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Friday, 03 July 2009 19:03

Judd, Skinners and Tonbridge Grammar Schools: Adjudicators Decisions KOS July 2009

This article formed the basis for a Report in Kent on Sunday, July 2009, about the School Adjudicator's decsion not to order changes to the admission rules for the Judd and Skinners School for September 2010 entry. Ther has been a subsequent Report in October 2010.

You will be able to find both full Adjudicators decisions on this page.

The well publicised problems of admission to West Kent grammar schools, whereby local children are disenfranchised by high scoring boys who live outside the local area, will continue following an unsuccessful complaint by a parent to the School Adjudicator. This follows changes in the School Admissions Code of Practice that allow individual parents to challenge the legality of Admission rules.

The Skinners School, Tunbridge Wells and The Judd School, Tonbridge, both controlled by the London Skinner’s Company, will continue to recruit very high scorers from across the region at the expense of local children. The problem is of course exacerbated by the high proportion of children now being coached at private schools for these two schools and Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls.

Sadly, Skinners School on its website abdicates responsibility for the problems it is causing by wrongly laying responsibility on Kent County Council to sort the problem although KCC has no powers to do so. Interestingly, given KCC’s own professed criticism of super selection at the expense of local children, the Adjudicator’s report suggests that the KCC challenge to the schools through this investigation appears very mild indeed.

The adjudicator supports the two schools’ argument that if he was to force them to recruit locally this would have the effect of increasing house prices in their vicinity but, along with KCC, completely ignores effects such as happened this year when West Kent boys were offered school places as far away as Folkestone and Sittingbourne.

Meanwhile, Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys put up a fierce defence to the Independent Schools Appeals Panel that it could not cope with the admission of additional boys, as it is already heavily overcrowded, has no way of increasing the size of its buildings or facilities and there are serious health and safety issues. The Appeal Panel has to balance the competing needs of those boys already admitted to the school and those who had no suitable school to go to, coming down on behalf of appellants by admitting a further 32 boys nearly all of whom were grammar school qualified. This will produce immense pressures on the school and may well have serious effects on the quality of education it provides.

It is no coincidence that in March the two grammar schools offered 33 places to boys living in East Sussex, almost the same number as boys in the selective area of West Kent offered places in Folkestone or Sittingbourne.

A reading of the brief history of the two schools on The Skinners School website shows how both were founded to provide the needs of local children. If they were to give priority to boys in the selective area of West Kent (Judd was doing this in 2002, until it needed to compete with Skinners) the problem would go away. Sadly, the Skinners Foundation appears to have lost its way from these high founding ideals, and has no interest in the problems it causes to other local schools as it chases its preoccupation with achieving high places in government league tables.

The problem is starkly demonstrated in North West Kent by the decision of Dartford Grammar School to offer half its places to high scorers, attracting boys from as far away as Lewisham. As a consequence of the school turning away North West Kent children, Wilmington Boys Grammar finished up with 108 appeals (seven successful) and Gravesend Grammar turned away boys in its own locality as the number going to Dartford also fell away.

It really is not difficult to devise oversubscription criteria to give priority to local boys living in Kent. By refusing to do so, these schools make a clear statement about their priorities and Kent children who have worked hard for grammar school places are denied them!
Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:25

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