Chelmsford: County High School scraps 11-plus exam to help children from poorer backgrounds

Nicole Chapman - headteacher Chelmsford County High School for Girls

Nicole Chapman - headteacher Chelmsford County High School for Girls - Credit: Archant

ONE of Essex’s top schools is to introduce a new selection system to give children from less wealthy backgrounds a better chance of getting in.

From September, Chelmsford County High School for Girls plans to scrap the traditional 11-plus examination in favour of a new assessment paper designed to test a student’s “ability to understand concepts and process information”.

According to headteacher, Nicole Chapman, the switch is being made because the school is finding that many parents are paying for private tutors to prepare their daughters for the entrance exam, sometimes years in advance.

This, she says, puts children whose parents cannot afford the extra coaching at a disadvantage.

But the new exam cannot be prepared for in the same way and tests raw ability and intelligence.

Mrs Chapman said: “Many of the tests in the current entrance exam can be easily coached, but the new exam is less predictable.

“What we want to stop is a culture where girls are being coached to take the exam. The new exam tests an ability to understand concepts and process information.

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The new exam – prepared by Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring – has already been adopted by grammar schools in Buckinghamshire and Birmingham, while schools in Kent are considering switching to it.

“We are doing it for social reasons – we don’t want girls put off from applying for a place simply because of the cost requirement of coaching.

“It’s not right that entry should be subject to an ability to pay, ” added Mrs Chapman.

Chelmsford County High School for Girls is regarded as one of the top five girls schools in the country and competition to get in is high – with seven applications being submitted for each place.

But Mrs Chapman said this is no reason for parents to push their children too hard with extra lessons after school or at a weekends, a trend she thinks is unhealthy for young people.

She added: “There are parents who give their child too much coaching at a young age and there’s adanger they are stealing their childhood.”

The new exam will be introduced this September for pupils hoping to enter the school in 2014.

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