Highcrest: Parents will now have an alternative to the ‘flawed’ 11+ exam

Highcrest Academy in Hatters Lane, High Wycombe, is at the centre of controversy after introducing new banding admission tests which are due to begin this year.

In a letter on April 13, reader Derek Berry criticised the tests and said Highcrest had ignored protests received from other schools and parents. He insisted Highcrest must define any measurable educational benefits that the scheme would achieve – or drop it altogether. He claimed banding admission tests would deprive some children of the opportunity to attend their first-choice local community school.

Meanwhile, Highcrest responds on this page to both of his letters:

PLEASE find below the response to Mr Berry’s letters to the Bucks Free Press. Mr Berry has been in regular contact with Highcrest during and after the consultation period. The Academy has always responded in full to the points raised. We would like to respond publicly to some of the issues Mr Berry raises and also to correct some inaccurate statements.

Mr Berry says that fewer local children will get to Highcrest under the new policy. This is incorrect. We carried out an impact assessment using the new criteria with students who had applied in 2010. It showed that children would have been admitted from closer to the school, especially as the current distorted catchment area has been removed. Mr Berry has asked previously why we wish to introduce banding and in his most recent letter asks what is “wrong with our current intake?”

We want to offer the choice of an all-ability academy to the parents of High Wycombe. In the simplest terms, once we have marked the banding tests from all applicants, we will divide those applications into four equal bands. The score is then of no importance, as we will take the students based on our admissions criteria of siblings, then distance (after the legal requirements of SEN and Looked After Children). In this way, we can achieve a balanced intake from local families. In recent years, we have met many parents whose children have been separated by the selective system. One parent had three children all at different schools: a girls’ grammar, a boys’ grammar and an upper school. Parents find it understandably difficult to send “grammar qualified” children to an upper school – we hope that a banded all-ability academy will provide the confidence that all needs will be met and that there will be peer groups representing all abilities – from the most able to those who require additional learning support. We emphasise that the same number of students will be taken from each ability band.

Some parents do not approve of the selective system on principle and wish to send their children to a school that reflects the local community – the all-ability school will provide that option for the first time.

Some members of the community have been deeply concerned about the 11+ test and the intricate grammar school selection system. They now have an alternative. Ultimately our aim is to provide an education at Highcrest that is so good and adds so much value that we will be a first choice for local parents, before any other type of school.

Mr Berry has questioned the use of an additional test. We were proposing to use the 11+ but as you have reported elsewhere, BCC agree that the test is flawed. We do need a measure to achieve banding and therefore we have chosen the most “neutral” of available tests – a 45 minute non-verbal reasoning test that uses shapes and patterns. This will be made as simple and stress-free as possible and students will be reassured there is no “pass or fail”; it is simply a measure to enable banding.

We hope this clarifies some misunderstandings. Full details are available on our website and notification will soon be given to current Year 5 parents for booking our age- adjusted first test session on 7 July, well before the autumn 11+ season.

Ian Newton Senior Vice Principal, Highcrest Academy

Comments (5)

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12:03am Sat 2 Jun 12

itstheprincipal says...

