Bleeding heart liberals have an agenda when it comes to the Kent Test

The Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys is one of the best schools in the country (stock image)

Once again we are at that time of the year when our youngsters confront the Kent Test.

Some will pass, some will fail. Whoops, there’s a word we shouldn’t use. I meant some will not succeed: that’s less judgemental.

Predictably, there has been an outpouring of rage from people who are mostly not directly involved but who object to coaching for the test. You rather suspect that underlying their angst is a belief that there should not be any grammar schools and so no need for the test.

I would suggest that their ire is misdirected. Instead of criticising the test they should look closely at the three obstacles to children earning a place at a grammar school.

Firstly, let’s look at parents, too many of whom do not give their children the support they need at primary school age.

I can say that. I came from a working class background and my brothers and I all made it to grammar school. (I was one of only two in my class that did so).

We were not coached or crammed, but we did have parents who supported and encouraged us, who read with us. We had no television and social media hadn’t been invented so we talked and read together, sometimes encyclopaedias or books of knowledge as well fiction of which there was plenty of that in the house.

The point is that my parents took parenting seriously and recognised that for some years their desires and wants had to be parked and the children put first.

That, dear reader, is exactly what parents who pay for coaching are doing: putting their children’s futures above whatever else they could spend the money on. It is a small act of sacrifice.

Secondly, every junior school should prepare children properly. I’m not arguing for the kind of coaching and pressure that goes on at present because of the school’s desire to do well in the league tables.

No, what I’m suggesting is that schools should develop the abilities of their pupils and ignore the league tables which are meaningless to the children.

Those that have an academic bent can and should be enabled to sit the Kent Test, but there is no point putting others through the stress and schools should be willing to say to parents: “Sorry, not your child.” I know the best schools do this already so it’s not an overall criticism of schools.

Thirdly, if all the children who pass the test can’t get in to grammar schools the answer is simple: build more grammar schools.

The government is a bit chicken on this one because the bleeding heart liberal “it’s not fair” brigade who have managed to seize control of the argument. I firmly believe that all children should have the opportunity to attend a grammar school if they can pass the test. If that means more grammar schools let’s build them.

Let’s recognise the argument against the Kent Test for what it is: its those who wish to build a socialist society of absolute equality trying to exploit the educational system for social engineering and in the process damning those who simply want to do the best for their children. In other words, those who are aspiring to be good parents.


  1. For exactly the reasons you write, the test is not a fair reflection of a child’s ability. It is particularly noxious when we have a Government whose social and economic policies are driving a deep divide between the haves and have nots, thereby making passing the test heavily dependent on which side of the divide you are on. The test is just part of returning our society to a class based organisation. It also tests one kind of ability and it is true that those who fail remain feeling that they are a failure all their life. The very existence of Grammar Schools is a blight on the education system and we need to return to comprehensive education.

  2. “I came from a working class background and my brothers and I all made it to grammar school. (I was one of only two in my class that did so).”

    What an incredibly archaic understanding of the modern class system and the struggles of the working poor. Very much the “I’ve got a black friend” approach to racism being parodied. Clearly the author has no comprehension of the financial struggle of the working poor. The availability of finances able to be spent on private tutors for a life defining exam for 11 year olds is now a considerable luxury unavailable to most loving and hard working parents.

    This is a gross spectacle of privileged ignorance, the disgusting attitude of blaming parents who’s daily struggle is harder than ever. Another unpleasant demonstration of the willingly blind arrogance of the right leaning voters, blaming those who are punished by austerity and desperately trying to cling to outdated systems of ensuring privilege.

    A sad sight to be seeing such a platform being given to such outdated aggressive nonsense.

  3. A demonstration of the ability of a headline to distort the content of the article. The writer’s point as I see it was that there is a good argument for the retention of grammar schools because they do a good job for their pupils but that not all children were suited to grammar schools but would be happier and better able to thrive elsewhere. By headlining with “The Bleeding Heart Liberal” like two leaping salmon, latter day class warriors Richard and Oli rush to take the bait and instead of engage in a useful debate about education give us nonsense about “the struggles of the working poor.”

