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Monday, 22 July 2019 05:02

Further Analysis of Kent Test Results for Admission in September 2019

I apologise to the many browsers who have asked over the past six months when this annual article was to be published. There have been a multitude of delays and I have only recently received the authorised data from KCC. 

The table below shows that almost exactly 25% of Kent children were found selective by the Kent procedure, with the pass mark presumably set to fit in with the expected 6% of children found selective (nearly a quarter of the total) through the Head Teacher Assessment procedure. 

Possibly the main news headline should be that for the best chance of success at the Kent Test from a state school, you should be a girl living in Canterbury or a boy living in Sevenoaks. 7 schools saw over half of the cohort found selective, the highest proportions being at St Thomas' Catholic Primary, Sevenoaks (68%), followed by Gateway Primary Academy, Dartford (61%), Ethelbert Road, Faversham (60%); Blean, Canterbury (57%) and Selling CofE, Faversham (56%).  
       Gateway               Sheldwich 4
For the first time in many years the proportions of boys and girls being found selective are almost identical, 25.3% and 25.0% respectively, girls being on top for several years previously.

Canterbury has by some way the highest proportion of successful HTAs at 11% of the whole cohort, driven by 14% of all girls being found selective in this way, almost half of the total grammar assessments in Canterbury at 30% of the cohort. 

There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium being found selective to 10.3% of the total. 40% of these are via HTA, as against 25% for all pupils showing that the system is supportive of those children, contrary to some views expressed elsewhere. Further details on PP below.  

40% of the 427 children with Pupil Premium were selected through Headteacher Assessment, having not reached the automatic pass mark. Government policies to improve the PP rate of grammar school selection by lowering the pass mark are therefore irrelevant in Kent (but not Medway)

 The number of Out of County children tested and the number of passes continue to rise inexorably, by 330 this year to 3065,  but with a number of Kent grammar schools reprioritising  to give preference to Kent children, the number eventually being offered places for 2019 admission fell to 399, down from 454 in 2018.

This article expands my initial look at the 2018 Kent Test results, written in October, which should be read in conjunction with this article. The figures do not match exactly, as adjustments and late tests have produced changes. You will find the 2018 parallel article here
Pass Mark
The Kent Test pass mark level has seen a rise from that of the last four years, comprising a nationally standardised score of 107 in each of English, Maths and Reasoning, together with an aggregate score of at least 323. This standard is intended to select approximately 21% of Kent resident children (given the large numbers it is difficult to hit this level precisely), although for the 2018 Test, it has produced just 18.8%. Additional children are found selective by the process of Headteacher Assessment (HTA) described here and below. The target here is 4%, but for 2018 the outcome was 6.3%, the two scores conveniently adding up to 25.2% of the peer group, very close to the overall target. 

This mark is sufficient for entrance to the majority of Kent grammar schools, apart from seven that require higher marks for all or most of their entrants. The required marks for the latter vary according to demand each year, and are reported here.  Further places can be awarded to individual schools by the appeal process; my article on Appeals reporting on 2018 outcomes. 

Kent Grammar School Assessments 2018
for Admission in September 2019*




Year Six Kent Population*
Number who sat test
Automatic Pass
Headteacher Assessment (HTA)
HTA Passes 674 483 1157 7.4%  5.3%  6.3% 
Total Kent  Passes
Out of County Tested
Out of County Automatic Pass
OOC Headteacher Assessment
Total OOC Passes  1530 1535  3065  58%  59% 58%
 * Number of pupils in state school cohort, together with those in Kent private schools taking the Kent Test
Individual School Performance
Overall, the best performing primary schools in terms of percentage pass rate (including HTA) from total pupil numbers are: 

St Thomas' Catholic Primary, Sevenoaks (68%), followed by Gateway Primary Academy, Dartford (61%), Ethelbert Road, Faversham (60%); Blean, Canterbury (57%); Selling CofE, Faversham (56%); Amherst School, Sevenoaks, Hernhill CofE, Canterbury and St Peter’s Methodist Primary, Canterbury, (all with 55%); Leigh Primary Sevenoaks (54%); Sheldwich, Faversham (53%); Claremont, Tunbridge Wells, Lady Boswell’s CofE, Sevenoaks and Tunstall CofE, Sittingbourne (52%); 

Five of these schools are in the equivalent list for the 2017 Test: Amherst; Lady Boswell’s; Selling; Sheldwich; and Tunstall, with four having been in the list for the highest proportion of grammar school places in each of the past three years: Amherst, Claremont and Lady Boswell's, all in West Kent where private coaching is of course an industry of itself, and Sheldwich near Faversham.     

Apart from Gateway Primary Academy in Dartford, a high performing stand alone academy with no obvious advantages, every one of the schools are in West Kent, or in Canterbury and Swale (including Faversham) where the proportion of successful HTAs is very high (see below).

