100 Tory MPs back scrapping the ban on new grammar schools – KEN’s response

convoiceThe Telegraph recently reported that Conservative Voice, a Tory activist group, will formally  campaign to allow new grammar schools. This open letter is a response to their campaign.

Dear Conservative Voice,

The Kent Education Network is a community campaign group seeking to end the divisive eleven plus system in our county. On hearing the news that you wish to change the law and bring back grammar schools we wanted to point out the problems of academic selection in Kent.

Kent is a fully selective county, with more than 15,000 ten year olds judged by the eleven plus every year. Around 33,000 children attend Kent grammar schools while 86,000 children attend ‘high schools.’ High schools are not comprehensive schools as you would find in other areas, they do not teach pupils of all abilities, they are effectively secondary modern schools. Just 2,000 disadvantaged children gain places in Kent selective schools while more than 23,000 disadvantaged pupils attend the high schools. Kent County Council recently commissioned a committee to look at the problems of social mobility in grammar schools. We find it odd that your group wishes to expand this form of schooling when the largest selective local authority admits grammar schools are rarely an option for disadvantaged children. We don’t know of any other council that needs to review social mobility problems caused by its own school admission policy.

There seems to be no research, and no evidence, involved in your wish to expand grammar schools. We would invite MPs who support this campaign to visit Kent to see for themselves how a two tier education system really works. We would point out the advertising on local buses promoting prep schools by boasting of 93% eleven plus pass rates. We would suggest a trip to a Saturday morning eleven-plus tutoring centre, to understand that paying for coaching is commonplace. We would like MPs to tour one of our many ‘inadequate’ secondary moderns, with limited academic subjects offered at sixth form, and teacher recruitment problems caused by teachers choosing to teach at grammar schools.

We would suggest MPs talk to Kent primary school heads and ask them how accurate they think the eleven plus is at judging our children. We would suggest MPs seek the views of parents of dyslexic children, or children for whom English is not a first language, who believe children have less chance of an eleven plus pass. We would advise MPs to speak to Kent County Council, to query how fair the system is when an appeals process gives 7% of grammar school places to children who do not even reach the pass mark. We would ask MPs to meet one of our county’s school appeals advisors, to find out about their £1,000 fee for representing a child in their grammar school appeal case. We would suggest MPs talk to Kent children, too. Our children learn perfectly well in mixed ability primary schools, but then they are told they must be taught in separate buildings for secondary school.

Any call for more grammar schools should be backed up with facts, not nostalgia that grammars were a good thing, or, “I went to one, it worked for me.” Kent, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire all operate an eleven plus system, and show worse results for disadvantaged children, and no clear results advantage overall.

The recent White Paper promised the government would hold schools to account for ensuring each child reaches their full potential. We support this aim. There is rigorous testing in schools already, so an eleven-plus is unnecessary. If any school is fails to educate their most able children to their full potential then the problem lies with the individual school, not the system of education.

In Kent children’s potential is too often wasted because we assume a a two hour multiple choice test is an accurate judge of our county’s ten year olds. Department for Education statistics show there are more bright disadvantaged children in Kent high schools than there are in Kent grammar schools, yet one in four of those high schools is rated by Ofsted as requires improvement on inadequate.

Perhaps the 100 MPs who support grammar schools would like to undertake one final research task? They could each take an eleven plus test and let us know their scores. The 28 with the highest points could sit in a different building from the rest, and the lower scoring 72 might learn how it feels to be judged lesser than their peers. They might even wonder if it’s right that their worth is based on a number, a simple statistic, that takes no account of hard work, interests, ambition or any character strengths that make us who we are, and influence learning too.

Kent is stuck with the awful eleven plus, but we hope no more children will ever be subjected to this old fashioned, unscientific judgement. Dividing children with a test is no way to create ‘one nation Britain’ it creates a rift in our schools. It’s a backward step that aims to please parents but unthinkingly harms children.


Joanne Bartley, KEN chair
Dr.Michael Collins, Lecturer University of Kent, education researcher
Alan Bainbridge, Senior Lecturer, School of Childhood and Education Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University
Jim Parish, grandad, KEN press officer
Amy Haslam, 16, high school pupil
with the support of KEN members.

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KEN’s submission to the Kent County Council commission on social mobility in grammar schools

By Dr. Michael Collins

Last February, we, the Kent Education Network (a cross-party, voluntary think-tank of Kent parents, teachers and academics opposed to selective education), were invited to submit evidence to KCC’s investigation into Social Mobility and Grammar Schools. The evidence report was authored by Joanne Bartley (mother and education activist), Dr. Alan Bainbridge (Senior Lecturer at CCCU), Pippa Doran (retired local authority officer) and myself (a parent and Lecturer at The University of Kent). It was 24 pages long and can be read on our website.

Drawing on cutting-edge scientific, social-scientific, and policy studies, and quoting a body of evidence from over 50 years of educational and demographic research, it systematically illustrated the failure of 11+ selection to provide any meaningful, positive impact on social mobility. The Kent Test is a hybrid of IQ testing methods – based on the Stanford-Binet model – and subject-specific knowledge that overwhelming benefits middle-class children and those who undertake the now-systemic practice of tutoring.

In our report we demonstrated that such testing methods are pedagogically, politically, economically and developmentally nonsensical and have not, since their implementation by the 1944 Butler Act, produced significant levels of social mobility. Most counties in England, and countries in Europe, have long rejected this selection model as a discriminatory form of social engineering. Many of our failing schools do so because they compete with grammar schools. This reduces the average success of students in Kent.

If Britain is to compete educationally and economically with the rest of the world, we must join the 21st century by ending this horrid regime of biological selection based on an arbitrary designation of a person’s “intelligence” at 11. We offered KCC 10 suggestions for possible improvements to the secondary admissions system that would aid social mobility. None of these suggestions were considered or responded to in any meaningful way in the subsequent KCC report.

The admission of the need for the Kent County Council Select Committee on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility in our current moment points to the escalating problem of failing social mobility through grammars. KCC’s own statistics show that 27% of the pupils in non-selective schools are from disadvantaged backgrounds, versus 6% in grammars. This is based on grammars constituting a third of all secondary schools in the county, and the Kent Test itself being designed to admit an equivalent number of the total population. 57% of the children from disadvantaged backgrounds that achieve the highest scores in the SATs do not pass the Kent Test. 79% of advantaged children with high SAT scores do. The KCC report admits that access to grammar schools is at least in part related to the income of a child’s parents.

