Catholic Church overrules academy chain's 11-plus ban

Catholic primary schools should continue to host 11-plus test for entrance to Kent grammar schools, archdiocese confirms

Catholic primary schools have been told to continue offering the 11-plus test for entry to grammar schools in Kent

A Catholic multi-academy trust has been told to revoke a ban on its 19 primary schools in Kent hosting the 11-plus exam.

The Kent Catholic Schools' Partnership Trust (KCSP) wrote to the primary schools last year telling them to stop using their premises for the test on the basis that it led to pupils attending non-Catholic grammar schools.

The trust suggested this was the policy of the Archdiocese of Southwark Education Commission, which oversees Catholic schools in the selective areas of Kent, Medway, Bromley and Bexley.

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But the archdiocese has published a "position statement" saying that this was never an official policy.

The option of grammar schools

The statement said: "Even if it were policy, it would be hard to enforce and, in any case, it has been largely ignored."

Sixteen of KCSP's 19 primary schools "support pupils’ participation in the process of selection", it noted.

It continued: "In seeking to preserve, at all costs, all that is remarkable in our secondary schools, we must also reasonably recognise the choices of some parents whose children might have specific learning needs that can seemingly be better catered for in grammar schools."

However, the statement said that primary schools covered by the archdiocese should "market Catholic comprehensive schools exclusively".

But it added that the 16 primaries that have over time chosen to administer the tests may continue to do so, "if to withdraw them would mean that younger siblings did not have the same opportunity as their older brothers or sisters".

It said: "We wish to emphasise that the problem is selection at 11-plus, not the Archdiocese’s unwritten rule of thumb which was an historical attempt to preserve comprehensive Catholic secondary education for those whose skills, gifts and talents are not adequately assessed by the battery of tests at 11-plus."

Clive Webster, KCSP's chief executive officer, said in a written statement that he welcomed the "clarification". 

He added: "As a trust established by the Archdiocese of Southwark, we have always worked to ensure compliance with diocesan policy for the benefit of children, and will continue to work with colleagues across the Archdiocese, its academies and partners to ensure the new position works effectively for children, parents and carers."

He added that the trust has three schools that do not administer the Kent test on their premises but their pupils instead use Kent-designated "neutral" sites.  He said: "I do not anticipate changes to this position."

Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of the campaign group Comprehensive Future, said: “No primary school likes to put their children through an 11-plus test. It’s such an unfair way of allocating school places because every non-selective secondary school in a selective area will invariably be deemed ‘second-best’."

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