The variation year by year at the top of this list makes it clear there is no such thing as ‘which are the best schools for grammar entrance?’ a question I am regularly asked. This is because there is no way of knowing what proportion of the pass marks are down: to high quality teaching in the school; private tuition; simply a group of bright children passing through: or the decision making process of Headteachers on the HTA.  

Just two of these schools featured in the top fifteen performers at Higher Grade KS2 SATs in 2018, Gateway Primary Academy (ninth) with 30% of its pupils achieving this level (one of just nine primary schools with all three Progress assessments ‘well above average’), and St Thomas Catholic (eleventh) with 29%.

District Variation in Passes
415 children were offered Kent grammar school places through success in a local Test only, mainly in Dover and Shepway, more than doubling the number of children offered grammar places through the Kent Test in those districts, raising the total pass rate in each District to . Is this providing more opportunities in areas of social deprivation, or damaging local non-selective schools, or both?

There is a 21% target of automatic passes across the county, although the pass marks this year gave 18.8%, the lowest for some years. There is also a target of an additional 4% of children to found selective by Head Teacher Assessment (HTA) which looks at children’s work, previous test results, headteacher recommendation and pass mark. You will find further details of the process here and outcomes below. The county success rate for HTAs was 6.3% of the total cohort being found selective by this process, arriving at a total of 25.2%, very close to the target of 25%.

The table below shows the pattern across Kent’s 14 Districts, but hides some wide variation in the success rate of boys and girls.  

District Performance for Kent Test 2018
Pupil  Premium
Passes % of Total
Sevenoaks 26 4 30 9
Ashford 17 6 22 9
Canterbury 16 11


Dartford 22 5 27 9
& Malling 
22 5 27 7
24 3 27 7
Maidstone 17 7 24 11
Ashford 17 6 22 9
Gravesham 16          5 21 9
Swale 12 9 21 8
Dover 14  6  20  7
Thanet 11 8 19 9
& Hythe
13 4 16 8
Total 19 6 25 9

 At the foot of the table (leaving out Thanet for the moment) come Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham and Swale. The alternative locals test for the Dover and Shepway grammar schools, together with Highsted Grammar in Sittingbourne and Mayfield Grammar n Gravesham (both girls) will have considerably inflated the figures of children in these Districts found suitable for grammar school.

This year local test passes provided over half of the pupils offered places at the two Dover grammar schools and Folkestone School for Girls, indicating a total grammar selection rate of more than 40% in each area. Three quarters of the 138 boys allocated to Dover Boys Grammar qualified through the Dover Test.  

There is a total of 30% of girls in Canterbury District found selective overall, because of the high HTA figure (see below), a figure only topped by boys in Sevenoaks at 31%.

This year 11.3% of all Kent automatic passes have gone to children in the private sector, slightly down from the previous two years 11.5%, but just 4.8% of the upheld HTAs, resulting in overall 9.6% of selective assessments being for children at private schools. The data calculations can only consider those children who took the Test, so the total numbers in each school year group are not known. However, a considerable proportion of these successes will not take up grammar school places, preferring to remain private.

Head Teacher Assessments (HTA)
You will find full details of the process hereThe HTA takes into account headteacher's recommendation, child's performance in class and in standardised tests, together with any special circumstances, success depending on satisfying a Panel of Headteachers that the child is of grammar school ability. 
The Canterbury secret lies in the very high proportion of children who have been found selective on the HTA, at 11%, or over 40% of the total passes and much higher than any other district. This includes 14% of girls, double the county average for girls passing the HTA, an annually recurring pattern. 
In a reversal of the pattern of a few years ago, more boys than girls are entered by their schools for HTAs, the percentages in the 'Considered' part of the table below refer to the relative proportion of the two being being put forward for HTAs. This may explain the higher percentage being found selective as a consequence, as shown in the 'Upheld' section. 

Most automatic passes follow socio-economic patterns across the county, but the influence of HTAs is quite different, perhaps reflecting local pressures. The table below shows outcomes of the four Headteacher Assessment Panels, that operate geographically across the county. It is likely that the NW Kent Panel will have a high proportion of out of county HTAs referred to it, which may be a factor in the high figure.