We believe that the reason for the failure of grammar schools to produce social mobility is the Kent Test itself. The commission’s report fails utterly to address this basic fact. Given the increasing academisation of schools, and the diminished role played by local government in shaping school policy, the absence of any consideration of the failings of the Kent Test by the commission is doubly absurd. KCC’s responsibilities for schooling extend to admissions policy. One of the only remaining powers our elected officials have over education is the power to abolish the Kent Test. The failure to consider this possibility in their proposals amounts to an acceptance of the increasing powerlessness of our LEA over education and an unwillingness to develop policies that truly benefit the poorest in our society.

Grammar selection is socially divisive, has historically created no significant upward social mobility, exposes children to unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, and redirects significant teaching and economic resources away from those most in need. Grammar schooling is effectively a state benefit with an entry system that results in that benefit being most-often handed out to those who are already socially and economically secure. It is still within our power to oppose this injustice.

We ask that readers help us put pressure on KCC to consider the abolition of the Kent Test. Our children are already tested relentlessly. Why burden them with another test that produces no socially-beneficial outcomes and disadvantages able people who already labour at a disadvantage?


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On the history of “IQ” and aptitude testing – with specific relation to the Kent Test

By Dr. Michael Collins, University of Kent

1          Background to establishment of Tripartite System

1.1. Following the conclusions of the Butler report, the subsequent 1944 Education Act established a Tripartite model of education in Britain, with secondary-level schooling divided into grammar, secondary- modern and technical strata. According to the Act these schools were designed in response to the needs of an increasingly diverse British workforce to be separate but equal, teaching curricula specific to the “aptitudes” of each child. Pragmatism dictated that schooling would be divided between primary and secondary at 11, despite no compelling scientific evidence for the choice of this age rather than any other. Unsurprisingly, however, measuring these “aptitudes” was a difficult task. In 1944 neither psychometric testing according to the Stanford- Binet intelligence quotient (IQ), nor curriculum-specific, knowledge- based tests were understood to be wholly acceptable and infallible models of selection. Nonetheless, the 11+ was established as the standard model of educational selection until the late 1970s, when the rise of comprehensive schooling models began to challenge the older “ability” tiers of the Tripartite System in Britain.

1.2 In Kent, grammar schools remain a major element of the educational landscape. In response to Kent County Council Select Committee on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility’s request for responses to their inquiry into getting higher numbers of children on FSM into selective schools I wish to offer the following history of the 11+ plus test, its aims, objectives and outcomes in the hope that the KCC will seriously consider the implications of selective testing at 11. Towards the end I offer some suggestions about how social mobility might be better served. In this paper, I would like to show with specific reference to the Kent Test how the assumption underpinning this model of assessment – that the measurement of “ability” or “intelligence” at 11 is possible and desirable – is a fundamental fallacy that represents an outmoded inheritance from an earlier model of science that has been largely debunked. To do this I will focus on two key areas:

  1. The history of the 11+ and its relation to debates about fixed “intelligence”;
  2. The role of such a measure in the age of a national, as opposed to differentiated, curriculum.

2         The idea of “intelligence”

2.1 To explain why measurement proved so difficult in the early years of the

11+, we must look deeper into the origins of the idea of “intelligence” as a fixed, reified entity. By the late 1910s tests designed by Alfred Binet for the purposes of locating what the influential psychologist and U.S. school reformer Henry Goddard called “feeble- mindedness” in discrete populations (ostensibly for the purposes of specialised local education policies for those with learning difficulties) had been fused with Francis Galton and James McKeen Cattell’s eugenical studies into “hereditary genius” and applied to increasingly large data sets. The rise of demographic studies that allowed for the collection of such data was made possible by the mass- mobilisations of troops during the First World War in Europe and America, but was extended in the post-war era through the consolidation of the welfare state from the 1940s. The Stanford-Binet intelligence test designed by Lewis Terman is the most famous model of this synthesis of disparate areas of inquiry.

2.2. The first IQ tests were measures of neural dexterity (Cattell’s tests were of speed of comprehension), but, throughout the 1910s, the tests became synonymous with academic potential. However, these are fundamentally different measures, as was frequently pointed out and can be seen in public debates in the 1914 issues of Science between Dr. David Heron and Dr. Charles Davenport. The effect of this synthesis of studies in mental disability with studies of “hereditary genius” was the production of a standard-deviation model of intelligence in a population, which seemed to suggest that individuals had fixed “intelligence” and such abilities conformed to a standard bell-curve distribution through a population. However, as Lelia Zenderland has shown in Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing, the precise nature of this “intelligence” was the subject of serious debate.

2.3. Since the beginning of intelligence testing in the late nineteenth century scientists have continually questioned whether IQ tests actually measured “intelligence” (a quasi-mystical “state of nature” that could express itself free from an individual’s social milieu and training) or “scholastic ability” (a measure that would comprise such things and be derived largely from their impacts). Indeed, in the social sciences, hard sciences and humanities, debate continues as to whether something called “intelligence” (free from upbringing, social context and training) is a real, material and measurable entity. Major psychologists and evolutionary biologists working in the last 30 years, such as Stephen Jay Gould, have questioned the validity of the data around innate human intelligence and demonstrated that it has often been misinterpreted for political aims throughout its history (see Gould, The Mismeasure of Man). This has led to a state where, according to a 2012 longitudinal study of IQ in Britain after the 1944 Butler Report and Education Act, “Schooling in Adolescence raises IQ scores”, which was published in the National Academy of Sciences of America and verified by Harvard University, it is possible to state with some confidence that “a growing consensus points to the major role that early childhood environment and interventions play in the development of economically and socially relevant cognitive skills…” (Brinch and Galloway, 425).

2.4 Furthermore, it is also now possible to argue that “education occurring even as late as in the middle teenage years can indeed have a statistically significant effect on IQ scores” (425), questioning the assumption that any model of academic ability or intelligence is fixed at 11. What current academic studies show with reference to a considerable body of research in the years since the Butler Act is that the “intelligence” is neither fixed at 11 nor universally measurable in a manner that is free from education, parental support, financial background and other factors etc. even through to the middle teenage years and beyond.

