This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. The main pressure point is in North West Kent with applications from SE London and north of the Thames growing annually and strongly. Dartford Grammar leads the way the number of grammar school qualified first choice applications oversubscribed soaring to 257 (226 in 2016). It is followed by Dartford Girls with 188, again up sharply from 119 in 2016. These two are now the most oversubscribed schools of all types in Kent and Medway.
Then come the three West Kent super selectives: Tonbridge 151 (142 in 2016); Skinners 143 (119); and Judd 102 (97). This is followed by a large gap down to Wilmington Girls at 58 first choices turned away. At the other end of the scale, eight grammar schools in Maidstone and the East of the county had 240 vacancies amongst them. Kent has seen an additional 192 places (net) put into its grammar schools this year, to meet rising rolls in several areas.
I look more closely at individual schools below, and you will find my preliminary article on allocations published at the beginning of March here, including cut-offs for super-selective grammars, and for 2016 here. You will find a similar article on non-selective schools here, with Medway schools to follow.
Note: the initial allocation figures for all Kent secondary schools reports that 3251 children, 19.5% of the total, did not get their first choice school on allocation. This figure is misleading as 887 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 14% of children overall in Kent who did not get their first legitimate choice, a much lower figure than in many parts of the country.
You will find further information on Individual Secondary Schools here, currently being updated.
|OVERSUBSCRIBED KENT GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
|Simon Langton Boys
|Weald of Kent
| Wilmington Boys
|Tunbridge Wells Boys
|Tunbridge Wells Girls
Note* Grammar school qualified by Kent or local Test
Note ** ooc - Out of County
Note 3: As so often happens, this table was published on 11 Plus Exams Forum, with no credit given to the author. For reasons of their own this website bans any mention of Kentadvice, depriving their members of much valuable information. They have now gone further, removing the table entirely!
NORTH WEST KENT
Dartford Grammar School, the most oversubscribed school in the county, turned away 257 grammar qualified pupils, the overwhelming majority applying from SE London, this figure well up on the 226 who lost out in 2016 and soaring from the 127 of 2015. As the school chases high scorers, 79 of its 150 places have gone to out of county (ooc) boys and it is ceasing to be a school serving the local community. Sadly, because the school introduced a cap of 90 on the number of local boys three years ago, with these places also 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. There is an article here, written at the time, that also looks at the problems of appeals in Dartford. It really has reached a ridiculous state of affairs when local boys scoring as many as 31 points over the county pass mark with a score of 351 in the Kent Test are refused places, whilst 27 high scoring boys from Greenwich and Lewisham have denied them places. Astonishingly, 61 families put DGS as first preference although their sons had not passed the Kent test and shouldn’t hold their breath for an appeal - just 6 out of 108 were upheld in 2016 (you will find an analysis of last year’s appeal outcomes for Kent and Medway schools here).
Dartford Grammar School for Girls which, a few years ago, did give priority to local girls, has now gone down the same route, and as a result is the second most oversubscribed grammar school turning away 188 girls most from London Boroughs. 23 of their 55 ooc girls are coming from Greenwich or Lewisham, and the pass mark for local girls is also climbing fast, to 347.
Both of the Wilmington Grammar Schools made a clear statement two years ago when they gave priority for 90% of their places to local children, but because there are still not enough locals to fill all available places (a situation that will change rapidly as the Ebbsfleet Garden City blossoms) are also taking in a large London intake many making them their first preference schools, the Boys admitting 60, and the Girls 57. Wilmington Girls rejected 58 grammar qualified girls (making it the sixth most popular in Kent) and the Boys, 43.
There are calls from some political circles for another grammar school in Dartford, which would of course simply attract another grammar full of children from London. I am not sure this is the point of the new government plan.
The two Gravesend Grammars appear to be going down different routes with regards to admissions; the boys' school having expanded to 175 is filling up with ooc boys, offering places to 43. 14 of these live in Thurrock, presumably planning to cross the Thames on the passenger ferry. The school is clearly unhappy with the ooc situation and is reducing its intake to 150 for 2018 entry. For September 2017, all but one grammar qualified boys placing the school in first place were offered places. Mayfield Grammar introduced an additional route to admission via the Mayfield Test in 2015, seeing 16 girls arrive by this route in 2017. The school has expanded its intake by 25 places to admit 170 girls this September, suggesting there will be some 10 available on appeal, but still turned away 22 first choices.
Third most popular grammar school in the county was Tonbridge Grammar with 151 first choices turned away, up from 142 in 2016. The school has now made several temporary enlargements over recent years settling on 180 this year, which becomes permanent for 2018. 21 of its 33 ooc places have gone to girls living in the London Borough of Bromley.
Next comes The Skinners School, oversubscribed by 143 first choices, most of its ooc’s coming from East Sussex, followed by 11 from Bromley. The school, on a restricted site, remains at five form entry, but has increased its Planned Admission Number (PAN) by five places to 155. This may have severe implications for appeals, as previously the average number upheld has been five, but with those places already allocated, will the Appeal Panel be willing to raise class sizes above 31?
The Judd School, which changed last year to give priority to Kent children for 90% of its places has increased its PAN for the second time in five years, to 180 boys, in exchange for capital funding from KCC to accommodate this. Even with 30 extra places awarded, 102 grammar qualified fist choices lost out and the school’s cut off score for admission for local children rose slightly to 364 (up from 362), confirming the school’s popularity continues to swell. Meanwhile the bar for the out of area children soared to an aggregate of 400, which will have included just 19 ooc's, 15 from Bromley.
