Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Grammar Schools and Social Mobility - Friday, 12th February, 2016 2.00 pm

Venue: Medway Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Denise Fitch/David Firth/Serine Annan-Veitch  03000 416090/416089/415782

Note No. Item

2.00 - 2.45


Emma Hickling - Executive Headteacher - Kingswood, Leeds and Ulcombe Primary Schools pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Additional documents:


The Chairman welcomed Emma Hickling to the meeting of the Select Committee and asked Ms Hickling to introduce herself and outline her responsibility. In response Ms Hickling informed the Committee that she was the executive Headteacher of three primary schools (Kingswood, Ulcombe and Leeds and Broomfield), a Kent Leader of Education for the Local Authority and sat on the West Kent Board of the Kent Association of Headteachers. She also informed Members that she had served as an Ofsted inspector from 2013 to 2015 and had a role in training new headteachers through the national college of leadership.

Q -Why are disadvantaged students, who are eligible for free school meals, less likely to enrol in a grammar school despite the fact that they may be academically high achieving?

Ms Hickling first highlighted the academic aspirations of parents influenced whether their children would enrol in a grammar school. She also suggested both the perceived and real cost of transferring to grammar school could be considered a barrier by the parents of these children. Private tutoring was raised as limiting social mobility as availability of this gave children from families who couldn’t afford tutoring a disadvantage in the Kent Test. Ms Hickling attributed most Kent Test passes to the assistance of private tutoring.

Q - Are parents having a perception that Grammar Schools aren’t right for a child (based on cost or the perception of the school) stopping children taking the Kent Test?

Ms Hickling stated that this did happen in some cases.

Q - Perhaps, the perception that there is more homework too?

Ms Hickling emphasised that in her view the biggest issue was the disparity between those who can afford private tutoring and those cannot.

A Member explained he had seen a different system used in Bexley where they do not base whether a Child qualifies for Grammar School on one test and that this could perhaps be a different option.

Q - And what would be the best way of challenging this? Do you believe Headteachers having more of an input would help?

Ms Hickling expressed a view that there would be dangers to empowering Headteachers in a role to determine who should qualify for Grammar School, such as simply their different opinions of students. She emphasised such a system would require moderation to be reliable. She also suggested that the submission of actual class work should have greater value in deciding who qualifies.

Q - In regards to the relevance of the Kent Test to KS2 is the test improving and becoming more relevant?

Ms Hickling confirmed that it had greater alignment with the Year 6 curriculum.  Despite this the Kent Test was taken so early in Year 6 that much of the content was still irrelevant to what the children had been learning and under the new curriculum schools were not able to ‘accelerate’ children through.

Q - As a Headteacher how do you find your rapport with Maidstone Grammar Schools?

Invicta was confirmed to have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.

3.00 - 3.45


Paul Luxmoore - Executive Headteacher - Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs and King Ethelbert School; Andrew Fowler - Headteacher - Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs; John Harrison - Headteacher - Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys pdf icon PDF 74 KB

4.00 - 4.45


Matthew Bartlett - Headteacher - Dover Grammar School for Girls pdf icon PDF 65 KB


Matthew Bartlett (Headteacher, Dover Grammar School for Girls) was in attendance for this item.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Bartlett to the Committee and asked him to give an overview of his school. Mr Bartlett began by noting that he was only the Headteacher of Dover Grammar School for Girls and not the Harvey Grammar School as stated in the Agenda pack. He explained that his school was one of the few remaining community Grammar Schools in Kent. He stated that being a community school, rather than an academy, was an important part of integrating with the local community; academies were not viewed positively in the local area. The school’s catchment area was 6.1 miles and included Dover, Capel, Walmer and parts of Deal. He noted that Dover had had its own selection test for over twenty years: of those children sitting the test 34% of pupils did the Kent Test only; 50% of pupils did both the Dover and Kent Test; and 26% of pupils did the Dover Test only. He reported that the Dover Test was a major lever for ensuring a greater outreach to Free School Meals children.

Mr Bartlett highlighted that 333 girls sat the Dover Test in Autumn 2015 and 214 girls met the required standard; out of the 214 girls who passed the Dover Test, 200 had put Dover Girls Grammar School for Girls as their first choice. He noted that the school had increased its Published Admission Number (PAN) from 120 to 130. He explained that the school encouraged students to do both tests in case they had a bad day; the Dover Test took place on the Saturday after the Kent Test on Thursday. He reported that the percentage of Free School Meals students was variable across the year groups; 14.2% of Year 8 students accessed Free School Meals in comparison with Year 11 whereas 7.6% students accessed Free School Meals. He noted that Free School Meals was only one indicator of deprivation used by the school; indicators included the number of jobs parents had to support their family and the Ever Six measure which included students who had accessed Free School Meals over the past six years. He stated that the Ever Six measure increased the percentage of students from a deprived background by 4%.

Q – How is the Dover Test different from the Kent Test?

Mr Bartlett explained that the Dover Test, partly provided by GL, included a verbal reasoning paper, a non-verbal reasoning paper, a Maths paper, a multiple choice comprehension paper and an essay. He stated that the essay was a key part of the selection as it was a strongest indicator of potential particularly for girls; he noted that an essay was not part of the Kent Test. He reported that on entry to the school, students were ranked the third lowest for performance in Kent Grammar Schools and by Year 11 the school was ranked twelfth out of 34 Grammar Schools in Kent for GCSE results.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.