In an interview with the Telegraph, 16/06/13, HMC Chairman and High Master of the Manchester Grammar School, Dr Chris Ray calls for school entrance exams to be scrapped because the traditional selection system is being undermined by a culture of private tutoring.
Christopher Ray, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said academically-selective schools should stop admitting pupils based on the outcome of standalone tests such as the 11-plus amid fears rising numbers of pupils are being “hot-housed” to pass.
He warned that many children unable to cope with the academic demands of a top school were winning places after being subjected to intense tutoring.
In some cases, it resulted in pupils being forced to leave at the age of 16 amid fears they will drag down a school’s average A-level pass rate and fail to win places at good universities, he suggested.
Dr Ray said that private schools and academically-selective state grammar schools should admit pupils using university-style “assessment days”, in which children are monitored by teachers in a normal classroom environment over the course of several hours to see how they respond to lessons.
The comments come amid rising concerns over the effects of private tutoring on young pupils.
It is claimed that children as young as two are receiving coaching to prepare them for entrance exams for some of Britain’s most sought-after schools.
One study last year suggested more than half of parents who put sons and daughters through school admissions tests pay for an academic coach or private tutoring company to give them the edge.
But in an interview with the Telegraph, Dr Ray, the High Master of Manchester Grammar School, said that the practice was harmful to children and meant schools struggled to find pupils with the most potential.
Large numbers of grammar schools are already reforming their entrance exams to introduce more open-ended questions in an attempt to make the process “tutor proof”.
But critics have warned that any exam can be open to coaching.
Dr Ray said: “Entrance exams are almost the worst way to select students, academically.
“They don’t really get to the heart of pupils’ potential. They don’t really tell you how that pupil thinks and almost all of them can be tutored for, which gives a very unfair advantage to those pupils who are tutored.
“Some heads say a 15 or 20 minute interview can be the corrective for that. I don’t think so; pupils are also being tutored for interviews.”
MGS has introduced day-long assessments for entrance to its junior and senior schools. The senior school also continues to run an entrance test as a second-stage admissions process, although Dr Ray said he was in favour of scrapping the exam.
He levelled particular criticism at the 11-plus, which is traditionally used to dictate places at state grammar schools. He also said that many exams used by private schools – including the Common Entrance test sat at 11 – were also being manipulated.
Dr Ray, who leaves MGS in the summer to take up the headship of the British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi, said: “At 11 it’s very hard [to select], so mistakes are made. You have to ask the question of whether students are going to make it into the sixth-form at 16. The saddest thing of all is to get it wrong.
“Why is that mistake made? One of the possible reasons is that the pupils have been over-tutored, hot-housed for the entrance exam, and progressively cannot cope.”
By Graeme Paton, The Telegraph. Click here to read the article © The Telegraph.