Thurrock Grammar School Debate: Eleven-Plus exam is a “loaded dice” claims report

Exams

THE way the 11-plus works in Kent is akin to rolling a loaded dice, a new piece of research from Education Datalab concludes.

And that could have repercussions for Thurrock,, which is set to have at least one Grammar School very soon.

The researchers reach this conclusion because of the arbitrariness of who passes the test – coupled with the fact that several parts of the process act together to make disadvantaged children less likely to get in.

The research is the most detailed recent look at how the 11-plus operates in a single part of the country, but also has lessons for other parts of the country with grammar schools, and factors that will need to be considered if selection is to be introduced nationally.

Among findings of the research are that:

1. In 2015, 400 children – around 8% of those passing – would have failed the 11-plus in Kent if they had dropped a single mark on one of the three papers that make up the test;
relatively small changes to the rules that determine whether a child has passed or failed the 11-plus in Kent lead to material changes in who is considered to have passed the test;

2.Children eligible for free school meals score particularly poorly in the reasoning element of Kent’s 11-plus compared to other children. There is evidence that suggests results for this part of the test are particularly affected by access to private education or tutoring.

The researchers accept that no test can classify children with perfect accuracy. But they conclude that the assessment companies that create 11-plus tests must be more transparent about the extent to which children are likely to have been misclassified.

Education Datalab director Rebecca Allen said: “With only around one in four children getting in to grammar school – and with the odds stacked against those from poorer backgrounds – securing access to a grammar school in Kent is like rolling a loaded dice.

If selection by ability is to be rolled out nationally there are some important lessons that need to be learnt from how the 11-plus operates in Kent. Passing or failing the 11-plus is a life-changing event and so parents deserve much greater clarity about the extent to which the system risks misclassifying their children.”

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