School places system to stay
GRAMMAR schools in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge have fended off objections to a merit-based admission system.
It means children from across the Sussex border will still be able to take up places.
An inspector from the Office of Schools Adjudicator ruled that students should continue to be admitted based on test scores rather than proximity.
More than 200 objectors said Tonbridge Grammar School, The Judd School and The Skinners' School had unfair admission policies which left local children at a disadvantage.
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At present, the schools all accept pupils who achieve the highest scores in the 11-plus, regardless of whether they live in the county or not.
Many parents claimed West Kent children who passed the exam were being overlooked because other youngsters from places across the border in Sussex gained higher marks.
Derry Wiltshire, the headteacher of Amherst Primary School in Sevenoaks, who had opposed the existing policy, said: "Seventy per cent of our 95 year six children passed the 11-plus on Tuesday.
"Now they must wait until March to find out there isn't a place for them where they want to go. I find it difficult to understand how the system is 'fair and reasonable'."
Some 300 West Kent places were offered to children outside the county last year, leaving more than 100 from West Kent without an offer from their closest grammar in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
However, not all primary school parents have been left disappointed by the decision.
Across the county border, Angela Nicholls from Groombridge St Thomas Primary School said her parents were delighted.
"My parents are thrilled with the decision. Children from this school have been going to the Kent grammar schools for decades and we are thrilled as an East Sussex school that our pupils will continue to get that opportunity," she said.
In the report, inspector Dr Bryan Slater said objectors were unhappy because children from outside the county were offered places – leaving local children a long period of uncertainty before places might be secured.
He added: "I have been left in no doubt that this takes place, and about the distress that it causes.
"However, I am also in no doubt that the three schools have the right to set the admission arrangements that they have."
All three grammar schools welcomed the decision, announced on Monday afternoon.
The Judd School's headmaster Robert Masters said: "There should be competition, it shouldn't be about where you live or if your brother or sister go to the school.
"County boundaries should play no part in the admissions process and pupils should be assessed on their scores. We are very pleased with the decision."