Least concerned about this month’s new shorter Kent Tests will be the children sitting them. They will just be glad, I expect, to have the day over with – after months and months of preparation and practice.
I was asked by a TV journalist recently whether the publicity given last autumn to the changes in the pipeline had significantly affected parents’ views on coaching for the Test? The new Test is supposed to be ‘tutor-proof’, to render it fairer to families who cannot afford private tuition. My answer was that I had noticed little difference either in the nature of what parents demand, or in the number of enrolments.
Because the Kent Test (both old and new) assesses aptitude for Grammar school largely through progress demonstrated in language and maths, it follows that sensible supplementary teaching in these areas through Year 5, and practice over the summer holidays prior to Year 6, is bound to have a positive effect on more enthusiastic children.
Whether or not the magic average of 120 marks needed to go on to grammar school is achieved in the Test, the Maths and English learned in the process will not be wasted, and the child who has undergone the character-building discipline of preparing for the 11+ will be that much fitter for secondary school, whichever it turns out to be.
If the two main changes to the Test are first, in confining it to one day, and second, promoting the importance of the English paper, the selection of the most academic children for grammar school will, I am sure, be unaffected. Selection at the borderline, on the other hand, will always be contentious, whether papers are shorter or longer, and emphasize or not English skills such as spelling and punctuation.