The headteacher of a private prep school has claimed that many children who are tutored for 11+ exams go on to ‘flounder’ at grammar school.
Angela Culley, headteacher at The Mead School, Tunbridge Wells, was talking on the BBC’s You and Yours programme. These were her words:
…Our responsibility surely has to be to ensure that the child that gets to these schools through the tutoring actually thrives at these schools and at the age of 18 says, ‘thank you, that was absolutely right for me’. And the problem we’ve got is that for many children that is not the case. And they pass and they get in and then they flounder. And that is the most dreadful form of education.
Aside from being unsubstantiated, the problem with Angela’s criticism is that she runs a private prep school which boasts of its own success in coaching pupils for these same tests. To quote from her school website:
“85% of the [Mead School] children who took the Kent Selection Test transfered to Grammar Schools in 2013. In 2012, this was 82%, and in 2011 this was 71%” (www.meadschool.info/results)
In 2013, over 400 places at Kent’s grammar schools were offered to pupils from fee-paying schools, with over a third of places going to children from independent schools in some cases. It is similar in Buckinghamshire, where around 70% of private school pupils pass the 11+, compared to 20% from local state schools.
Angela Culley cannot have it both ways. Either preparation for the 11+ is justifiable or not. The sophisticated coaching provided by private prep schools makes it much more likely that their pupils will pass the test, and yet we don’t hear concerns from private school headteachers that these children might have been set up to fail later on in their school careers.