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News Archive - Kent Independent Education Advice
Sunday, 07 September 2014 00:00

Kent Test 2014: Final Thoughts before the test

I am currently receiving a number of enquiries about the Kent Test, mainly concerning the marking system and am happy to supply my latest thoughts here. However, please remember that I do not have a formal connection with KCC so these are my views alone.

The issues are certainly attracting strong media attention. There have already been a couple of radio programmes looking at the subject; I believe that Meridian is planning a news item on Tuesday, on the eve of the test, with the BBC proposing to look at it in the SE Politics show on Sunday. They won't be alone.

You will find the specification of the new test in the Information section to the right of this page, 'Secondary School Admission', 'Kent Grammar Schools'. This information article also includes links to some of the relevant news items about the test.

Apart from the issue of coachability, the main feature of the new tests is the introduction of a literacy element, and I am confident that the marking structure will require a certain standard to be reached in English. We are told that “The English will involve a comprehension exercise plus some additional questions drawn from a set designed to test literacy skills”, but remember it is still a multiple choice assessment.......

Friday, 28 March 2014 00:00

Sevenoaks Annex: Another path blocked

In a further set-back to the proposal to set up a mixed grammar school annex in Sevenoaks,  Governors of Weald Of Kent Grammar School have decided after consulting parents  “that the case for Weald of Kent to become co-educational at the Tonbridge site has not been established and, therefore, conclude that it is difficult to go ahead with the expansion into Sevenoaks if this is a requirement”. There is a copy of the letter text at the foot of this article. You will find links to my previous articles here.....

Weald of Kent Grammar School is consulting with parents about taking over the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex and running it as an integral part of the school. I understand that Consultation papers are being sent out to parents this evening, and will expand and update this article when I have seen them.

However, my view is that this is the first feasible proposal to come forward and stands every chance of meeting the legal obstacles raised over the previous proposals by Weald and Invicta Grammar School. I have written several previous articles on the project and its history. 

The proposal is for Weald to become co-educational and then operate the Sevenoaks annex (hopefully renamed) as an integral part of a twin site grammar school, benefitting from the additional excellent facilities planned for the new buildings. It will have a single set of admissions criteria. The school is already planning to change its oversubscription criteria for 2015 admission in line with this proposal.....

The following is an adaptation of an article appearing in Kent on Sunday this weekend. It is written following the announcement of the closure of Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury subject to Consultation (below), and  also looks at other vulnerable schools, the effect of Free Schools on Kent's maintained school system, and the impact of inward migration in Kent. 

The announcement of the closure of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury at the end of the summer should have come as no great surprise, given the dramatically falling number of students entering the school over the past few years, and the huge financial deficit allowed to develop. You will find a fuller analysis of the issues here. However, this article looks at the wider pattern of take up of secondary school places across Kent, identifying other schools that are vulnerable. The schools with the highest proportion of vacant places have remained the same over the past few years, leading one to ask how some of these can also remain viable, given that school incomes depend on the number of pupils they attract. Chaucer is the second closure in twelve months, with Walmer Science College being absorbed into Castle Community College last September, because of the falling number of children in the Deal District. I do not anticipate these two schools will be the last.

Concerns have been expressed about the number of young people coming to Kent from other European countries, causing pressure on school places.....

My previous article on this topic attracted over 4000 hits in five days, counting in my regular subscribers, the fastest hit rate ever. Feel free to add another comment at the bottom of either item.  

You will find that item below, here. KCC has now sent out the Consultation document for the proposed closure, which you will find in my blog, together with further comment.

Chaucer Technology

The Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury is to close at the end of the summer term, subject to a legally required consultation process, apart from the current Year 10 students who will need continuity to complete their GCSE courses. I offer advice to affected families on their next steps, in the second highlighted box below. The Council has provided the following statement, explaining the decision and the consequences:.....

A link to this article from another website, means that some browsers are unaware I have updated it with a fresh article above, here

There are convincing rumours in Canterbury, backed up by an article in the Kentish Gazette, that Chaucer Technology School is to close at the end of the school year. An official announcement of the situation and plans for the school will be sent to parents on Tuesday (25th), and I will update this article when I see the KCC statement that day. i.e. before school allocations are made on 3rd March. You will find the following statement from Kent County Council on the school website and which was also sent to parents. It is hardly designed to comfort families although it is difficult to know what else the Council can do at short notice, given what appears to be an unplanned and unauthorised leak of information. 

Kent County Council regrets that an article speculating on the closure of Chaucer School has appeared in the press. We recognise that parents, pupils and staff may now be anxious about the school. We will inform staff and write to every parent next week to clarify the situation.

In one sense, this dreadful situation is no surprise for, as readers of this website will know,I have reported on the school's downwards spiral for some years, from its previous standing as being a very popular school. You will find my most recent article here. Even as recently as 2010, the school’s 235 places were all awarded on allocation day, with 163 families making Chaucer their first choice.  A few years previous to that I was handling appeals for admission to the school, which was bi-lateral running a popular grammar stream open only to those who had passed the Kent Test, alongside a non-selective section which was heavily oversubscribed........

Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury has now gone out to Consultation on its proposed move to Herne Bay, details here. In previous articles I have discussed the proposal which has now been amended and refined to read as follows: "proposal to relocate the School to the former Herne Bay Golf Club site from September 2017 and to expand to 5 forms of entry. We have been offered an opportunity to build a new school within a proposed housing and sports complex development by Newmaquinn Ltd”. 

