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.
Kent County Council has set up a Select Committee of County Councillors to explore social mobility in its Grammar Schools, adopting the principle that children from all backgrounds must have the same opportunities to flourish and succeed within the education system.
A Kent Messenger report on the first day’s proceedings, notes that: Mr Patrick Leeson, Kent’s Education Director talking about the achievement gap between poorer pupils and those without disadvantage, stated: “We have seen some movement in narrowing the gap but it is minute. Greater social mobility will only come about if the whole school system does better for children on free school meals.”
Of the 1,435 children on free school meals who sat the eleven plus in 2014, just 292 - about 8% - passed. The number of children on free school meals attending Kent grammar schools remains low at 3%, compared with 13% in non-selective schools, according to KCC data, although see further detail below.
However, good news was that those children from less well-off backgrounds who went to a grammar school did almost as well in their GCSE exams as others, with a gap of just 2% in the 5 A-C* plus maths and English success rate....
The Judd School in Tonbridge has published its proposed admission arrangements for 2016 entry, containing three important decisions by Governors that will have a considerable impact not only on the school itself, but also on grammar school admissions across the area.
You will find the details here. The proposals are:
1) To increase the intake by 30 places to 155, consolidating the temporary increases of the past two years, and also presumably for 2015 entry. This has been done at the request of KCC, which will then provide substantial capital investment to support the expansion.
2)To ensure the increase caters for the current pressure on places from Kent boys, by creating two separate catchments one primarily from West Kent admitting 140 boys, the second from the remainder of the United Kingdom, admitting 15 boys. The academic criterion in each case would be high scorers in the Kent Test. The proposal includes a clear map of West Kent showing the division.
3)As I prophesied some time ago, The Judd is proposing to abandon its plans to set its own test, the new Kent Test meeting the criteria it lay down.
My own view is that I am delighted with all three proposals. They serve both the needs of the grammar school population of West Kent and, by keeping the testing procedures in line with the rest of Kent, slow down any further splintering of the Kent Test, making life much easier for children looking to apply for several Kent grammar schools. May I encourage parents to support all three.
I consider the proposals in more detail below………
I am writing this article in response to a large number of enquiries from parents of boys, and to a lesser extent of girls, looking for places at the Dartford, Wilmington and Gravesend Grammar Schools, who have just missed the selective standard and are looking to appeal.
Last year, between them, there were 183 appeals lodged at Dartford and Wilmington Boys Grammar Schools, of which just 14 were successful, nearly all of these being made up of boys who had already passed but were initially excluded on distance grounds in the case of Wilmington, and not high enough scores in the Kent Test in Dartford.
The problem is created predominantly through pressure from children in London Boroughs, notably those on the railway lines from London Bridge through Bexley and Bromley, looking for grammar school places in Kent. Boys who live in Dartford itself who passed the Kent Test, whatever their school, are able to access either grammar school without difficulty. Other indications of the pressure on these two schools is that upon allocation back in March the two schools between them turned away 174 grammar qualified first preferences from the total of 1358 preferences expressed for the two schools. 419 of these applications were second preferences, although just 48 of these boys received offers. 110 of the 300 places available at the two schools were taken up by out of county boys on allocation in March although, as with the other figures, these proportions will have changed slightly by the time of admission in September, and I am not able to track the direction of any change.
The article explores the issues in more detail, and also looks at the growing problems in Gravesend and in the local grammar schools for girls.
In summary the difficulty of winning an appeal at one of these two schools for a boy who missed the pass mark, for whatever reason, was and will remain immense. As a result most parents will need to consider alternatives, several of which are spelled out below. .......
UPDATED TO INCLUDE LINK TO FAMILIARISATION PAPER
Kent County Council has now published the details of the new Kent Test to be taken in September 2014, and I was pleased to be able to break the news here, a week before official publication, after several primary headteachers shared the information with their parents. The specification provided is as follows. You will find KCC's statement here. Kent County Council has now prepared a familiarisation paper for pupils taking the test, to indicate the type of questions being asked. You will find this here.
I have been looking at the stories and information pages that have provoked most interest on this website. The most popular news items (those with over 20,000 visitors since publication ) naturally include six stories about Kent and Medway admissions and the Kent Test, and three about problems in Medway. What I hadn't appreciated was the popularity of stories about individual schools, the remainder being articles about Chaucer Technology School (49,820), Swan Valley School/Ebbsfleet Academy, Marlowe Academy, Dover Road Primary School (Gravesham), and two Catholic Schools - St Edmund's RC, Dover and St Philip Howard, Herne Bay, all attracting over 20,000 visitors.
Biggest draw by far is the information page article on Kent Grammar School Admissions at 85,687 visitors, the second most popular information article listing Kent Special Schools and Units (41,071). Other popular pages provide information about Kent secondary school admissions, Kent grammar school appeals, secondary school statistics on admissions and appeals, Medway grammar school applications, primary school admissions and appeals, and the thorny issue of school transport and transport appeals.
You will find the full lists below, followed by comments about some of the individual stories.........