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London Consortium Independent Girls' Schools scrapping 11+

(29 Posts)
jeanne16 Tue 10-Oct-17 17:45:27

In the papers today, it says the Consortium is scrapping the 11+ from 2019 as it is now so stressful for pupils and parents and affecting their mental health. They will have an online verbal reasoning test only plus interview.

They also want to try to stop the incessant tutoring. Of course, the format will simply change with tutors focusing on verbal reasoning rather than maths and English comprehensions, so I'm not sure it will make too much difference.

However at least they are acknowledging that there is a problem.

CruCru Tue 10-Oct-17 18:11:20

Yes, I saw that. The letter from the Heads said that instead of having two 11+ exams, there will be one 1-hour test.

Abitofaproblem Tue 10-Oct-17 18:15:28

I think it is an interesting development. I hope there won't be so much pressure to tutor because even if parents do tutor, it's only one subject (VR). Also the interview will be a key element and even top VR scores won't guarantee a place.

EmpressoftheMundane Tue 10-Oct-17 19:13:14

I think it will just shift the tutoring to VR. At least extra tutoring for maths and english was potentially useful to the DC going forward, VR not so much so.

An interview by an able teacher is probably the most effective thing, but do the schools have the resources for this? A 15 minute interview might be a little too little ,and these schools have 800+ candidates per year.

Middleoftheroad Tue 10-Oct-17 21:59:10

My DS passed the 11 plus on paper with a strong score. He would have completely failed an interview though so I don't believe that an interview always is the best way.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 10-Oct-17 22:06:36

Interviews are just going to favour a different set of of skills. And children will be tutored to hone those skills...with private schools still having an edge over state primaries.

Paperclipmover Wed 11-Oct-17 11:51:23

I wonder if the other Independent schools will follow suit? DDs friend is trying for some of the Consortium schools, but also Highgate, so I can't see her tutoring ending as she will need it for that.

I am also confused as to how this will end tutoring, as surely parents will now tutor for the VR? I wonder how they will tutor for interviews, I am sure there is a way.

I think I read that part of the reasoning was to help poorer students who can't afford tutoring. Will these schools give more bursaries out now I wonder? If you can't afford tutoring it is unlikely that you will be able to afford the school fees.

AnotherNewt Wed 11-Oct-17 11:57:47

I think making tests as tutor proof as possible is a good idea.

I don't think verbal reasoning only is they way to go as

a) non-verbal reasoning has a significantly better reputation as best ability predictor, and
b) what it will do is weed out children with dyslexia

And of course, pupils will still be prepped, including by tutoring, because even if going for consortium schools parents may well also be applying to others.

NWgirls Wed 11-Oct-17 12:05:44

Make sure to read the letter from the 12 heads rather than just the press coverage, as some important (positive!) aspects are not covered well by the newspapers - link:

I see that the new test is CAT rather than simply VR. I am not an expert, but is not a CAT test likely to be reasonably robust gauge of underlying ability and potential future attainment - and already in use, in some form, as a pre-test, by several leading secondary schools?

The letter hints that the consortium is hoping to attract co-ed and boys schools as members in the future, which I really welcome, as one of the major "stress-drivers" for kids (and parents!) is having to prepare for and sit a handful of different tests, with different formats, in different locations, on different days, each being stressful and requiring time off for both children and adults. The consortium is already a life-saver in easing applications to several schools for girls (only), and broadening this to other schools would be brilliant.

The change might help limit (but will far from stop) tutoring - if the CATs are accepted by most parents as mostly measuring real underlying ability i.e. that extra preparation has very little impact on the score. It might also help even out the playing field between children from state primaries vs. private preps. (And it could also be that the fastest-spinning hamster wheels - also called academic preps - will have less appeal to parents of moderately academic kids if these schools are seen as less effective preparation for a CAT test than they currently are for the tests that mostly measure current attainment.

I really hope the test actually will measure ability as opposed to speed, though. My impression is that current (superselective) grammar tests are mostly speed tests where endless practice is essential to get quick enough to be able to get through to the end of the test within the time constraint - not to mention to recognise question types and learn how to crack them. This is a pitfall to avoid when designing the test.

Interviews are already being used by all these schools. I have nothing against these being given more weight, as seems to be an implication.

So to me this sounds like it could be a great development - if they get the test design right and especially if they also manage to expand the consortium membership base.

Abitofaproblem Wed 11-Oct-17 12:59:11

I wonder if they will set a lowish "pass mark" then make final decisions by interview. Then presumably there will be much less motivation to tutor endlessly to get the DC to top positions, if a large number are going to be interviewed.

AnotherNewt Wed 11-Oct-17 13:05:05

Using a CATS type system makes considerable more sense than moving to verbal reasoning.

Heads already know pretty much what level CATS are likely to put a pupil in the running for particular schools, so this could lead to a system with fewer surprises.

Paperclipmover Wed 11-Oct-17 13:55:50

Thanks for the link NWgirls, that answers a lot of my questions.

