Two groups are trying to make political capital out of these figures, the anti grammar school movement arguing that local schools should be for local children, and I agree it is a nonsense that 79 children from Bromley, 34 children from Greenwich and 21 from Lewisham should take up places in Kent grammar schools, many at the expense of local children, let alone the odd ones from Southwark and Thurrock. However, this intake is totally in the control of the relevant schools most of whom who set their admission criteria to capture the highest scorers in the Kent Test, rather than give priority to local children. One wonders how many of these out of county children will actually take up their places come September. The 79 Bexley children taking up places in Kent grammar schools, are partially balanced by 15 Kent children going into Bexley grammar schools.
On the other hand a pro grammar school group argues that these figures show the need for more grammar schools in the County, although why it should be Kent's responsibility to educate children from across the South East of England (as far away as the six children from West Sussex) I don't understand. What I do deplore is the environment this creates where parents of children around the M25 ring submit their poor children to up to eight grammar school selection tests, from Bexley, Bromley, Sutton, and Kingston, round to Slough, Enfield, Redbridge, Kent and Medway. Even today, one parent is complaining that her child can’t take the Kent test as it clashes with an eleven plus test for another grammar school in an area which is a higher priority for her! This is the real story!
So where is the shortage of grammar school places? I have already shown that the proposed annexe in Sevenoaks may not be viable in its present form, although there will probably be another crisis in boys' places in West Kent for 2013, with Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar surely unable to repeat the offer to admit an additional form of entry on appeal. This problem is precisely caused by the admission by Judd and Skinners Schools of 20% of their intake from out of county. The increase of 25 girls in places at Weald of Kent Grammar to 175 from 2013, should ensure no further problems with girls' places in West Kent for the next few years. NW Kent has also been sorted for 2012 with an additional form of entry at Wilmington Boys Grammar School following appeals (unlikely to be repeated; there were just 2 successful appeals in 2011) and Gravesend Grammar School, although again, this problem will return, precisely because of the influx of London children into Dartford and Wilmington Grammar Schools.
In passing, whilst a total of 560 out of county children took up places in Kent schools altogether, 443 Kent children were offered places in other authorities, of whom 128 took up grammar school places in Bexley, Bromley and Medway!
Above all, one cannot assume that those out of county children qualified for grammar school in Kent, but not not offered places actually wanted them. Many are multiple applications across the whole swathe of grammar schools in the SE and are now happily destined to go elsewhere or to private schools.
Recent KCC figures show that the number of out of county children offered places in Kent grammar schools has now risen to 300, predominantly as a result of appeals. This is probably proportionate to the increase in other successful appeals from in county children and so does not change the overall picture.
In short, there is no simplistic story here and, as in most education place discussions, the reality is immensely more complicated. Read this website to understand what is happening!