2.5 This is not a new story. As early as the 1910s, scientists were unsure that “intelligence” was a historical absolute that was measured simply by a test. By the 1950s heyday of the 11+ it was even less certain. A 1954 study conducted by Alice Heim and published by the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales, The Appraisal of Intelligence, concluded that social class and upbringing shaped significantly the potential likelihood of an individual achieving a high IQ score. It was well documented in the middle decades of the twentieth century that IQ and knowledge-based testing at 11 discriminated against those in the lowest socioeconomic brackets, while actively benefitting middle-class children. Nonetheless, the 11+ continued to be administered in Kent, maintaining the fallacy that policy was built on a certainty. As a 2012 study by Hart, Moro and Roberts at The University of Stirling notes of the 1950s and 1960s:

a view emerged that the nature of IQ testing under the 11 plus exam was itself not independent of family circumstances. Criticisms of the methods of measuring intelligence began to emerge… with sociologists pointing out ‘the influence of intelligence tests in discriminating against working-class children at eleven-plus’ (Simon and Rubinstein, 1969) (10)

2.6 Indeed, the lack of firm scientific evidence of fixed human intelligence was considered when the 11+ was first implemented in Britain, but governmental will to establish an “intelligence”-based model triumphed for reasons of political and economical expediency. The idea that “intelligence” is innate, fixed and real remains a truism – put down to common sense by many – despite overwhelming contemporary evidence to the contrary. Precisely because of the uncertain facticity of “intelligence”, the initial version of the 11+ test was composed of a mixture of Stanford-Binet IQ reasoning tests with scholastic knowledge that was deemed pertinent to the specific curriculum the child would follow in secondary education. The desire to stratify according to labour need trumped the uncertainty of the science on this issue.

2.7 Early formulators of the test included a knowledge-based component in assessment at 11 (grammatical skills, punctuation, knowledge of famous Shakespearean soliloquies) not out of a wish to specifically select middle-class children for grammar schooling, but precisely because IQ was so uncertain a measure that other elements were deemed necessary to justify the test’s assessment. Despite the best intentions of some of the framers, the effect of this fusion of IQ and knowledge-based testing in the model of the 11+ was that the test served to ultimately reinforce existing class hierarchies. Far more than measuring “intelligence”, or being child-centred in its intentions the 11+ test was designed to hierarchically differentiate by labour demand. Hart, Moro and Roberts note that:

Soon after the reforms became operational, evidence emerged that children with middle-class parents performed especially well in the 11 plus exam (see Simon and Rubenstein), Not only did middle-class children appear to have higher probabilities of attending grammar schools compared to their working-class contemporaries but that the also seemed to be better suited to the aims and objectives of grammar school education” (9)

2.8 Some social mobility did occur through grammar schools, a significant boon for those that benefitted, but this was roughly equal to that which had occurred at a national level in the years prior to the implementation of the Tripartite System. Consequently, there was little overall effect to the tests bar a systematisation of resource allocation at a national level. As Hart, Moro and Roberts expressed this:

The biggest gainers from the free education provision were children from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds who gained competitive entry into the grammar school system. These constituted only about 15 per cent of all children attending tripartite schools. A further 20 per cent were from more advantaged backgrounds and a high proportion of these may well have received a grammar school education in the absence of the new education policy. For the large majority of the remainder who were required to attend secondary modern schools, the policy served generally to stifle educational and post- educational development and this in turn was reflected in relatively poor subsequent labour market outcomes” (25)

2.9 Overall, even in the presumed heyday of the Tripartite System in the late-1950s and early 1960s, the percentage of relatively disadvantaged children who attended grammar schools after passing the 11+ was only 15 per cent nationally. This was in spite of the intention that the 11+ test select approximately 30 per cent of the population for grammar schooling. Given the high numbers of families in the working class than the middle class in the immediate post-war era, this is shocking. For working-class and low income families grammar schooling in the middle decades of the 20th century failed to create significant movement into the middle class. Indeed, the unequal provision of resources and teachers in the secondary-modern schools meant that a significant result of the Tripartite System was “relatively poor subsequently labour market outcomes” – in other words, growth and upward social mobility.

2.10 Following these sociological observations, advocates of the 11+ test attempted to modify it to be more IQ-based in the 1960s, responding to criticism that the test was aimed at cultivating what Pierre Bourdieu would call “bourgeois habitus”, the knowledge, culture and habits of being peculiar to middle-class life. These reforms towards an IQ-based test were similarly unsuccessful. By the 1970s it was quite possible to claim that grammar schools had failed to produce social mobility on any significant scale. The problem lay not in the curriculum per se but the assessment that allowed entry to grammars. The 11+ was neither an IQ test in a clear sense, nor a test of knowledge.

2.11 The existence of the Kent County Council Select Committee on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility in our current moment points to a similar pattern of poor social mobility through grammars. KCC’s own statistics show that children on Free School Meals constitute a significantly lower population in grammar schools than in other types of school. The reason for this is the Kent Test itself. Alternatives are not easy for advocates of grammar schools to envisage. A pure IQ test would be discriminatory, since IQ itself is socially conditioned and can (as Brinch and Galloway have shown) be tutored for. A pure knowledge-based test would also benefit only those who can be tutored, have excellent primary schooling, and/or stable, economically secure and supportive family backgrounds. A combination of both IQ and knowledge-bases assessment would serve no clear positive purpose in altering rates of social mobility, since both models benefit the middle-classes unfairly.

2.12 Increasingly, selective grammar schools offer free education of the kind given already by private schools to children whose parents could often afford private schooling or tutoring, while cutting out large percentages of the population from access to equal resources and provisions. The Kent Test allows for the further accumulation of capital in the middle and upper-middle classes off the back of the state, since the cost of schooling is retained by the middle classes and not spent, while resources are placed into high quality schooling of the already wealthy. The evidence of extensive tutoring and the use of private primary schools indicates that middle-class parents are more than willing to pay for their children’s schooling at junior level in order to qualify for free secondary school. In essence this transforms selective schooling into a benefit offered to those who are least in need of that benefit. A government that wishes to cut social welfare provision should think hard about offering that welfare vicariously to the middle classes through educational capital when doing so is clearly prejudicial to those without sufficient social, economic or cultural capital to successfully qualify for support.

2.13 Much evidence now suggests that IQ itself is not a measure free from social environment and training. However, the pattern of static or diminishing social mobility outlined above is powered through the setting of the Kent Test that attempts to evaluate IQ and knowledge simultaneously. Furthermore, neither one’s IQ nor one’s knowledgebase is unaffected by tutoring, background and class. This brings me to my second area of inquiry.

