The number of pupils who were offered a grammar school place while living outside the county has been revealed.
Figures from Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council suggest youngsters from as far as Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Hertfordshire were allocated a spot at a Kent selective school.
Following a Freedom of Information request, KentOnline found that in 2022, more than 500 pupils were admitted into a grammar school who did not live in the county. In 2023, more than 400 were offered a place.
However, the data provided by KCC included students from Medway as coming from outside of the county due to it being a unitary authority so this has been included in the breakdown.
Across 2022 and 2023, Dartford Grammar School was found to have admitted or offered the most amount of places to non-Kent pupils, out of the schools which fall under KCC.
In 2022, approximately 87 children – 48% of that year’s intake – were given a spot who were not from the county and in 2023, 79 pupils have been offered a place.
Education advisor and former head teacher Peter Read said it is not surprising due to the highly-selective admissions policy the school enforces.
The grammar, in West Hill, Dartford, states half of its 180 places will go to boys living in the borough who achieve the highest score on the Kent Test and the remaining allocated to those with the top scores regardless of their address.
Mr Read explained: “It is seen as a very highly-selective school. It is a very successful school because it has some of the ablest children.
“The two Dartford grammar schools will not concede at all to take more Kent children because they are proud of their high standards.
“As a consequence of that, other families try to get into other north west Kent grammar schools from London and elsewhere in Kent.”
Elsewhere nine grammar schools’ intakes were made up of more than 10% of non-Kent students, in 2022. They included Judd School in Tonbridge, Mayfield Grammar School in Gravesend, Oakwood Park Grammar School in Maidstone, and Skinners’ School in Tunbridge Wells.
Children were mainly travelling from Bexley, Bromley, East Sussex, Greenwich, Lewisham and Thurrock, although some had applied from as far away as Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Wiltshire.
In 2023, some applied for Highworth Grammar School, in Ashford, from Buckinghamshire – almost 110 miles away.
Yet, Mr Read explained those students have most likely moved to Kent following a successful application and are not travelling to and from the school each day.
In Medway the situation is the same, with more than 10% of students admitted from outside Kent in 2022.
So why is it that children are missing out on grammar school places despite being eligible while those from outside the county secure places?
Mr Read says it is down to schools’ own admissions policies and because some are highly selective and want to remain that way to ensure they attract the best students.
He added: “Kent has a selective system. You can argue if it is right or wrong, but the fact is it exists, so it should cater for all Kent children who qualify for grammar schools.
“I know how families feel. They feel very angry. I have spoken to families in the past about this, they cannot understand why as Kent families they cannot have a grammar school place.”
Speaking to KentOnline this week, Mandip said he was not surprised to see the figures. He added: “I am massively frustrated and let down by the system. The data just validates my complete suspicions.
“There are children coming into these north west Kent grammar schools from London and Essex. I point to the school bias around the admissions criteria and lack of enforcement.
“Children, in any capacity, should not have to travel 35 or 40 minutes each way to school; places should be afforded to local children.
“The schools need to be challenged so there is a quality of fairness across them.”
Both sets of data have been approximated as figures less than five were not specifically provided to protect students’ individual identities.