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School's 11-plus ultimatum to parents

PARENTS have been warned they cannot expect to get places at one of Maidstone’s most popular high schools if they choose to enter their child for the 11-plus.

Maplesden Noakes School has become the latest secondary school to adopt an admissions policy giving greater priority to those children whose parents make it their first choice school and at the same time indicate they will not be entering the exam.

The school has opted to change because it believes the system will be fairer to those parents who genuinely want their child to go there.

It says the policy will prevent it from having to turn down parents to make way for children who have failed the 11-plus.

County education chiefs have criticised the move. Conservative cabinet member for education Cllr Paul Carter said it amounted to a form of blackmail.

But headteacher Doug Kimber defended the switch, saying it was fairer. He acknowledged it might cause problems for parents but stressed: “Parents will have to decide whether they wish to go for a grammar school place or for a place at Maplesden Noakes. If they go for a grammar place, they will not automatically have a place here. We want to give places to children who genuinely want to come here and want to be a real alternative to the grammar school system.

“There is a broad band of parents who do not want their children to take the 11-plus and just want a place at our school and we want to give those places to those parents.”

The school is heavily over-subscribed every year and routinely has between 400 and 500 applications for the 150 available places. Last year, 53 per cent of pupils passed five or more GCSEs at grades A to C – one of the best results among the county’s high schools.

Cllr Carter said: “I disagree with it fundamentally and believe that [offering] conditional places can blackmail parents. It is not the solution. I do believe that parents and pupils should know their academic ability before they select their secondary school. It is so logical.”

KCC is conducting a wide-ranging review of admissions across the authority in preparation for 2004-2005.

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