Barton Court

The proposal is being challenged by all non-selective schools in the Canterbury district, on the grounds that there is no call for an extra grammar school class in the area, and to fill it would require the school to admit more students on appeal, who were initially non-selective, changing its character.

Unfortunately, both Barton Court's rationale for increasing its size and a letter to the press from the non-selective heads contain too many errors in the statistics they quote, the cases therefore becoming mutually contradictory. As a result, no conclusions can be drawn from the statistics in either of these two documents. The letter to the press has also gone to BCGS, KCC and the two local MPs. 

I have carried out my own analysis of the data, using information from KCC under Freedom of Information requests, and conclude that the BCGS case for expansion is sensible,  but not on the grounds they give......

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:51

Barton Court move paper

28 January 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

Re: Proposed expansion of Barton Court Grammar School

We are writing to you concerning the recently-published proposal to re-locate Barton Court Grammar School to the coast and to increase the school’s PAN by 30 places. There is consistent reference in the consultation documents to the number of applicants that Barton Court receives. For example:

  • “We believe that this move is vital…to help meet the growing demand for selective places across the district. The School had to turn down nearly 100 children last year”.
  • “We are a very popular over-subscribed school, with more parents placing BCGS first choice on their SCAF than there are places”.
  • In 2013, 345 children in the Canterbury and Coastal District who took the Kent Test were grammar-assessed.
  • In 2014, 351 children in the Canterbury and Coastal District who took the Kent Test were grammar-assessed.

The conclusion that is consistently drawn is that because Barton Court is over-subscribed, it follows that there is a need for the school to offer more places. However, this is over-simplistic and ignores the question of how many of the students who apply are ‘grammar-assessed’ in the Kent Test, and how many are really suitable for a grammar-school education. We would question whether there is any need for more grammar school places in the locality. The calculations we have made have had to make some assumptions, but we do have some data to work with:

We can reasonably conclude therefore that there are approximately 350 children each year in the Canterbury and Coastal district who pass the Kent Test and are eligible for grammar school places. A maximum of 3% of the cohort of children who take the Kent Test and are not grammar-assessed are successful in Headteacher Assessments, equating to approximately another 40 children per year. This means that across Canterbury and Coastal, there are some 390 children who require grammar school places each year.

The PAN for Barton Court Grammar School is 128, for Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls 155 and for Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys 120. This equates to 403 available grammar school places in Canterbury and Coastal.

Not every child who takes and passes the Kent Test in the Canterbury and Coastal District takes up a place at one of the three Canterbury grammar schools. Some will choose instead to attend grammar schools in other areas (Dover, Folkestone, Thanet). A number of other children who pass the Kent Test each year complete their secondary education in one of the many local fee-paying secondary schools. Some grammar-assessed students choose to attend a local or denominational non-selective school. There is no available data for this, but it would be reasonable to conclude that as many as twenty children a year would fall into this category. In addition to this, a significant proportion of children who are grammar-assessed in the Canterbury and Coastal district attend Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham: the local authority ‘dot maps’ of where children attend suggest that this is about one-third of the school’s intake, or a minimum of 40 children (PAN 140).

Both of the Simon Langton schools fill almost all their places each year with Canterbury and Coastal children. This means that perhaps 270 Canterbury and Coastal grammar-assessed children each year attend one of the Langton schools. This leaves 55 grammar-assessed children to fill the places available at Barton Court (350 grammar-assessed, plus 40 on Headteacher Appeal, less 20 who attend private schools or other grammar schools, less 40 who attend Queen Elizabeth’s, less 270 who attend the Langton schools). Even allowing for PESE and appeals, and any future rises in the local population, it is difficult to see how a case can be made for the need for an additional form of entry at Barton Court. This would mean more than 100 children in each year group (PAN 128, plus 30 additional places, less 55 Canterbury and Coastal children who passed the Kent Test) attending a grammar school when they had not passed the Kent Test. We also note that for 2014 entry, there are only 89 grammar-assessed children who have selected Barton Court as first choice; this does not suggest a locality which is in desperate need of thirty additional grammar school places.

The consultation documents make it clear that the proposals are predicated on the assumption that there is a need for more local grammar school places. The numbers outlined above clearly suggest that this is not the case. Given that no school wishes to be under-subscribed, the only conclusion can be that many grammar places will be filled ‘on appeal’ by students who are not suitable for a grammar-school education. Apart from failing to understand why any grammar school would want to alter its character by taking a far broader range of ability, this would also be very unfortunate for the many local high schools who do a very good job for these ‘borderline’ children, often helping them to secure excellent outcomes at GCSE and A Level, and supporting their progression to Higher Education.

In summary, as far as we are concerned, there is no evidence to suggest that additional forms of entry at Barton Court are required, and the evidence also suggests that there is more than enough existing capacity to cater for any future changes in the local population.

Yours sincerely,

Mr M Walters, Headteacher, St Anselm’s Catholic School

Mrs E King, Head of School, Chaucer Technology School

Dr C Owen, Principal, Herne Bay High School

Mr J Watson, Head of School, The Canterbury Academy

Mr M Liddicoat, Headteacher, The Archbishop’s School

Mrs H Sullivan-Tighe, Principal, Community College Whitstable

Ms N Mattin, Principal, The Spires Academy


Ms K Cardus, Headteacher, BCGS

Dr P Klappa, Chair of Governors, BCGS

Mr P Leeson, KCC

Mrs M White, KCC

The Rt. Hon J Brazier, MP

The Rt. Hon R Gale, MP