Parents sue over son's failure in 11-plus exam

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An Asian family are taking their local authority to court to find out why their son failed his 11-plus and was denied a grammar school place.

An Asian family are taking their local authority to court to find out why their son failed his 11-plus and was denied a grammar school place.

Amar and Sabita Parida claim unfair marking may lie behind the failure of their son, Amitav, to secure a place at Aylesbury Grammar School in Buckinghamshire. The Paridas say the county council has refused to let them see exam papers to check the marking after their son failed another grammar school entry exam at the age of 12.

In a highly unusual case, Amitav, who has an IQ of 142, and his mother, Sabita, a consultant pathologist, are suing to force the authority to hand over Amitav's 11-plus and 12-plus exam papers to ensure the marking was fair. Buckinghamshire County Council insisted it was free from bias in its selection procedures and said the Paridas had been given the opportunity to appeal.

An attempt by the family to force the council to hand over the papers failed at the High Court last week, but the Paridas have decided to appeal.

Mr Parida said his son had passed his mock 11-plus withflying colours and achieved level 5 in national curriculum tests - well above the expected standard for 11-year -olds - and the family were astonished the boy failed his 11-plus exam in 1997.

They mounted an unsuccessful appeal before an independent admissions panel and moved Amitav to the £2,700 a year Berkhamsted Collegiate School, where he took his 12-plus exam and failed again.

The Paridas tried to obtain Amitav's scripts to check the marks, but when the council did not comply, they decided to take court action.

The family have suffered incidents of racial harassment since they moved to the village of Aston Clinton, near Aylesbury, in 1992 and fear the selective school admissions system may be open to abuse.

Amitav's father, a civil rights lawyer in south London, said the admissions system was "a closed door" . He said his son, now aged 13, had received glowing school reports and had been assessed as gifted by educational psychologists.

Mr Parida said parents should be able to insist on 11-plus papers being remarked to remove any possibility of error. He said: "I am writing to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education providing all the information. I hope this process will do something and the law will be changed."

A statement from Buckinghamshire County said the authority was "committed to helping all young people achieve their full potential.

"The selection procedure is not influenced by racial prejudice. Pupils from the Asian community and other ethnic minorities are among those offered grammar school places each year as a result of their scores in the 11-plus test. Seven per cent of grammar school pupils are from ethnic minorities compared to 5 per cent of the county's population ... Parents who are unhappy with their child's test result can appeal. Mr and Mrs Parida chose to do this and the council's decision was confirmed by an independent appeal panel."