“Reform the 11-plus so more local children can benefit”

Matthew Applegate
Matthew Applegate

In the past I’ve commented on the unfairness of the 11 plus test and how those from less affluent backgrounds are at a disadvantage, because they cannot afford the extra tuition outside of school.

However, a new phenomenon has emerged over the past few years - the children who live outside of Bucks but whose parents want them to attend a Grammar School. Up to 79% of the year 7 intake into each of the Bucks grammar schools live outside of the county.

For Aylesbury Grammar and Aylesbury High, more than 4 out of 10 of the children will be commuting from outside of Bucks.

Most of the secondary non-Grammar schools in Bucks are now full to bursting and have long waiting lists, because fewer Bucks children are gaining an 11 plus pass.

Also, the roads are congested with the thousands of parent commuters – congestion which is often wrongly attributed to housing development.The recent reforms of the 11 plus have arguably made the situation worse.

If your child attends a Primary state school in the Vale they have little chance of passing the 11 plus. Of the 1,930 Vale children eligible for the September 2014 entry, only 229 (12%) gained a pass. For Chiltern/South Bucks the figure was 25%.

What is of most surprise to me is the lack of any comment on these statistics and that nothing is being done by the decision makers to do anything about them. Is it a problem that is too difficult to deal with or is it simply that no-one cares?

It’s obvious to anyone who looks at the data that a major reform of the current 11 plus system is needed.

One option would be to lower the pass mark very slightly.

This would result in more children passing overall, but successful Bucks children would then gain an advantage, as they live within the catchment areas and hence would obtain a place ahead of their out of County rivals.

Some would argue that reducing the pass mark will result in a ‘dumbing down’ of Grammar Schools, but does two or three marks in a test for 10 year olds really reflect on a child’s longer term educational ability?

I think not.