  4. One thing’s for sure: the 11+ has its fans, as well its detractors. For that matter, so do many rather more prosaic things, such as Marmite, Artex ceilings and reality TV. With such things, one either loves, or hates them. I think you’ll find that “quite like” isn’t really an option, or if it is, then I haven’t met people who occupy the middle ground on these and other key issues.

    With the 11+ the final choice of secondary school is left to the parent/s. If you don’t want your kids to go to a Grammar School, then don’t send them. That’s pretty simple isn’t it? It’s not as if Grammar Schools are gold-plated, fur-lined palaces of indolence, by comparison to rat-infested, tumbledown High Schools, Academies, or other forms of Secondary/Comprehensive Schools. Look around Canterbury for fine examples of well-established, modern, successful secondary schools, which offer a good range of subjects and opportunities for kids. It could be the case that these pupils’ leaningsand skill ranges may not be as academically high-flying as their peers who attend Grammar School but they’ll end up leaving school with a slew of more practical qualifications and many will use these to go onto college, as a springboard to their eventual chosen careers.

    Whether the “one size fits all” brigade like it or not (and clearly they don’t) kids are not the same at any age, let alone between the ages of 10 and 12. However, for a variety of reasons, some kids in this age show great aptitude and enthusiasm for non-academic subjects and benefit greatly from being tutored, taught, educated and inspired by excellent teachers in High Schools and Academies.For those kids who prefer sticking their noses in books, Grammar Schools offer an environment where traditional, academic subjects form the basis of the curriculum. Horses for courses, you might say.

    For my sins I went to a Grammar School, as did my siblings. Our parents were from very much working class backgrounds and encouraged our enthusiasm for and inclination towards, academic subjects. Two of us went up to Oxbridge, the other London, which helped produce a Surgical Device Developer, an Obstetrician and a Veterinary Surgeon. During my time at Grammar School, two pupils decided to transfer to the local (very good) Secondary School. One now runs a well-known local garage and the other became a policeman, retiring last year with the rank of Detective Chief Inspector. It was two-way traffic. Every year one or two pupils transferred in from other schools. Perhaps they were “late developers” whose aptitude and enthusiasm for academic subjects wasn’t on show at age 11. I’m still in touch with a couple of these transferees and can confirm that their early teenage change of educational environment and emphasis worked very well for them. Few would disagree, surely, that it’s good, right and proper, that transferring in and out of the various types of secondary educational establishments which exist, can and does occur.

    It’s vitally important that all types of secondary educational establishments are viewed equally, funded on similar lines and help all pupils achieve as much as they can and/or want to in their chosen areas, or strong suits. I’ve never looked down at people who went to High School, any more than I look up to those folk whose parents sent them to Public School. I have two neighbours, both plumbers, who went to Canterbury High School, then Canterbury College for their City & Guilds qualifications. Both appear to be busy, they’ve worked hard, prospered and appear not to carry any emotional scars, or harbour bitter resentment, based on the “fact” that they somehow “failed” aged 11. Such notions of “failure” exist only in the inflexible minds of those detractors, who dislike the concept of the 11+ as they see it as politically totemic, or unpleasantly representative of their outdated notion of class.

  5. About three years ago , the date of the Kent Test was shifted from spring to early September. The Kent Test was and STILL IS based on the assumption that each primary school has taught the minimum mandated curriculum of Year 6 to spring.
    Most state primaries do not teach the curriculum from Sept to spring to those children taking the Kent Test in early September because they say they are not allowed to as it would be ‘teaching to the Kent Test’ they say whhc is banned. Some state primaries, like St Stephens, all private school and all tutors do advance teach the National Curriculum to those whose names are put down for the Kent Test so they have the same knowledge as they would have done had the Kent Test not been pushed forward by 8 months.
    Those in the bulk of state primaries ARE disadvantaged. It is not the fault of the parents . It is the fault of the 1)NUT which block heads from making a sensible decision ( since teaching the National Curriculum to the spring Yr 6 level is not ‘teaching to the Test’), 2) KCC and especially 3) GL Assessment who were involved in the secretly agreed change of date and who now make far more money from selling test materials: they are the monopoly supplier of all Kent Test exams.
    I don’t believe the author of this article has any idea about what I have written here. In other words, however valid his words are , they are history: ie only applying to those who took the Test years ago. I was equally ignorant until I researched the Kent Test last year and realised the rotten truth.

