied. In the end, the police did not pursue the matter further, nor did the examination company. A review of the results data indicated that there was actually no change in the pattern of results for entry in 2010 when compared to previous years.
However, the Authority constantly reviews its procedures to seek improvements in all areas of work and, given those rumours in 2010, even though they were unsubstantiated, we looked carefully at the testing process.
There were already a number of security measures in place. These included scrap paper being collected at the end of the examination; qualified and experienced invigilators in attendance throughout the examination and “patrolling” the room; electronic aids not allowed; photographic id required for all children and no pencil cases allowed.
Notwithstanding these measures, we also decided to withdraw the option of an alternative Saturday/Sunday test date, so candidates would all sit the same test on the same day. Additionally, rather than have the verbal tests one weekend and the non-verbal over a second weekend, it was decided to have all the tests on a single day. As you will be aware, this resulted in the tests for September 2011, all taking place on 20 December 2010. This change was primarily to offer reassurance to parents because, as previously explained, no evidence of cheating could be established.
We also worked with the examination company to review the test papers themselves and decided to institute a change to these too, as I will mention later in this letter.
Although these additional measures were designed to reassure parents and candidates that their concerns, no matter how unfounded, were being taken seriously, sadly, it has not stopped the rumours this year. New concerns, centred this time on the security of papers, are now unsettling parents just as they were last year and this is clearly distressing to all concerned.
Therefore, I would like to address the overall situation as regards the security of the Redbridge selection tests. The main tests, one a verbal reasoning test and the other a non-verbal reasoning test, have again been specifically designed for Redbridge by GL Assessment. This company owns the copyright to the test papers. The questions are compiled from GL Assessment’s secure item bank and are changed annually. The main test papers actually have “The London Borough of Redbridge” printed on the cover.
The papers are maintained under strict security.
GL Assessment arranged for the papers to be delivered to Redbridge securely on a shrink wrapped palette and once the shrink wrapping was removed, the inner boxes, which were also sealed, were kept in a locked storage area. The seals were only broken when it was necessary to distribute the papers to the test venues. The tests and accompanying instructions were sealed for each venue, papers being counted to meet the specific candidate numbers at each venue.
This process was carried out, under supervision, by members of the Admissions and Awards Team specifically responsible for the selection procedure arrangements. All these staff have Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks in place.
The supervising officer went with the papers when delivered to each venue and ensured that delivery was taken and signed for by either the Headteacher or Co-ordinating Officer based at each venue. The main tests were then securely stored at each venue and the sealed packages were not opened, in accordance with instructions, until the morning of the tests. All the test venues were Redbridge Primary Schools which already have experience in maintaining test security because of the national SAT tests which have been administered by schools over a number of years.
Once completed, all the test material had to be returned to the Authority immediately so that the same staff who issued the tests could again store the completed papers in the locked storage area until the marking process was started. In accordance with this requirement, all the test material issued was returned to the Authority on the day of the test, Monday 20 December 2010.
Any evidence of unauthorised access and/or breach of copyright is immediately reported to GL Assessment so that legal action can be instituted as appropriate.
As you will know, the structure of the examination day is that candidates are taken through a practice examination paper (the practice test) and then the actual examination paper (the actual test). This happens for the verbal and the non-verbal papers. The practice test is intended to simulate the actual test environment.
Redbridge uses a practice paper in order that all candidates have an opportunity to experience a verbal and non-verbal test prior to the actual examination papers. In this way, all candidates are afforded some familiarity with the format of the test questions including the pressures of a timed test environment. It should be noted that the practice tests are not marked or used to assess any of the candidates.
In a change from previous years, the practice tests used were generic papers that contain the types of questions that might arise in the main tests and are commercially available but not the actual questions that might arise. These papers do not have “The London Borough of Redbridge” printed on the main cover. Therefore, some parents or tutors may well have obtained these generic papers or indeed other verbal or non-verbal reasoning test papers that are widely available to the public and taken their students/children through them. In doing so the child would have generated a sense of familiarity with the paper and the format. Although such widely available practice test papers are similar in nature to the Redbridge actual test papers, they are not the same and no candidate will have had access to either of the Redbridge actual test papers before sitting these tests.
