Analysis: Kent grammar places expand by 1,300 without ‘new’ selective school

Grammar schools have increased their intake over the last five years, with Kent grammars taking enough extra pupils to fill a new large school.

The analysis comes as education secretary Nicky Morgan (pictured) is reported as likely to give the go-ahead for the first “satellite” expansion of a grammar school. If agreed, Weald of Kent Grammar School would open a new site ten miles away in Sevenoaks accommodating more than 600 pupils.

However, Schools Week analysis of census data since 2009 shows that 6,000 more pupils are already studying at grammar schools than they were five years ago.
Since 2009, there has been a 3.8 per cent increase in grammar pupils – with the total number hitting 159,133 this year.

In Kent, grammars expanded at an even higher rate, with a 4.1 per cent increase in pupil numbers since 2009, meaning 1,269 more pupils in the county are now educated in grammar schools compared to five years ago.

Non-selective state-funded secondary schools have also increased their intake during this time – with an average 4.2 per cent increase in pupil numbers over the same time frame.

Only five grammars increased their roll by more than 200 pupils – equivalent to an extra year group. In two cases this was explained by a shift in the transfer age from year 8 to year 7.

In Kent, Invicta Grammar School has increased by 151 pupils since 2009. Weald of Kent, the school planning expansion, already educates 100 more pupils than it did five years ago.

The National Grammar Schools Association vice chair Jennie Varley said increasing numbers showed a thirst for selective schooling: “There is demand for grammar schools. I am always getting calls about where families can move to send their children to grammar school.

“In some areas you get children who are commuting some distance to get to a grammar school. In some areas parents do not have the choice of what type of education their child is going to receive.

“The trouble is people tend to get very involved in selection by saying it is not fair. But life is selective; you can’t all get the job, all be captain of the England cricket team. It doesn’t mean that academic education is the best education you can have. For some people a technical or practical education is much better.”

The Department for Education has denied that Ms Morgan is set to agree the plans.

A spokesperson said: “While we are committed to allowing good schools – including grammar schools – to expand they can only do so within the law. We are therefore considering the proposal accordingly.”

The school’s expansion plans were previously rejected by former education secretary Michael Gove under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, which prevents the opening of new selective schools.

Originally the girls’ school applied to open a “satellite” campus, located several miles from its main site, as a co-educational school with a different governing body.

The school’s trust is now applying to keep the satellite site as a single-sex intake and under the same governing body in hopes this will ensure it is compliant with the 1998 Framework.

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  1. Ian Pryce

    Great piece of work Sophie. Not sure how, when non-selectives have seen 4.2% growth while selective growth is only 3.8% or 4.1% and this includes growth by changing intake age, this supports the claim of a thirst for selection? If anything it shows the opposite

  2. Total Mass Retain

    The analogies with being captain of the England cricket team are somewhat spurious. The captain isn’t decided by a particular age and after that age if one has not succeeded one is permanently excluded from trying again. Moreover there are plenty of other cricket roles open to good cricketers at various ages.

    The invidious thing about the 11+ is that an arbitrary test taken at an arbitrary age has a profound impact for the rest of everyone’s lives. Those who pass are given special treatment that confirms, for most, that the selection was the correct one. For those that fail, which is around 80%, then they get a second class education which also tends to confirm that their selection as a failure was the correct one.

    However, in the late 20th century, let alone the 21st, what good does it do the nation if 80% of children are consigned to a second class education which does not seek to ensure they meet their potential? Those who favour selective education do not seem to consider that their children may be ones who don’t get selected for grammar schools. Indeed they considerably reduce this risk by ensuring their children receive extra tuition aimed at ensuring they pass – hardly a way of improving social mobility.

    If someone with talents in cricket (or to take Andy Murray as an example in tennis) receives extra coaching so they become a top player, then there is no loss to anyone. If a mediocre child gets extra tuition and deprives a talented child from a less privileged family a place at grammar school, then that child loses their opportunity to achieve their potential.

    What the education system should be doing is ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their potential, not just a select 20%. That potential cannot be determined at age 11 by tests in arithmetic (note, not mathematics) and English. What about children talented in history, art, music, languages, science and (yes) cricket? Life is not a set of filters in which the best are selected at each stage and those that fail that stage are discarded. Failure is often good if one is allowed to learn from the failure and try again or try differently.

    I say this as someone who failed the 11 plus yet at age 17 passed the Oxford entrance exam and after Oxford gained a PhD at Imperial. It’s not as if the 11+ is even a reliable filter.

    • Very, very well explained. It is obvious this government is trying to reintroduce the grammar/secondary modern system via the back door with “grammar streams” and these UTCs. They have a UTC in Swindon that costs millions but it undersubscribed and yet there is talk of building another.