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Sittingbourne and Sheppey boys 'hit hardest' by Covid lockdowns in Kent Test

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The Covid lockdowns left thousands of pupils disadvantaged in the Kent Test, says a retired education advisor.

Former headmaster Peter Read has been ploughing through the results of last year’s grammar selection results and says children in Kent’s four coastal districts were left short-changed.

Peter Read, education expert
Peter Read, education expert

And the worst affected, he claims, are boys living in Swale.

“What I have now been told is that the differential between pass rates in east and west Kent has widened further,” he said.

“This illustrates Kent County Council’s failure to compensate for the effects of Covid on ‘ordinary’ and disadvantaged families in the selection process.”

He added: “I have still to learn the detail of this year's results but I have been told, for example, that in Swale, an area with high numbers of socially disadvantaged families, the pass rate has slumped again this year.

“I have talked to a number of school leaders in the east of the county and there is no doubt that pupil absence, teacher absence and other factors over the past two years have played havoc with the learning of too many children, many of whom have the ability to thrive in grammar schools but have now been denied a place.”

Typical questions in the Kent Test
Typical questions in the Kent Test

The Kent Test identifies 21% of pupils for grammar places using an exam to test maths, English and reasoning. Primary school head teachers can use their own assessments to submit further candidates adding another 4% giving a target county average of 25% going to grammar.

Last year, Swale’s Kent Test pass rate was 13.2% leaving it third from bottom, only above Dover at 11.1% and Thanet 13.1%. Folkestone was 14.1%.

When head teachers’ assessments were added the figures were boosted to 17.6% for Dover, 18.5% for Folkestone, 19.6% for Swale and 20.1% for Thanet, all below 25%.

Dover and Folkestone grammar schools and Highsted Girls Grammar at Sittingbourne all offer their own entrance exams as an additional route.

Mr Read, 75, a former head of Gravesend Grammar School who now runs the education website www.kentadvice.co.uk, said: "I think it is appalling that the county's four coastal areas have by some way the lowest pass rates to grammar schools in Kent.

Borden Grammar School for Boys, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne
Borden Grammar School for Boys, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne
Highsted Grammar School for Girls, Sittingbourne
Highsted Grammar School for Girls, Sittingbourne

"And boys in Swale are at a particular disadvantage without an additional entrance exam.

"It frustrates me that children in some of the most socially deprived areas are being denied the same educational opportunities as children in the west of the county."

This year's Kent Test passed 25.8% of year six pupils.

A private tutor on Sheppey confirmed his findings.

She said: "Not all families have the luxury of one parent who can stay at home to teach children when schools closed during the lockdowns. Not every family has access to laptops or tablets. And not all families can afford to pay for extra help.

Taking the Kent Test. Stock photo
Taking the Kent Test. Stock photo

"In some households, both parents were key workers so their children ended up at school without lessons in the early days. There has been a lot of disruption."

This year 16,012 children sat the Kent Test – 11,099 who live in the county and the remainder from other local authority areas.

Of the Kent children who sat the exam, 4,975 were assessed as being suitable for grammar school.

Secondary school applications for Kent residents closed yesterday (Monday).

A KCC spokesman said: “If a child does not reach the threshold score in their Kent Test their primary school can refer them to the local Head Teacher Assessment Panel.”

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found



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