The Department for Education has urged grammar schools to delay their entrance exams until as late as November to enable children to catch up with missed learning due to the pandemic.
The government has published advice for headteachers and local authorities on co-ordinating tests that determine whether pupils qualify for selective secondary schools.
It recommends that the tests, some of which take place in September, are delayed to late October or November, to give pupils more time back at school before being assessed.
“Admission authorities are best placed to decide which approach works best for them. We will not, therefore, prescribe a single course of action. This guidance aims, rather, to assist admission authorities in planning effectively for the autumn,” the department said.
The guidance note went on to say: “No child is likely to perform to their utmost ability in a test at the beginning of September and all are likely to benefit from as much time back in education as possible before being
“The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is likely to be magnified by their absence from school during the coronavirus outbreak,” it continued.
The department said it strongly advises that local authorities issue communications clearly explaining to parents the consequences of choosing only selective schools in their preferences in case their child does not attain a sufficiently high score to qualify for a grammar school.
“This is to help address the fact that parents may need to express their preferences without knowing whether their child would qualify for a place in a selective school,” the government statement said.
Admission authorities should also set out within their admission arrangements the steps they will take to assess the ability or aptitude of children who cannot attend the scheduled test (including on any alternative dates) for reasons related to coronavirus, the statement added.
“To the extent it is not covered in considering duties under equalities legislation, in the interests of fairness, we also prompt admission authorities to identify any impact of the selection process which might prove a barrier to children from lower income backgrounds in light of the public health situation and take action to mitigate such impacts wherever possible,” it said.
The full statement is available here.