NWgirls Wed 11-Oct-17 14:28:09


You’re welcome. I had the same reaction when I found the letter, after first having been confused by the newspapers.

And the 11+ test is obviously not “scrapped” by this (there is still an important and stressful test!) but it is being changed a lot.

AlexanderHamilton Wed 11-Oct-17 14:34:11

THe school Ds previously went to used INCAS tests for entry (they are similar to CAT & done by the same people who do Midyis)

He sailed through them gaining a very high score despite having specific learning difficulties & a very low speed of information processing score.

Positivelyhappy Wed 11-Oct-17 15:54:56

Will it be one CAT & one verbale reasoning test for each of the two consortiums? i.e. if you are applying to schools on both consortiums will you end up doing 2 CAT's and 2 verbal reasoning tests. Does anyone know?

Middleoftheroad Wed 11-Oct-17 17:23:19

NWgirls I wholeheartedly agree that speed is a key success in the test. I have equal ability twins yet one was paranoid about speed and rushed his answers sadly. He's not natrually as fast as his brother and this rush panic resulted in a narrow miss.

Notcontent Wed 11-Oct-17 22:42:59

I think this is just replacing one thing with another and I am not sure it's that positive.

I don't know anything about CAT tests but I do know that there are lots of clever, academic people who are not particularly good at verbal and non-verbal reasoning, particularly when having to do it quickly.

My dd has just started year 7 at one of these schools and when I first read about the changes, my immediate thought was that it was a pity they had not done so earlier, to spare my state primary DD the hell that was the 11+ preparation. But when I realised it was just being replaced with something more abstract, I was thankful that dd did the old format.

QGMum Thu 12-Oct-17 07:57:24

Is it too cynical to suggest that they're doing this because of the increasing numbers applying for places at these schools and want tests that can be computer marked to save resources? They're just putting some PR spin on it. Everyone will just prep for the new tests which will be less beneficial that the previous maths and English prep as pp have pointed out.

The three schools in the Consortium that I know already interview all the candidates anyway as part of the selection process so this is not really a change.

Positivelyhappy Thu 12-Oct-17 13:43:26

QG: Making marking easier may well be the reason but it doesn't change the fact that this sort of change is for the better.

NotContent: I know a little bit about CAT tests and I don't think it is nearly as harrowing for a child as an English & Maths test which requires a lot of preparation, exam technique, timing etc. IMO.

AlexanderHamilton Thu 12-Oct-17 16:47:18

The best kind of tests (like the ones ds's previous school did) are intereactive so if a child gets a series of tasks correct they move onto harder ones whereas if they get them wrong they are given easier ones. The final score is derived from this.

NWgirls Sat 14-Oct-17 18:51:05

Yes, AlexanderH, I also hope they will be doing adaptive/interactive tests on computers, rather than just filling in answers on a piece of paper to be “read” automatically:
- Probably feels less stressful for today’s digital natives (Minecraft-addicts)
- The time taken to answer particular questions can be taken into account in the scoring, if desirable / relevant
- Limits test duration (avoiding many too easy/difficult questions) so that 60 minutes is plenty to get robust results
- Reduces the risk of transcription errors (ticking in the wrong place on the answer sheet when knew the right answer)
- Test/question formats may perhaps, over time, evolve to become more effective (rich graphics, sound, dynamic sequences etc) and/or feel more like a fun game

The schools would need to have quite a lot of computers, though, at least if everybody takes the test at exactly the same time. (Or two or more test start times).

Moominmammacat Sun 15-Oct-17 18:45:03

Well, that will favour the posh and confident won't it!

Notcontent Sun 15-Oct-17 22:54:29

NWgirls - the sort of test you describe will favour children who are good at computer games, patterns, etc. but not someone who, for example, might be really good at creative writing.

NWgirls Thu 19-Oct-17 10:49:59

Yes, Notcontent, writing skill would not be directly observed and rewarded, but an articulate, creative and thoughtful candidate with a wide vocabulary should still have a good opportunity to shine in VR, interview and perhaps also via the school reference or the year 5 report (if requested).

Tuckerella Thu 19-Oct-17 11:03:18

Our good friend is both a teacher and govenor on a couple of these school boards. They are absolutely disgusted about the change, feeling that the original system was more of a social "leveller" because at least English and Maths are taught in all schools, regardless of whether they are state or private, whereas state schools do not prepare or teach VR or NVR or NR etc... so what this is in effect doing is:
1) creating chaos for the next 3 years meaning able and anxious kids will be unprepared for unfamiliar formats and especially nervous
2) people who tutor will continue to do so, just changing tack slightly
3) those who cannot tutor will still not be able to, and will be the least equipped to access the right kind of sample papers
4) penalizing the least advantaged

Our friend says it is merely a sneaky PR stunt to look as if they are addressing mental health issues (they were warned they might lose their charitable status) and that there is absolutely no way that these schools will not be testing for mathematical ability and literacy.

I am amazed at how taken in by this ploy everyone is.

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