Meanwhile Weald of Kent Grammar at last opened the long delayed and controversial annexe in Sevenoaks. This has admitted 90 girls, but overall the school has only offered places to 30 more girls than last year, when it expanded its intake on the single site in preparation for the annexe. Some forecast it would lose out in popularity but, even with the enlarged intake, the oversubscription level rose from 33 to 44 in 2017. The school offered 13 ooc's, all but one from East Sussex. It is not clear how the school allocated places between the two sites, but there appear to have been no public concerns surfacing, suggesting that families are happy with the way the school has handled this.
With the additional places offered for girls through the annexe and at Tonbridge, focus naturally turns to the pressure on boys’ places in West Kent. Judd’s decision to give priority to local boys and to expand has clearly helped, and this year Tunbridge Wells Boys’ Grammar has also offered to another 30 boys taking its total up to 210, although 26 first choices were turned away. The school remains very much a Kent provider, with just two ooc's offered places. Tunbridge Wells Girls’ has resisted inducements to enlarge, but has offered an additional five places this year, taking its PAN up to 145. As with Skinners, this may have significant implications for appeals, as the school has previously argued strongly that it is unable to go above this number, seeing some 7/8 only get through.
Cranbrook School, for many years Kent’s only 13-18 grammar school has at last tentatively tipped its toe into the 11 plus arena as explained here, offering 30 places, along with 90 at 13 plus, and 30 thirteen plus boarding places. The school offers places to local children on high scores, but I was surprised that the cut off at 346 was not higher, especially given the small intake. I can only assume that many children attending local private schools which run to 13+ have decided to stay with them whilst the older age of entry is also in place, although for this cohort there will only now be 60 places at 13+.
There are plenty of places still available in Ashford and Maidstone grammar schools, with 54 available in the two Ashford schools alone.
For some reason, presumably political, Maidstone Grammar has had a £4 million expansion programme to take its intake up 30 places to 205. The school gives priority to boys achieving at least a mark half way between the pass mark and the maximum marks available in the Kent Test, and living in named parishes. It is now no longer oversubscribed with first choices, but the second boys' grammar school in Maidstone, Oakwood Park, has lost 30 boys because of this expansion. It is currently running with 65 spaces before appeals, the highest figure for any Kent grammar. So with so many surplus places in the town, why was this capital expansion given such priority?
The second highest vacancy figure in Kent is at Maidstone Girls’ Grammar with 42, whilst the controversial Invicta Grammar remains full only by virtue of reducing its intake by 18 girls to 192 from 2016's 210. Of the 16 Medway children offered places at Kent grammar schools, 11 are going to the two Maidstone girls' grammars.
Between them, the four Maidstone grammars admitted an astonishing 164 children on appeal in 2016, which will have led to considerable churning amongst the non-selective schools.
The four Dover and Folkestone grammar schools all offer additional local grammar tests, admitting a further 346 children through this route who have not qualified by the Kent Test. Not surprisingly, all but Dover Boys are oversubscribed, the latter with 12 spaces, by virtue of having increased its intake by 30 places to 150 in 2016.
SWALE & CANTERBURY
Borden and Highsted grammar schools have both filled, so appeals will not be easy, whilst Queen Elizabeth’s in Faversham is the second most oversubscribed grammar school in the county that has no super selection, with 48 first choices not being offered places. With a PAN of 140, the Independent Panel tends to offer about ten places on appeal.
There are changes in Canterbury where, at the time of writing, the Headteacher of Simon Langton Boys’ Grammar has today taken over as Interim Executive Head of Simon Langton Girls'. This follows a period of turbulence at the Girls' school, as described here. There is no doubt that families have been deterred from applying to the school as a result, giving rise to 39 vacancies on allocation, although a history of a high number of successful appeals, 21 out of 32 in 2016. The Boys’ school, which gives priority to boys scoring 20 points above the pass mark, living within 9 miles of the school, has seen its popularity continue to increase with 51 grammar qualified first choices turned away. All those boys who were offered places, apart from the exceptions such as siblings, were high scorers according to the criteria and living within 6.35 miles of the school, so many disappointed families including all those boys who did not reach and aggregate of 340. The third grammar, the mixed Barton Court, was just oversubscribed presumably absorbing most of the unsuccessful SLGSB boys, amongst the 42 second choices accepted. As always, there is a ‘black hole’ in the Whitstable/Herne Bay area where some boys do not get into a Canterbury or Faversham grammar, but historically have been sorted after waiting lists or appeals. This may not be the case for 2017. See my response to an enquiry from a Whitstable family in the comments section below.
THANET & SANDWICH
This is now the only part of the county with no single sex grammar, being served by three mixed schools, four if one extends up the coast to Faversham. The only other two Kent mixed grammars are Barton Court in nearby Canterbury, and Cranbrook School.
For the first time in many years, Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich has not filled, with six vacancies on allocation. The confusingly named Chatham and Clarendon in Ramsgate has 23 vacancies for its 180 places, whilst Dane Court is 13 first choices oversubscribed. With the other local grammar schools both having vacancies, it has the obscure distinction of being the only secondary school in Kent with only first choices offered places!
OUT OF COUNTY
As always, there was much media publicity for the 454 out of county children taking up places in Kent grammar schools (slightly down on last year’s 463), 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 160 children to grammar schools in Medway, Bexley and Bromley.