Freedom of Information

In the 1997 white paper Your Right to Know, the government set out their objective of bringing about more open governance in public life based on mutual trust, “Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state.”  We couldn’t agree more but 11+ test results are shrouded in secrecy.  The schools release so called ‘standardised’ results but the public are denied access to the underlying test results which decide which children attend our public schools.  We’ve produced a short animation giving some of the reasons we think this information isn’t in the public domain.

TRAK have been successful in getting some information released although the latest ruling went against us.  The University of Durham persuaded the court that releasing the test marks would undermine their unique tutor-proof test and they would stand to lose financially.  The ruling was not unanimous with the judge saying we, “had provided evidence that the claimed USP of tutorproofing was highly questionable and that the public interest warranted close examination of this claim which could only be achieved through the disclosure of the disputed material.”

Information we have obtained shows CEM and GL, who between them provide the majority of 11+ tests, earn £2.5m annually from this service.  Commercial interest is clearly not in question but we completely refute unsubstantiated marketing claims that it is possible to devise tutor-proof test – a  view seemingly shared by parents who spend an estimated £6bn on private tutoring each year.  Our our long term objective remains to remove the existing secrecy around entrance tests so that any debate on selective education can be informed and objective.

The following is a link to some of the information we have been able to obtain.

Bucks Grammars

Distance travelled to grammar schools based on March 1 2015 offers.

Reading School

Year 7 entrance test results for entry in years 2011, 2012, 2013, (Tests taken in 2010, 2011 and 2012) as finally released by the school following a tribunal decision. 

Letter from Reading School explaining  how they incorrectly marked late test entrants for 2013 entry

Kendrick School

“Standardised” test results for entry in 2012, 2013, 2014 (Tests taken in 2011, 2012 and 2013)

Covering email from Kendrick School confirming they do no hold information on the scores of those who are offered places (question 4.)

After the intervention of the Information Commissioner, Kendrick School have provided the information they previously advised they didn’t have including some limited information on FSM pupils.

University of Durham CEM

In 2014 we requested copies of the raw test marks for Slough, Reading and Kendrick schools along with details of the “standardisation” process used.  The authority released the “standardised” scores although these contain incongruities for anyone with basic knowledge of statistical maths leading us to specualte as to what CEM are trying to hide.

It seems we’re not the only ones interested in the efficacy of the testing itself and have also been passed the following two replies to requests for information from CEM by another member of the public.

Reading and Kendrick catchment map

Prior to our campaign the schools didn’t provide maps of their catchment areas making it very difficult for anyone to appreciate how vast the catchment areas are.

Our solution was to produce our own using Google Earth combined with data provided by the Ordnance Survey and the list of postcodes provided by the schools as a kml file:

This can be loaded into Google Earth (standard inclusion on android phones or availalbe as a download) and browsed interactively.  For those without Google Earth it looks like this:

R&K catchments in Google Earth

R&K catchments in Google Earth

8 Responses to Freedom of Information

  1. Adam Nuckley says:

    Could you possibly run a comparison catchment map with only your proposed postcodes? It would be interesting to see how the alternative looks, even though the reasoning regarding the majority of households being within 12.5km of the schools is very clear.

  2. Lin Tiheur says:

    Thank you for sharing and providing these exams results and doing all the work for understanding and annotating the results. I am not sure if we can get a place but at least you helped me take away the worry and doubt my child position. Really appreciate it. L

  3. Berksmother says:

    My sons results for Slough does not appear to be in spreadsheet nano should I write too

    • James says:

      We think that the authorities should operate in a totally open and transparent way so everyone knows the score (literally). Someone else who’d applied in Slough alerted us that their score wasn’t in the results which CEM provided although those who sat the test at either Reading or Kendrick Schools all seem to be able to find their scores.

      As soon as we were alerted to the error we wrote to CEM (14 January), stressing the urgency and pointing out that the information they provided appeared to be incorrect. We haven’t had an answer.

      We would speculate that the scores in the Reading or Kendrick worksheets contain all those who sat the tests at those scores plus those who entered in Slough and ticked the box to apply to R or K but the Slough’ worksheet only contains the scores of those who sat the tests in R&K but ticked the ‘apply to Slough’ box. That’s not what we requested and makes no sense but after asking CEM to urgently confirm what they’d actually sent us over three weeks ago now, this remains the best theory.

      I’d recommend everyone writes to CEM asking for the correct information and perhaps that way they may actually understand the importance of providing accurate and properly qualified information in the first place.

      Contact details for CEM:
      Mr Durham Burt
      info.access@durham.ac.uk

      Sorry I can’t help more than that.

      • Berksmother says:

        Thank you very much for all this information. Very interesting. Will write too. But one comment for Slough that I have is that the scores appear very high and it appears the cut off, for say Langley grammer, is going to be very high compared to previous years which personally is very worrying. Based on this incomplete data I predict around range 125-128. Does anybody agree?

        • James says:

          I’d be wary about reading too much into the information, re actual chances of getting a place. This year parents in Reading and Kendrick could just tick a box to be entered for Slough and vice versa. In previous years Reading School has had about 600 applicants. This year double that but how many just ticked the box because they could?

          What the information does show is that Reading and Kendrick Schools’ published admissions criteria which claims there is a tie-breaker is in effect false when they record the scores to two decimal places.

          In an ideal world you’d sit the tests and be sent your results in full context of the others. The way the final standardised score is calculated would be explained in easy terms, you’d be provided with a confidence interval for your score would be given and how many had applied, your ranking and the ranking of the last person to get a place over the last three years with the (obvious) caveat that a borderline score is a borderline score because the schools can’t predict how many above your child’s score may end up going somewhere else.

          It’s not an ideal world but let’s hope huh?

  4. Darryl Green says:

    It would be interesting to see how many outside the RG postal codes in 2015 entry. It seems the CEM which is shared with Slough; on the same day would have a large affect. I think we will see a shift to more people outside the RG postal codes, not a direct result of the catchment, but a bigger issue of now allowing other postal codes to take the Reading/Kendrick exam on the same day and use the local Slough schools as a backup!

  5. Pete says:

    Local schools for local children is nonsense.
    Schools are funded from national taxation.
    Remove the post code lottery and let natural section take place = super selection.
    Highest marks get a place. Let the local children compete. If they cannot, they should not go to grammar schools.

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