No easy solution to grammar place row
BOYS aged ten and 11 need a near-perfect score in the 11-plus to win a place at west Kent's most selective school, The Judd School in Tonbridge.
New figures released by Kent County Council show that to get into Judd, youngsters needed a score of 418 out of 420 – 99.5 per cent – in the Kent test. Last year's entry requirement was 417.
The figures have renewed calls for a new selective facility in Sevenoaks to ease the pressure on the town's grammar school hopefuls.
All-male Judd is a super-selective school, meaning it takes only the top-scoring performers in the 11-plus.
Operating the same admissions policy is Tonbridge Grammar School for girls, which requires a score of 413, and The Skinners' School for boys in Tunbridge Wells, 414.
Judd head teacher Robert Masters said: "At Judd, we are not seeing an increase in applications, but there have certainly been more very high scores in the last two years.
"We're still offering the same number of places, but it probably feels like it is harder to get in as a result of the high scores, even though it isn't in terms of probability.
"The rise of the coaching culture is a real concern for all the grammar schools in the area – we are not able to identify a commensurate increase in academic ability with these higher scores."
Last week the Chronicle reported that 61 children – 29 from Sevenoaks – had passed the exam but not been allocated a grammar place.
Speaking of the shortage of places, Mr Masters said: "It is possible that this is a result of the recession, with fewer parents able to commit to the independent sector for seven years, or an increase in population through inward migration, or coaching in west Kent, which causes a higher proportion of passes in west Kent than in east Kent."
He added there were various solutions to the problem, including reducing the number of children assessed as selective or allocating comprehensive places to selective children.
But he said Kent County Council's preferred solution of creating an annexe or two annexes to an existing grammar school in Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells "is not immediately attractive to most head teachers for a number of reasons".
He added: "Clearly if new provision was to be made in Sevenoaks then a new standalone grammar school focussing on Sevenoaks would be the best solution, but that is not permissible in law at the present time."
Other selective schools in the area, including Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, Weald of Kent Grammar School and Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School, do not rank by score.