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Sunday, 22 July 2018 18:45

Kent Test: Out of County Applications

Written by

Kent County Council has sent its annual letter to out of county families registered for the Kent Test for admission to grammar schools in September, as many are not familiar with the Kent scheme. This year it warns them that because of ever increasing numbers, the Council is unable to offer all candidates a Test Centre in the West or Centre of the county, as they are having difficulty finding schools willing to host them. As a result, some may have to travel to East Kent (Canterbury or Thanet) to take the test, in order to meet demand. The letter goes on to provide sensible and objective advice to these families, including noting that large numbers never turn up, costing time, money and resources.

This has produced a torrent of negative comment on the 11 Plus Exams Forum website for Kent, predominantly from just one contributor, one of the few who actually lives in Kent. Even though the Forum is dominated by out of county (ooc) families, many acknowledge and support the points being made by KCC, although others pursue the familiar and false lines that are so misleading. 

One of my major concerns about this Forum section is that I am regularly contacted by Kent families who have been misled into thinking that the views expressed are widely held across the county. On the contrary, they predominantly come from a small atypical group wanting to maintain maximum access to Kent grammar schools for children right across London, at the expense of local children.

Last year, Kent taxpayers paid for 15,937 children to take the Kent Test, from a total of 16,766 who registered. Of these, 4,832 were from outside the county (with some late applicants in addition). 2735 of these passed the Kent Test with just 456 being allocated places in a Kent grammar school, over half to the four Dartford schools, setting up waves that follow right through to Sittingbourne, as seen in my recent articles about Holcombe Grammar in Chatham. Contrary to some views expressed, grammar schools make no financial contribution to the Test, the cost of Test Centres,  or of administration. 

I applaud the four Kent grammar schools that have changed their admission criteria to give priority to local children in this selective authority, which broadly aims to provide grammar school places for 25% of its own school population, so that a large influx of oocs inevitably reduces opportunity in the affected areas. 

Some correspondents take exception to my usage of the term ‘11+ M25 tourists’ which aptly describes families who apply to grammar schools all round the M25 ring, from Sutton, up to Enfield and round to Kent, often 'just for practice'. For some reason they have been proud to post this on the Forum over the years. Pity the poor child who is heavily coached for multiple tests, and then transported long distances to places across South East England s/he has never visited to take tests for grammar schools s/he knows nothing about, often 'just for practice'.

The Kent contributor has made  17 postings on this one topic, mainly derogatory about KCC, and some very lengthy, also a common theme in her postings in other sections. None of these apply to her as, living on the edge of Kent on the border with Surrey, she will have a very limited perspective and a wider range of opportunities than most, so a mystery as to motive. 

The problem is actually worse in Buckinghamshire, with a posting noting: ‘In 2017, 1393 children from Greater London took the Bucks test, and precisely 13 of them went on to receive a place at a Bucks grammar, all siblings of existing pupils. 1380 children tested for absolutely no purpose or reward, but even when faced with these facts, parents don't withdraw their child from testing’. How ridiculous!

I have no problem with families seeking the best opportunity for their children, but they must appreciate that shouting about it can cause considerable grief to those whose children miss out on local grammar school places as a consequence, or else make wrong decisions on the basis of what they have read on this Forum (it happens!). 

Read 2244 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 August 2018 06:43

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