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Schools plan overhaul of 11-plus to beat 'middle-class tutor factor' that sees some children coached from the age of five
23:58 GMT, 18 December 2012
Grammar school entrance tests will be made ‘tutor-proof’ amid evidence that coaching for middle-class children begins as young as five.
Kent, Britain’s biggest education authority, today unveiled plans to revamp the 11-plus within two years to ease the ‘pressures’ of coaching on children.
Tuition typically begins months before the testing date, with some parents hiring coaches from the early years of primary school.
Children are being coached for grammar school exams from as young as five-years-old
Under plans to introduce tests ‘as resistant to coaching as possible’, parents and tutors will no longer be able to buy past papers or practice tests.
To test understanding rather than exam technique, questions will be made tougher and less formulaic.
They are likely to focus more on material covered at primary school, instead of requiring pupils to work through endless ‘reasoning’ multiple choice options.
Pupils may also face a new test of reading comprehension and more assessment of their writing skills.
The review was launched amid fears from grammar school heads that bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds are overlooked because they miss out on coaching which helps youngsters reach the highest marks.
Robert Masters, head of the ‘super-selective’ grammar The Judd School in Tonbridge, Kent, criticised a ‘culture of coaching’ that may lead to bright children from poorer homes being ‘leap-frogged’.
Kent’s 11-plus currently comprises tests of maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.
Robert Masters, head of so-called 'super selective' grammar The Judd School criticised a 'culture of coaching'
There is also a writing task, which is taken into account in the case of borderline candidates.
Councillor Mike Whiting, Kent’s cabinet member for education, is leading moves ‘to design a new approach to assess ability more appropriately – and in a way that is less coachable’.
Changes are expected to be introduced in time for testing in 2014, for entry in September 2015.
The initiative in Kent, which has 33 of the country’s 164 remaining grammars, is likely to be watched closely by other areas where selective schools still exist.