Mr. Newton doesn’t actually answer any of Mr. Berry’s questions, if he ever gives up working in a school perhaps a career as a politician may be in order. In simple terms, they don’t answer questions either do they?
Mr. Newton gives the example of a parent with 3 children at 3 different schools, boys’ grammar, girls’ grammar, & an upper school. Does he really expect us to believe that parents of ‘grammar qualified’ children are going to think ‘Ah! I know let’s send our children to Highcrest instead of the grammar school’. In simple terms, I doubt it very much.
Mr. Newton states ‘…Some parents do not approve of the selective system on principle and wish to send their children to a school that reflects the local community – the all-ability school will provide that option for the first time…’ In simple terms, no it won’t, if they are over-subscribed local children who fail the test will have to go elsewhere.
Mr. Newton goes on to say ‘…The test will be made as stress-free as possible & students will be reassured there is no “pass or fail”…’ In simple terms he admits there will be added stress, & in even simpler terms of course there IS a “pass or fail”, pass the test & you’re in, fail & you’re out, don’t let the door hit you on the backside as you leave.
Mr. Newton makes the point “Ultimately our aim is to provide an education at Highcrest that is so good and adds so much value that we will be a first choice for local parents, before any other type of school.” In simple terms, he seems to be saying the school isn’t good enough 'so we’ll add a further barrier for local parents/children by setting them a test, hopefully they'll fail, or even better not even take it & go elsewhere, then we’ll have more space for ‘A*’ students from further afield.'
Interesting to see no reply to Mr. Berry’s question “What plans do Highcrest have in place to compensate for additional travel costs & assist the rejected local children to gain admission to an acceptable alternative school?”. In simple terms, by not replying I take it to mean ‘You didn’t pass our test so we don’t care what you do, not our problem’
Mr. Newton’s quote of “In the simplest terms” presumably was directed at the local community, the ones the school no longer have an interest in, cast aside for far bigger fish!
It wasn’t so long ago that it proudly called itself a community school; they obviously couldn’t become an academy quick enough so as to drop the community ‘tag’ like a hot stone, the words ‘hidden’ & ‘agenda’ spring to mind!
Mr. Newton doesn’t actually answer any of Mr. Berry’s questions, if he ever gives up working in a school perhaps a career as a politician may be in order. In simple terms, they don’t answer questions either do they? Mr. Newton gives the example of a parent with 3 children at 3 different schools, boys’ grammar, girls’ grammar, & an upper school. Does he really expect us to believe that parents of ‘grammar qualified’ children are going to think ‘Ah! I know let’s send our children to Highcrest instead of the grammar school’. In simple terms, I doubt it very much. Mr. Newton states ‘…Some parents do not approve of the selective system on principle and wish to send their children to a school that reflects the local community – the all-ability school will provide that option for the first time…’ In simple terms, no it won’t, if they are over-subscribed local children who fail the test will have to go elsewhere. Mr. Newton goes on to say ‘…The test will be made as stress-free as possible & students will be reassured there is no “pass or fail”…’ In simple terms he admits there will be added stress, & in even simpler terms of course there IS a “pass or fail”, pass the test & you’re in, fail & you’re out, don’t let the door hit you on the backside as you leave. Mr. Newton makes the point “Ultimately our aim is to provide an education at Highcrest that is so good and adds so much value that we will be a first choice for local parents, before any other type of school.” In simple terms, he seems to be saying the school isn’t good enough 'so we’ll add a further barrier for local parents/children by setting them a test, hopefully they'll fail, or even better not even take it & go elsewhere, then we’ll have more space for ‘A*’ students from further afield.' Interesting to see no reply to Mr. Berry’s question “What plans do Highcrest have in place to compensate for additional travel costs & assist the rejected local children to gain admission to an acceptable alternative school?”. In simple terms, by not replying I take it to mean ‘You didn’t pass our test so we don’t care what you do, not our problem’ Mr. Newton’s quote of “In the simplest terms” presumably was directed at the local community, the ones the school no longer have an interest in, cast aside for far bigger fish! It wasn’t so long ago that it proudly called itself a community school; they obviously couldn’t become an academy quick enough so as to drop the community ‘tag’ like a hot stone, the words ‘hidden’ & ‘agenda’ spring to mind! itstheprincipal
  • Score: 1

8:57am Sat 2 Jun 12

Micklefield Matt says...

It is unfortunate that the objections of Mr Berry and itstheprincipal seem to be based on the incorrect assumption that the new admissions test is to filter out low achieving children and prevent them from attending Highcrest.

It is not - as Mr Newton states: "there is no “pass or fail”; it is simply a measure to enable banding".

Even in comprehensive schools children are often banded on ability.

Unfortunately while we still have the antiquated, elitist and (by Bucks County Council's own admission) "flawed" 11+/grammar school system schools like Highcrest, who support a comprehensive education for all children, have no choice but to find ways around this.

As a parent of children who may attend Highcrest in future I am reassured by this development.

I feel that Mr Berry would be better off using his energy and enthusiasm for fairness in education provision to attack our grammar schools who blatantly reject certain children with no questions asked.
It is unfortunate that the objections of Mr Berry and itstheprincipal seem to be based on the incorrect assumption that the new admissions test is to filter out low achieving children and prevent them from attending Highcrest. It is not - as Mr Newton states: "there is no “pass or fail”; it is simply a measure to enable banding". Even in comprehensive schools children are often banded on ability. Unfortunately while we still have the antiquated, elitist and (by Bucks County Council's own admission) "flawed" 11+/grammar school system schools like Highcrest, who support a comprehensive education for all children, have no choice but to find ways around this. As a parent of children who may attend Highcrest in future I am reassured by this development. I feel that Mr Berry would be better off using his energy and enthusiasm for fairness in education provision to attack our grammar schools who blatantly reject certain children with no questions asked. Micklefield Matt
  • Score: -1

4:54pm Sun 3 Jun 12

HerculePoirot says...

