July 21, 2017 Nic Rothquel

The proposed changes to the selective school entrance exam

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald talks about a proposed overhaul of the selective school entry exam due to coaching concerns.

The article speaks of how the current system favours wealthy families who can afford coaching over those that can’t – creating an imbalance of students in selective schools.

This is absolutely true. Selective school tutoring is now not just a benefit, but a requirement to succeed in the exam – because if you don’t have it, you are disadvantaged against students who do. The article doesn’t provide stats on how many successful students received coaching in some form, but it is my own experience that most do.

The government’s review will look at replacing the selective schools test with “computer-adaptive IQ tests that assess cognitive skills, student work portfolios” or “problem-solving tasks that rely more on higher-order and critical thinking skills”.

The issue here is that there is always going to be a way to prepare. If they need to test all students fairly, it is going to be impossible to do this without allowing students to prepare for the test without coaching. Let’s say they base it on recommendation from teachers, followed by interviews by admission staff (the only way I could really see them overcoming tutoring influencing outcomes), there are still students that will get coached on what to say in the interview and how to impress the interviewers, plus additional pressure on the teachers from parents pushing to get their referral.

The reality is that when the outcome is important, not all can be equal.

I would recommend that if they want to balance the socioeconomic make up of selective schools, they reserve a number of spots at each school based on household income. It is in no way a perfect plan, but it is probably the only way of achieving what appears to be their goal. That being said, a low household income does not mean they still won’t be willing to make sacrifices to pay for coaching – especially when they know they are more likely to get a place that is reserved for them. I would say that 50% of the students I have worked with over the year have been single parent families, not wealthy families.

They say that any changes are still a long way off, so until then it is business as usual.

If you have a child attempting to gain entry to a selective school ensure you have the right coach to prepare them for the selective school test. Get in touch and let me help them be one of the fortunate few to gain entry to a selective high school.