Kent is an unusual place, at least in terms of schooling.  It is one of the few Local Authority areas to retain an 11+ exam, the ‘Kent Test’ .  Recently Kent Online reported the following headline:

Bid to make 11-plus test ‘tutor-proof’ amid review by Kent headteachers

The accompanying article highlights concerns raised by Headteachers in a review of Kent’s 11+ system, that due to a “widespread coaching culture” the test is biased in favour of pupils from more wealthy families.  In response, consideration is being to ‘tutor-proofing’ the test.

This concern appears to suggest that, until the emergence of a “widespread coaching culture” there was no social class bias in 11+ results.  This would be to ignore over fifty years of sociological research on the patterns of educational opportunity and attainment (For example Halsey and Gardner, 1953; Little and Westergaard, 1964).

Similarly, the suggestion that ‘tutor-proofing’ the 11+ by including teacher assessments, or through the use of non commercial tests as a means of  rectifying this is, at best, naïve.  This view ignores the evidence gained from sociological studies which has explored the strategies that middle-class parents employ in seeking a preferred school for their child  (E.g. Ball et al, 1996, Ball, 2003).  Tinkering with the way the 11+ test is conducted is unlikely remove social class bias.  The 11+ test, in itself is not the problem, the problem is that the test is a symptom of a selective system.

References

Ball, S. (2003) Class strategies and the education market: The middle classes and social advantage, London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Ball, S. J., Bowe, R. and Gewirtz, S. (1996) School choice, social class and distinction: the realization of social advantage in education, Journal of Education Policy, 11, 89-112

Halsey, A. H. and Gardner, L. (1953) ‘ Selection for Secondary Education and Achievement in Four Grammar Schools’, The British Journal of Sociology, 4, 1, 60-75

Little, A and Westergaard, J (1964) ‘The Trend of Class Differentials in Educational Opportunity in England and Wales, The British Journal of Sociology, 15, 4, 301-316

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