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School accused of '11-plus blackmail'

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HOMEWOOD School has reacted angrily to accusations from the county councillor in charge of education in Kent that it is “blackmailing” parents into not entering children for the 11-plus.

In an outspoken attack, Cllr Paul Carter (Con), the county council’s cabinet member for education, denounced the Tenterden school’s admissions policy and claimed it effectively deprived children of the chance to take the test.

The attack came as Kent County Council agreed to a series of changes to the secondary admissions system it will operate this year.

The school operates an admissions policy based around conditional and unconditional preferences. Greater priority is given to so-called unconditional applicants – that is, those parents who make the school their first choice and indicate that their child will not take the 11-plus.

Homewood says the policy allows it to offer places to children who genuinely want a place there and who might otherwise have lost that place to make way for 11-plus failures. Its policy was upheld last year by the schools adjudicator, who was asked to rule on it by the school itself.

Cllr Carter said the adjudication in favour of Homewood was “unacceptable.” Speaking at a meeting of KCC’s Conservative-run cabinet on Monday, he said: “The three different adjudications [two on KCC and one on Homewood] are so contradictory that I find it gobsmacking. The third adjudication which allows conditionality is…blackmailing parents so those who enter the test go to the bottom. I find that unacceptable.”

But his criticism was strongly rejected by Homewood. In a statement, the school said KCC was to blame for much of the confusion around last year’s admissions: “We very much regret Mr Carter's remarks. Homewood admissions have been effectively the same for the last three years and did not change significantly as a result of any of the three adjudications last year.

“A number of comprehensive and high schools, from all parts of

Kent have admissions policies like Homewood's, that are based on

the same principles of fairness. Mr Carter is welcome to discuss his problem with my governors. It might be a more sensible than airing them in public and without warning or prior discussion.”

It is understood that a number of foundation and aided schools are considering opting for an admissions policy similar to Homewood’s.

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