  6. Thank you Brian for shining a light on these areas which do not undermine my central thesis which is that parents who tutor their children are doing their best for their children, or what they see as the best and surely that is a very natural and responsible human urge.
    Much has been written about the old 11+, mostly by people who did not sit it; I recall on entering Grammar School we were told that only 10% of children went to Grammar and only half of those to university. As so few went to either the issue of “failure” was not an issue except with certain politicians who wanted to use it as an egalitarian axe to chop down the tree of perceived privilege and develop a classless society.
    I recall that at age 13 we got an influx of pupils who had sat and passed the 13+, (including my brother) and then in the lower sixth (yr 12) fully 50% of our year group was newcomers from secondary schools who had joined us to do A levels. There was actually far more mobility available then than now, but it is glossed over for left wing political purposes.

  7. As to Oli’s comments they reveal more about Oli than me or my background which he purports to undertstand, so perhaps I could put him right. My father was a HGV fitter, working all the hours God sent, going out on call-outs to broken down vehicles in the middle of the night; my mother took in piece work machining garments she couldn’t afford to buy until late every evening after the children had gone to bed. They did that to survive, we had no silver spoons and if we had mum would have sold them. What we did have was pride and parents who were determined we would have a better, less hardworking life than them, They sacrificed their lives, their ambitions, for us and that is what having children is about, you have a responsibility, the most awesome responsibility, don’t waste it on tv or social media, accept it, it doesn’t mean you can’t work just that you’ve got to find time for raising your children as well, not filling them with tv, playstations and junk food to keep them quiet.

    All of which I suspect will be wasted on Oli who writes like one of Jeremy’s class warriors, still as my daughter said to me, “if you put out troll food don’t be surprised when trolls turn up”.

  8. Bob Britnall’s point that good parenting helps achieve a test pass is exactly why a selective school system is such a huge problem. The needs of children unfortunate enough not to have keen parents, books at home, and tuition, are NOT met by a school divide at 11. They are met by having equal status schools functioning well for children of all abilities.

    There are tiny numbers of children in care and disadvantaged pupils in grammar schools, there is an obvious class divide in Kent secondary schools. All this for no reason, good schools don’t need to divide pupils. London’s comps achieve better results than Kent’s mix of grammars and ‘high school’ / secondary moderns.

    The point about ‘those that have an academic bent’ needing grammar schools is ridiculous. This writer appears not to know that ‘grammar school standard’ wavers around all over the place! Kent selected 25% of pupils for grammar school in the late 90s, it’s now 32%. The proportion of ‘academic’ kids selected has zero basis in logic, it is whatever % someone plucks out of the air. Many Kent grammars also set their own easier tests to fill spaces, and take large proportions of pupils with only average SATs scores. (Check DfE stats for any school.)

    To say ‘build more grammars for children who NEED them’ is failing to acknowledge that there is no easily defined, ‘type’ of 10 year old child who must be educated in a seperate building. To try to pick these ‘academic’ kids is frought with difficulty and certain to get things wrong. In fact 22% of kids are placed in the wrong school by the 11-plus test based on eventual GCSE results. Unfairness is built into this system.

    Nearly half our children now take A levels and go on to university, and their needs are much better met by making ALL our schools academic and ambitious places. It’s not as if 25 questions in a maths paper at 10 is going to accurately determine the ‘bright’ sheep from the ‘less bright’ goats, anyway! Particularly when some kids have weekly tuition and some have none.

    If we look at the global nations that achieve the best education results they all use all ability schooling until 15/16. By that age children are old enough to choose whichever education pathway suits them. This old fashioned system was invented in th 1944 for a very different world. It hasn’t been reviewed since then. Kent County Council need to change their school system to fit our modern world.


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