Grammar school entry exams usually take place in September, but with the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Department for Education has issued guidance suggesting that these be moved to late October or perhaps November "if local admission co-ordination processes allow.”
The feeling is that after the prolonged school closures caused by the coronavirus, "it is unlikely that children will be ready to perform at their best” in a test at the beginning of September. The suggested date change is in the hope that as many children as possible will be able to get back into the routine of education before having to take a test.
The guidance from the Department for Education is just that - guidance - but the DfE "strongly advises” that tests are delayed. While this may well be better for children taking the tests, it does cause a problem for parents. The closing date for secondary applications is October 31st, so parents would then have to choose a school for their child without knowing the results of their grammar school entry exam.
The DfE has advised that local authorities should ensure parents are made aware of the potential consequences of choosing only selective schools in their preferences for secondary schools. If their child does not get a high enough score to gain entry to the selective school they may be left without a secondary school place. For this reasons the DfE is recommending that parents use their final preference for a local non-selective school in order to ensure there is a place available in September.
Of course there is also the potential issue that whether the test is in September, October or November, if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus on that day they will not be able to take the test. There is already legislation in place whereby admission authorities are required to make alternative arrangements to assess children who cannot attend a test centre on the relevant date because of illness, disability, bereavement or religious observance. Authorities are now being advised to also include within this provision any child who has been unable to attend a test centre because of coronavirus symptoms or quarantine.
The recommendation is that admissions authorities and local authorities are clear in their communication with parents about late testing and the consequences of this.