Disadvantaged children "falling through the cracks" of our education system, says councillor

Disadvantaged children "falling through the cracks" of our education system, says councillor
Disadvantaged children "falling through the cracks" of our education system, says councillor

County Councillior Niknam Hussain has claimed that Aylesbury children who do not pass their 11 plus examinations are falling through the cracks in Buckinghamshire’s education system.

County Councillior Niknam Hussain has claimed that Aylesbury children who do not pass their 11 plus examinations are falling through the cracks in Buckinghamshire’s education system.

Children who do not pass their 11 plus examinations in Aylesbury, will be allocated to a a non selective school , all of which are “Grade Three” at the moment, which means that school ‘requires improvement’ according to Ofsted.

Aylesbury Vale Academy’s recent ofsted rated them ‘inadequate’, while The Grange, UTC, and the Mandeville School all require ‘improvement’.

They could also find themselves at a school in special measures.

This begs the question, how much does private mentoring for the 11 plus put wealthier families at an advantage in our educational system?

A recent report showed that of the 2,200 grammar school places available in Buckinghamshire only 12 went to children who could be described from deprived backrounds.

Niknam said: “This isn’t just a few kids who find themselves in this situation.

“In Aylesbury Town the qualifying rate for selective schools, such as grammars, is about 12%.

“Across the Vale, the rate rises slightly to about 19-20%. So about 80% of kids district wide, end up in a non-selective school, which leaves them in danger of getting an education from a establishment that requires improvement. I know these schools are trying their best but what is the County Council, the responsible authority for education doing about this huge imbalance? Our children only get one chance to go to school, these are crucial life changing issues.”

Group leader for the Liberal Democrats at Aylesbury Vale District Council, Anders Christensen said: “Having a daughter that is just about to sit the 11 plus I have seen first hand the mock papers and preparation that is being done to help children pass.

“Despite recent changes there is still a significant element of exam technique required to do well in the exam and compete for places in the grammar schools.

“What I am seeing is a system that gives children who have benefited from exposure to example tests and 11 plus specific tutoring gain an advantage in their preparations. The 11 plus is not is a level playing field. It does not afford equal opportunities to children of all back grounds.

“I would much rather have an education system that that gave opportunities to all.”

Data collected by anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Future shows that of 12,341 places available at 80 grammar schools across England last September, just 564 were offered to pupils who attract pupil premium funding.

Schools get pupil premium funding for children who have been eligible for free school meals, in care, or whose parents have served in the armed forces at any point in the past six years. Rebecca Hickman, vice chair of Comprehensive Future, said that prioritising disadvantaged children in oversubscription criteria “doesn’t work because these children don’t pass the 11-plus in the first place”.

Having such priority policies is just “cynical tokenism”, which is “encouraged by the government to try to lend some legitimacy to a fundamentally unfair system”, she claimed. In Buckinghamshire for example, just 12 disadvantaged pupils were offered one of the 2,200 grammar school places available

Mike Appleyard, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Education & Skills, said: "Success rates in the Secondary Transfer Test do vary between areas. However, analysis has been undertaken on behalf of the grammar schools, and the test itself has been shown to be unbiased in terms of a pupil's social and economic background.

"In 2017 there was a 21% qualification rate for children resident in Aylesbury Vale and an overall qualification rate across the county of 29%. All of the Buckinghamshire residents who qualified and included a local grammar school preference were offered a place.

"Although there have been challenges for Aylesbury's upper schools in recent times, Buckinghamshire County Council has been working extensively with these schools - and others across the county - to implement a wide range of measures that will help them reach 'good' or 'outstanding' standard as judged by Ofsted.

"The Local Authority is empowering the schools to take action leading to rapid and sustainable improvements being achieved. School leaders are identifying issues that need to be addressed, and then to working collaboratively with both partner schools and outstanding practitioners from within Buckinghamshire who have faced and successfully overcome similar challenges."