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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Question by Trudy Dean to Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform

December 19, 2014 8:00 PM

There has been a marked increase in the number of out of county pupils taking the Kent Test for starting school in September 2015 and being assessed as suitable for grammar school, compared to the previous year. I believe KCC is required to open its test to anyone who applies to be tested and that the authority also receives basic need allocations for the additional school buildings that might be required, but would the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform please provide further information with regard to this worrying situation, including where the out of county pupils will be offered grammar school places.

Answer

It is true that we cannot limit access to the Kent Test, and that the number of children from outside Kent who take it has increased over the last few years. The phenomenon of "test tourism" is not peculiar to Kent, and we know that other Local Authorities with grammar schools are experiencing a similar growth in numbers seeking assessment.

The law governing us is the School Admissions Code, which enables parents to express their preference for a place at any state funded school, regardless of whether it is in the local authority area in which they live. (SAC 2.1)

School places must be allocated according to their determined admission arrangements, and as all Kent's grammar schools take account of the Kent Test the Council must allow children to take part so that parents have the results in time "to make an informed choice of school - while making it clear that this does not equate to a guarantee of a selective place" (SAC 1.32c)

Kent does, however, restrict registration for testing to children resident in the UK, with the exception of children of UK service personnel and Crown Servants, who are privileged by section 2.18 of the Code. At the same time we encourage schools, both for those whom we are Admissions authority and those for whom we are not, where possible within the law to give priority to Kent children in the admission arrangements for Kent schools, as the majority of the county's grammar schools do. We have had some success and are continuing to work on this.

As mentioned in the answer to a previous question, an increase in the number of out of county pupils assessed as suitable for admission does not guarantee that they will go to a Kent grammar school, and where schools take account of home address in their criteria, this may well work against out of county applicants unless they live close to the county boundary. You will recall that the proportion of Kent grammar school places offered to children who were living outside Kent when they applied has remained at 8% in the last two years.

As the co-ordinated admission process is still under way we cannot predict where those that took the Kent test this year will be offered a place. As always, those schools close to boundary with other Local Authorities, and whose criteria do not have a strong geographic focus will be more likely to draw in pupils from outside Kent.

As of now, there has been little Basic Need expenditure on secondary schools places, and even less on Grammars. As demand increases, mostly from Kent pupils, it is quite possible that a grammar will be expanded under this programme.