A Kent newspaper recently published a story about 61 children who passed the ‘Kent Test’ (local 11-plus test) not being given a grammar school place. Kent County Council knows how many grammar school places are available, they set the test pass mark with this in mind so those who pass will generally achieve a place. However, local factors sometimes mean children who pass are assigned a non-selective school place.

In this case these pupils in the Dartford, Gravesham and Sevenoaks area were given a non-selective school place, with a significant factor being local grammars selecting pupils from out of the area. Two grammar schools in Dartford deliberately prioritise nearly half of their places for high scoring children who are mostly based outside the county. This means 174 places were offered to out of county children, including 47 from as far away as Geeenwich and Lewisham.  This is part of the reason these local pupils had no selective place.

The issue of 61 pupils not securing their first choice of school would not be a story in most places. But in selective Kent it has led Kent County Council (KCC) to explore the possibility of opening a ‘satellite’ grammar school. New grammar schools are forbidden by law, but a legal loophole means an existing grammar school can build a satellite ‘extension’ miles from the school. Two of these ‘satellite’ grammars were built in Sevenoaks.  The news report says, the council is, “Seeking to commission a further 180 additional grammar places in this area for 2026…KCC says it is working with two established grammar schools on a “satellite” solution in areas such as Sevenoaks to free up teaching space for additional places.”

The comments on this article reveal that on the whole the Kent public do not share KCC’s believe that every child who passes the test ‘needs’ a grammar school place.  The article told the story of one disappointed boy who had passed the test but been allocated a local non-selective school. Many commentators pointed out that this boy was highly likely to succeed just as well in a local high school. Indeed research bears out this point. 

Here are some of the comments from the article.

Parents should realise what makes any school “excellent/desirable” is the staff at any given time. Many moons ago I went to a state school and I haven’t done too badly in life. In more recent times both my sons went to state schools, one has a masters degree and has a teaching qualification. Neither attended a grammar school to make something of our lives.

Grammars in Kent pervert the whole system. Sweep them away and there is no issue or scandal to speak of. And standards would improve across the board as they have in other non selective LEAs.

You don’t need a grammar school education to succeed academically. I got an academic scholarship to study at Trinity College Cambridge, and another to do a PhD at Oxford, all from a comprehensive school.

People are so invested in this snobbery of school that they don’t understand if your kid is one who will study and do well it does not matter what school they go to.

The issue here is of course the very existence of grammars themselves. If Kent had rid itself of these relics of the past there would be no problem and as a further benefit Kent would do much better in raising standards for everyone.

So many kids do really well in the right state schools when they are high flyers like this lad.

So he won’t reach his potential at a High School? Hmmm! This thinking is so annoying and totally misguided. The parents remind me do much of those parents in my children’s Primary School. The 11+ discussions starting in the playground in Reception year. Hundreds of pounds spent on tutoring to ensure the children got into Grammar School. If this boy has so much potential he will fly high wherever he goes. The assumption that success can only be achieved through Grammar is tosh! And as for being ‘a fish out of water,’ maybe allowing him a more rounded experience of life, rather than one of single-minded privilege, would prepare him for the real world?

All you really need is decent schools, not private and selective schools. If the lad is bright he’ll excel at any school. No need for this obsession with parents having kids commute miles for a perceived better education.

None of my children attended Grammar schools and all are graduates, with one currently studying for a masters. They all enjoyed comprehensive education, suffering none of the bias and stress their friends were subject to at Grammars.

KCC are talking of expanding grammar school places, as if it’s the only option. Not only that, they’re talking about building  legally dubious, ‘satellite’ grammar schools.  The problem is that they can not, as a council who fund and operate an 11-plus test, say that a division of pupils between two school types is meaningless. They can not point out that Kent’s high attaining children will still thrive in non-selective schools. They can not make this point even though they must know it to be fact. So instead they are backed into the corner and will look to expand grammar places. If only they would listen to public opinion and realise that plenty of Kent citizens believe there is no need for a selective school system at all.