Head Teacher Assessments 2018










HTAs Considered
East  Kent  529 454 983 54% 46%  
Mid Kent 338 319 657 51% 49%
NW Kent  241 149 390 62% 38%
West Kent  146 129 275 53% 47%
Total 1254 1041 2305 54% 46%
 HTAs Upheld
East  Kent  356 259 615 67% 57%  63%
Mid Kent 175 150 325 52% 47%  49%
NW Kent  175 96 271 73% 64%  69%
West Kent 71 41 112  49%  32%  41%
Total 777 546 1323 62%  52%  57%

Note: HTAs for out of county pupils will be considered by the most appropriate Panel, usually West or North West 

Pupil Premium Children (PP)
Note: Schools are given a pupil premium allowance for: children who have qualified for free school meals at any point in the past six years; children who are or have been looked after under local authority care for more than one day; children from service families who receive a child pension from the Ministry of Defence
427 out of 4158 Kent state school children who were found selective for entry to grammar school in September 2018 were on Pupil Premium (PP), socially disadvantaged children, the large majority of whom qualify through Free School Meals. This works out at 10.3%, a steady increase over at least the last two years (10.0% in 2017 and 9.0% in 2016) reflecting the greater focus on these children. The numbers are being boosted by a steady increase in the numbers being found selective through HTAs which appear to be recognising potential  in children who may well not have been prepared for the Kent Test as well as others. As the data reveals, the argument by some critics of the Kent selection procedure that HTAs are biased against children carrying a Pupil Premium is also false. For 40% (169 out of the 427) of PP children found selective qualified through the HTA route, as against 22% of the total number of children found selective. That is a powerful argument to demonstrate that the system supports these children at a stage where there is no influence by private tutoring. However, there is still some way to go. 
Many more Pupil Premium children will be selected via the local tests in Dover and Shepway, areas with considerable social deprivation. It is impossible to convert this into a rate for entrance to grammar school, as the numbers are inflated by private school and out of county entrants, and there is no accurate measure of this total, but private school entrants tend to be around 10% of the total according to previous FOIs. However, these are still a small proportion of the total, so the proportion of PP pupils who will be entering Kent grammar schools in 2019, will be well above the regularly quoted fallacious 3%. Overall there was a total of 8.3% of PP children in Kent grammar schools using the government measure of having been on Free School Meals in the past six years.  
The data analysis group Education Datalab looked extensively at the Kent Test, its suggestions for improving the proportion of PP children being:
Improving the proportion of PP children found selective in Kent
There is much that Kent could do to marginally improve the number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds securing places at grammar school, including:
  1. Allowing state primary schools in Kent to provide 10 hours of practice on reasoning-style questions to all students.
  2. Automatically awarding FSM-eligible students extra marks on the 11-plus – particularly the reasoning paper – in recognition of the disparity between their 11-plus marks and subsequent SATs grades.
  3. If headteacher panels are to remain part of the process, requiring primary headteachers to put all FSM-eligible students scoring over 300 in the 11-plus forward to the headteacher panel for consideration.
  4. Allowing primary headteachers to put forward to the headteacher panel any able FSM-eligible students whose parents did not enter them for the 11-plus, who will be considered on the quality of their primary school work alone.
Out of County Passes
Each year the number of out of county Kent Test passes rises partly due to what has been called 11 plus tourism, as too many London families apply to grammar schools around the M25 belt, and also the North West Kent grammars being easily reached by rail out of SE London. This is usually accompanied by some hysterical media headlines about the consequent shortage of grammar school places for Kent children, which never actually happens, as most of these children never arrive.  

Recent changes in admission policy at the two Wilmington Grammars and the Judd and Skinner’s super selective grammars to favour Kent children is further inhibiting supply of places for out of county children, but certainly not demand. For 2019 admissions, of the 3065 (2735 in 2017) ooc Kent Test passes in October 2018, just 399 children (down from 454 in 2017) were offered grammar places in March this year, over half at the four Dartford and Wilmington grammars, with this number likely to have fallen further before entry in September.

Of course this large proportion of speculative test sittings, in some cases merely provides free practice for grammar schools in other parts of the country for many as can be seen by the high number of enquiries on 11 plus forums from parents in possession of a selective assessment for their child. Many of these don’t even know where the Kent grammar schools are!

But of course, it is not free for Kent taxpayers, as the costs of administration, materials and provision of test venues falls on them. Sadly, there appears no way of recovering the costs, which surely run into tens of thousands of pounds, from those parents who have no Kent connections. 


Local Authorities with more than 100
Out of County Assessments for Kent Test 2018
Grammar Places
in 2019*
Bexley 1189 634 77
Bromley 730 464 53
Greenwich 810 409 41
Medway 571 273 15
Lewisham  372 195 25
Barking & Dagenham 189 114 18
Redbridge 179 149 6
East Sussex 157 97 53
Newham  142 82 6
Havering 101 64 7
 * Note: I only have data for individual schools or Local Authorities where numbers are greater than five. Where precise numbers are quoted, these exclude grammar schools where there are fewer than six pupils allocated. 



Last modified on Monday, 06 December 2021 04:52

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 30 October 2019 10:27 posted by Denise Williams

    where can I find the results of what percentage of children passed in each school? PETER: Kent County council via a Freedom of Information request, although the information can be misleading as schools are not allowed to teach to the test

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