3          The new curriculum

3.1     In our current climate of the national curriculum, the existence of the 11+ no longer indicates a test of a person’s ability within the terms of a specific curriculum (as it did in the days of the Tripartite System), since this curriculum is now universal. Consequently, children who fail the 11+ are not now taking courses that the test would claim are suited to their interests and abilities, but taking the same curriculum as those in grammars, albeit from the perspective of having been told that the cannot excel at it. This de-motivation at 11 could have long-term impacts on the educational attainment of those who are not selected for grammar school by the Kent Test. I would suggest that KCC commission research into the achievements of those who take the Kent Test and are not selected for grammars. Little evidence is extant on these individuals, yet they serve as an important test case for the effects of the Kent Test on social mobility. Given the voluntary nature of the test, the decision to take the Kent Test often registers as a marker of one’s expectation that they will pass it. This suggests that there are two groups within the cohort who take the test, those whose teachers, parents and other individuals have deemed naturally gifted enough to excel, and those that have been tutored. Since we know that tutoring occurs and has a demonstrable impact on the pass rate of the Kent test, KCC should also consider a study of the psychological impacts upon students who pass by tutoring but subsequently struggle in grammar school environments.

3.2 It is notable that the official language testifying to what the Kent Test actually assesses is vague and this is unsurprising given the distinctly political nature of the test and its history of representing a rejection of science in favour of social engineering by labour need. I have outlined this history above and am happy to expand on any further points the Commission may have. What demonstrates the unclear the nature of assessment in the Kent Test is the fact that the official rhetoric of the test has moved away from the IQ-based descriptions of the 1940s/50s/60s, towards a language of “reasoning skills” and “ability in English and maths” (Kent Test Familiarisation

Booklet, GL Assessment, p.3) in recent years. These two forms of assessment are fundamentally different, suggesting that the test is uncertain as to what it means to assess beyond being designed to select 30 per cent of its sitters for the benefits of a vaguely-defined model of schooling. Indeed, far more than this, the recent discourse is based in the neoliberal language of “choice”. This seems to deliberately imply that success in a tutorable, or even an IQ-based assessment, is a matter of preference to the individual when – according to its own logic – it is either a matter of biology or of resources. The familiarisation booklet suggests that the test “assesses whether grammar school is a suitable option for you”. (p. 3). This language obscures two facts: that the Kent Test is clearly tutorable, and that for significant portions of the population it is not an “option” available to them. The assessment model of the Kent Test is a fundamental paradox. Given the disincentivisation to take the test among working-class parents that KCC has already noted, the language of “choice” (“a suitable option for you”) only further serves as a marker for some that the test is not for those in the lower socio-economic brackets. This language of choice and options serves as a rhetorical gatekeeper of middle-class habitus.

3.3. Overall, the Kent Test remains an historical hangover from a period in which the political will to establish Triparite education meant that policy was forced through that was based on dubious, or pseudo-scientific principles.

KCC has a number of options if it wishes to continue to provide selective grammar schools. Firstly, the Kent Test must clarify, rather than obscure, its aims behind the language of choice and options. Is it an IQ test? Is it a knowledge test? What is the purpose for doing both simultaneously? KCC should also seriously consider the recent studies into the fluidity of intelligence, which challenges the underlying logic of grammar selection policies as they currently stand. As I have said above, “intelligence” has never been understood to be unproblematically defined as innate and fixed. This is even more the case than ever.

4           Suggestions

4.1 Administer a selection test at multiple points of entry. In addition to the test at 11, a test may also be available at 13 and 15 with grammar schools also open to non-tested admissions based on GCSE results into the A-Level programme.

4.2 Adopt a means-tested mixed admissions policy, in which the Kent Test is one means of entry for reserved pupils from families in a higher socioeconomic bracket, with significant affirmative action policies governing entry of children on Free School Meals.

4.3 Abolish the Kent Test and select for grammar-school based on teacherbased assessments or from SATS testing in primary.

5          References

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans Richard Nice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Brinch, Christian N. and Taryn Ann Galloway. “Schooling in adolescence raises IQ scores”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of America Vol 109, No.2 (Jan 10, 2012), pp. 425 – 430.

Hart, Robert A., Mirko Moro and Elizabeth Roberts, “Date of Birth, Family

Background, and the 11 plus exam: short- and long-term consequences of the 1944 secondary education reforms in England and Wales.” Stirling Economics Discussion Paper, May 2012.

Heim, Alice. The Appraisal of Intelligence. London: National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales, 1954.

Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man. New York and London: Norton, 1981.

Zenderland, Leila. Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of

American Intelligence Testing. Cambridge: CUP, 1998

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Response by Kent Education Network to the report of the KCC Commission on social mobility

Kent County Council created a commission to review social mobility in Grammar Schools. The commission’s draft report has now been published and shows the extent of the problem with Kent’s divided schools, it can be read in full here. 

While we welcome KCC’s recognition of the unacceptable social divide in Kent secondary schools, we do not believe the Commission’s draft report goes anywhere near solving the problem.

The issue is clear. On average, disadvantaged pupils make up 27 per cent of the total number on roll in non-selective schools, while the equivalent figure in grammar schools is six percent. The fact that a Commission was needed to examine the problem itself disproves the myth that a selective system improves social mobility. The report is a refreshingly honest at-
tempt to examine the problem, and we agree with its conclusion that: “current access to (grammar) schools is not solely based on academic ability but is impacted by family income.”

While recognising that family wealth determines the future of most of our children, the Commission admits that it can only make suggestions, lacking as it does the power to impose any meaningful solutions. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that all 16 of the Commission’s recommendations were to be adopted, there would be only a slight increase in the number of disadvantaged children going to grammar schools.

The Commission does not face up to the problem of widespread coaching: while independent schools are permitted to train children in taking the Test, coaching is forbidden in state schools, and recent attempts to make it “un-coachable” appear to have failed.

In the meantime, as the government pursues plans to turn schools into academies, the county council is losing its powers to enforce anything on schools whatsoever. Ultimately, KCC’s only power will rest in the administration of the Kent Test.

Kent grammar schools educate 28 per cent of all secondary school pupils, but only 21 per cent are awarded a place based on a pass mark in the Kent Test. The other seven percent are nominated by head teachers as “suitable for grammar school” despite their fail mark, or by parents appealing a result. The judgement of grammar school ability is clearly not a sci-
entific process, and nor is it open and accountable.

