Published: 11:23, 07 May 2019
| Updated: 11:24, 07 May 2019
Grammar schools in Kent admitted more than 1,500 children who had not passed the 11 plus, according to figures obtained by a campaign group opposed to selection.
Figures show that in 2017, Kent’s selective schools admitted the highest number of children who had failed the test out of all 164 remaining grammars in the country.
Comprehensive Future, the campaign group, said the figures suggested some grammars were struggling to fill places.
Parents can appeal to independent panels if their child has not passed the test but before this stage, primary headteachers review results and are able to reclassify failures as passes.
Under this part of the process, in 2017 head teachers reviewed the results of 1,939 pupils and classed 1,103 of these as pupils who were eligible for a grammar school.
A further 465 were admitted after parents successfully appealed to independent panels - meaning 1,568 children who did not pass the test taking up grammar places.
Comprehensive Future, which carried out the research, said the figures indicated some grammar schools were struggling to fill places and questioned why the government was allocating £200m to selective schools to expand.
Chairman Nuala Burgess said some grammar schools were “quite happy to be less selective when it suits them” and many were "struggling to fill places".
“Such tactics would suggest the £200 million this government has designated to expanding selective schools is a sheer waste of money.
"Far from being over-subscribed, many grammar schools appear to struggle to fill their allocation.”
One Kent grammar upheld 78 appeals out of 94 lodged while another admitted an additional 64 out of 113 appeals.
Far from being over-subscribed, many grammar schools appear to struggle to fill their allocation...” - Nuala Burgess, Comprehensive Future
A third admitted 41 more children from 84 appeals. Individual schools were not identified.
Kent County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Roger Gough said: “Overall, we believe grammar schools should focus on those children that would benefit from that education and in most cases that is what applies.
"Some children will quite rightly be admitted on appeal and we see that as a normal part of the process.
"Clearly, if there was a situation of wholesale filling up of places by children who had not been assessed as suitable for a grammar school, and that was happening on a large scale, we would deprecate that.
“It is not good for children and not good for schools. But it is worth remembering that most grammar schools are over-subscribed on offer day.
"There is some anecdotal evidence but I am sure that it is not widespread,” he said.
Asked if he felt there was enough transparency in the process, he said: “We can always see if there was something unusual happening; clearly there is a difficulty in that appeals by their very nature come after the main admission part of the process.”
The government recently announced that it was inviting grammars who wanted to expand their numbers to apply for a share of a £50m fund to increase capacity.
Two grammars - Barton Court Grammar School, in Canterbury, and Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, in Faversham - have submitted rival bids to build a “satellite” campus under this scheme.
But the need for a new campus has been questioned by some and the head teacher of Herne Bay High School John Boyes says extra capacity is not required.
Under plans to meet the anticipated demand for more grammar places in east Kent, the county council says a coastal location is its “preferred option” to provide the 150 extra selective school places it believes will be needed annually to cope with proposed housing developments across the district.
The figures were obtained from responses to a Freedom of Information request with all but one of Kent 32 grammar schools replying.