28 January 2014
Dear Sir or Madam,
Re: Proposed expansion of Barton Court Grammar School
We are writing to you concerning the recently-published proposal to re-locate Barton Court Grammar School to the coast and to increase the school’s PAN by 30 places. There is consistent reference in the consultation documents to the number of applicants that Barton Court receives. For example:
- “We believe that this move is vital…to help meet the growing demand for selective places across the district. The School had to turn down nearly 100 children last year”.
- “We are a very popular over-subscribed school, with more parents placing BCGS first choice on their SCAF than there are places”.
- In 2013, 345 children in the Canterbury and Coastal District who took the Kent Test were grammar-assessed.
- In 2014, 351 children in the Canterbury and Coastal District who took the Kent Test were grammar-assessed.
The conclusion that is consistently drawn is that because Barton Court is over-subscribed, it follows that there is a need for the school to offer more places. However, this is over-simplistic and ignores the question of how many of the students who apply are ‘grammar-assessed’ in the Kent Test, and how many are really suitable for a grammar-school education. We would question whether there is any need for more grammar school places in the locality. The calculations we have made have had to make some assumptions, but we do have some data to work with:
We can reasonably conclude therefore that there are approximately 350 children each year in the Canterbury and Coastal district who pass the Kent Test and are eligible for grammar school places. A maximum of 3% of the cohort of children who take the Kent Test and are not grammar-assessed are successful in Headteacher Assessments, equating to approximately another 40 children per year. This means that across Canterbury and Coastal, there are some 390 children who require grammar school places each year.
The PAN for Barton Court Grammar School is 128, for Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls 155 and for Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys 120. This equates to 403 available grammar school places in Canterbury and Coastal.
Not every child who takes and passes the Kent Test in the Canterbury and Coastal District takes up a place at one of the three Canterbury grammar schools. Some will choose instead to attend grammar schools in other areas (Dover, Folkestone, Thanet). A number of other children who pass the Kent Test each year complete their secondary education in one of the many local fee-paying secondary schools. Some grammar-assessed students choose to attend a local or denominational non-selective school. There is no available data for this, but it would be reasonable to conclude that as many as twenty children a year would fall into this category. In addition to this, a significant proportion of children who are grammar-assessed in the Canterbury and Coastal district attend Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham: the local authority ‘dot maps’ of where children attend suggest that this is about one-third of the school’s intake, or a minimum of 40 children (PAN 140).
Both of the Simon Langton schools fill almost all their places each year with Canterbury and Coastal children. This means that perhaps 270 Canterbury and Coastal grammar-assessed children each year attend one of the Langton schools. This leaves 55 grammar-assessed children to fill the places available at Barton Court (350 grammar-assessed, plus 40 on Headteacher Appeal, less 20 who attend private schools or other grammar schools, less 40 who attend Queen Elizabeth’s, less 270 who attend the Langton schools). Even allowing for PESE and appeals, and any future rises in the local population, it is difficult to see how a case can be made for the need for an additional form of entry at Barton Court. This would mean more than 100 children in each year group (PAN 128, plus 30 additional places, less 55 Canterbury and Coastal children who passed the Kent Test) attending a grammar school when they had not passed the Kent Test. We also note that for 2014 entry, there are only 89 grammar-assessed children who have selected Barton Court as first choice; this does not suggest a locality which is in desperate need of thirty additional grammar school places.
The consultation documents make it clear that the proposals are predicated on the assumption that there is a need for more local grammar school places. The numbers outlined above clearly suggest that this is not the case. Given that no school wishes to be under-subscribed, the only conclusion can be that many grammar places will be filled ‘on appeal’ by students who are not suitable for a grammar-school education. Apart from failing to understand why any grammar school would want to alter its character by taking a far broader range of ability, this would also be very unfortunate for the many local high schools who do a very good job for these ‘borderline’ children, often helping them to secure excellent outcomes at GCSE and A Level, and supporting their progression to Higher Education.
In summary, as far as we are concerned, there is no evidence to suggest that additional forms of entry at Barton Court are required, and the evidence also suggests that there is more than enough existing capacity to cater for any future changes in the local population.
Mr M Walters, Headteacher, St Anselm’s Catholic School
Mrs E King, Head of School, Chaucer Technology School
Dr C Owen, Principal, Herne Bay High School
Mr J Watson, Head of School, The Canterbury Academy
Mr M Liddicoat, Headteacher, The Archbishop’s School
Mrs H Sullivan-Tighe, Principal, Community College Whitstable
Ms N Mattin, Principal, The Spires Academy
Ms K Cardus, Headteacher, BCGS
Dr P Klappa, Chair of Governors, BCGS
Mr P Leeson, KCC
Mrs M White, KCC
The Rt. Hon J Brazier, MP
The Rt. Hon R Gale, MP