This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. Main pressure points are in West and North West Kent, led by Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, followed by the three West Kent super selectives and Dartford Grammar School for Girls. There is then a sharp fall to the next most popular school, Wilmington Grammar School for Boys but still at 49 first choices rejected. At the other end of the scale, ten grammar schools have vacancies on allocation. Medway schools here.
Kent has seen an extra 91 net places put into its grammar schools, above the numbers planned for admission this year, and 244 more than in 2015, to meet rising rolls in several areas.
I look at individual schools below, and you will find my previous article on allocations published at the beginning of March here, and for 2015 here. Non-selective schools here.
Note: the initial allocation figures for all Kent secondary schools reports that 3013 children, 18.6% of the total, did not get their first choice school on allocation. This figure is misleading as 1037 of these were children who put grammar schools in first place but had not been found selective and so were ineligible, this becoming an irrelevant choice. They should therefore be deducted from the figures, reducing the figure to some 15% of children overall in Kent who did not get their first legitimate choice, a much lower figure than in many parts of the country.
WEST AND NORTHWEST KENT
Dartford Grammar School, the most oversubscribed school in the county, turned away 226 grammar qualified pupils, this figure soaring up from 127 who lost out last year, with 81 of its 150 places going to out of county (ooc) boys. Sadly, because the school has recently introduced a cap of 90 on the number of local boys, places going to the highest scorers, many grammar qualified Dartford boys have been rejected from their local school, in spite of protestations when the new system was introduced that this would not happen. As a result of these factors just 129 of the 180 places went to boys placing the school as their first choice, or 72% with 41 second choices offered,8 third preference and one fifth or sixth preference (London Boroughs have six choices).
Second most popular grammar school was Tonbridge Grammar with 142 first choices turned away, up from 77 in 2015, followed by Dartford Girls’ Grammar with 119, up from 95, again unfortunately with a number of local girls turned away but letting in 65 ooc girls, having increased its capacity by an extra 20 girls, but a much higher proportion of offers made to first choices at 89%.
The other two grammar schools in Dartford were also both well oversubscribed, although both changed their admission rules last year to give priority to Kent children for most of their places, with Wilmington Grammar Boys turning away 49 first choices and the Girls Grammar 34. The number of out county boys to Wilmington fell sharply from 91 to 32 as a result of the changes, with Wilmington Girls’ fall from 105 to 91.
It was very pleasing to see that The Judd School in Tonbridge, 97 first choices oversubscribed, has also changed its admission rules to give priority to those living in the locality for all but 20 boys. As a result, the number of Kent children to be admitted is rising to 141 out of 155, up from 114 in 2015. However, the pressure on The Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells which has no such rules, increased to compensate, with 113 first choices oversubscribed, fourth most popular in Kent and the ooc offers rising to 45 out of county boys from 26 in 2015. Still in West Kent, Weald of Kent Grammar was oversubscribed by 33 grammar qualified first choices, even though it has increased its number of places by 55 to 230 girls, a massive vote of confidence in the school, in preparation for its expansion into the Sevenoaks Annexe next year. The surge in applications to the two Tonbridge girls’ grammars has been very much at the expense of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls, although the latter is still oversubscribed. Tunbridge Wells boys’ is oversubscribed by 12 first choices.
However, one consequence of all this is that I have been contacted by some families in the North Sevenoaks district whose children, although qualified, have no grammar school place allocated, and I am not confident this year they will secure one.
Maidstone Grammar boys was 38 first choices oversubscribed, although 11 down on 2015. By contrast, Oakwood Park’s popularity has leaped up from 2015, when just 101 offers were made at this time. For 2016, the school has now increased its Admission Number to 160, and is oversubscribed for the first time in some years. Invicta Grammar School, also in Maidstone has increased its intake by 18 girls, so one wonders what the appeal situation will be as 63 appeals were upheld in 2015. Popularity has swung sharply in its direction from Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, with 34 vacancies.
The two Ashford grammar schools are both putting in additional places to meet demand, Norton Knatchbull oversubscribed with 180 places for the first time, so no 53 successful appeals as last year! For the girls, Highworth Grammar is just oversubscribed and is putting on another 30 places to bring it up to 214, preparing to cater for successful appeals, a reversal of last year's appeal situation.
OTHER GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
Both the Simon Langton Grammar Schools are oversubscribed again, along with Sir Roger Manwood’s at 32 first choices rejected, which had four vacancies last year at this time. Queen Elizabeth’s continues to be well oversubscribed, although the number of first choices turned away has fallen to 21. Dover Grammar girls’ and Harvey Grammar were the only two other schools oversubscribed by more than two children, at 25 and 19 rejections respectively.
The myth that all Kent grammar schools are always oversubscribed, regularly quoted to me is definitely not true, with nine of the 32 having vacancies at this time, although many of the empty desks will fill through appeals. The schools with more than 10 spaces are: Maidstone Grammar for Girls (34); Chatham & Clarendon (26); Dover Boys (following a late increase in admission number of 30) (23); Barton Court (19); and Borden (15).
OUT OF COUNTY
As always, there was much media publicity for the 463 out of county children taking up places in Kent grammar schools, most of which are in North West Kent, followed by West Kent, and identified above. A number of these will not take up the places as other grammar schools more local to them free up spaces. To help balance this, there is also a flow out from Kent to other Local Authorities, including 165 children to grammar schools in Medway, Bexley and Bromley.