Supporting Families
  • banner8
  • banner4
  • banner7
  • banner10
  • banner13
  • banner11
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner6
  • banner2
Monday, 06 April 2015 22:36

Talk at National Tutoring Conference: The Kent 11 Plus test was changed to make it less susceptible to coaching. What happened next?

I was invited to speak at the National Tutoring Conference on 1st April 2015, to the title: "The Kent 11 Plus test was changed to make it less susceptible to coaching. What happened next?" The following is the script I planned to follow, but as those who have heard me speaking before will know. Do not assume I kept to it!

Kent is the largest Local Authority in the country, with 20% of the nation’s grammar schools, 32 in number, all admitting students through success in the Kent 11 plus. Around three years ago, the Cabinet Member for Education in Kent uttered those immortal words: “not fit for purpose” about the Kent Test. There were two main issues, firstly that tutoring was introducing an unfair skew into the outcomes, and secondly that the absence of any element of literacy in the assessments was allowing too many children who were unable to write properly through to grammar school.

I hope you will find that many of the conclusions in this talk apply to grammar schools in other parts of the country.......

Let me be clear; if there is to be an ability test for selection to grammar school, aspiring parents will want their children to do as well as possible, and so create a demand for a tutoring industry. I see nothing wrong with that. However, a Local Authority has a responsibility to be fair to all its children, and state primary schools are not permitted to coach for the test, whilst for many private schools it is their bread and butter, parents often topping this up with further coaching.

In order to answer the question of “what happened next”, I am afraid I need to look at some statistics, which is why I am reading this rather than my usual approach of talking without a script! Most of the data is reproduced on my website which explores a variety of 11 plus issues amongst other themes, in an article entitled “The Conundrum of the Kent Test”.

Kent County Council sets a pass mark in the nationally standardised 11 plus that selects 21% of Kent children as suitable for grammar school. Another 5% are chosen by looking at their work and ability profile, with still more added through the appeals, so that in the end nearly 30% of Kent children are admitted to grammar school in the county. The same rules for deciding if a child is selective apply for out of county children. One complication comes because three of the grammar schools are super-selective - primarily a Kent term to distinguish them from the majority of Kent grammars who, if oversubscribed, select from those who have passed by some sort of distance criterion. The super-selectives choose students on high scores, another five choosing a proportion on high scores, with coaching becoming increasingly important for admission to all these in what can become a fiercely competitive situation.

On a national scale, 21% of children found of grammar school ability equates to selecting on scores of 113 or higher on age standardised tests where children have not been prepared in any way, as in the samples used for comparison. For 2014 entry, the last year of the old test, children passed if they scored 118 or higher in each of three tests: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths, with an aggregate score of 360 or more, the discrepancy being largely due to the preparation and tutoring effect.

For 2015 entry, KCC adopted a different pattern of tests responding to the criticisms, but both still multiple choice: the first test was equally divided between English and maths, the second equally divided between verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

There were three scores produced of equal weighting in English, maths and Reasoning. The pass standard was 106 in each of the three assessments, with an aggregate of 320 or more, in order to produce a total of 21%. In order to understand this dramatic fall from the previous year, I have analysed the data that makes up individual scores and found results as follows:

  21%   Boys 21%   Girls 21%   Total
English 114 116 115
Maths 118 116 117
Reasoning 121 121 121

Several conclusions can be drawn.

Firstly, all these scores are above those of the unprepared national sample in which 21% of children achieved 113 or more. Not surprising, as all nearly all children will have been prepared somehow. Never forget the importance of parents and after school booster classes! Kent boys are only just above the national sample for English! Maths marks are higher than English.

Secondly, the reasoning mark is considerably higher than the other two. In my view, this differential is caused by one or more of the following: a focus of coaching on reasoning tests: more effective coaching on reasoning tests; or simply and most probably that reasoning tests are more susceptible to coaching than the other two.

Thirdly, there is an important difference between the performance of girls and boys. Under the old Kent Test, more boys than girls passed the test after achieving better maths results, with more girls being selected in the second tranche, focusing on school work, the two equalising out. In the new test, more girls than boys pass directly thanks to the introduction of English, and more are also selected in tranche two, so in total 25% of Kent boys and 28% of Kent girls are found selective before appeals. Whilst not relevant to this talk, this has the effect of there being increased pressure on girls’ grammar school places in Kent this year.

Fourthly, there is the surprising issue of why the pass mark for each subject is fixed so low, at 106, in order to get 21% of children selected/ This mark actually sees 34% of children reach this standard in each separate subject, whereas the 21% mark in each subject is much higher. The answer to this is highly relevant to tutors and to schoolteachers. Very few children will have failed the whole test by scoring less than 106 in the reasoning test alone; nearly all that have failed have done so through the maths or the English or both. The reason the pass mark is so low is because far too many children performed poorly in either English or maths, and the pass mark is fixed to allow children needing to reach the standard in all three to get through.

