Wycombe Labour today challenged the Tory Party in Bucks to explain its policy on the 11+ - assuming it has a one.
In recent months, there has been considerable discussion in the press, both local and national, about the fairness of the 11+ in Bucks. Only last week the Director of the Institute of Education, Professor Chris Husbands, published a compelling criticism of the 11+.
Wycombe Labour’s position is clear:
- The 11+ doesn’t select on the basis of a pupil’s ability which is what it is supposed to do
- It is unfair because it disadvantages pupils from poorer backgrounds and from ethnic minority groups.
- It is damaging because it makes pupils who do not pass the exam feel like failures.
- It affects children for the rest of their lives. Pupils who pass the 11+ will go to a grammar school, all of which have been assessed by OFSTED as outstanding. Those who fail the 11+ will enter a lucky dip; they stand a roughly 50/50 chance of going to a good school or not.
Wycombe Labour believes the 11+ should be abolished.
David Lidington MP, the Tory MP for Aylesbury, has reportedly said he is concerned about the success rate of pupils taking the 11+ at state schools in Aylesbury Vale. But apart from Mr Lidington, there has been a deafening silence from Tory politicians in Bucks.
David Williams QC, Wycombe Labour’s Parliamentary candidate said “It’s all very well for a spokesperson for BCC to tell us that “legally BCC has no control over the selective admission policies of academies.”
To begin with, this is not correct. BCC has a legal responsibility to refer the admissions policy of an academy to the Admissions Adjudicator if the Council has concerns about whether it is fair. As far as we know, BCC has not referred the 11+ to the Adjudicator even though we know BCC officials have had concerns about the new test for years.
But beyond this, surely local Tory politicians, as representatives of their local communities, have views on education and particularly about something so important and controversial as the new 11+ exam in Bucks.
Are local Tory politicians happy about outcomes of the new test? How do they feel about the evidence that shows that disadvantaged children and children from some ethnic groups are further disadvantaged by the test? Are they prepared to live with that? What do they have to say to those families who - the evidence shows - are disadvantaged?
When are Tory Councillors on BCC going to tell us whether they are happy with the outcomes of the new 11+ and, in particular, Mike Appleyard, the Cabinet member for education, and Val Letheren, Chair of the BCC Education Scrutiny Committee?
And what does our local MP, Steve Baker, think about the outcomes of the test?
He has been remarkably silent about something which affects thousands of children in Wycombe. What does he think about the outcomes for state schools in Wycombe where some schools have a very low percentage of children passing the test – one as low as 2% - and the average for Wycombe is below the Bucks average? Does he think this is fair when
the average pass rate for pupils in private schools in Bucks is twice the average at 65%?
And if these Tory politicians are worried about the new 11+, what do they propose is done about it?
Local parents deserve clear answers from their elected representatives and it is about time local Tory politicians gave some answers.”