The commission did not look at how many disadvantaged children reach grammar school via the Head Teacher Assessment panel. We feel it is fundamentally unfair that some children who fail the test get a “second chance” while others do not. Some primary schools routinely recommend 90 per cent of their “failed” pupils for a result reassessment, while others recommend no children at all. The Head Teacher Assessment process only highlights the inadequacies of the Test itself. It costs KCC £348,000 a year to commission the Test, but they choose to select seven per cent of grammar school children another way.

Kent Education Network submitted detailed evidence to the Commission, including an assessment of the science and history of intelligence testing by Dr Michael Collins, our head of research. The evidence defined the problem of accurately dividing children of primary school age; it stated: “If Britain is to compete educationally and economically with the rest of the world, we must end this outdated selection process based on an arbitrary designation of “intelligence” at 11.”

Dr.Collins says, “Most counties in England, and countries in Europe, have long rejected this model as a discriminatory form of social engineering. The reason why many Kent schools fail is because they must compete with selective grammar schools, reducing the average success rate of students overall.” In Kent students are less likely to achieve three A levels than children of other counties, and 55 per cent of our poorest pupils get GCSE results in the bottom 20 per cent nationally.

Kent disadvantaged
30% of Kent disadvantaged pupils achieve 5 GCSEs compared with 37% nationally.

We now hope Kent County Council will take the next step and consider the impact our school system has on disadvantaged children in Kent’s non-selective schools. A wider debate on the Kent Test is needed – the harm it causes social mobility is not only reserved to grammar schools. Kent has more schools failing to reach government targets than any other county. The children of Kent are depending on action being taken.

Kent Education Network’s evidence to the Commission may be read here:  EVIDENCE TO SELECT COMMITTEE ON GRAMMAR SCHOOLS FEB 2016

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Approval of Sevenoaks grammar annexe was flawed

KEN believe government guidelines were flouted over plans for a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. Our group has evidence that consultation was inadequate and that Kent County Council is acting irresponsibly in allocating millions of pounds of local taxpayers’ money to the project.Kent Education Network – following a request in January under Freedom of Information rules – has finally received information suggesting that the consultation procedure by the Tonbridge-based Weald of Kent school was flawed.

A report going to the next meeting of members of KEN spells out how national guidelines calling for consultation with the community, including local schools, were ignored.

Instead of the required four-week period seeking the views of staff and parents, only two weeks were allowed.  Worse, only 59 parents backed the annexe proposal, with 46 against; that is, only 105 responses were received out of a total of 1,168 girls on the school roll.

The KEN report also spells out KCC’s carelessness with taxpayers’ money at a time of local government cuts. There is a large projected surplus of secondary places in Sevenoaks in the 2014 report of the Provision Planning and Operations section at KCC. It is irresponsible of the county council – with the support of only 59 parents – to set aside £19.1 million from the general council budget (rather than the £167 million ‘schools basic need funding’ from central government); this for an annexe to an academy for which it has no direct responsibility.

Kent Education Network believes that expansion of a school by these means must be absolutely transparent in every way – given the precedent it could set for the attempts currently under way from Milton Keynes to Maidenhead to widen selective education. KEN has made a formal request to KCC’s auditors for a Review of Expenditure in respect of the planned annexe.

We do not know precisely what the Weald of Kent told the DfE to gain approval for their annexe because our application under FOI rules for information has been denied. However, KEN believes that it is becoming clear that those guidelines may not have been followed.

Approving the proposals on 19th October, 2015, Nicky Morgan said: “I assessed the proposal in line with our guidelines on making significant changes to an existing academy, which were published in January 2014”.

It is not credible that the Secretary of State could have approved this scheme if at the time she been aware of the facts that are only now being revealed.

Kent Education Network Report 

Update on the Weald of Kent grammar school’s annexe in Sevenoaks

Much of this report uses information obtained from a Freedom of Information request submitted to the Wield of Kent Academy Trust on January 24th 2016. The consultation results have taken 118 days to be provided, with some key information still missing. The FOI response can be read here.

  • On October 19th 2015 Nicky Morgan announced that the Weald of Kent annexe was allowable as a genuine expansion and said, ‘I assessed the proposal in line with our guidelines on making significant changes to an existing academy, which were published in January 2014.’ Her speech in Parliament is here.
  • The ‘making significant changes to an existing academy’ guidelines of January 2014 state various stakeholders must be consulted for a minimum of 4 weeks. Guidelines here.
  • The school clearly offered an inadequate consultation. It ran a 2-week consultation with no full proposal, just an A4 letter outlining a plan for a girls-only and sixth form annexe in Sevenoaks. The consultation took place from September 8th – 22nd.  Letter here.
  • The school admit they only consulted parents and teachers, and did not consult other schools or the local community as they were required to in the 2014 guidelines.
  • We feel the Weald of Kent school did not fulfil the consultation requirements of the ‘Significant changes to academies guidelines, January 2014’ referred to by Nicky Morgan in parliament.
  • The results of the Weald of Kent’s September 2014 consultation were as follows:
  1. Do you support the view that Weald of Kent Grammar School Trust should offer more local provision?

22 yes, 1 no.

64 yes, 42 no.
60% yes 40% no.

  1. Do you agree that Weald of Kent in its present structure should offer additional Grammar places in Sevenoaks?

21 yes, 1 no.

54 yes, 51 no.
51% yes, 48% no.

  1. Do you support the Weald of Kent Grammar School Trust proposal to open an Annexe in Sevenoaks?

21 yes, 1 no.

59 yes, 46 no.
56% yes, 44% no.

Only 59 parents supported the school’s annexe plan. The consultation was inadequate in length and there were few details. There were no open meetings or discussions regarding this plan.

  • It appears that the school presented the Education Secretary with details of their 2013 consultation in their business case for the annexe expansion. The 2013 plan was for a co-educational annexe offering 6 forms of boys and girl’s provision in Sevenoaks, the plan now approved is a 3 form entry girl’s annexe with sixth form. The co-educational annexe plan was refused by Michael Gove in December 2013 on the grounds that a girl’s school could not educate boys in an annexe expansion. The community of Sevenoaks have a greater need for boy’s grammar school places and we feel this consultation should be discounted as a a girls-only annexe is not meeting local need. Many parents also prefer co-educational education and it is feasible they supported this school plan for this reason.
  • The Weald of Kent attempted to turn into a co-educational school in February 2014 in order to fulfil the need for boy’s grammar school places locally, but parents wished the school to stay girls-only. The school had to offer a girls-only annexe in their revised plan in autumn 2014.
  • The Weald of Kent’s co-educational annexe consultation in 2013 offered 4 questions. 2 questions were based on demographics, and 2 sought views on plans for the annexe. In response to our FOI the school provided a response only to consultation question 3, but NOT question 4. Question 3 was: ‘Do you agree with Kent County Council’s assessment that there is a need to commission selective education provision in Sevenoaks via an Annexe to an existing Grammar School? This question received a positive response. Question 4 was, ‘Do you support the Weald of Kent Grammar School Trust proposal to open an Annexe in Sevenoaks?  We have not been provided with the results of this question. The school responded to our FOI on May 20th to state,  ‘The school does not hold a record of the responses to question 4.’  We feel the school should hold this information, and to have lost information on a key consultation question is highly unusual.
  • We question whether the communities response to question 4 was likely to have been favourable. In 2013 the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign told their supporters to say ‘No’ in response to question 4. The Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign did not support the Weald of Kent’s annexe plan. The campaign’s blog posts at the time were dismissive of the Weald of Kent annexe and many articles have since been deleted. We retrieved deleted posts from an internet archive eg. http://web.archive.org/web/20130627110238/http://sevenoaksgrammar.com/cast-your-votes-here/

vote no to question 4

    • We are concerned that Academy Trusts are NOT held accountable when they submit proposals for changes to the Department for Education. Our FOI request to see the business case proposal submitted by the Weald of Kent Academy Trust was refused by Kent County Council, the Department for Education and the Weald of Kent Academy Trust. We feel that it is in the public interest to release such information, which in this case will certainly contain details of the public consultations as described by the school. If such information is open then decisions can be properly scrutinized, and it ensures any Academy Trust must present accurate facts in any case to the DfE. Our FOI request refusal can be read here.


    • It is particularly important that this school expansion is above board in every way because this approval has set a precedent that has led to selective schools seeking to expand in Maidenhead, Milton Keynes, and other counties bordering grammar school areas.


    • The school consulted on admissions changes later than required by the Admissions Code, and after its expansion proposal was accepted. This means no one had any factual information on how a school with 2 buildings 9 miles apart would manage admissions. The code’s statutory guidance states consultation on admission changes must take place between 1 October and 31 January of the school year before those arrangements are to apply, and states admissions must be ratified by 28th February in the determination year. The Weald of Kent school offered an admissions changes consultation much later than these dates, from April 4th – May 13th.


    • Controversially the school is using a location of equal distance between their two buildings (in a field) to decide future admissions. The admission changes appear to disadvantage potential pupils based in parts of TN8, and parents are contacting local press about the problems of this admission policy. Despite the lateness of the consultation this policy is expected to be in used in September 2017 when the annexe opens.


    • The DfE’s academy changes guidelines state, ‘A condition of funding for any future capital funds is that the academy trust has conducted a consultation, that responses have been taken into account, and that any consents required have been given. Changes will not be agreed unless appropriate consultation has taken place.’ We feel that a full review of the consultation evidence presented by the Weald of Kent school in its application should be undertaken by the Education Funding Agency.


  • There is no need for secondary school places in Sevenoaks, particularly as the Trinity free school opened in 2014. The Weald of Kent annexe will cost Kent tax payers £19.1m, with the funding unable to be provided from ‘basic need’ government funding, because there is no proven need for these school places. There is a larger surplus of secondary school places in Sevenoaks than in any other area of Kent, as the council figures below show.



Secndary Sevenoaks

  • Kent County Council offers a school consultations portal on its own website. Yet despite the council funding this grammar school, at no time did it use its own facility to offer an online consultation on this grammar school expansion.  We feel that this plan should be open to consultation to all Kent ratepayers as it is academy expansion funded entirely by council budget. http://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/school-consultations
  • We feel it is irrational that Kent County Council are spending £19.1 million of Kent tax payer’s money on a school building supported by just 59 parents, without other local schools or the community having any say on this plan.
  • On May 23rd 2016 we contacted Kent County Council’s auditors to ask for an Audit Review of Expenditure on the Weald of Kent annexe expansion, under section 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 in respect of the County Council’s accounts for 2015/16. We believe that the expenditure of the County Council to fund a satellite grammar school by Weald of Kent Grammar School in Sevenoaks may be unlawful in that the Council (i) did not have the power to make the expenditure or (ii) has acted irrationally in so doing. We asked for a review of the decision and a public interest report by the council’s auditors.

Kent Education Network

24th May 2016

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Herne Bay grammar school annexe does not meet the needs of local parents

A grammar school expansion is proposed for Herne Bay, despite a critical need for non-selective school places in the Canterbury district. The closure of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury has led to a shortage of school places for children who do not pass the Kent Test. Popular local schools such as Canterbury Academy, Herne Bay High School and St Anselm’s Catholic were all over-subscribed this year, meaning parents could not send their child to their chosen school.

Joanne Bartley, from the campaign group, Kent Education Network, says, “Kent County Council will be making entirely the wrong move by expanding a grammar school when there is a shortage of places locally for children who do not pass the Kent Test.

“I founded KEN in part to protest against the inequality of the school system. When my daughter failed the Kent Test, I realised how unfair the system could be.  There’s a wide choice of good or outstanding grammar schools available with an eleven-plus pass, but only oversubscribed schools or schools rated ‘requires improvement’ with a fail; I believe that our children should be entitled to a good school whether or not they pass the eleven-plus.

“I can’t believe there is a plan is to build a grammar school when the real need is for a great new school open to any child. If Barton Court wish to expand to Herne Bay, they should open a school with a grammar school ethos, open to children of all-abilities, but the same high academic standards. This would avoid the legal problems encountered when grammar schools expand by using an ‘annexe’ and it would solve the problem of a lack of school places locally.

“Herne Bay High is one of the best non-selective schools in the area, but it is oversubscribed and this year some pupils failed to get places. More than 500 children travel from the town to non-selective schools in Canterbury and Whitstable, and as the town grows this problem will only get worse. If there were a second, excellent, school in Herne Bay, it would please all parents. There are countless examples of high quality, mixed-ability schools with good provision for able children. If a school like Barton Court, with excellent teachers, feels it cannot educate a child like my daughter, then they are clearly not the fine school they claim to be!

Kent Education Network has been investigating the controversial plans for the Weald of Kent grammar school in Tonbridge to expand by means of an ‘annexe’ in Sevenoaks.

Joanne Bartley said: “It’s against the law for new grammar schools to open and so, to get around this problem, the grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks must be part of ‘one school’ – the proof being that arrangements are in place for pupils to use both sites.  Children must be transferred between the two sites on at least one afternoon a week, and teachers are required to teach on both sites. Parents have no guarantee which site their child will be allocated. To remain within the law, this proposed Herne Bay annexe would need to follow the same arrangements.”

Kent Education Network believe that the Department for Education and Kent County Council have been extremely remiss in refusing requests for information about the proposed Weald of Kent school annexe.

Mrs Bartley said: “To date no plans for operation of the school in detail have been revealed – despite requests under Freedom of Information law from three organisations, including our group. We appeal to Barton Court and Kent County Council to be more open on this occasion. If it is indeed a good plan  there should be no need for any secrecy.

“The aim of Kent County Council should be good education for all children in Herne Bay. If they were to create a great new school with a grammar stream, I believe everyone would be happy, offering the choice of two good schools for all parents in our coastal towns. If they exclude the majority of local children to create a grammar school for the few, it is likely that many of the places available would be taken by children from outside our area.  Also, a good mixed ability school would have no need to fulfil any legal requirements involving travel to Canterbury.

“It is wrong that Kent County Council supports a system which labels the majority of our children failures at the age of ten or eleven and prevents children from accessing the best local schools. All children have value, and our education system should show this by offering good schools to all.”

If you prefer a high quality mixed ability school in Herne Bay, the Kent Education Network suggest that you write to your MP and your Kent County Council councillor, or  join the group at KentEducationNetwork.org.

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New grammar school ‘annexe’ proposed in Kent

A second grammar school ‘annexe’ is now under consideration in Kent. Barton Court grammar school in Canterbury is in discussions with Kent County Council to build an annexe in Herne Bay seven miles away.

Nicky Morgan’s decision that the Tonbridge-based Weald of Kent school could expand to a site in Sevenoaks has set a precedent that means many councils are now considering grammar school satellites. Conservative councillors in Maidenhead, Basildon and Birmingham have all recently proposed annexe expansions to local grammar schools.

Barton Court last year received £11 million for school improvements that will offer 30 additional places a year, while the annexe in Herne Bay will house 500 selective pupils. MP Sir Roger Gale claims to have pressed for grammar school provision in the town for thirty years, but the decision in Sevenoaks now makes his plan feasible. The idea is being supported by a local property developer on a site originally earmarked for a primary school.

Joanne Bartley from campaign group Kent Education Network said: “We feel Kent County council has its priorities wrong.  More than 15,000 Kent children are in non-selective schools rated as in need of improvement or inadequate; nearly 5,000 of those children are classed as disadvantaged. We do not believe that expanding a grammar school should be our council’s priority right now.

Another selective school does not help these children in any way.

“We are also pressing for transparency with this plan. Kent County Council have refused our requests for information about the proposed satellite school in Sevenoaks. The Weald of Kent outline plan was approved last October, but we have yet to hear any details of how the school will operate over two sites. Our Freedom of Information requests have been denied and it is impossible to mount a legal challenge without evidence of how this school will operate. The Weald of Kent effectively dodged a judicial review by avoiding transparency. It’s our hope that KCC and the Department for Education will be more open with this proposal. If the plan is such a good one there should be no need to conceal it from the public.

“Faced with the ban on new grammars, satellites to existing grammar schools are increasingly popular with conservative councillors and some parents, but no one seems to be considering the wider implications for school communities. It should not be a local councillor’s role to change school admissions criteria in a town, however – in effect – these annexes will bring back two tier education by the back door, with no consideration of the effects.

“We are asking that Barton Court considers opening a mixed ability school in Herne Bay. Outstanding schools should be capable of educating pupils of all abilities, and there is a clear lack of good all-ability schools in the area. Herne Bay’s only non-selective school is over subscribed, a grammar school annexe seems like a political choice not a plan to suit local parents.

“We feel that many councils are attempting to run local schools on political lines, in order to appeal to a minority of voters – with no thought for the quality of education afforded to the majority of children.  Why should anyone pay council tax to build a school that most children can never enter? As a mother, I do not want my son to face the Kent Test, but I fear that it’s the only way to be assured of a good school in Kent.

“Grammar schools are mainly supported by politicians and parents who feel their child will personally benefit – often after private tuition. But it’s virtually impossible for parents who think their child will fail the Kent Test to stand up and say they don’t like grammar schools. There is no genuine debate about grammar schools because parents who dislike two tier education cannot challenge the system without it being suggested that their own child might lack intelligence. A silent majority dislike grammar schools while a few noisy politicians and parents hold sway: there is no good reason to create schools that can only divide communities with no proven educational benefit.

“We also believe that Kent County Council should manage their secondary moderns as a separate body because, for many, they are the only schools available. If KCC reviewed the schools this way, they would discover that the subjects offered in many schools are limited, teacher turnover is high, and a third of children are taught in schools classed as ‘requires improvement’. Kent’s GCSE results for disadvantaged children are on a par with those of Bradford, an area criticised by Ofsted for the poverty of its school provision.

“Kent politicians are planning new grammar schools, while turning a blind eye to the effects of selective education, while local authorities seeking grammar schools in their towns are naively assuming that this would have no impact on existing schools.”

The grammar school proposal in Herne Bay would increase the number of selective places in Kent to 33,855 out of a total 99,043 state school places.  Kent has 32 grammar schools and 67 secondary modern schools. Of the grammars, 23 are rated ‘outstanding’ while just four non-selective schools receive the highest Ofsted rating.  It is the belief of Kent Education Network that children who fail the Kent Test have limited opportunity where secondary education is concerned; better schools are available to children who pass a test, which is not only unfair, it is an enormous waste of talent to the county.

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Government plans will increase divisions says Kent campaign group.

Plans to force all schools to convert to academies will create an even wider gulf between Kent secondary schools, according to Kent Education Network (KEN).  The new campaign group said this week that – if academy chains are free to cherry pick secondary schools – they would inevitably swallow up grammar schools first, leaving our high schools out in the cold. Grammars would lend prestige to the academy chains and would therefore provide better value to their future business.

KEN’s Head of Research, Dr Michael Collins, said: “The government’s proposals are deeply unpopular with teachers, parents and local authorities. The planned changes are likely to bring even deeper divisions between our children. There is a shortage of academy chains which can only mean successful trusts fighting over popular and successful schools, while troubled schools will be left with any trust willing to take them on.

