Published: 13:00, 10 March 2020
| Updated: 15:40, 10 March 2020
Primary school pupils who passed the Kent Test have been left devastated after being denied a place at a grammar school.
Instead many have been offered spots at the Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate and Hartsdown in Margate - two of the worst performing non-selective schools in the county.
Their furious parents are calling for action from Kent County Council and MP Roger Gale, saying their children are heartbroken after working hard to gain a place at one of the district's two grammars - Dane Court in Broadstairs or Chatham and Clarendon in Ramsgate - only to be refused a place.
According to KCC, 18 children in Thanet who passed the exam have not been given a spot at a selective secondary, although parents say they believe the number to be much higher.
Gordon Roissetter, from St Nicholas-at-Wade, says his son Taylor, who attends St Nicholas-at-Wade CofE Primary, is broken-hearted after "absolutely smashing" the Kent Test, but denied a place at a grammar.
"When I received the email to say he'd been given Royal Harbour Academy I was absolutely speechless," he said.
"We wrongly assumed that if you pass the Kent Test you would get a grammar school place.
"You get four options for schools and we put down Dane Court and Chatham and Clarendon, we didn't see the point of putting others - he was going to a grammar as far as we were concerned."
Mr Roissetter says he feels his bright son is being penalised because the home address on his application is in St Nicholas, which is around seven miles from both grammar schools.
He says if they'd used the Margate address of Taylor's mum, with whom he has 50/50 custody, he may have had more luck and they are now having to appeal with that address.
"Life is supposed to reward hard work but this isn't the case here," he said. "It doesn't send out the best message to children."
Emma Priest's daughter Amelia attends St Saviour's CofE Junior School in Westgate and has been offered a place at non-selective Hartsdown in Margate, despite passing the Kent Test.
"It's really affected her," said Mrs Priest.
"I'm trying to build up her motivation and trying to get her to work hard but it's difficult now.
"She said: "Mummy, why did I work so hard?" when she didn't even get a place.
"There's all this talk about mental health - well, there will be an impact on children who are grammar-achievable but going to a non-selective school and not in the right learning environment.
"It's not a snobby thing. My daughter is academically-driven and wants a science-based career and so wants a school that can offer sciences.
"We're appealing but also considering grabbing all our finances together and going for private education if we can't get a grammar school, but we can't really afford it."
Mrs Priest admits that while she understands not everyone is guaranteed a place, she says admissions are weighted in favour of those living in Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate and not those in areas further out, such as Westgate.
Nicholas Wells, who recently moved to Westgate from Cliftonville, agrees that living in outer-lying areas of Thanet may reduce your chances which could lead to less families moving to these places, subsequently impacting primary schools.
His son Henry passed the Kent Test but has been offered a spot at Royal Harbour Academy.
Like others, he and his wife Jill, a teacher, had only put Thanet's two grammars on the admissions form, assuming he would be going to a selective school.
"Henry was very upset," said Mr Wells.
"He is the only child to have passed in his school who didn't get a grammar school place. He feels that because he doesn't live closer to a grammar school he doesn't get a place in one, despite being assessed suitable.
"We've told him we are on the case and will sort this out, but it's a lot for a 10-year-old to deal with.
"This is teaching children that if you work hard, you don't get rewarded - you don't get the place you deserve and I believe he deserves it."
Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, admits it is a big issue.
"I'm not permitted to comment on individual cases but it is very much the subject of correspondence between KCC's cabinet member for education Cllr Richard Long, leader Cllr Roger Gough and myself," he added.
Scott Bagshaw, head of fair access at KCC, says of the 5,064 Kent pupils assessed as eligible for a grammar place, the vast majority (4,997– 98.68%) were offered a place at a grammar school on National Secondary Offer Day on March 2.
"Being assessed as suitable for a grammar education does not guarantee a place at a grammar school and this year, we know that 18 children from Thanet who passed the Kent Test have been allocated a place at a non-selective school," he said.
"We appreciate families in this situation will be disappointed but we would urge them not to worry.
"This is only the first stage of the application process and there are still a number of options available to pupils, including joining a school’s waiting list and lodging an appeal; full details of how to do this can be found in the email or letter families received last week.
"Kent County Council staff remain on hand and ready to speak to parents/carers and answer any questions they may have as well as offer information, advice and support. In the interim officers will continue to explore with schools ways in which more children may be able to secure a higher preference."