Published: 14:31, 18 July 2017
Kent County Council is refusing to identify three fee-paying independent schools it warned over coaching pupils to pass the 11-plus.
Preparing children to take the exam is not permitted by the county council at either its own schools or at private schools.
It has confirmed, however, that officials contacted three independent schools to warn them following allegations they were breaching the rules, which say there should be no coaching.
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But it is refusing to name them, arguing it would not be in the public interest to do so and could be commercially harmful to the schools in question.
The issue of coaching has been in the spotlight in recent years.
Many private schools openly publish the number of children who have passed the eleven plus while there is a thriving industry in private tuition - notably in west Kent.
KCC has also argued disclosing the information would potentially disrupt the administration of the 11-plus.
In response to an FOI request, it said releasing the letters would suggest the council was prepared to name and shame schools.
“This may lead to the independent schools unlinking from the scheme.”
“To disclose the names of the independent schools may lead to a detrimental effect upon the school by parents seeking to withdraw their children from the school with the fear their child may not be able to sit the Kent test at that school in the future if they are unlinked from the scheme.
"This would have a significant economic impact upon the school.”
While acknowledging that the interest in selective school admissions was high, the council needed to be allowed to “concentrate on delivering the process..to disrupt this process may lead to children being unable to progress to the school of their choice and this may effect their education and career paths.”
The council concluded its main responsibility was to the schools in question and that outweighed any public interest arguments.
Joanne Bartley, of the campaign group Kent Educational Network, who made the request, said the argument KCC gave for withholding the letters and names was flawed.
We revealed earlier this year how more than 500 children from dozens of fee-paying independent schools have been offered places at Kent’s grammar schools.
The figures suggest the influence of private schools on the intake of some selective schools in the county remains significant.
In two schools, the figures indicated that as many as one in three places this year have been offered to children who have been privately educated.