“The education divide in Kent is already a serious problem: a quarter of children who fail the Kent Test end up in schools classed by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’, yet every child who passes the eleven-plus is assured of a good school. The gap can only get wider as ambitious academy trusts refuse to take on Kent’s struggling schools because the trusts themselves will in future be ranked by means of league tables.”

Dr Collins, who is currently conducting research for the University of Kent into selection at the age of 11, added: “In Kent, the situation could prove especially bad:  government proposals include abolishing the requirement to follow the existing admissions code at age sixteen. There seems to be nothing to prevent trusts from setting admissions criteria for children wishing to enter grammar sixth forms from outside schools that differ significantly from the criteria applying to their own pupils.

“Kent children could fail twice: once at eleven; again at 16 – even after they have made significant academic advances in between.”

Kent Education Network does not believe the Kent Test is either fair or accurate in its predictive values.  It is our view therefore that schools must offer opportunities for an excellent education to children who continue to develop beyond the age of eleven. It’s well-known that children labelled as “failures” at 11 are frequently quite capable of thriving in a grammar sixth form: this new law could deny them a place. Already Kent has significantly fewer children achieving three A levels than other authorities – this would only make matters worse.

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Kent County Council refuses to reveal plans for the Sevenoaks school annexe

Because of the secrecy surrounding the plans for the controversial grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, the Campaign group, Kent Education Network, used a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to ask for details of the plan. But In response, Kent County Council – while admitting that it holds information relating to transport and staffing at the proposed annexe – refused the request on the grounds it would: ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.’

The campaign group’s similar request to the Department for Education has not yet been denied, but DfE asked for an extension to consider “whether this is in the public interest”. Joanne Bartley, Chair of Kent Education Network, said: “It ‘s disappointing that KCC are keeping these plans to themselves. While parents were consulted in principle on this expansion, they want to know that their needs will be met.

We believe that Sevenoaks parents should see the plan in detail and judge whether the annexe will meet their expectations. “To stay within the law, the Weald of Kent grammar school must operate as one school over two sites but, in doing so, it could prove impossible in practice to operate efficiently. So far, we know only that one part of the Sevenoaks site will house a mixed sixth form: a proposition that did not feature in the campaign four years ago.

“Meanwhile, KCC refused our request, saying that they needed: ‘a safe space in order to develop ideas, debate live issues and reach decisions away from external interference and distractions.’
“It’s now four months since the government gave the goahead, but KCC went on to talk about: ‘Challenging discussions about areas set out in the current plans’. This makes one suspect that the legal conditions might make the plan as it stands impossible to implement; that there are serious problems underlying their coyness. For example, occupying sites ten miles apart must involve extensive travel between the two by both staff and pupils, by no means easy or efficient for anyone. This annexe was originally billed as reducing travel for school children, but the legal requirements may actually require more travel for pupils.

“The secrecy also suggests that KCC have no confidence in public support for the plan if it were revealed in full: if the plan was so good, there would surely be no ‘debate’ or ‘distraction.”

“We are pleased that the Department for Education did not deny our request, and expect some kind of answer before March 9th. We believe that the Weald of Kent School must have had some plans agreed to get this far, and for something as simple as bus journeys between buildings, there should be no need keep things secret.”

Kent Education Network suggests that members of the public who would like to see detailed plans made available should write to their MP or County Councillor. Anyone wishing to receive notifications from the Department for Education on the status of the ongoing FOI request can do so by visiting bit.ly/sevenoaksplan and registering on the site.

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Don’t celebrate yet – The annexe is not home and dry

Reports in the Sevenoaks Chronicle last week suggested that it is now full-steam ahead for a girls-only annexe to the Tonbridge based Weald of Kent Grammar school. I believe that the full facts should be revealed and that a public consultation must take place. When the details are in the open, I feel that many Sevenoaks parents will doubt whether this expensive annexe is such a good idea after all.

The legal challenge by Comprehensive Future failed because it was unable to obtain the full facts on how the school was to be organised before the deadline elapsed last week, despite requests to Weald of Kent and Kent County Council under Freedom of Information laws. Parents should ask themselves: What could the school be trying to hide?

The group to which I belong, Kent Education Network, believes that the plan bristles with problems. For example, the main cause motivating those arguing for the new annexe – that pupils in Sevenoaks who have passed the Kent Test are forced to travel 10 miles twice a day – would not be addressed by the new scheme. No-one has explained how the current school roll will be distributed between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge if – as the proponents of the scheme insist –the two sites were to be run as one school.

Will the two units be run in parallel? For example, will students attend the nearest site? That would surely require equality in facilities between the sites: two gyms; two computer rooms; two playing fields, and so on. Presumably, teaching staff would commute between them on a regular basis. Such an arrangement would not only be a timetabling nightmare, it would be extremely costly and require extra staff.

Alternatively, would the Weald be split horizontally so that lower year groups attend one site and higher groups the other? While this might ease the staffing problem to some extent, it would not address the main argument cited in favour of the annexe – avoiding the 10 mile commute every day. What’s more, it would make the problem twice as bad since girls currently living in the Tonbridge area with an easy journey would be faced with the ten mile trip in reverse!

One way out of this dilemma might be to base the (mixed) sixth form in Sevenoaks but can it then be argued that this is not a new school under the current legislation? And does it address the original cause? No, because Years 7 to 11 will still be undertaking the two-way daily trek.

Kent Education Network believes that selective entry is not the route to an excellent education and – when Sevenoaks parents were polled in June 2013 – 67 per cent said they preferred a “grammar style” school, one with a traditional ethos but with no selection test for entry.

While some Sevenoaks parents may feel it is unfair that their boys and girls do not have a grammar school in their town, we believe that parents should consider existing opportunities for excellent secondary education in Sevenoaks. Knole Academy has received significant investment and is providing a grammar school stream, while the new Trinity School is an all-ability free school that has great ambitions.

There are already schools in Kent showing the way to a future that avoids the curse of “failure” at the age of eleven. Homewood School in Tenterden as well as Bennett Memorial Diocesan School and St Gregory’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Tunbridge Wells all provide an outstanding educational experience leading to a top university and a successful career.

Rosemary Olivier

Former Head Teacher
St Gegory’s Catholic Comprehensive School
Tunbridge Wells

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