It was in 1968 that a number of Kent grammar schools changed their age of admission from 11 to 13, recruiting primarily from local non selective schools who became comprehensive up to the age of 13. They were modelled on the schools at Gravesend, who adopted this system as a means of increasing the number of grammar school places, at a time of financial stringency, without needing a new school - does sound rather familiar. This structure, called the Thames-side system after the location of Gravesend, was subsequently found to fit the then Labour government's comprehensive model, and so other Kent grammar schools adopted the system, putting off enforced comprehensive education for the county. These were the grammar schools in Ashford, Cranbrook, Gravesend, Maidstone, Northfleet and Sittingbourne, In the 1990s they all reverted to selection at 11, except for Cranbrook, which was by then accepting the majority of its day children (it also has a boarding house), from four local private schools teaching children up to the age of 13, and who prepare children for the Cranbrook entrance exams so almost becoming feeder schools: thus Cranbrook was under no pressure to change.
These days, almost no children transfer to Cranbrook from the technical feeder school, Angley School, and clients of mine have found difficulty in enlisting cooperation from Angley to transfer, in spite of its technical link. As a result, and given that Angley School has only recently emerged from 'Notice to Improve', many local children seek admission to grammar schools in West Kent and Maidstone at age 11 as an alternative, becoming lost to their local grammar school.
This is therefore an excellent proposal, surely welcome to all except the private schools, which will ensure that local grammar school children are more likely to stay local than travel long distances daily to schools appropriate to their ability. Incidentally, it will remove part of the pressure at the West Kent super-selective schools. The process extends over two years as, for 2014 and 2015 there need to be an intake at both age 11 and 13, in order to ensure continuity for all age groups. I know from personal experience that this does create an unusual balance in the school, but no one admitted is the worse for it.
I write as the ex-headteacher of another Thames-side grammar school, where we had to fight hard to get selection at eleven in 1991 as other neighbouring grammar schools, recruiting at age 11, were by then taking many of our potential students and the school was at risk of closure. The fight for survival we see in many parts of the county is nothing new! As an aside, we lost what was then a two and a quarter million pound extension to cater for the additional demand as KCC forgot to sign the borrowing agreement. The sudden loss of BSF projects planned over several years is again - nothing new!