Grammar school test date switched

THE 11-PLUS test for Essex grammar schools is to be brought forward by up to two months to fit in with a new centralised school places allocation scheme.

THE 11-PLUS test for Essex grammar schools is to be brought forward by up to two months to fit in with a new centralised school places allocation scheme.

Essex County Council local education authority (LEA) is taking over admissions for both primary and secondary schools from September 2005, in line with Government policy.

Under the new secondary co-ordinated admissions scheme, parents will be sent a form from the council asking them to list which schools they would like their children to attend.

The county council will then work out which child can go where and inform all parents by March 1.

Yesterday Dr Mike Walker, chairman of the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex (CSSE), said it would not be possible to continue to hold the 11-plus in January, because there would not be enough time to mark and verify it and for the county to allocate places in time for letters to be sent to parents by March 1.

Dr Walker said the test for children hoping to start grammar schools in September 2005 will be held in either November or December next year.

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He said bringing the test forward would mean consortium schools would have to squeeze open days and evenings for primary school children into the first half of the autumn term, but it will have little effect on teaching time.

At the moment the LEA administrates admissions for community schools. Some foundation schools handle their own admissions, others buy the service from the LEA. The CSSE coordinates places for 12 selective schools in Essex and Southend.

Currently parents potentially have to make several applications and may be offered a number of places or none at all. The aim of the new scheme is to ensure applying to schools is more simple and that every child gets a place by March 1.

"The obvious advantage for parents is it's simpler. There will be one form for applying to whatever schools they want to put down. At the moment there's a shake-down process, when some children know what school they're going to and others don't. Under the new scheme every child will have gone through the shake-down before the offer date," said Dr Walker.

Essex National Union of Teachers executive member Jerry Glazier said: "This is something we have welcomed in terms of having a more consistent approach in informing parents about admissions and trying to be a more transparent and fair situation.

"The current situation is not ideal because of the way in which some schools are oversubscribed and there's a mad scramble for places."

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: "The benefit to the LEA is having a much better strategic view of where every child is, which will ensure that all pupils have a school place.  It will also help with future school place planning."

The county council has to formulate the co-ordinated scheme by January 1 and then go out to consultation to other admission authorities, such as voluntary aided and foundation schools. The scheme has to be determined by April 15.

The primary scheme will operate in a similar way, but the offer date is likely to be the beginning of May.

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