Kent grammar school expansion is all about supporting the wealthiest schools

Damian Hinds
Damian Hinds

There are at least six Kent grammar schools applying for a share of the Selective School Expansion Fund. But there’s a weird side effect of the funding, and it proves Damian Hinds and the DfE don’t understand selective education at all.

There’s a correlation between 11-plus test passes and wealth. So in Kent, with one test for a whole county, poorer areas don’t get so many test passes.

kenttest variation

This table shows that in wealthy Tunbridge Wells 54% of the children pass the 11-plus, while in poorer Shepway the pass rate is only 27%. Kent’s 32 grammar schools are fairly evenly spread around the county, but low numbers of  pupils passing in poorer places like Sittingbourne, Ramsgate, Folkestone, and Dover means few children eligible for grammar schools, and many grammars are undersubscribed.

It’s a little-known fact that many Kent grammar schools fill up their places though 20-30 appeals each year, taking children without 11-plus passes to make sure they have no empty desks. They turn quite comprehensive when no one’s looking!

But it’s a requirement of the new grammar school expansion funding that the schools prove they are oversubscribed. So the most likely Kent grammar schools to expand are the ones serving wealthy communities, plus the oversubscribed Dartford grammar schools that dubiously ship in loads of kids from London. These grammar schools are likely to be schools  with the lowest proportions of disadvantaged pupils.

The six Kent grammars applying for the Selective School Expansion are as follows, with their proportion of Free School Meals eligible pupils listed.

Wilmington grammar school for girls 3.5% FSM
Highworth grammar school 3.2% FSM
Tunbridge Wells grammar school for boys 3% FSM
Wilmington grammar school for boys 2.9% FSM
Cranbrook School 1.5% FSM
Skinners School 0.9% FSM

The average proportion of FSM pupils in Kent secondary schools is 10.3%.  It feels like Damian Hinds is giving  his £50 million to the wealthiest areas, and the Kent grammar schools with the lowest proportions of disadvantaged pupils.

Maybe if they try really hard these schools can double their disadvantaged pupils to 3 or 5%? Most likely they’ll just admit  some more middle-class pupils who can afford Kent Test tutors or to attend Tunbridge Wells’prep schools. Meanwhile the deprived bits of Kent have little chance of getting money for fancy new school buildings.

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