The Judd School in Tonbridge has published its proposed admission arrangements for 2016 entry, containing three important decisions by Governors that will have a considerable impact not only on the school itself, but also on grammar school admissions across the area.
You will find the details here. The proposals are:
1) To increase the intake by 30 places to 155, consolidating the temporary increases of the past two years, and also presumably for 2015 entry. This has been done at the request of KCC, which will then provide substantial capital investment to support the expansion.
2)To ensure the increase caters for the current pressure on places from Kent boys, by creating two separate catchments one primarily from West Kent admitting 140 boys, the second from the remainder of the United Kingdom, admitting 15 boys. The academic criterion in each case would be high scorers in the Kent Test. The proposal includes a clear map of West Kent showing the division.
3)As I prophesied some time ago, The Judd is proposing to abandon its plans to set its own test, the new Kent Test meeting the criteria it lay down.
My own view is that I am delighted with all three proposals. They serve both the needs of the grammar school population of West Kent and, by keeping the testing procedures in line with the rest of Kent, slow down any further splintering of the Kent Test, making life much easier for children looking to apply for several Kent grammar schools. May I encourage parents to support all three.
I consider the proposals in more detail below………
Increase in intake to 155.
The Judd has previously been asked by KCC to admit an extra 30 boys for each of 2013 and 2014 entry, and now presumably also for 2015, to ease the pressure on grammar school places in the District. Whilst this pressure has fluctuated over the past few years with the real impact being felt at Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar, the trend is ever upwards and KCC had hoped to resolve it with the Sevenoaks Grammar Annex. This now looks increasingly likely to come into being, but for girls only so, unless the Conservatives are in power after the next General Election when it could become co-educational and stand-alone, there is no way out here.
KCC is having to provide substantial capital investment to secure the permanent expansion, so The Judd and its students benefit from the expansion, as distinct from some other schools that have had to finance growth themselves.
Skinners' has also admitted an additional form of entry for the past two years, and has now made its admission number of 150 permanent. Skinners' is an academy, so similar capital funding would need to come direct from government especially as, with the school's large intake from nearby East Sussex, they are unlikely to agree to a similar geographical priority.
Decision to admit on a geographical basis
For 2014 admissions, 36 out of county boys were offered places on 1st March, nearly all from Bromley (12), East Sussex (10), and Surrey (8), although not all may have taken these places up. Three years ago, 41 grammar assessed first choices were rejected from Tunbridge Wells Boys’ Grammar, with around another 50 who had put Judd or Skinners first and been unsuccessful, the subsequent temporary expansions at Judd and Skinners has eased this pressure for the time being. The school’s consultation document implicitly confirms the increase in out of county students in the past two years in referring to a maximum of 20 pre-September 2013. It currently has no control over this figure because there is currently no residential qualification. Kent County Council remains a selective authority, which has had to renege on its previous commitment to offer all grammar assessed children resident in the county a grammar school place, partly because of pressure of numbers from outside Kent. This proposal supports grammar assessed Kent boys, whilst still taking some of the top scorers from other Local Authorities that have different arrangements for their young people’s education.
The proposal is for an inner and an outer catchment, admitting the top 140 and top 15 high scorers respectively. The proposal explains in detail the difficulties the school has had drawing up an inner area, and has settled on post-codes, reflecting in the main the traditional selective areas of West Kent. However, it has also been very sensitive to local issues, for example taking in the whole of Groombridge which is split by the Kent/East Sussex boundary, and specifying the parish of Halstead, lying predominantly in a Bromley postcode. In addition, Governors consider that lengthy journeys to school are not to be recommended, and see their proposals as supporting this criterion, going so far as to provide a spur based on the easy rail journey towards Ashford (but not as far as Headcorn), another nice touch. Clearly potential parents are going to respond to this aspect of the Consultation according to how their place of residence fits into the plan, but I hope Governors are not deflected from their purpose by any out of county lobby.
Boys in the North Sevenoaks District have been most at risk of no grammar school place in the past, so these proposals will certainly ease their situation, accompanied by a parallel sharp change in the criteria for Wilmington Grammar Boys to the north, which has also swung towards a priority for Kent boys, from 2015 onward.
The school set out its concerns relating to the previous version of the Kent Test, when proposing to break away for 2016 entry. These related to the lack of an English element and of sufficient differentiation amongst high scorers. Both of these issues have been fully met, the school’s views clearly influencing the composition of the new test. They are clearly happy with regard to the Kent Test outcomes, so removing the need for an alternative test. Kent parents and especially candidates should be delighted they do not need to take multiple tests to secure a Kent grammar school place. It should be noted that there is still no clear indication of a cut off score in the Kent Test for admission in 2015, although I would put a small amount of money on it being around 360.
Both Judd and Skinners use the same Independent Appeal Panel company, whose outcomes over the past two years show the two schools are each most unlikely to see more than five successful admission appeals per year. If everyone turns up in September this would provide class sizes of 31 for Skinners and 32 for Judd, a defensible position for both schools when arguing against additional admissions at appeal.
I have one serious reservation about the proposal which may not have been considered by governors because of their previous arrangements. Each year I come across too many cases of parents bending residential rules or using fraud to secure admission to their preferred school. There are many examples of schools across the country that have faced up to this problem and it is a major regret of mine that I have been unable to persuade KCC to face up to do the same. It is highly likely that the Inner area will command a lower cut off score than the Outer, and so I see the problem occurring for the first time at The Judd. It is not too late to address it.
Sixth Form Admissions
The school has also made two interesting changes to its requirement for Sixth Form admission. A minimum standard of 65 points across the 10 best GCSEs (10 points for A* grade, 9 for A, 8 for B……) will be required for 2016 entry, rising from 60 currently, reflecting increasing proportions of the highest grades achieved. The school has a current target from its current four forms each year working through the school of 180 students (including a minimum of 70 offers to external students), and where there is oversubscription, to be selected according to the number of highest grades.
However, also of note is the reduction of an additional requirement for English Language and mathematics GCSE from Grade B to Grade C. I am not sure of the purpose of this, the school having expressed its concerns about the standard of English of its students. However, it may be to ensure that boys (and girls) who have an exceptional talent in one area of the curriculum are not lost to the school. I write as one who, half a century ago, received a special dispensation from Ashford Grammar School, in allowing me to follow a sixth form course comprising three mathematics A Levels only, although such a narrow curriculum is certainly not possible in these enlightened times!