'Affluence is factor' in tests, says 11-plus council

Exam room The 11-plus exam is one of the most controversial tests in English education

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A council which uses the 11-plus to select pupils for its grammar schools is accused of accepting that "affluence" has a role in the test.

Buckinghamshire County Council's comments came in response to a school wanting to use 11-plus results to admit a broad spread of abilities.

The TES reported how Highcrest Academy was warned against using it for its admissions policy.

The council claims the comments referred to who sits the exams.

It said later in a statement that the "reference to affluence was made purely in the context of factors which may influence whether parents wish their children to sit the 11-plus tests".

'Unbelievable'

It added that it had merely been pointing out that children from deprived backgrounds were more likely to be withdrawn from the test by their parents.

But the letter submitted to Hillcrest Academy as part of a formal response to its consultation on its admissions policy, Buckinghamshire warned against using the test, saying: "In the application of any test (11-plus, Cats or Sats), we know that affluence is a factor."

Buckinghamshire uses the 11-plus test to decide its secondary admissions.

On its website, it says: "There are two types of secondary schools in Buckinghamshire - upper schools and grammar schools.

"The outcome of the 11+ tests decides which type of school will best meet your child's need."

Sheena Moynihan, principal at the High Wycombe school, described the council's comments as "unbelievable".

'Ethnicity'

She told the Times Educational Supplement: "They acknowledge that affluence is a factor, and by implication, that ethnicity is a factor as well. And this is the test they use."

She added: "This is what they said in their objection letter to us using the 11-plus exam for our admissions policy.

"That sentence decided it for us that we would definitely not use the 11-plus as part of our admissions."

The school had planned to use test results to select equal amounts of students from different ability bands, under what is known as a fair banding admissions system.

Critics of the 11-plus and the grammar school system often claim that children with parents able to pay for private coaching are more likely to pass the tests.

But this notion is rejected by supporters of grammar schools who say they give bright children the chance of a quality education.

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