I would anticipate that for the 2015 test the pass mark will rise as the tutoring industry adjusts to the increased priority on the curriculum subjects of maths and English, which cannot be bad for children’s education! I have talked to many parents of children appealing for places in grammar schools this year and am frankly appalled to discover how many tutors have neglected English and maths teaching, as they have focused on going through the hoops of reasoning tests, which have no discernible value after the test is taken. For some tutors, this poses a problem, as teaching curriculum English and maths require additional skills, and I would certainly advise parents to ask more questions about such matters when engaging tutors.

Super selective schools choose those students achieving the highest scores: It is here that tutoring mostly comes into its own, as every mark counts, and with three super-selective schools in West Kent, there is a strong culture of coaching, and finding the best coaches. As those of you who work in that area know, many of the best are booked up a year and more ahead, some children are tutored from the age of five and some go to private schools focused on success at the 11 plus and are then tutored outside school as well. The latter examples are no childhood and in my view can almost add up to child abuse.

The most telling statistic is that for 2014 entry, there was a mushrooming of 161 Kent children scoring the maximum of 423, more than three times as many as most other scores down to 400. For the new test, this figure has fallen to just 8 (7 boys and one girl). As a result, these schools have also seen their individual pass mark tumble as the scores have become more spread out. My understanding is that they are pleased with this as there is greater discrimination.

So what is the answer to my question? I believe that for the 2015 Kent Test, the effect of coaching has been reduced, although for many children it will still make the difference between pass and fail, or decide if a child is to gain admission to a super-selective school. It is ridiculous to claim as some do, that a tutor-proof exam exists, and good tutors will always make a difference although for many bright children they are really an irrelevance with regard to the test. Any child who is tutored from now on ought to see an improvement in their maths and English curriculum performance, critical if they attend a poor school, and that is worthwhile in its own right.

Last modified on Monday, 06 April 2015 23:24

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.

Latest News & Comments

Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Rochester Independent College: Summer Fest

     

    Advertisement

    RIC SUMMER FEST 2018 page 001 (1) 

    Written on Friday, 22 June 2018 20:11 Be the first to comment! Read 56 times
  • Holcombe Grammar: Another Plan to Change Character?

    The 2018 Admission Appeals process is a pointer suggesting Thinking Schools Academy Trust has yet another plan to change the character of Holcombe Grammar School. It is to be changed from a school serving its local community well, to one dedicated to attracting high scorers in the Medway or Kent Tests no matter where they are drawn from.

    Currently, Holcombe Grammar has a Planned Admission (PAN) number of 120. For September 2018 entry it offered 148 places topping up the PAN with 28 offers to boys living in London Boroughs as far away as Croydon. It then declared itself full in spite of a previous claim that ‘We have the capacity to provide enough places for every boy and girl who wants one’.

    Chatham Boys

     

    The Case for the School from the Trust to the Appeal Panel is a document  riddled with issues. Most importantly it completely misleads the Appeal Panel by providing a gross misrepresentation of how the Medway Test works, as explained below. It also states that ‘students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School, steering the Panel to select additional boys who have been found selective (probably through the Kent Test), but live too far away to secure a place initially. In the event just four appeals were upheld out of some 65, by a Kent Panel who appeared out of their depth, in sharp contrast to the 30 successes of 2017, typical of previous years.

    The school is rightly proud of its GCSE performance having been second and third of the six Medway grammar schools in terms of both Progress 8 and Achievement 8 in the past two years, demonstrating its great capability to take local Chatham boys with moderate Medway Test scores through to strong performance. All this is now to be thrown away in the pursuit of glory, using pupils imported from London each year, including 10 from Greenwich for September, nearly 30 miles away.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 21 June 2018 18:16 Be the first to comment! Read 121 times
  • Cedar Federation, Gravesend: Ifield Special and King's Farm Primary Schools Celebrate Excellent Ofsted Outcomes

    Ifield    

    Kings  Farm 2018

    Ifield School celebrates its third successive Outstanding Ofsted assessment and King's Farm, brought to its knees four years ago by a headteacher now banned from the profession, is now Good in every respect, in a very powerful Report.

    The Federation saw a change of Executive Headteacher in September when Pam Jones, OBE, retired after a stellar career, and was succeeded by Abbie Birch, moving from the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector, having previously been a headteacher in Kent.

    If anything, the achievement at King's Farm is the more powerful, having risen like a Phoenix from the train wreck of 2014. Taken over by the Cedar Federation that year, now: ‘All leaders, including governors, are uncompromising in their high aspirations for every pupil. They are relentlessly driving improvement and accept nothing but the best. The executive headteacher and the head of school model the high standards expected. An exceedingly positive and respectful ethos permeates the school’.

    The strength of the transformation can be measured by: ‘In 2017 the school’s results at the expected standard for combined reading, writing and mathematics were the most improved in Kent, with an impressive rise of 34% from results in 2016’.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 13:07 4 comments Read 1927 times
  • Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger

    Update at foot of article

    The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

    Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

    Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 11:47 6 comments Read 475 times
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018

    There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

    A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

    Brent Outstanding 1

    There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

    East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

    The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

    I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06 2 comments Read 1088 times
  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    Last Updated 29/05

    One of the Turner School Visions:

    We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

    which we interpret as being the whole person.

    Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

    One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers. This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

    I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 27 comments Read 4802 times