COUNCILLORS have gone head-to-head over standardised testing methods which determine a child’s future schooling.

Labour Cllr Mark Bateman demanded to know that no child in Buckinghamshire would be “disadvantaged” with regards to 11+ testing, as a result of the council’s decision to postpone examinations in 2020, due to coronavirus.

He said while he recognised the difficulties involved, he needed to know the council had “an appropriate method of allocating secondary school places for September 2021”, without children undertaking the 11+.

His question was posed during a full council meeting, on Wednesday, October 21.

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In response, cabinet member for education and skills, Conservative Cllr Anita Cranmer, said: “It is not the decision of the council to alter the method of allocation for secondary school children to academies.”

She said this “can only be taken by the schools themselves, as they are their own admission authorities”.

Adding that while other allocation methods had been considered, they would provide “greater uncertainty” for families at an “already stressful time”.

Cllr Cranmer said any method of allocation “that does not involve the agreed standardised testing process, brings with it the possibility of significant legal challenge”.

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She pointed to government advice, which recommends:

  • A testing window for county pupils the first week after half term, offering dates for retained primary and partner schools
  • Another window during half term in empty grammar schools for non-county students, but double the number allowing for smaller groups
  • Modifications to school preferences up to December 10
  • Testing in ‘Covid-secure schools’ among peers from the same school, when possible
  • Assurances of later testing opportunities due to illness or absence

Cllr Cranmer said this was the “best possible solution”. Adding: “By delaying the test to the latest possible date, the grammar schools have allowed as much time as possible for children to settle back into their primary schools and pick up their education before sitting the test.

“The adjustment to preferences ensures parents can adjust their application after results have been received, to better reflect the schools that their child is eligible for.”

Cllr Bateman also pushed to know who the 11+ testing system in the county is accountable to.

Cllr Cranmer said academies, which are independent state schools, are accountable to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

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