The following question was received from Councillor Robin Stuchbury:
“Would the 11+ take place as I have received a considerable number of questions on this very concerning subject? Could the 11+ take place with the known circumstances where children of modest or low incomes, who would not be in education? Would they be able to achieve the very best result for their educational future if the 11+ happened in September noting that there had been disruption to GCSEs and A-levels Exams?
I understand that the grammar schools were all academies and the decision may not be within Buckinghamshire Council’s hands on whether the 11+ could actually take place with the background of children being out of education for a long period in advance of the test in September.
My primary reason for asking this question was that it would be so unfortunate if this generation of children’s life chances were changed through circumstances beyond their control and not having the formal education and support of their teachers and heads in preparation and gaining an understanding of the 11+ in advance of sitting the exam this year.
So I’m asking; would you be undertaking to question the academy group in Buckinghamshire as to what their aspirations were in regards to the 11+ taking place in September and communicating this to the public. Would they be putting any special procedures in place so that children in catchment areas within Buckinghamshire, who did not have the ability for tuition, were not prejudiced in taking this exam, against families who could afford online tuition or out of catchment area/county children who may be benefiting from additional support over and above what our important children living within the education authority area had during these unprecedented times. We must ensure that all children in Buckinghamshire had the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions; the coronavirus could prevent this happening.”
Councillor Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education, provided the following response:
A Cranmer advised that it was difficult to provide a clear response but Buckinghamshire Council was currently liaising with The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools Group (TBGS), who owned and managed the test for Buckinghamshire. TBGS was working closely with their test supplier, GL Assessment, to find a solution and all parties would be included in discussions with the Department for Education to understand the national implications of the virus on secondary selection and to ensure the Buckinghamshire solution was the best of all possible outcomes.
The application portal would open on schedule on 1 May 2020. This would enable the Council to establish, at the earliest opportunity, the group of children to be included in the secondary transfer process for 2021 school entry. A Cranmer advised that there were online resources available to all and encouraged parents to continue with the selection process as normal.
Councillor Stuchbury re-emphasised his concern that pupils from low income families might not be able to use the online resources and would not receive the mentoring in the principles of the 11+ exam if they were not in school.
A Cranmer advised that the Council was committed to ensuring that no child in Buckinghamshire would be disadvantaged by disruption or change and that all councillors would receive an update when known. Tablets were available for loan to families in need.