Couldn't agree more with Matt and suggest some reading of the admissions consultation etc at http://www.highcrest
.bucks.sch.uk/Admiss
ions1 might not go amiss. The school is a great success story, and if their choice of banding test undermines the BCC 11+ then so much the better. The 11+ is taken by 10 year olds by the way.
Couldn't agree more with Matt and suggest some reading of the admissions consultation etc at http://www.highcrest .bucks.sch.uk/Admiss ions1 might not go amiss. The school is a great success story, and if their choice of banding test undermines the BCC 11+ then so much the better. The 11+ is taken by 10 year olds by the way. HerculePoirot
  • Score: 0

4:54pm Sun 3 Jun 12

HerculePoirot says...

Couldn't agree more with Matt and suggest some reading of the admissions consultation etc at http://www.highcrest
.bucks.sch.uk/Admiss
ions1 might not go amiss. The school is a great success story, and if their choice of banding test undermines the BCC 11+ then so much the better. The 11+ is taken by 10 year olds by the way.
Couldn't agree more with Matt and suggest some reading of the admissions consultation etc at http://www.highcrest .bucks.sch.uk/Admiss ions1 might not go amiss. The school is a great success story, and if their choice of banding test undermines the BCC 11+ then so much the better. The 11+ is taken by 10 year olds by the way. HerculePoirot
  • Score: 0

11:29pm Wed 6 Jun 12

itstheprincipal says...

Interesting to note that when the ‘Council Chiefs have not ruled out taking legal action against Highcrest which has rolled out a controversial admissions policy’ Mr. Newton replied he admitted he was “worried early on” that BCC would launch a legal battle over its rules, which kick in this summer. Another case of the school not giving a **** about anybody, particularly children. Wouldn’t the sensible thing to do, & the most considerate to both parents & children, be to make sure it has its house (or school!) in order first before pushing children into a test that may not even be legal?
“Highcrest also said that the BCC agreed with the school that the 11plus was flawed as it favoured affluent families”, really, or was it not the case that BCC said ‘no you can’t use them’? If the school is so ‘shocked’ by the ‘revelations’, & at the same time purporting to be a community school attuned with local families, then why is it using an 11plus style entrance exam for all children wishing to go to the school with its new ‘fairer admissions policy’. Selection is selection is selection, or more to the point segregation is segregation is segregation. Segregate the children you don’t want at the school & replace with top grade children seems to be the case.
As Bajina said above, ‘And then what? Will you drive your child 7.6 miles to the nearest available school and back, everyday?’ this equates to an extra 30 miles per day, some 150 miles per week, nearly 6,000 miles per year! Just because a child living a few hundred yards away from the school fails the test, yes fails, because no matter how many times the school say it there IS a pass & fail in this test, & if you fail to get into the school then someone has to pick up the bill for 6,000 miles worth of petrol, I think it would be a good idea if the school were to foot the travelling expenses for every local child that they refuse to enroll because they’ve ‘failed’ the test! After all they seem quite happy to get into a legal battle with BCC so they can’t be short of a penny!
Interesting to note that when the ‘Council Chiefs have not ruled out taking legal action against Highcrest which has rolled out a controversial admissions policy’ Mr. Newton replied he admitted he was “worried early on” that BCC would launch a legal battle over its rules, which kick in this summer. Another case of the school not giving a **** about anybody, particularly children. Wouldn’t the sensible thing to do, & the most considerate to both parents & children, be to make sure it has its house (or school!) in order first before pushing children into a test that may not even be legal? “Highcrest also said that the BCC agreed with the school that the 11plus was flawed as it favoured affluent families”, really, or was it not the case that BCC said ‘no you can’t use them’? If the school is so ‘shocked’ by the ‘revelations’, & at the same time purporting to be a community school attuned with local families, then why is it using an 11plus style entrance exam for all children wishing to go to the school with its new ‘fairer admissions policy’. Selection is selection is selection, or more to the point segregation is segregation is segregation. Segregate the children you don’t want at the school & replace with top grade children seems to be the case. As Bajina said above, ‘And then what? Will you drive your child 7.6 miles to the nearest available school and back, everyday?’ this equates to an extra 30 miles per day, some 150 miles per week, nearly 6,000 miles per year! Just because a child living a few hundred yards away from the school fails the test, yes fails, because no matter how many times the school say it there IS a pass & fail in this test, & if you fail to get into the school then someone has to pick up the bill for 6,000 miles worth of petrol, I think it would be a good idea if the school were to foot the travelling expenses for every local child that they refuse to enroll because they’ve ‘failed’ the test! After all they seem quite happy to get into a legal battle with BCC so they can’t be short of a penny! itstheprincipal
  • Score: 1

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