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Thursday, 30 January 2014 16:20

Judd School breaks with the Kent Test because of problems over coachability and creative English

judd school

 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Following the decision of KCC to change the Kent Test to reduce coachability and introduce an English assessment for the 2015 and onwards Kent Test, Judd has decided to stay with KCC. I have left this item on the website, as I consider these plans were a major factor in the decision to change the format of the Kent Test.

 

The Judd School is planning to leave the Kent Test structure and set up its own admission tests in mathematics and English for admission in 2016. You will find the school statement here. This comes as no surprise as the school has made clear for some time that it is disillusioned with the Kent Test and believes its own tests will enable it better to select boys of the highest ability, and those with a stronger background in English. I have looked at the background to this proposal in a previous article

Judd will therefore be the first Kent grammar school not to accept Kent Test results for over ten years, since the grammar schools of North West Kent scrapped their own separate admission procedure. Five other grammar schools: Dover Boys and Girls, Harvey Grammar and Folkestone School for Girls, and Mayfield Grammar in Gravesend now offer success at their own tests for admission, but they have kept the Kent Test as an alternative route. Loss of this prestigious school will be a great blow to Kent County Council, which has introduced its own new test arrangement for 2015 entry in an attempt to keep all schools on board.

This article looks at the reasons behind the move, including the problems with the current Kent Test notably around coaching of the two reasoning papers as confirmed by data on individual subjects. It also considers the consequences and future of the Kent Test, and dips into the influence of the Test data on appeals to other grammar schools..........

Kent Test Outcomes

I have obtained figures from KCC that underline Judd’s concerns about the coachability of the Kent Test verbal reasoning (VR) and non-verbal reasoning (NVR) assessments.  Children currently sit VR, NVR and mathematics tests and these are nationally standardised, using children elsewhere in the country who haven’t been coached, so that they should produce the same pattern of results in each subject. However, the table below shows this is not so, and the wide discrepancy can only be down to the effects of coaching of Kent children on the two Reasoning Tests. I am sure that coaching equally takes place in mathematics, but clearly is not as effective in a curriculum subject.  

For 2014 entry, a pass in the Kent Test was gained by scoring at least 118 marks in each of the three tests, with an aggregate score of 360. This allows 21% of all Kent children in the age group to pass (the other 4% come through Headteacher Assessment). The Judd School in addition requires a high aggregate score for the tests which has been as high as 418, although the Kent Test is designed to choose children at the 23% ability level, and is not tailored for this specialist purpose. 

 Kent Test outcomes in September 2013
Number of children scoring marks for individual subjects
Kent residents Out of County  
Test
Mark        
Verbal
Reasoning
Non-Verbal
Reasoning
Mathematics
Verbal
Reasoning
Non-Verbal
Reasoning
Mathematics 
118-141  5944  5209  3660  2343 1834  1623
138-141  1995  1454  355  1185 657  272
138 148 93 42 81 31 25
139  146 129   52  65 44 32 
140  146 112   36  59 42 24 
141  1555 1120  225  980 540 191 

 

 

 The table shows that children achieve markedly higher scores on the VR and NVR papers. One consequence of this variation is that if children pass in mathematics, then 7/8 of them will pass the Kent Test, so maths becomes the real determinator of success. Because of the standardisation, this can only be down to coaching, which is most effective in the reasoning papers.

The proposed Judd School tests

At the highest scores that most interest the Judd, the effect is even more extreme, with nearly seven times as many Kent children scoring 141 in VR as in mathematics. It is hardly surprising that the Judd wishes to lose the element which is being over-coached at the expense of some very bright boys missing out on selection, and replace it by some other measure of real ability! The school has also made clear that it is concerned about the lower than expected level of English ability demonstrated by some of the boys it admits. It anticipates that by replacing the reasoning tests with an English Test containing an element of creative English, it will both solve this problem and minimise the bias and unfairness of the Kent Test on its own intake.  Further, it will be testing Key Stage 2 curriculum work which it hopes will reduce further the effectiveness of coaching and give very able boys in state primary schools a better chance of showing their ability and being offered a place.   

If the school wishes to see if this works, they only need to look over the county boundary to their competitor school, St Olave’s in Bromley, which has operated this pattern for some years.

The St Olave’s Test comprises:

A Mathematics test consisting of around 30 questions of generally increasing difficulty.

An English test that has two equally weighted sections. One section assesses reading and the other assesses writing.

   1. Section One tests reading by multiple choice questions, based on fiction or non-fiction passages plus some questions on basic grammar.

   2. Section Two tests creative writing skills.

St Olave's  advises parents that as one would expect, the test is academically demanding which clearly means more demanding than the normal Kent Test.

Where does KCC go next

So where does this leave KCC? The new Kent Test outlined in previous articles, to be introduced for September 2014, has introduced an element of literacy alongside the VR, NVR and mathematics, but assessed only in a multiple choice format. This test was introduced partly to persuade schools such as Judd (the market leader) to stay with the single cross-county test, but has signally failed. Boys considering Judd will probably also take the Kent Test as a safety net, whilst many also take  St Olave’s, the Bexley Test, and tests for some other ‘super selectives’ around the M25 fringe. How long before other Kent grammars decide to go down the same path? One can visualise Tonbridge Grammar, Skinners, and the Dartford Grammars all looking on and considering a similar move. I anticipate that in East Kent the trend towards an alternative test with a different agenda will gather pace, several other schools already considering this option. I don't think it realistic for KCC to introduce a creative writing element, as objective marking on a large scale becomes very difficult and expensive. Kent, perhaps wisely, only agreed a contract for one year's testing of the new scheme, for the pattern of take up could be very different in two years time. Is it too radical to consider that KCC may choose to wash its hands of a common test altogether and hand it over to the grammar schools themselves to sort out? 

Grammar School appeals on grounds of failure in the mathematics test 

How do the results quoted above, affect children looking for places on appeal at other grammar schools? We can see that the vast majority of these have failed on the mathematics element, and so appeal panels end up considering children who nearly all follow this pattern. Many parents approach me to assist in an appeal on the sole grounds that the maths score is lower than the scores on the reasoning papers, but these results show this is unlikely to be sufficient, and other grounds must be sought in most cases

Final thought 

When I was a grammar school headteacher in NW Kent, I was part of a group scheme for 11+ testing that proved very flexible to be able to meet our needs, so I can understand the attraction. However, if this trend continues this will further erode or destroy the concept of a “grammar school standard”  in the county, leaving children faced with multiple testing because of a failure to agree!

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:50

1 comment

  • Comment Link Saturday, 07 March 2015 19:10 posted by Migræne

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Judd School.
    Regards. PETER: My pleasure

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