Super Selective and out of County
All three West Kent 'super-selectives' have seen their popularity increase, as shown by the inexorable rise in their required scores in the Kent Test. The Judd School and The Skinners School both select the highest scorers without regard to residence, except if there is a tie, when distance is taken into account. The Judd School is now recruiting at scores of 418 or above (highest score possible 420, Kent pass aggregate 360), although some boys with 418 have missed out, living too far away. After a dip last year, The Skinners School cut off has shot back up to 414. Tonbridge Grammar School (girls) awards 115 places to highest scorers within the Kent selective areas, and draws in another set of 35 high scorers from outside this area. Cut off for inners has risen to 413, with outers at 414. The increases will be partly due to a rise in successful out of county applicants, putting additional pressure on other local grammar schools (see below). The other two grammar schools that select wholly on high scores are in Medway (although pressure here is far less): Rochester Grammar School (girls) at least 515 (pass mark is 505 in Medway on a different scheme to that of Kent); I haven't yet heard about Rainham Mark Grammar School, but suspect it is not far above the pass mark.
There is a serious problem with grammar school provision in West Kent, the problem for boys stretching north from North Sevenoaks. The pressure to absorb all boys who have not qualified or not chosen the super-selectives falls on Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. This gives priority to boys in the defined selective area around Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, living closest to the school. This year, the circle has shrunk to 8.78 miles from the school, with no children (except siblings) being offered places outside this area. This cuts out North Sevenoaks and Riverhead, together with the villages further north. For girls it is the Tunbridge Wells area, with girls in Pembury missing out on a grammar school place. Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School has seen its catchment area shrink to just 1.75 miles this year, within the selective area, the 14 Governor places going to girls who have scored a massive 418 or above (12 or them have 420!). Fortunately for many, Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge appears able to offer places to all girls in the northern part of the district. KCC has sought to ease the pressures by agreeing with the Knole Academy to take in an additional form of entry, which is being marketed as a grammar stream, and many of those grammar qualified children without places have been allocated there. Of course all this puts more pressure on the campaign for a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks.
North West Kent
Dartford Grammar School gives priority to boys living in the town, but then offers highest scorers, no matter where they live. It is particularly attractive to boys living in SE London, as there is a direct rail line and its popularity increases from this region year on year, the cut off for 2012 being a record 414 (but I believe it will continue to rise in future years). Wilmington Boys Grammar School awards 10% of its places (12 students) to the highest scorers, no matter where they live, the cut off this year rising to an unprecedented 414. The remaining places are offered on distance grounds. and this has shrunk to just 5.45 miles. Last year, they had just 2 successful appeals out of 65 (including one of mine!). Dartford Girls has seen a bigger take up of local girls who have priority than in previous years. Any vacancies afterwards go to high scorers, usually about 15% of the total, but this year no one outside the area was offered a place and several within who have lost out on distance grounds (its good to see places in Kent schools going to Kent children when there is pressure, although one feels sorry for those living in prescribed parishes who have still lost out). Over at Gravesend Grammar, the oversubscription has seen their catchment shrink even further, with some boys in Hartley and New Ash Green missing out. As a result of all this there is a considerable number of boys who passed the Kent Test, with no place to go to.
The two non-selective schools in Dartford and the nearby Longfield Academy are all run by the same Academy Trust and are all oversubscribed. In my experience appeals were very difficult to win at Leigh and Longfield, and I suspect will be the same at Wilmington. One other non-selective in the area is Swan Valley in Swanscombe, which has had a troubled past, has had many of the above children allocated to it, and still has vacancies. It is clearly a good time for the Orchards Academy, Swanley (also with vacancies), to publish a very positive OFSTED Report, showing it to be a good school, although enquirers have been told it is not yet geared up for a grammar stream.
Highworth Grammar School (Girls) currrently has 37 vacancies.
Simon Langton Boys Grammar is going 'semi-super selective' next year, arguing that the ablest boys are being deprived of places there because of its current admission on distance grounds. In fact, whereas Herne Bay was one area cut out in previous years, boys from that area have (all?) been offered places, making the new scheme possibly of doubtful value. Barton Court Grammar School website confirms the school has vacancies and advises how to apply if you did not put it on your SCAF.
Iit is becoming increasingly obvious that Maidstone Grammar Girls is heavily oversubscribed this year, and girls living in villages that would have seen them get in for 2011 are losing out. I am still awaiting oversubscription figures. Have not heard of difficulty with Invicta. Amazingly, Oakwood Grammar School (boys), which had an Outstanding rating from OFSTED earlier in the year, initially had local vacancies, but was allocated boys displaced from the Sevenoaks area, some of whom will vanish through appeals elsewhere. Have as yet no information about Maidstone Grammar, whose new head, Mark Tomkins - currently Deputy Head at The Judd School, begins in September after a very short tenure by his predecessor.
There is an increasing polarisation amongst Medway's non-selective schools, the problems at Bishop of Rochester Academy being well documented, putting pressure on the most popular, Brompton Academy, which is heavily oversubscribed. Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School is, as usual heavily oversubscribed - furthest distance 6626 metres, but there are spaces at both the Chatham grammar schools as falling rolls continue to have an effect on schools.
TO BE CONTINUED