It would appear, unfortunately, that a degree of confusion has been generated. This has arisen as children have reported to parents that they had “seen the paper before” without distinguishing between the practice examination paper and the actual examination paper. Two days after the test a parent sent a copy to the Council of the paper that their child had claimed to have seen in advance of the examination and it was identical to the practice paper that was used on the day. As this is not the actual paper there is no cause for alarm.
Each test venue had trained invigilators in order to manage the test and, on the day, they were required to complete incident forms to record any incidents during the tests including toilet breaks, pupils feeling unwell or any other kind of noteworthy behaviour such as remarks of having previously seen the tests or completing the tests before the allotted time. We have now scrutinised the incident reports, and crossed referenced these with the specific points made in the petition.
Whilst we wish to be as transparent in our response as possible, we are constrained in our ability to be so.
Firstly, we do not have finalised results. Each test paper is externally marked by an independently employed assessor and this is validated internally through being marked a second time. This produces “raw scores” for each candidate, which are then standardised to take account of the child’s age by GL Assessment. Parents will be notified of the outcomes in letters issued on the national allocation date of 1 March 2011, as set out in the published Redbridge admissions policy.
Therefore, at this stage, only non-validated raw scores are available which are indicative of but not identical to the standardised scores. As a consequence, it is not yet possible to say with any certainty whether any particular child will be allocated a place at the grammar schools.
Whilst raw scores are indicative of possible outcomes, to discuss any case on this basis at this stage would breach the co-ordinated admissions arrangements that legislate for notification of school placements to be sent to parents only on 1 March 2011.
More importantly, to openly discuss a candidate’s performance would breach the confidential nature of any individual child’s records under the Data Protection Act. I am sure that your petitioners will appreciate that we are unable to discuss any child’s performance publicly and, although no child has been specifically named in the petition, there are some who could be individually identified or who are known to petitioner’s children.
However, we are conscious that this could be taken as the Authority “covering up” issues. In the circumstances, for any of those candidates referred to in the incident reports or where any information in your petition has enabled us to identify a child, should the predicted outcome not be as the parent had expected when notification of results is sent on 1 March, we will invite this child’s parents to a meeting so they can discuss the outcome in person. Unfortunately, with almost 1500 candidates, we will not be able to extend this opportunity more widely unless there are specific, significant issues.
Notwithstanding this situation, we offer the following comments on the specific points raised in the petition:
1. The invigilator’s report from one centre identified in the petition (Centre A) highlights 1 candidate as stating that they recognised options from the main verbal test. There is no indication that this candidate completed any of the tests quickly, which some might say could be an indicator of prior knowledge of the test papers.
The same invigilator noted that 1 other candidate had completed the non-verbal practice test before the allotted time but not the main tests.
Other invigilator reports at this school also noted 4 candidates completing either the main tests or practice tests before the allotted time.
2. The incident reports from Centre B notes 1 candidate as having reported to the invigilator at the lunch break that a friend, in another invigilator’s class, had said that they had seen the main verbal test before. There is no record of speedy completion of any parts of the tests in respect of either of these candidates.
3. The incident reports from Centre C have no mention of any candidates stating they had seen the test papers before. However, there were 6 candidates recorded as finishing either one or both tests before the allotted time.
4. The incident reports from Centre D make no mention of candidates reporting to have seen the papers before. 1 candidate is reported to have completed the verbal main test before the allotted time.
In respect of the 14 children mentioned above (some identified from cross referencing the petition with invigilators reports and some from the invigilator reports alone), and taking account of non-validated test results only, over 70% have raw scores at levels unlikely, when standardised to reach the level that is expected to be required in order to be offered a selective school place. There is no evidence of any advantage having been gained through either reporting to have seen the papers before (even if true) or being able to complete the tests quickly. If any of these children are eventually offered a selective place this would still not support any allegation that the main test papers have been “leaked”, for which we still have no concrete evidence.
Finally, I assure you that the Authority takes these matters very seriously. If any of the signatories to the petition or any other parent has any evidence that substantiates the rumours they should send it to John O’Keefe, Chief Planning & Resources Officer, Lynton House, 255-259 High Road, Ilford, IG1 1NN or email email@example.com”
I note that you have already contacted Mr O’Keefe direct and I would assure you that he will be responding to you in due course.
While this response covers concerns that may be additional to those that you raise, by providing you with full information, I hope that you will appreciate the gravity with which the allegations are being viewed.