The Bucks Grammar School Heads (BGSH) gave evidence to the Bucks County Council Select ommittee about the 11+ on 19 November 2014. Despite being provided with a hugely worrying analysis of the results by the education group Local, Equal and Excellent (LEE), the Tory- dominated Select Committee failed to deliver any real scrutiny.
BGSH don't seem to think there is any real problem with the exam and how fair or reliable it is.
Katy Simmons of LEE pointed out that:
- only 4% of children on free school meals pass the 11+ compared with 65% from private
- the pass rate for the most affluent ward is twice that for the poorest
- children of Pakistani heritage are 50% less likely to get a place than their counterparts. In
Wycombe, Cressex School for example has 66% Pakistan heritage pupils while the grammar
school, a mile away, has 5%.
None of these points were properly addressed by the Committee or in the evidence given.
David Williams QC, Wycombe Labour’s parliamentary candidate attended the meeting and invited the Committee Chair, Val Letheren, to allow him to speak but she refused.
David Williams QC said
“All children have the ability to excel. Whether they do or not depends largely on the opportunities they are given. To shut out 70% of our children from the best of our schools is to deny them the opportunity to excel.
Had I been permitted to speak or ask questions, I would have added that the statistics also appear to show that
- the chance of Wycombe pupils passing is about 1 in 8, (it should be about 1 in 3.5),
- for black pupils the pass rate in 2014 was about 1 in 20 and
- the overall effect is to confer an advantage on the more affluent and to disadvantage those children from poorer, black, Pakistani backgrounds and those with SEN or English as a second language and deprive them of a huge opportunity.
I would have asked whether BGSH agreed with these facts and what they were doing to provide a level playing field.
I myself attended a former grammar when it was in transition from grammar to comprehensive and it was a good school and still is.
Wycombe Labour doesn’t want to do away with grammar schools but to open their doors to all in the community and develop a single tier of good and excellent schools. Like most of the rest of the UK, lets get rid of the two tier system we currently have with the top 30% having a guaranteed excellent education and the remainder entering a lottery where many of the secondary schools cannot offer that and where the children are made to feel they have already failed at age 10. A single comprehensive system is proven to produce the best overall results across the whole of the student body, is best for social mobility and is fair.”
Following the Select Committee meeting Wycombe Labour and Local, Equal and Excellent representatives were informed that the Grammar School Heads were holding a meeting with the press. Our request to attend that meeting as observers was denied. We asked the Grammar School heads whether they agree with the analysis carried out by Local Equal and
Excellent but so far have not had an answer.