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The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants has two education consultants specialising in Kent - Catriona Prest and Bernadette John. Between them they offer expertise in Kent state schools including the Kent grammars, independent schools and special schools in the county.
Where can I find information about Kent schools?
You can find details of all state schools in Kent on Kent County Council’s website, which also allows you to search for schools by area of the county. For details of independent schools go to the Independent Schools Council.
The Department for Education’s website will provide details on the school’s performance in terms of qualifications gained by the pupils and progress made in their time at the school. You can also find detailed reports on the schools at Independent School Inspectorate (for most independent schools) and Ofsted (state schools and a few independent schools).
For independent and unbiased reviews of some of Kent’s best schools see The Good Schools Guide
Where can I get school advice to help me choose the best Kent school for my child?
“Don’t start by thinking about schools but about the child you’ve got,” says Susan Hamlyn, director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Will she thrive in an academic hothouse or does she need a gentle, nurturing touch? Is your child gifted in sport, or music and needs a school which can fully develop these interests? Or does your child find schoolwork a struggle and needs a school skilled at teaching those with additional needs and restoring their self-esteem? The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants offers a bespoke consultancy service which will ask these type of questions to find the schools which are exactly right for your child.
Kent has a selective system which means that, when it comes to secondary schools, you need to have a realistic picture of your child’s academic ability to decide whether to apply for a grammar or comprehensive school (in the state system). This is equally important for the independent sector, where some schools select by ability and others cater for a broader range.
How do I get a place at a Kent grammar school?
Children need to pass the Kent Test (the county’s 11+) to be eligible for a Kent grammar. You need to register for this in June when your child is in year 5 (see Kent County Council’s website for further details). The test takes place in September. You can register to take the test if you are living outside of the county and you can apply to some grammars if you live outside of the county. But, in most cases, if your child does not live in the county, he will need to be among the very top scoring candidates in order to gain a place. Other grammars require children to live in a catchment area which can be as small as a one mile radius around the school. If you are planning on moving house for schools, you need to do your homework or seek advice from an education consultant.
How do I know if my child is of grammar school ability?
Broadly speaking, the 11+ test, which selects children for grammar school, is designed to identify the top 25% of ability. The best guidance is to ask your child’s teacher where he or she sits among a peer group.
If your school uses the old National Curriculum terms, you would expect a grammar ability child to be at level 3s by the end of year 2, and predicted to reach level 5s at the end of year 6. Under the new jargon they should be “exceeding expectations” at both of these stages. Other indicators would be a reading and spelling age of two years ahead of their chronological age.
You could also ask a tutor to run some tests to assess your child’s levels, or buy some of the reasoning test booklets available at bookshops to try at home (your child should get at least 75% of the questions right).
I am planning on moving to Kent. Which is the best part for schools?
Parents who need to commute to London tend to cluster in the north of the county. This is also where you will find some of the highest performing schools, meaning there is a great pressure on places. If you have more freedom about where you live, getting into schools in the coastal areas and east of the county can make for a more relaxed life.
The property hot spot for schools tends to be in the triangle bordered by Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone. This is where you will find the comprehensive schools which consistently top the non-selective league tables - Bennett Memorial and St Gregory’s in Tunbridge Wells, and St Simon Stock in Maidstone. Note these are all faith schools, and usually require families to have attended church on three Sundays per month for three years to qualify. There are also two top-performing comprehensives in Tonbridge without the need for church attendance - The Hayesbrook School and Hillview School for Girls.
For the brightest kids this is also the area where you will find the super-selective grammars of Judd and Skinners (for boys) and Tonbridge Grammar (for girls). In the independent sector, you can find sought after Sevenoaks School and Tonbridge School, and a host of preps which feed into them.
Which are the best performing sixth forms in Kent?
Academics are not everything of course but, judged purely on A level/IB results in 2015, (average points per pupil) Sevenoaks School was the number 4 in the country, and other Kent schools making the top 100 were: Dartford Grammar (8th), Tonbridge Grammar (10th), St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar (25), Dover Grammar School for Girls (33), Invicta Grammar (49) Tonbridge School (69) and Dane Court, Broadstairs (77).
Other league tables measure by the percentage of pupils gaining the top grades at A level and schools in the top 100 here include Benenden School, Rochester Grammar, Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar, The Judd, Newstead Wood, Skinners, Cranbrook, and Dartford Girls Grammar.
Which are the best schools in Kent for all abilities?
King’s Rochester does a magnificent job at catering for all-comers, from the Oxbridge-destined to the average ability child, and allows pupils to follow their own passions – it will run an A level class for as few as three pupils. There’s rowing from the school’s own boathouse on the Medway, and pupils can even learn to fly a plane with the RAF.
Nurturing Sutton Valence is in the top 15 per cent nationally for adding value at A level last year, meaning pupils gain better grades than expected.
Tonbridge School makes the top 100 on A level results but is also great option for a sporty boy – facilities here are so good the school was used as a training ground for athletes in the 2012 Olympics, and it has produced a number of international cricketers and professional rugby players.
Music and drama more your child’s thing? Then consider The King’s School, Canterbury, which has its own summer festival of music, drama and dance, covering everything from Shakespeare to jazz.
Dover College and Ashford School are notable for delivering on the academics as well as providing good learning support for those with additional needs; while Bethany school has specialist provision for dyslexics.
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