The secondary school places for September 2012 admission were published on Thursday. This revealed a serious problem with grammar school provision for boys in north Sevenoaks (Riverhead, Chipstead and Dunton Green) and in the villages to the north.
The highest scoring boys in north Sevenoaks were offered places at the “super-selective” grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells (Judd and Skinners). However, unlike in previous years, the boys in north Sevenoaks who passed the 11 plus but did not achieve the highest scores were not offered places at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School For Boys. This is a community (non-super selective) grammar school in Tunbridge Wells that admits boys within a defined catchment area.
This year, the catchment area of Tunbridge Wells Boys shrunk to 8.78 miles from the school, with no boys (except siblings) being offered places outside this area. This therefore excluded boys from North Sevenoaks and Riverhead, together with boys from the villages further north, from the catchment area. This meant that around 50 boys who passed the 11 plus in the north Sevenoaks area were not offered a place at a grammar school in Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells.
Instead, some of the boys on the east side of Sevenoaks (including in Otford) were offered a place at Oakwood Park Grammar School in Maidstone (a non-super selective grammar school that admits boys within a defined catchment area). The remaining boys (including some boys who scored more highly than boys offered Oakwood Park) were offered places at Knole Academy (the non-selective school in Sevenoaks). The Knole Academy is creating a separately taught additional form of entry, which is being marketed as a “grammar stream”, to cater for children who passed or narrowly failed the 11 plus, which is guaranteed until the end of year 9.
The population in West Kent is growing rapidly: at Sevenoaks area state primary schools there are currently 530 children in year 6 (11 year olds), and 724 children (5 year olds) in reception year – a 37% increase. The same situation is occurring in Tunbridge Wells as the articles below from the Kent & Sussex Courier explain:-
What Does This Mean?
This year’s allocation of secondary school places has provided us with a hint of the future – a situation, in probably three to five years’ time based on current population projections, when all Sevenoaks children will be outside of the catchment areas of the Tunbridge Wells non-super selective grammar schools, meaning that the super-selective grammar schools will be their only option. The town’s children will then gain no educational benefit from living in Kent because they will be competing directly with children from London, Surrey, Sussex and other parts of Kent for grammar school places in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells – with the very highest scorers getting the coveted places and everyone else losing out.
What Is The Solution?
The solution to this problem is for additional grammar school places to be provided at a satellite site in Sevenoaks by two nearby grammar schools (a boys’ school and a girls’ school), with these schools operating a catchment area based admissions policy, and not super-selection. This will ensure that all children in the Sevenoaks area who pass the 11 plus will receive a grammar school place, not just the very highest scorers.
Finally, whilst a Sevenoaks grammar school will clearly help the children of Sevenoaks and the surrounding villages to gain grammar school places, it will also help the children of Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells because it will free up grammar school places in those towns, as the article below from Friday’s Kent & Sussex Courier explains: