Could Bucks 11+ exams be delayed because of coronavirus?

Council chiefs are considering delaying the exams because of the pandemic

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 12:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th June 2020, 12:26 pm

A formal decision on what to do with the secondary transfer tests will be made within the next two weeks, according to an officer at Buckinghamshire Council.

Simon James, director of education at the authority, responded to questions about the exams at a meeting of children’s services bosses last week.

He said: “We’ve been in close communication with the group of academy schools and headteachers and within the next two weeks they will have come to a position in terms of the 11 plus examination.

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“I can share that one of the options they are considering is a delay in the examination to allow it still to take place within a reasonable period of time before Christmas.”

The ‘11-plus’ secondary transfer tests determine which secondary schools children will study at come September 2021.

The 13 grammar schools in Bucks admit children based on their performance in these tests, whereas all-ability schools admit any child regardless of their ability.

Despite GCSEs and A-levels being scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 11-plus tests are, at this point, still set to go ahead in September 2020.

Labour councillor Robin Stuchbury previously raised concerns dozens of disadvantaged children could miss out on grammar school places because they may have been unable to access resources when on lockdown.

Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe, also raised this issue in the House of Commons last month, asking education secretary Gavin Williamson what was being done about the “special situation” in Bucks.

Mr Williamson said: “We will be looking at working with local authorities that have grammar school systems in their areas as to how best we can ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not disadvantaged as they look at taking the 11-plus in future.”

The 11-plus exams, which are run by The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools admissions authority, are also held in Kent and in Northern Ireland where they are overseen by different authorities.

According to The Irish News, a small number of grammar schools have confirmed they will not operate unregulated entrance tests.

Liberal Democrats councillor Niknam Hussain was not happy with officers’ responses to his questions on 11-plus at the Bucks Council meeting, suggesting there was still “big confusion” from people about the admissions process.

He added: “It affects our whole secondary cohort and I’m still not sure what’s going to happen.

“Reading what’s happening in Northern Ireland, in that a number of schools there and districts there have actually decided not to do the 11 plus at all.

“I am concerned about the secondary transfer next year because all the research shows the people who suffer the most with the eleven plus is the BAME, vulnerable and working-class children.”