The Green paper suggesting ideas for more selection in the state system has been heavily criticized. Mainly because it fails to highlight any evidence that increased selection will improve choice ,or, crucially improve the lot of the most disadvantaged either in terms of attainment or social mobility. In fact, unless handled properly it could make their position infinitely worse. The authors of the paper themselves seem to accept that the current selective system is unfair on the most disadvantaged pupils, because it suggests a raft of measures, incentives, conditions and sanctions to try to make sure that these newly selective schools will take their fair share of the most disadvantaged pupils. (as clearly there is a perceived risk that unless they are heavily regulated and scrutinized that they wont) So much for school autonomy, and the removal of red tape. It was good while it lasted. This envisages something of a bureaucratic and regulatory nightmare . The Green paper does seem to concede though that the current 11 Plus test can be coached, (and therefore rich families have an advantage) and that poor children in areas that have grammar (selective ) schools tend to do worse than poor pupils elsewhere.
This is what the the Green Paper says (Pg 21, Para 4):
‘Many selective schools are employing much smarter tests that seek to see past coaching and assess the true potential of every child. However, under the current model of grammar schools – while those children that attend selective schools enjoy a far greater chance of academic success – there is some evidence that children who attend non-selective schools in selective areas may not fare as well academically – both compared to local selective schools and comprehensives in non-selective areas.’
I assume when the Green Paper refers to the much smarter tests that ‘ see past coaching ‘ its referring to those designed by CEM (Durham). There are few academics who have done more than Robert Coe of Durham has to champion evidence based /informed practice in the teaching profession . But CEM may be struggling to deliver on these smart tests. Becky Allen points out that a so-called ‘tutor-proof’ test ,offered by CEM and ‘introduced across Buckinghamshire (selective area) for 2014 admissions (they apparently have around 40% of the 11+ market) hasn’t really proved itself. ‘It claims to make selection fairer by testing a wider range of abilities that are already being taught in primary schools, rather than skills that can be mastered through home tutoring. Following the introduction of the test, Buckinghamshire – a local authority with very low FSM rates across its schools – saw the number of FSM pupils attending grammar schools fall in 2014 and 2015.’ So, not so smart then.
In short, it would seem that a test that ‘ sees past coaching’ has not yet been developed. It may be a long wait .