This is part of a series of posts from Datalab on how the 11-plus works in practice in Kent. Find the other posts in the series here.

So, pupils sit a test and those with the highest scores get to go to grammar school. Right? Wrong.

The process of securing a place at a Kent grammar is complicated because in order to gain access to a grammar school, the parent, child and their primary school must go through the following process.

  • The parent must register the child for the 11-plus test in the July before the exam. Kent does not currently run an automatic enrolment process for those living in the county, unlike Buckinghamshire.
  • The child may be prepared for the test, either by a school, tutor, parent, or otherwise. It is important to note that Kent specifically proscribes 11-plus test preparation being carried out in state primaries.
  • There are then three ways in which a child can secure entry to a grammar school in Kent:
    1. Pass the 11-plus test. Around 36% of test-takers achieve scores in the Kent 11-plus that alone may give them access to a grammar school.
    2. Entry via a headteacher panel. Where a child does not automatically pass the 11-plus test, their headteacher can choose to put them forward for consideration by a panel.
    3. Entry following an appeal. Finally, the parents of a child not deemed suitable for a grammar through the previous avenues can apply for a grammar school place in the standard admissions round and appeal after secondary school places are allocated. This is a risky and drawn-out process, but typically results in 600 extra pupils being allocated a grammar school place each year (this figure includes those who passed but are appealing to an oversubscribed grammar).

It’s also worth noting that passing the 11-plus is not enough alone to gain entry to any grammar school of choice.

While most Kent grammar schools simply require an 11-plus test pass, using catchment areas to deal with oversubscription, there are 11 ‘super-selective’ grammar schools which make use of 11-plus test scores to prioritise applicants for admission, either ranking all applicants by score, or prioritising those who have scored above a given level.

To complicate matters further there are five grammar schools (only four in 2015 when our pupils took the test) which operate their own 11-plus test, with children able to qualify for these schools under the general, council-operated 11-plus – the Kent Test – or through the school’s own test.

What route do children take?

The chart below shows the significant variation in routes to gaining a grammar school place by school for those at Kent state primary school who sat the Kent Test.

Each bar represents a grammar school in Kent.

At the top are the super-selective grammar schools where nearly all students achieved high enough 11-plus paper marks to avoid the need to go through the headteacher panel. Also in the upper half are those in the west of the county where numbers passing the 11-plus outstrip places available, meaning there are fewer places awarded via headteacher panels.

Those schools in the bottom half are in parts of the county where headteacher panels are more generous in passing students.

Finally, at the bottom are the four Kent grammars that run their own additional test. Note that our data is based on those who sat the Kent test, so it does not include pupils who only take the school test. It reveals, therefore, huge numbers who fail the Kent Test and yet are likely passing the school’s own test.

The pink and blue bars relate to those who failed the Kent Test, and either did not attend a headteacher panel, or else were unsuccessful at such a panel. As such, they will have got in either following a successful parental appeal, or after passing a school test.

This is part of a series of posts from Datalab on how the 11-plus works in practice in Kent. Now read the next post in the series.