GRAMMAR schools in Essex are planning to delay the 11-plus exam in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex says its preferred option is to put off the exam for 2021 entry until later in the autumn term.

The exam was due to take place in September.

Heads say the delay would allow pupils to settle back into school after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis across the UK.

Southend’s four grammar schools, St Bernard’s and St Thomas More in Westcliff, and Shoeburyness High School are all part of the consortium.

Dr Paul Hayman, chairman of the consortium and headteacher of Westcliff High School for Girls, said: “Our preferred option is to see the test delayed until later in the autumn term.

“Most year five pupils will have spent little or no time in school this term and testing at a later date would give pupils the chance to settle back in.”

Dr Hayman said the test may be carried out over two separate dates to ensure social distancing guidance can be met.

He said the changes would need the consent of the Department for Education and any move without permission would be unlawful.

Dr Hayman added: “Communication with the Department for Education has been ongoing since April but we are still waiting for guidance to be issued.

“We have stressed the need for this guidance as a matter of urgency.”

Dr Hayman said the consortium would also like to re-open the test’s registration process to allow teachers to give appropriate support to children taking the exam.

The Department for Education said it was developing advice for selective schools, in line with health advice, taking into account the long period children have been away from school.

Jerry Glazier, the National Union Education representative for south Essex, said: “Not withstanding the union’s preference for a fully comprehensive education system, it would make sense to delay the exams.

“This would ensure, as far as possible, normality of education in September for all pupils who have been affected by school closures and changes to their routines in the past few months.”