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Friday, 20 March 2009 15:37

School Places KOS March 2009

This Kent On Sunday article is based on information I obtained from Kent County Council. The data in it has also been used by Radio Kent and Meridan TV.

A response to comments from Medway Council appears below.

 Kent County Council data shows there is a total of just 131 vacancies in Kent’s 33 grammar schools, mainly in the east of the county.  268 out county children are taking up places in West and North West Kent grammar schools, displacing many children from these areas eastwards some to grammar schools they cannot reach daily. More than 40 West Kent boys have been   offered places in Folkestone or Sittingbourne.    

 

The biggest influx is into the four Dartford grammar schools, with 29 children coming from as far as Greenwich and another 15 from Lewisham. Bromley took up 59 Kent grammar school places, Bexley another 56 and East Sussex 50.  

 

Most oversubscribed grammar school was Tonbridge (101 turned away), edging out Judd from last year (95). These were followed in order by Skinners, Dartford, Weald of Kent, Tunbridge Wells Boys, Maidstone, and Tunbridge Wells Girls. This year’s problem is highlighted by these eight schools which all turned away more than 40 first choices who had passed the 11+. Last year there were just three, the same top schools as this year.  

 

However, for the second year running the most oversubscribed school in the county is the Leigh Academy in Dartford, rejecting 200 first choice applicants.  

 

One striking feature of non selective school placements is the wide fluctuation in popularity from year to year. The biggest controversy in the county surrounds Valley Park School in South Maidstone, whose popularity has soared this year, turning away 106 first choices, up from 16 in 2008.  There are 85 children in the adjacent areas who have been offered none of their four choices. Other non selective schools rejecting more than 60 first choices are: Folkestone Academy (newly rebuilt); Homewood (Tenterden); Bennett Memorial (Tunbridge Wells);  Westlands (Sittingbourne), Charles Dickens (Broadstairs), North School (Ashford), Archbishops’ (Canterbury); Aylesford (rebuilt under PFI and not even full last year); Mascalls (Paddock Wood) and Fulston Manor (Sittingbourne). Only half these schools were in the list last year showing how difficult it is to predict popularity.

 

At the other end of the scale, four schools were over half empty before children unsuccessful in any of their applications were allocated to them.

 

Kent’s Academies present a very mixed picture.  Cornwallis,  Folkestone and Leigh are all heavily oversubscribed. The other six, mainly with new buildings still to arrive, have a total of 328 vacancies between them before some pupils who had not applied to them, were allocated places by KCC . 

 

Following my campaign through the national media, Medway Council has changed its policy of not allowing late applicants for grammar schools entrance to apply for the 95 spaces in Chatham grammar schools.  Only two weeks ago Council officers were telling enquirers that there was no facility for late testing, but now the grammar schools have laid on additional open days and been overwhelmed by enquiries from Kent parents unable to get into oversubscribed Kent schools. 

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 Following a comment by Medway Council on this article, I have written the following letter to KOS.

I was fascinated that Medway Council claimed in last week’s KOS that late testing for Medway grammar school places has been available for several years rather than introduced in the middle of this year’s admission process following media pressure, as I believe.

Perhaps the person who gave the statement did not know that Medway’s own prospectus states that late testing can only take place in exceptional circumstances; that it is not even mentioned in the legal document that sets out Medway’s admission procedure; that when the Council commented on the media debate I initiated they were solely concerned with defending the status quo and forgot to mention this central issue; that parents were consistently told last year there was no provision for late testing; that when I contacted grammar schools early in March they were not aware of the change in procedure; and that one of my clients living in Kent contacted the Council offices two weeks ago and was told that there was no such procedure.

However the good news is that the Council has indeed bowed to that pressure and some Kent children allocated to inaccessible grammar schools will now be able to take up the vacant spaces previously barred to them if they now take and pass the Medway selective tests. 

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:26

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